Chris Sleep has shortlisted 10 eyecatchers from the Cheltenham Festival that are set to return to action at the Grand National meeting.
One of the oddities of the jump racing calendar is that its two big festivals, Cheltenham and Aintree, fall within approximately three weeks of one another.
Much debate over the next few days will revolve around horses that are due to run at Liverpool and whether they will have ‘recovered’ in time from Prestbury Park.
Every year, some horses don’t show the same form at Aintree as they did at Cheltenham, but this can be for a variety of reasons and others will thrive between the two Festivals, sometimes a promising run at the former merely signposts an even better display on Merseyside.
Here, Chris Sleep has shortlisted 10 horses that caught his eye at the Cheltenham Festival and can be expected to go on to even better things at the Grand National meeting.
Ballyandy was an impressive winner of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury after a couple of underwhelming performances over hurdles prior to that. He went into the Supreme Novices Hurdle as joint favourite but things didn't pan out for him there as e was hampered early on and found himself out of position thereafter. To Ballyandy's credit he kept on and finished fourth in the race and shaped as though a step up in trip would suit him heading to Aintree. Being a Champion Bumper and Betfair Hurdle winning he is clearly a high-class horse who is expected to put up a bold showing at Aintree this week.
Bristol De Mai was a wide-margin winner of the Peter Marsh at Haydock earlier in the year which was the first time he really announced himself as a potential Grade 1 winner over fences. After a below-par effort at Newbury behind Native River where he was reported to be lame post-race, he went onto to contest the Gold Cup at Cheltenham and finished seventh. This was a creditable effort and returning to forcing tactics on a flatter track ought to suit him well at Aintree. He has two options the Melling Chase or the Betfair Bowl, granted being ridden forward he has the class to announce himself here as a Grade 1 chaser and he can reward support at a fair price.
Bouvreuil has had a this campaign this season comprising of just three runs, the latest of which coming at the Festival when third behind Road To Respect where he kept on at the same pace from the final fence. With this being his second run of the calendar he comes to Aintree as a relatively fresh horse and he is likely to take in the Topham Chase over the National fences on the Friday of the meeting. Paul Nicholls won this race 12 months ago with As De Mee who had a similar profile and it wouldn't surprise me if Bouvreuil were to take to the National Fences and reward each-way support in the Topham.
Divin Bere has only had two runs in this country for Nicky Henderson, he won the first of those at Huntingdon in gritty style before heading to the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival where, carrying top weight, he was narrowly touched off by Flying Tiger. He reportedly had a small wind operation prior to that run at Cheltenham and his trainer Nicky Henderson is planning a step up in class at Aintree. Officially rated 145 he does have to improve a little to win at Grade 1 level but he's improved on every start for his trainer so far and further improvement isn't ruled out.
Double W's carried an impressive record into Cheltenham with a couple of wins in minor company before a solid second in a competitive handicap at Doncaster. He was well fancied in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham and he led at the second from home before fading after the final fence. The step back in trip to 2m at Aintree in the Red Rum Handicap Chase on the opening day of the meeting is sure to suit him well and he is sure to be competitive from his handicap mark of 139.
More Of That is a former Stayers’ Hurdle winner who has been slightly disappointing over fences but his last two runs have been more than adequate. He was holding every chance when unseating his rider at the final fence in the Irish Gold Cup before finishing sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. More Of That kept on well up the hill at Cheltenham and saw his race out more resolutely this time and the better ground he will encounter in the Grand National is sure to suit him well. More Of That is well handicapped on his Irish Gold Cup form and has plenty of class and is worth supporting in the big race of the meeting. His price will surely contract if chosen by Barry Geraghty.
The Worlds End has been a progressive horse all season for Tom George and he scored impressively in Grade 2 company at Haydock prior to taking part in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival. He moved well through the race and was still holding every chance when falling at 2 from the finish. It's hard to be certain where he would have finished but I'm sure he wouldn't have been far away from the principals at the finish. The conditions at Aintree will be no barrier to him at the Merseyside venue and he may be underestimated by the market on the day and is well worth supporting.
Thomas Campbell is a lightly raced horse who has only had four starts over hurdles but caught the eye to an extent at Cheltenham in the ultra-competitive Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle where he was fifth beaten less than five lengths. This was his first start in a big field handicap and he shaped as though the step up in trip suited him well and with the experience of a big field handicap under his belt he can win races from his current handicap mark and is worth supporting at Aintree in the 2m4f Handicap Hurdle on Friday.
Western Ryder was a strong fancy of mine for the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival and he ran a fine race to finish fifth beaten less than four lengths. This run at Aintree will be his sixth start in his career and he has shown a high level of ability in those starts and is clearly one of the leading bumper performers this side of the Irish Sea. With several of those who beat him at Cheltenham not making the trip to Aintree he is likely to take plenty of beating here.
Yanworth has been campaigned as a Champion Hurdle horse for the greater part of this season but he was outpaced at a crucial stage in the Champion Hurdle and could never land a meaningful blow and eventually came home a well beaten seventh in the feature race on Day One of the Cheltenham Festival. Alan King has been keen to step the horse up in trip and he will do that at Aintree with the three-mile Liverpool Hurdle the most likely option for him. He seems sure to relish the step up in trip to three miles and with some of the main rivals skipping this race and staying in Ireland for big prizes later in the season I would expect Yanworth to bounce back up in trip and reunited with Barry Geraghty who knows the horse so well.