Twenty-seven runners line up in the Aintree Foxhunters including last season’s 1-2-3 and the 2017 winner, Dineur.
Road To Rome heads the market after a very good run in defeat in the Cheltenham Foxhunter. He set a good pace from the off and was only headed between the final two fences by the winner, Hazel Hill, before fading rapidly on the run in to finish 4th. The concerning part of that performance is that his tendency to jump to the right resurfaced and a repeat of that clearly wouldn’t be ideal. He has a strong chance, but I think there’s no edge at 7-2.
Burning Ambition is second favourite following a victory in a hunter chase at Down Royal on his most recent start. He cruised to the front that day and beat Sidetracked by 1½ lengths. The clear concern with him is how little he appears to find under pressure. He looked to curl up under pressure when beaten by Gilgamboa last season and even in victory last time his finishing effort was far from convincing.
I think this Aintree course is more forgiving to strong travelling weak finishers than a standard chase course and he might appeal to those looking for a horse to back pre-race and lay at shorter in running but I think the current 11-2 doesn’t underestimate his chance.
Ucello Conti has plenty of experience on this course but I thought his run at Cheltenham was a little flat, while Kruzhlinin has been racking up wins in Irish Opens but this will be much tougher.
The formerly classy pair of Road To Riches and Wonderful Charm would be dangerous if anywhere near their best but Wonderful Charm hasn’t taken to these fences in the past and the softening ground is against him, while Road To Riches needs to significantly step up on what he’s shown this season to be competitive.
TOP WOOD ran very well in defeat at Cheltenham and could go well in this if in the same mood and taking to the fences. The disparity in price between him and Road To Rome looks a bit too big and he’s a small bet at 16-1 but the main selection is a horse who has been campaigned with this race in mind.
SEEFOOD had to finish in the first three places at Leicester to be qualified for this race and he duly achieved that, coming home in front by 7 lengths on his first start for Justin Landy. While he has to improve on that form to win here, he won comfortably and it showed that he still retained the enthusiasm that he had in his younger days. It was also encouraging that he jumped well as his jumping hasn’t always been too good over fences in the past.
He has run well over this course before when finishing 2nd in the 2016 Grand Sefton and was steadily making headway, having been switched to the outside, when falling in the 2017 Topham. He comes into the race far fresher than most, should get an ideal trip off a strong pace and while he might prefer better ground, he does handle soft.
It is a slight negative that this is Charlotte Crane’s first ride over these fences but Seefood looks a suitable partner and the 18-1 looks more than fair.
Rhys' Best Bets (scale 1-5 points):
4.05 AINTREE - FOXHUNTERS' OPEN HUNTERS' CHASE
1pt each-way SEEFOOD (16-1 general - Boylesports & Paddy Power paying 5 places)
0.5pt win TOP WOOD (18-1 William Hill, 16-1 general)