1pt win Clondaw Castle in 2.50 Aintree at 9/1 (bet365)
1pt win Buzz in 3.25 Aintree at 20/1 (General)
1pt win Sully D’Oc Aa in 4.40 Aintree at 16/1 (Sky Bet, bet365)
Bet of the day on the opening afternoon of the Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree comes in the feature Betway Bowl Chase, in which CLONDAW CASTLE is clearly being underestimated.
For my money, Tom George’s nine-year-old is the only horse in the field arriving at the very top of his game, and it wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see him take things up another couple of notches this spring given he’s so unexposed over three miles.
Stepping up to this trip for the first time since his point-to-point days (won at Glenbane), he put in a seriously impressive performance at Kempton at the end of February, giving runner-up Erick Le Rouge 20lb, with Mister Malarky a very solid handicap yardstick back in third.
He screamed Grade One horse with the way he jumped and travelled off a searching gallop in that Close Brothers Handicap Chase, which admittedly hasn’t been won by a string of subsequent stars in the past, but it’s worth pointing out the George-trained Nacarat twice won the same race (different sponsors at the time) before contesting top-class races at Aintree – finishing third in the Melling Chase one year.
He's deliberately missed Cheltenham and comes here fresh, while the market is made by bet365 Gold Cup entry (the race closed today) Clan Des Obeaux, who now sports cheekpieces having won one of his last eight, and Waiting Patiently, who is hardly a frequent runner – let alone winner – and takes another big hike back up in distance.
I’d have to think twice about Tiger Roll at double his current price (5/1) in a race of this nature, despite a freakishly good Cross-Country display, so the big threat could come from Mister Fisher.
However, Clondaw Castle was hampered at a key moment when third to Nicky Henderson’s horse in the rearranged Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham earlier in the season, and Mister Fisher now has to bounce back again after being blitzed by Allaho in the Ryanair. He’s also got to prove he stays this far, so there's no question who I'd rather back.
There could be a couple of really significant, last-minute form boosts ahead of the Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase but regardless of how Clondaw Castle gets on – or The Shunter in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase for that matter – I really like the look of SULLY D’OC AA back at two miles.
He was a big eyecatcher when third to Clondaw Castle at Newbury in November, showing the 10lb rise for his easy comeback win over Editeur Du Gite (who is now 1lb worse off) at Ascot hadn’t halted him, and I just don’t think the stiff two and a half of the Paddy Power Festival Plate suited him at Cheltenham last month.
He still ran well in the circumstances, ending up eighth after a bit of a rough trip turning for home, and I’d be amazed if that form didn’t turn out to be red hot, with Top Notch having chased home The Shunter and Farclas.
Despite winning a couple of times on very soft ground during his time in France, Sully D’Oc Aa seems to have been kept back for this time of year and he’ll have no excuses on that front at Aintree.
He split Fanion D’Estruval and Southfield Stone over two miles early last season, rock-solid form for this level, and a flat, left-handed circuit should really play to his every strength.
I was surprised at the initial quotes about him (33/1 and 25s), which didn't last long, but he remains a bet at 14/1 or bigger.
BUZZ had handicap options at Cheltenham, as well as entries in that sphere here and at Ayr, so it looks quite significant Nicky Henderson is prepared to run him in the Grade One Betway Aintree Hurdle, especially when Buveur D’Air is in the field too.
The step up in distance looks a great move with Buzz, who has been one of the best handicap hurdlers around at two miles this season, despite only winning once.
Rated just short of 100 on the Flat, he was living up to his name initially for Henderson, always racing far too keenly in the early stages of his races, but he seems to have settled far better now and, after a fiddly mistake four-out, was just caught for toe when the pace quickened on drying ground in the Betfair Hurdle when last seen.
Winner Soaring Glory and second Fifty Ball may have let the side down a bit since, but it’s really strong form overall, featuring three subsequent scorers, and Buzz was giving loads of weight away to those who finished in front of him.
He’ll need to step up another 10lb to get to Silver Streak’s level if you believe the BHA handicapper, but he’s not too far behind the rest of them who aren't split by much at all, and Henderson has always been adept at bringing horses to the boil for this meeting if they’ve missed Cheltenham.
With his dual Champion Hurdle-winning stablemate arguably more under the spotlight, Buzz is creeping into this without much attention and definitely merits a bet at the odds.
I can leave the Monmiral and Adagio battle in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle well alone, while opposing Eileendover in the Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race would be heavily reliant on her returning a bit flat after 82 days off the track.
If there’s a bet in the latter it could be Wheres Maud Gone, with Derek O’Connor back in the saddle having ridden her on debut for previous connections at Thurles.
Unlike the favourite, she at least showed that she can win a battle when knuckling down well at Ayr, but conceding 6lb to a four-year-old already rated 9lb her superior looks a really tall order.
Published at 1300 BST on 07/04/21
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