Sans not without hope

Aintree selections Thursday 11th April

The opening day of three at Aintree and the card as ever is now full of classy horses from start to finish – this meeting is no longer about the Grand National alone. We kick off with four consecutive Grade 1 races, which I think is unique anywhere in the racing calendar in Britain. In truth it is probably not the most exciting card from a punting perspective (plenty to get interested in for the rest of the week though). However I have choices for three races on the card.

Aintree 2.55: Gerri Colombe

As with many of the Grade 1’s at Cheltenham I am taking a strong view that the Irish horses will simply be too good for their British counterparts in this race and it is simply a case of picking which of the three will be best. The percentage call has to be GERRI COLOMBE on his favoured ground.

He ran a cracker to be second in the Gold Cup last month to Galopin Des Champs, getting much closer to the winner than he did at Leopardstown over Christmas. The continued rain over the past few weeks has ensured the selection will get his favoured soft ground and he proved at Cheltenham that stamina is his strong point.

However he is not a slow horse and he was an emphatic winner of the 3m novice at this meeting last year. That also showed he can produce his best even after a hard race at Cheltenham and has an extra week’s recovery time between meetings this year. Arguably Corbetts Cross had a harder race at Cheltenham over 4f further and as a hold up horse might find himself a bit too far out of his ground when things get going late on.

Aintree 3.30: Impaire et Passe

IMPAIRE ET PASSE looked an absolute superstar in the making last season, notably when quickening 6l clear of Gaelic Warrior in the Ballymore at Cheltenham last season, before following up at the Punchestown Festival. That he has been beaten in three starts this term has been surprising, but I am willing to give him another chance here.

Deliberately kept fresh for this, he has been racing State Man over 2m on his last two starts, so it was not a disgrace he was unable to keep up with him in those races. This intermediate trip is where he did his racing last season and he ran well against Teahupoo at this distance in the autumn.

Paul Townend is back in the saddle today and I prefer him to Bob Olinger who might be outlasted up the deceptively long finishing straight and run-in. The British challenge does not really look up to scratch, so if Impaire et Passe is even at 90% of the form he was in last season, it should be good enough.

Aintree 4.40: Whiskeywealth & Sans Bruit

Not many of this line up standout given plenty are exposed, running over too short a trip, or not likely to be at their best on very soft ground. I have two though that should find their optimum conditions.

WHISKEYWEALTH has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks, going back to the prominent racing tactics that have suited well in the past. He took advantage of a lower mark over hurdles to win at Naas, but then won a valuable listed handicap at Gowran on his last start, outlasting some decent opposition on the heavy going. An 11lb rise bearing in mind the adjustment to English ratings is not overly severe and this sharp track might suit his running style.

He probably would have beaten Dinoblue but for a last fence fall at the National meeting at Fairyhouse last season, so has plenty of back class form and he revels in this sort of ground conditions. John Shinnick’s 7lb claim gives him a lovely racing weight of 10-1.

SANS BRUIT was not the most consistent in his native France, but on the evidence of his three runs in Britain since joining Paul Nicholls, he was often being raced over too long a distance. He was a respectable seventh in the French Champion Hurdle last season (over 3m1f) but looking at his career his best form was at or around 2m. His five career wins were gained at distances between 1m7f and 2m3f and he generally struggled in races beyond that distance.

He showed little in his first two starts here over hurdles, but did pull hard on both occasions. However he thrived when a set of fences were put in front of him at Chepstow last time, looking the likely winner until being outlasted by Prince Quali in the closing stages. He gave the impression that a flatter track would suit and creeping in off 10-2 here he could be thrown in if he can reproduce that effort. Certainly he has been the one horse in the race to come if for consistent support since the declarations were confirmed. He would be a welcome winner for Paul Nicholls in his quest for yet another trainers’ title.

Recommended bets:

1pt win – Gerri Colombe – 2.55 Aintree – 2/1 general

1pt win – Impaire et Passe – 3.30 Aintree – 5/4 general

1pt each-way – Whiskeywealth – 4.40 Aintree – 6/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt each-way – Sans Bruit – 4.40 Aintree – 5/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 4)

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