The gurus at Timeform identify the key players at Aintree on Saturday including rising star My Drogo for trainer Dan Skelton.
Shishkin is Timeform’s top-rated novice chaser this season and, up against four rivals who have shown smart form at best, he has the best part of two stone in hand on ratings in the Maghull Novices’ Chase.
He took his unbeaten record over fences to four in last month’s Arkle at Cheltenham when facing potentially his best rival to date over fences, but after Allmankind had become involved in a duel for the lead which resulted in him finishing only fourth of the five runners, Shishkin took control of the race three out and sauntered clear to win by 12 lengths.
While Aintree is a very different course to Cheltenham, it shouldn’t pose any problems for Shishkin who impressed on flat tracks earlier in the season when successful at Kempton (twice) and Doncaster.
His second win at Kempton came in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase where he had Gumball, who takes him on again here, around 30 lengths behind him when last of the four runners.
My Drogo was 50/1 when finishing second on his debut in a bumper at Cheltenham in October but has since been one of the most progressive hurdlers of the season, winning all three of his subsequent starts to become Timeform’s highest-rated British-trained novice hurdler.
After a maiden win at Newbury where he was chased home by a 200/1-shot, My Drogo lived up to his ‘large P’ symbol when showing plenty of improvement to land the Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot from Llandinabo Lad who opposes again here, with future Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory back in third.
My Drogo completed his hat-trick in another Grade 2 contest, the Premier Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso last month. Conceding weight away all round, My Drogo ran out an emphatic winner by nine and a half lengths from Do Your Job, recording a good time performance in the process.
That was his first start beyond a bare two miles and the extra couple of furlongs here won’t trouble him at all.
Cloth Cap looks like starting a short price by Grand National standards but there are very good reasons for his cramped odds.
He was allotted just 10-5 when the weights were published in February, but his impressive front-running performance in the Premier Chase at Kelso the following month, when he accounted for some very smart rivals, including a couple of his Grand National rivals Definitly Red and Lake View Lad, would have entitled the handicapper to add about another stone to his weight for Aintree had he been able to take that performance into account.
A combination of cheekpieces and an attacking ride from Tom Scudamore had paid off for the first time when Cloth Cap won the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November when he jumped superbly on the way to beating Aye Right by ten lengths.
Cloth Cap will have underfoot conditions in his favour at Aintree, while his third place in the 2019 Scottish Grand National at the end of his novice season means that he is more proven over a marathon trip than some of his rivals.