Pendra’s a force first time out

Steve Hughes has two picks for the opening day of Aintree’s new season.

The opening card at Aintree has really grown in stature in recent seasons and today’s fixture is another excellent meeting, both in terms of quality and quantity. I have selections from the two big chases on the card. We had a couple of each-way places yesterday through Cogry (advised 10/1) and Theclockisticking (advised 6/1).

Aintree 1.50: Pendra

We don’t see Pendra too often and that is because this horse is so much better fresh – especially first time out each season. Therefore he looks worth a healthy interest for his first go in veterans company.

His first time record throughout his career reads – won Huntingdon bumper, won Plumpton maiden hurdle, won Carlisle beginners chance beating Eduard, fourth in Newbury handicap chase, won Grade 3 handicap at Ascot, second caught close home in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival and most recently 15th in the same race when he got very tired late on in conditions too soft for him.

Therefore it would be no surprise to see him spot on for today and the handicapper has given him a chance by dropping him 5lbs to the same mark of his last win at Ascot. By taking in this veterans race, he is not taking on unexposed rivals – indeed you can argue he is somewhat unexposed himself after only 13 outings over fences. With the ground in his favour this looks an ideal opportunity for the Charlie Longsdon trained 10yo

Aintree 3.00: Cloudy Dream

After a spell in the wilderness, trainer Donald McCain has another chance in the big time having taking over the stewardship of the high class Cloudy Dream, and I expect the Cheshire based trainer to get off to a winning start with the 8yo.

This horse is a very pacy chaser at his best on good ground and a sharp track. It is no coincidence that his very best performances have been reserved for the likes of Ayr and Aintree. His last win was in a Grade 2 novice at Ayr, but he was also second in this race last season.

Last season he was tried at trips beyond 3m (blatant non-stayer) and on stiffer tracks – has always struggled to get up the Cheltenham hill, but was also hampered by the wet winter which meant he had to race on soft ground right through the season after this race. Conditions will be in his favour and expect jockey Brian Hughes to ride his traditional waiting game to deliver the gelding as late as possible.

Recommended bets:

1.5pts win – Pendra – 1.50 Aintree – 9/2 general

1pt win – Cloudy Dream – 3.00 Aintree – 11/4 Ladbrokes

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