Ray Flanagan picks out his best bets for the opening day of Aintree
Fine Article and Sizing Codelco ran well to land the place money for us at Fairyhouse on Tuesday. Aintree is always one of my favourite meetings of the calendar and their three-day programme gets underway this afternoon. A few selections for an interest.
Aintree -3.25-Arctic Fire
At last years Punchestown festival, when watching Jezki win the Champion Hurdle and Arctic Fire land an ordinary conditions hurdle, one would never have believed that the latter would be favourite to beat the former in a Grade One at Aintree twelve months later. However a year can be a long time and the picture has changed somewhat since last May.
Jezki has proved to be something of a lame duck champion for the last few months although in fairness he ran gallantly in his Irish races albeit proving no match for Hurricane Fly. I was disappointed with his weak finishing effort though in the Champion Hurdle even allowing for the fact that he was keen through the early stages.
Arctic Fire, on the other hand, fairly thundered up the hill giving chase to Faugheen. He is a quick horse who can produce a fine turn of foot and he could now be ready to build on his Champion effort and win his first race at Grade One Level.
Aintree 4.05-Pacha Du Polder and Last Time Dalbain
Pacha Du Polder remains a young hunter of promise and his legs might be too sprightly for some of his older rivals today. A useful handicap chaser for the past couple of seasons her ran well for a long way behind Holywell at Cheltenham last year and he resumed in good heart behind Teaforthree last month suggesting he can prove a force in this hunter chasing sphere. Nicholls will have targeted today and he should go close if jumping the fences.
Last Time D’albain ran very well here two years ago in the Topham. He has been in and out since but one could not fault his win at Fairyhouse last month where he defeated Carsonstown Boy. A repeat of his previous Topham effort would make him hard to beat.
Aintree 4.40- Arnaud
Arnaud had some useful form as a novice chaser and he is reasonably handicapped on the pick of his efforts. Charles Byrnes is a shrewd man when it comes to handicaps and he could have the son of Chevalier laid out for this.
Quietly fancied in the corresponding contest last year, wrong tactics were employed whereby he went off like a scalded cat from the front and had no chance of lasting home. More patient approach could pay dividends this time around. His recent form in Ireland is fair if not spectacular, but the return to a quick surface could bring about the necessary improvement.
Aintree 5.15- Call The Cops and Apache Jack
Call The Cops beat many of today’s opponents in good style at Aintree and while the default position may be to assume it will be someone else’s turn today, there is no reason why he cannot beat them all again. It was impressive how he tanked through the race chasing quite a strong pace from a prominent position and still proved the strongest finisher of all on the final climb. He could be better than just a handicapper and may supplement Cheltenham gains.
Apache Jack is the dark horse. His form has tapered off this season over fences, but he is fairly treated on the basis of decent novice form last year including a third in the Albert Bartlett. Irish National winning trainer Sandra Hughes deploys a first-time visor coupled with engaging the services of Ruby Walsh in the hope of sparking a revival.
2 pts win -Arctic Fire-3.25 Aintree- 15-8 General
1 pt win-Pacha Du Polder- 4.05 Aintree-7-1 General
0.75 pts win-Last Time D’albain-4.05 Aintree-11-1 bet 365
1 pt ew- Arnaud-4.40 Aintree-16-1,General
1.5 pts win- Call The Cops- 5.15 Aintree-6-1 General
0.5 pts ew- Apache Jack-5.15 Aintree- 20-1 Bet Victor