Headway can get to the front

Aintree selections Friday 12th April

Things get very much tougher from a punting perspective on Day Two of the Aintree Grand National meeting with thee large field handicaps including the Topham over the big obstacles. Even the Grade 1 contests look far more open than yesterday’s. I am going to concentrate on three races on the afternoon. We got off to a terrific start on the opening day with winners in all three races we selected Gerri Colombe (SP 9/4), Impaire et Passe (advised 5/4) and Sans Bruit (5/1),

Aintree 2.20: Jango Baie, Champagne Twist & Making Headway

I like the look of three novices in this handicap, all of whom might still have some leeway with their current mark.

First choice would be MAKING HEADWAY who has long looked a candidate for 2m4f having raced all season over 2m. He is a point winner over 3m after all. He caught my eye when a fast finishing second in a listed novice at Haydock where the sharp 2m played against him. He then came a respectable fourth here in the inaugural running of the Grade 1 Formby Hurdle over Christmas, again making ground from the rear of the field.

He dictated the pace to maximum effect over 2m at Newbury next time, but lacked mid race speed when staying on into fourth in the Imperial Cup last time. For a while he looked likely to finish well beaten, but really stayed on up the hill. Surely he will do better over 4f further and cheekpieces have also been employed to sharpen him up.

CHAMPAGNE TWIST won the EBF Final at Sandown last month in a Ben Pauling masterclass that saw him saddle the first two home, who were also the first two the whole way round. This fast improving 6yo has a 7lb rise to contend with, but could well be up to the task and front-running tactics worked to maximum effect here yesterday, including with this stable winning the bumper in the finale.

I am surprised to see JANGO BAIE at double figure odds, despite the understandable lingering worry about the form of the Henderson yard. He won that Grade 1 here at Christmas and has since run two excellent races in novice company under a penalty. His last run at Kelso suggested he was not being ailed by the bug going through the yard recently.

I am sure he will be well suited to a big field handicap as he can take a very strong hold in his races and Nico de Boinville will be able to gain plenty of cover here to help him settle.

Aintree 3.30: Pic D’Orhy

PIC d’ORHY looks value to try and defend his Melling Chase crown this afternoon.

Paul Nicholls’ 9yo loves a flat track and was deliberately kept away from Cheltenham to keep him fresh for this. We last saw him land another Grade 1 prize at Ascot with ease over the likes of L’Homme Presse. His only defeat in three runs this season came against Banbridge at Kempton who does not reoppose today due to the soft ground.

He showed his liking for a sharp track when comfortably seeing off the challenge of Fakir D’Oudairies in this race last year and the gelding looks in every bit as good form this term.

Aintree 4.05: James du Berlais, Shakem Up’Arry & Kandoo Kid

Horses towards the top of the weights are preferred for the Topham and I have three against the field.

JAMES DU BERLAIS keeps finding one or two too good in these big handicaps, but his jumping is usually top notch and I can see him winging around these National fences in style. A very strong traveller, he has been placed in both the big two Leopardstown handicaps this season, where the 3m of the Paddy Power proved a bit too far.

I don’t think he relished the Cheltenham hill last time, fading into seventh having looked sure to place yet again. However he will be better on this flatter track and you can rely on Paul Townend saving as much petrol for the finish as possible.

SHAKEM UP ARRY has really got his career going this season at the age of ten. Two big wins at Cheltenham this season have of course seen his handicap rating soar but even though this is a much flatter track, the prevailing soft ground will still bring his stamina into play.

Another very sound jumper, ho has been placed at both the last two National meetings. A strong finishing third over an inadequate 2m in 2022 and a solid fourth over 3m1f last year. A strongly run 2m5f is ideal though and he could defy another 6lb hike.

KANDOO KID has been a model of consistency in his novice chase season, save for one inexplicably poor run at Doncaster (perhaps 3m too far?). His fine second in the Greatwood at Newbury last month though put him right big on track and he has been kept fresh for this since.

That Newbury run confirmed he can handle very soft ground and it looks like he will favour a left-handed track despite frequently running well at Ascot in the past. This will only be his 13th career start under rules and he remains potentially well weighted off 142.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Champagne Twist – 2.20 Aintree – 13/2 Bet365, Coral, Ladbrokes (1/5 odds 1st 5)

1pt each-way – Making Headway – 2.20 Aintree – 6/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 6)

0.5pts each-way – Jango Baie – 2.20 Aintree – 11/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Pic D’orhy – 3.30 Aintree – 9/2 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 3)

1pt each-way – James du Berlais – 4.05 Aintree – 13/2 Skybet (1/5 odds 1st 7)

1pt each-way – Shakem Up Arry – 4.05 Aintree – – 13/2 Bet365, Coral, Ladbrokes (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Kandoo Kid – 4.05 Aintree – 11/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 6)


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