Steve Hughes previews the opening day of three at Aintree.
A classy opening day to the Aintree Festival with four Grade 1’s in a row to kick off proceedings. I have selections from three races on the card, where I am hoping for a good day for trainer Nicky Henderson.
Aintree 1.45: Renes Girl
The mare Shattered Love showed the boys how to do it in the equivalent race at the Cheltenham Festival and Rene’s Girl has a decent shout of beating the geldings here too.
Since being sent chasing this season the 8yo has been a revelation, winning three from four and all races over this 2m4f distance. An enthusiastic racer who jumps fluently, she should enjoy this track which can aid front runners.
Her last two races have produced listed race wins against fellow mares. This will be tougher up against the males, but she gets the 7lb allowance and it is easy to pick holes in the chief rivals. Cyrname is best right-handed, Brain Power and Modus have looked tricky at the highest level, whilst Finians Oscar has had breathing problems and looks vulnerable under pressure.
Aintree 3.25: L’Ami Serge
L’Ami Serge definitely fits into the status of being an enigma. However this 8yo possesses plenty of class and will I think enjoy this sharp track far more than the likes of Cheltenham.
He could only manage eighth in the farcically run Stayers Hurdle and has often been found wanting for pressure on stiff finishes like Cheltenham, or over truly run 3m such as when second to Sam Spinner in the Long Walk at Ascot.
He took really well though to racing back in his native France last spring, winning the French Champion Hurdle (3m1f) on that sharp, left-handed track. That bodes well for his first hurdle around Aintree. There are a few rivals who might not be classed genuine Grade 1 performers and whilst he is not the easiest to win with, he does at least look a solid each-way bet at the prices.
Aintree 4.40: Theinval
Despite having a brutally hard spring last term running four times in April alone, Theinval showed he retains plenty of ability at the Cheltenham Festival and can go one place better than he did in this race last year.
That day he was just out sped by Double W’s and he then went on to fill the runners-up berth on two outings in consecutive days at Ayr. In truth he should have won the second time, but was rather outbattled by Cloudy Dream. Nevertheless that form is good enough to win a handicap, especially as he is rated 7lbs lower than at the end of last season.
He did run so moderate races in the winter, but he does want the ground too soft, so is forgiven those, especially as he does seem best at this 2m trip and has often run over further. This race looks sure to be run at a ferocious gallop and that will suit the selection ideally. He does thrive in these competitive handicaps, and did so again when fourth in the Grand Annual at the Festival. The ground on the Mildmay course is not too bad so there should be no excuses on that score for Theinval.
1pt win – Renes Girl – 1.45 Aintree – 13/2 Paddy Power
0.75pts each-way – L’Ami Serge – 3.25 Aintree – 13/2 Bet365 (¼ odds first 4)
1pt each-way – Theinval – 4.40 Aintree – 6/1 general