Grand National - At The Races

Runner Profiles

    We’ve asked pro-punter Andrew Gibson to profile a dozen of the leading contenders across the three days on Merseyside – he’s covered everything from established stars, useful handicappers and promising novices.

Horse profiles

Buveur D'air (FR)

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Crillon - History (Alesso)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Aintree, 6 Apr 2017 15:25
  • Result: Won/6, tracked leading pair, went 2nd 7th until after 4 out, 2nd again after 3 out, led before last, shaken up to draw clear flat, eased close home
  • View full form

Prior to his recent Champion Hurdle success my main concern for Buveur D’Air’s claims was with regards to his speed for the minimum trip on a faster surface. After all he had looked relatively one-paced in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle; moreover, he had needed every inch of the two-mile trip before eventually wearing down Petit Mouchoir close to the line at this meeting a year ago. Noel Fehily’s post-race comments added further substance to any concerns. He stated that soft ground and an extra half mile to race over would definitely be in Buveur D’Air’s favour.

At Cheltenham in March the Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air was about four seconds quicker from the first hurdle to the third last in comparison with Labaik in the Supreme. He was then about two seconds slower than the Elliott horse from three out to the line when playing the two races side by side. This was a very impressive staying performance from Buveur D’Air as he was urged into the lead in between the final two flights before asserting his undoubted superiority over his rivals up the hill. He beat the runner-up by an identical margin to the one achieved by Annie Power in 2016. Furthermore, this form stacks up well when one considers the overall records of both My Tent Or Yours and The New One in previous renewals of the Champion Hurdle.

After he won at Aintree in 2016 it was interesting to hear Noel Fehily describe him as being the best jumper of a hurdle he had ever sat on. He certainly moved through that two-mile race in a smooth fashion and also showed plenty of tenacity in the finish. The softer ground he ran on that day is clearly an advantage and the extra half mile he will be competing over in the Aintree Hurdle is a massive point in his favour.

At the time of writing the ground is officially described as good to soft for this race with little or no rain predicted between now and Thursday. The time for the Champion Hurdle was quicker than standard and the only real possible negative I can think of with Buveur D’Air in the Aintree Hurdle is how he might cope with two races in succession on ground faster than ideal. I suspect he will be okay; however, as he is currently trading as the 8/15 favourite for this contest it is definitely a factor to consider.

Nicky Henderson won two renewals of this Grade 1 contest with Oscar Whisky in 2011 and 2012. The conditions of this two and a half mile race look ideal for this son of Crillon and it would be a surprise if the maestro of Seven Barrows did not add to those recent successes in this prestigious race with Buveur D’Air.

Charbel (IRE)

Prior to the Arkle Chase I was very hopeful that Charbel would run very well for a long way behind the obvious winner of the race, Altior. At the same time, I also believed that this Kim Bailey six-year-old might be even better suited to the conditions he would face in the Grade 1 Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree on Grand National day.

At Cheltenham he exceeded my expectations as he appeared set to give Altior a real race when still leading at the second last fence. He had led all the way up until that point and had jumped really well out in front. Consequently, it was a real shame to see him land steeply and crumble on landing two out. He was a good two lengths clear of the third at the time of his departure and would very likely have finished a gallant second at worst.

At the time of writing I do not know what the entries are for Saturday’s race; however, assuming Charbel takes his place in the line-up he has an excellent chance of leading all the way in the Maghull Novices’ Chase. If he jumps round without error then I would suggest that he will hold a solid chance of winning providing Altior is not the horse tracking him in between the long run from two out to the last fence. Nicky Henderson has suggested that Altior is more likely to turn out again in the Celebration Chase at Sandown at the end of the month. Hopefully the Arkle winner will be kept on track for Sandown!

Given the likelihood of Charbel being given a very positive ride out in front on Saturday I would prefer to consider him as a trading proposition rather than a simple win bet. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind if Kim Bailey’s stable star ends up trading at an each-way price in the early markets.

Video Form
28 Oct 2016:
26 Apr 2016:
27 Nov 2015:
29 Oct 2015:
29 Apr 2015:

Cue Card

  • 11-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: King's Theatre - Wicked Crack (King's Ride)
  • Trained by: C L Tizzard
  • Last Race: Aintree, 6 Apr 2017 14:50
  • Result: 2/7, tracked leaders, led 13th, ridden before 2 out, headed before last, kept on and held towards finish
  • View full form

His connections hopes of securing a million pound bonus were ended when he fell at the third last fence when going well in the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Cue Card followed up 20 days later by taking the 2016 Grade 1 Betfred Bowl Chase at Aintree in impressive fashion.

The two horses that chased him home at Aintree had previously finished in the places behind Don Cossack in the aforementioned Gold Cup. This outcome clearly added some substance to the possibility, at least, that Cue Card would have gone close to winning the Blue Riband event at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.

At the time I didn't think it was too pertinent to consider the proximity of Don Poli and Djakadam before making lofty claims regarding where Cue Card would have finished at Cheltenham. What I did believe, however, was that his Aintree success was the second completed race in a row where he had appeared to hold abundant quantities of stamina rather than display the speed he had appeared to hold in his younger days. Consequently, I doubt very much that Cue Card would now, as an 11-year-old, be able to reproduce the particular qualities he showed when winning the 2013 renewal of the Ryanair Chase.

His subsequent performances in the 2016/17 season have added more than a little substance to those beliefs. In both of his completed chases when competing on good ground he has appeared to be lacking in speed in the closing stages. He was unable to match Irish Cavalier and Menorah on his seasonal debut in a Charlie Hall run on good ground. I know that Paddy Brennan felt he had got his tactics wrong on the day and he might well be correct in this assumption; personally, however, I suspect that the quicker ground at Wetherby played a more significant role in that surprise defeat than was acknowledged at the time.

Cue Card had needed every last inch of the three miles trip to get up on the line and defeat Vautour in the 2015 King George VI Chase. Fast forward one year and he appeared woefully short of speed when put in his place by Thistlecrack in the 2016 renewal. I believe it is more than significant that the second of those races was run in a time 10 seconds quicker than the first.

I would suggest that Cue Card will need the ground to ride good to soft or softer to give him his optimum chance of being seen in his best light in the 2017 Betway Bowl Chase. I doubt it is a coincidence that his two most impressive performances of this season have both been when he has competed on testing ground.

This Colin Tizzard-trained 11-year-old was certainly not going as well when falling three out in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup compared with how he had been travelling when falling at the same fence one year earlier. It is possible that this comparison could signify the beginning of a downward curve in the ability levels of this son of King’s Theatre. Just as likely, perhaps, is that many of the stable’s runners, with one or two notable exceptions, did appear to perform below expectations at the Cheltenham Festival. If this point is indeed the salient variable then the form of the yard since the middle of March does not inspire any more confidence.

Cue Card will be the highest-rated horse in the race and may even hold a favourites chance of coming out on top in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl Chase; nevertheless, the minor doubts regarding the drying ground and the form of the yard are enough for me to take a watching brief rather than a financial involvement in this Grade 1 contest.

Video Form
27 Apr 2016:
29 Apr 2015:

Dinaria Des Obeaux (FR)

She was very strongly backed for the Triumph Hurdle in the final couple of days leading up to the race. Although she was ultimately disappointing on the day her previous form still stacked up well via the juveniles to fill the four places immediately behind the impressive winner Defi Du Seuil on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.

In the Triumph she raced very keenly up front and competed on the outside of the other pace setter, Mega Fortune, for most of the contest. Unsurprisingly she tied up very quickly from two out and ultimately finished well beaten in 11th place.

I would tend to forgive her this run given how hard she pulled and how poorly most of the other prominent runners fared in the closing stages. Her previous form with Ex Patriot, Landofhopeandglory, Bapaume and Mega Fortune actually worked out well in the Triumph Hurdle so Dinaria Des Obeaux might well be significantly better than she was able to show on that day. Furthermore, this was only her fourth run over hurdles and just her fifth career start; consequently, she may well be open to more improvement compared with a few of her more battle hardened rivals.

Previously she had been hampered late on when finishing second to Ex Patriot at Fairyhouse in late February. The stewards obviously felt that it made a telling difference as she was ultimately awarded the race. After winning a minor race on her hurdles debut she had finished a slightly unfortunate third behind Mega Fortune and Bapaume in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown in the middle of February. She would have finished a few lengths closer on that day but for a jolting blunder at the second last flight. I think she lost four or five lengths plus momentum in the process. Consequently she did well to stay on again for third and showed a good attitude in the process. The form of this contest has been substantiated by the first two home who subsequently finished second and third in the Triumph Hurdle.

Dinaria Des Obeaux is currently trading at a big price for the Grade 1 Doom Bar Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle. Along with her fellow Irish contender Landofhopeandglory she may well offer the biggest threat to the odds-on favourite for the race, Defi De Seuil.

Video Form
29 Apr 2017:
17 Apr 2017:
25 Feb 2017:
12 Feb 2017:
11 Dec 2016:

Double W's (IRE)

I remember being really impressed with the way that Double W’s jumped on his chasing debut at Carlisle in the middle of October. I had followed his progress as a hurdler with real interest and felt very hopeful that he would step up on what he achieved over hurdles when competing over the larger obstacles. He has generally progressed well as a chaser through this season aside from a blip when finishing down the field when carrying top weight in a Newbury handicap chase in late November.

He bounced back from that disappointing effort at Newbury with an excellent performance in his prep run for the Cheltenham Festival. He was staying on strongly at the end of that extended two mile race at Doncaster and had one or two decent sorts in behind as he chased home Upsilon Bleu.

Consequently, I was very hopeful that we would see plenty of improvement from Double W’s when he was stepped up in trip to contest the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. As it turned out he ran a very good race and actually took up the running at the second last flight; nonetheless, it has to be said his positive run petered out very quickly from thereon in. The obvious conclusion to draw from his tame finishing effort is that he simply did not last home over the extra half mile.

His trainer has entered him back over two miles to contest the Grade 3 Betway Red Rum Handicap Chase on the opening day of the Aintree Festival. The drying ground is a significant plus to his claims and his assured jumping will stand him in good stead in a race that is usually run at a strong pace. The ‘Red Rum’ is always a most competitive race; however, I am hopeful that Double W’s is just the right sort of horse to perform well in a fast run race like this and give us a good run for our money at a double-figure price.

Video Form
28 Jan 2017:
30 Sep 2016:
28 Nov 2015:
21 Feb 2015:

God's Own

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Oscar - Dantes Term (Phardante)
  • Trained by: T R George
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 25 Apr 2017 17:30
  • Result: 3/8, tracked leaders, soon 3rd, mainly 4th after 4th, dropped to 5th briefly before straight, soon pushed along to chase leader, close 3rd and mistake last, slightly impeded run-in and no impression but kept on
  • View full form

He ran a very similar race in the 2017 Champion Chase to the one he ran one year earlier. Last month at Cheltenham he landed on four out and made a slightly less obvious error two out. Neither of his mistakes helped his cause and he would certainly have finished closer without them. It should be noted, however, that he was not going as well as the winner after three out; furthermore, he made a mistake at the same second last fence and was beaten five lengths by Special Tiara in the 2016 renewal. In my view he would probably have done something similar in 2017 without those two errors. Alternatively, it is also possible his two mistakes cost him the race; he has never been the fastest horse over a fence at the minimum trip on a left-handed track, however, and I would prefer to think it cost him third place from his stablemate.

God’s Own won the 2016 Melling Chase after the long odds-on favourite Vautour fell early on in the contest. That said this was a weak Grade 1 chase with no strength in depth aside from the favourite. The runner up, Al Ferof, was struggling from a long way out and still managed to close within three lengths of God’s Own at the line. Immediately after the race I remember being concerned that he had ruined his price for the Punchestown Champion Chase on the back of this rather flattering Aintree success. As it turned out he drifted to 9/1 at Punchestown before beating Vautour with something to spare in the finish. The combination of the right-handed track at Punchestown and the shorter trip are both pointers in his favour.

Personally I believe that the two and a half miles trip he will have to negotiate in the Melling Chase is right at the buckle end of his stamina limitations. This notion is supported by the way he finished his race off at Ascot in November. After the Amlin Chase the pundits I heard referred to 'the weight telling close home' which I would have to strongly disagree with. He simply did not quite see out the two miles and five furlongs trip on the day, which is something he had hinted at previously at Aintree and Kempton.

God’s Own is obviously not without a chance of winning the 2017 Melling Chase. After all, the current favourite for the race, Fox Norton, clearly has his stamina to prove for this intermediate trip. My personal preference, however, will be for God’s Own to not quite last home and finish an apparently disappointing third or fourth. Hopefully this scenario will result in a bigger price for him when he should have conditions more in his favour at Punchestown.

Video Form
25 Apr 2017:
26 Apr 2016:

Henri Parry Morgan

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Brian Boru - Queen Of Thedaises (Over The River)
  • Trained by: P Bowen
  • Last Race: Ayr, 22 Apr 2017 15:55
  • Result: 9/30, tracked leaders, blundered 3 out, soon lost place, no impression after
  • View full form

I doubt that many punters would accuse him of being the most reliable betting proposition of this National Hunt season. After all, he has failed to complete the course in three of his latest seven runs and has finished well behind in the other four races. Nevertheless, he is clearly a chaser with an awful lot of ability and a more thorough investigation of his recent form suggests that it is not as bad as it might appear at first glance.

Last time out I thought he put in an improved round of jumping at Cheltenham in the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase. I think they simply went too fast for him on ground that was quicker than ideal. Consequently, I was pleasantly surprised to see his jumping hold up so well on the day. I felt he was also going a stride faster than ideal at Newbury and Wetherby in his first two starts of this season.

His performance on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham strongly suggests that a soft surface is very important to him; especially when racing over a trip of around two and a half miles. He was travelling like the best horse in the race on that day right up until the point he came down at the fourth last fence. He was competing off a mark of 148 on that occasion which strongly supports the notion that he is now an extremely well handicapped chaser. He followed up that fall with a confidence booster over hurdles before facing an impossible task at Exeter off level weights with the 158-rated Tea For Two. I felt prior to that graduation chase that the main point of the exercise for Henri Parry Morgan would be a clear round of jumping.

In the 2016 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at this meeting Henri Parry Morgan travelled and jumped like the best horse in the race for most of that Grade 1 contest. He just lacked a little pace from two out to challenge the winner Native River. Perhaps he could have done with a softer surface in such a high class chase. I thought post-race that, given the form of the Peter Bowen stable at this venue in April he could be an interesting outsider for the Betway Bowl in 2017 especially on testing ground.

As a consequence of a very average season Henri Parry Morgan will not be lining up on the opening day in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl Chase. Instead he seems set to take his place in the three mile plus handicap chase on Grand National day off a mark of 138. He does appear to be an interesting contender; especially when one considers that Native River beat him by three lengths off level weights over the same course and distance in 2016. The Tizzard horse is now rated 167 which would imply that Henri Parry Morgan has plenty in hand of the handicapper.

I suspect that he will always need some cut in the ground to be seen in his best light; furthermore, he remains a horse of real interest the next time he competes on soft going irrespective of how he gets on in the 3.40 at Aintree on Saturday. If he is put away after Aintree I will have him high on my first shortlist for the Betvictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November where he is more likely to benefit from a soft surface.

Video Form
19 Mar 2016:
27 Feb 2016:
20 Sep 2015:
9 Jun 2015:
2 May 2015:

John Constable (IRE)

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Montjeu - Dance Parade (Gone West)
  • Trained by: Evan Williams
  • Last Race: Market Rasen, 22 Jul 2017 14:10
  • Result: Won/10, held up behind, smooth headway after 3 out, tracked front pair approaching next, squeezed through to lead last, ridden out flat, stayed on well
  • View full form

This son of Montjeu appears to be remarkably well-handicapped on his best form off his current rating of 129. He began the season on a mark 10lbs higher and has gradually worked his way down the ratings in his four subsequent outings.

John Constable finished close up in the Scottish Champion Hurdle and the Swinton Hurdle at the back end of last season. I remember thinking at the time that, if he were mine, those two races alongside the conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle on Grand National day would be my three potential target races for the season.

He showed that he retains all of his ability with a fine sixth place finish in the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. He raced off a mark of 137 on that day and stayed on in eye-catching fashion without ever looking likely to peg back the leading group. The fact that the claimer Conor Ring rode him at Cheltenham and also in his next race at Newbury adds some weight to the possibility of the conditional jockeys’ race at Aintree being a likely target.

It has to be said that I would have preferred the Evan Williams stable to be in better form than they have been of late. A couple of positive efforts from the yard’s runners would certainly not go amiss before Saturday.

I am not privy to any inside information from the stable; consequently, I am far from sure that Saturday will be his big day. What I would suggest with rather more confidence, however, is that John Constable is worth keeping on side for the Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle at Aintree on Saturday, the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr and the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May.

Video Form
24 Aug 2014:
7 Aug 2014:

Landofhopeandglory

  • 4-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: High Chaparral - Wurfklinge (Acatenango)
  • Trained by: Joseph P O'Brien
  • Last Race: Kilbeggan, 26 Jun 2017 20:00
  • Result: Won/8, mid-division, closer in 4th before 3 out, pushed along to challenge on inner before last where not fluent, soon led and kept on well under pressure run-in
  • View full form

I do not think there is an awful lot to choose between the top Irish juveniles this season. Mega Fortune, Bapaume, Ex Patriot and Landofhopeandglory were the next four in line to chase home the impressive Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil at Cheltenham. Previously those four horses along with Dinaria Des Obeaux had appeared to be relatively closely matched based on the evidence of several encounters.

I doubt very much that Landofhopeandglory was suited to the heavy ground in his Cheltenham Festival prep run at Fairyhouse in late February. Previously he had arguably come out as the best horse in the race in each of his two encounters with both Bapaume and Mega Fortune. He was conceding 3lbs to each of those rivals when splitting the pair in a close finish in the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. Those same three juveniles also filled the first three places in the Grade 3 Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse in early December. Landofhopeandglory managed to come out on top on that occasion despite conceding 4lbs to his two old foes.

I think that the ground is quite a crucial variable with this talented High Chaparral gelding. Aside from disappointing on heavy ground at Fairyhouse in late February, he had also finished last but one in a big field in a German Derby run on a similarly testing surface. His record on better going has clearly been of a higher level both over hurdles and on the flat.

I prefer to remain open-minded as to how comfortable Landofhopeandglory was racing round the undulations of Cheltenham last time out; what I would suggest, however, is that the decent ground and long flat home straight at Aintree should really play to his strengths. He was doing a lot of his best work after the last hurdle at Cheltenham and I can see him staying on powerfully up the long Aintree straight on Thursday.

Given the presence of odds-on favourite Defi Du Seuil in the line-up it would be difficult to offer Landofhopeandglory up as the likeliest winner of the Grade 1 Doom Bar 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle; nevertheless, he is currently trading at a double-figure price for the race. Consequently, I would suggest that, along with the similarly priced Dinaria Des Obeaux, he has a reasonably strong chance of giving the favourite most to do. At the very least I will be using both of these Irish juveniles in a few place oriented each-way multiples.

Video Form
26 Jun 2017:
12 Jun 2017:
29 Apr 2017:
25 Feb 2017:
26 Dec 2016:

Road To Respect

  • 6-y-o; chestnut gelding
  • Breeding: Gamut - Lora Lady (Lord Americo)
  • Trained by: N Meade
  • Last Race: Fairyhouse, 16 Apr 2017 16:00
  • Result: Won/6, led and disputed, headed after 4th, disputed again after 3 out, ridden in 2nd 2 out, kept on to lead after last, just held on at line
  • View full form

It is fair to say that Road To Respect did not achieve anything of major note in his first five races over fences. After winning a beginners chase over an intermediate trip at Naas on his seasonal debut he was then tried over a range of distances in his subsequent four outings. After running well in a fast time at Fairyhouse in the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase behind Coney Island he finished a similar distance behind Min over two miles in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting. The fact that he finished several lengths behind the winner in both of those races played a significant part in allowing him to line-up at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival off a mark of 145.

The Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival was run in an incredibly fast time. Road To Respect could be named the winner of that contest a long way from home before drawing six lengths clear of his nearest rival with plenty left in the tank at the line. Furthermore, Road To Respect managed to run a quicker time for the final circuit compared with Un De Sceaux who ran earlier on the card. The fact that the Willie Mullins horse won the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase with something to spare augers well for Road To Respect when he steps up to graded class next time out. In that Grade 3 handicap he made a shuddering mistake at the first fence and his rider gave up the wide outside to no one. Hence, he may be even better than he looked in the finish.

Perhaps of most significance with the Manifesto Novices’ Chase in mind is Road To Respect’s sectional time comparisons with Top Notch who finished second to Yorkhill in the opening race on the card. Road To Respect was almost four seconds quicker than Top Notch at the final fence first time round. He was still about two seconds quicker at the second last flight and yet managed to record the same time as Top Notch from that point to the winning line. Top Notch is currently the 11/8 favourite for the Manifesto Novices' Chase whilst Road To Respect can be supported each-way at 8/1.Hopefully the Noel Meade horse will still be an each-way price when the NRNB rules come into play.

Road To Respect is entered in three Grade 1 chases in the early part of April including two races at the Aintree Festival. He will be of real interest in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase which is the opening race of the meeting and also in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase which is run on Friday. If he misses Aintree altogether I will be very keen to keep a close eye on him for Fairyhouse.

Whatever happens between now and next March Road To Respect’s winning effort at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival was a performance to note for the 2018 Ryanair Chase.

Video Form
16 Apr 2017:
19 Feb 2017:
8 Jan 2017:
26 Dec 2016:
4 Dec 2016:

Unowhatimeanharry (GB)

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Sir Harry Lewis - Red Nose Lady (Teenoso)
  • Trained by: Harry Fry
  • Last Race: Punchestown, 27 Apr 2017 17:30
  • Result: Won/12, took keen hold early, chased leaders, 5th from 5th, closed up 4 out, travelling smoothly and almost on terms 3 out, led after 2 out, strongly pressed before last, stayed on well run-in, just held on
  • View full form

He had won all eight of his races over hurdles for Harry Fry prior to his third place finish in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. The winner of the race was a high-class two-miler stepping up to three miles for the first time. Consequently, there is only the fact that he was beaten by the runner up, Lil Rockerfeller, that would suggest Unowhatimeanharry did not run right up to his best in March. He had run a very similar race with the fourth horse home Cole Harden previously in the Cleeve Hurdle and had the usual suspects behind him aside from Lil Rockerfeller on that day. In the Stayers’ Hurdle he was simply beaten by a much faster horse in Nichols Canyon, that just happened to stay the trip on the day. I suppose if Jezki had lasted home he would also have finished ahead of Unowhatimeanharry who, it has to be said, is not the quickest.

Both Nichols Canyon and Lil Rockerfeller are reportedly being kept for the Punchestown Festival and are, therefore, set to miss the Liverpool Hurdle. One would have assumed that this would have left the door open for Unowhatimeanharry to start as the strong favourite for the race that precedes the Grand National. This is now not the case due to the likelihood of Yanworth taking his place in the line-up.

Barry Geraghty now has the choice between these two JP McManus-owned horses. The fact that Yanworth is now the clear favourite for the Liverpool Hurdle suggests that the bookmakers, at least, believe that he will choose to ride the Alan King horse. Yanworth was clearly outpaced in the Champion Hurdle and he definitely looked in need of a step up in trip. This is still a long way, however, from suggesting that he will automatically be able to stay an extended three miles at Aintree on Saturday. He might well stay but he has still to prove it. We can have no doubts on that score with Unowhatimeanharry and it is rather surprising, therefore, to see him trading as big as 3/1 for the Liverpool Hurdle at this early stage of the week. I am happy to back him each-way at that sort of price when the NRNB rules come into play. If Barry Geraghty elects to ride the King horse then we could easily see Harry Fry’s stable star drifting in the market still further. Given the likely absence of the first two home in the Stayers Hurdle’; it would be very difficult to imagine Unowhatimeanharry not finishing in the first three on Saturday.

Video Form
27 Apr 2017:

Uxizandre (FR)

  • 9-y-o; chestnut gelding
  • Breeding: Fragrant Mix - Jolisandre (Dear Doctor)
  • Trained by: A King
  • Last Race: Aintree, 7 Apr 2017 15:25
  • Result: 8/9, led, tended to back off the early fences, headed 3rd, led 11th, headed next, weakened before 3 out, tailed off
  • View full form

He has often appeared almost as likely to throw in a bad run as put in a very positive performance. Consequently, he has long been a horse that I prefer to oppose when trading short after a particularly good performance; conversely, he is also one that I am much more prepared to forgive a bad run than with most other horses. Uxizandre’s last time out effort in the Ryanair Chase could not be described as a positive step forward from his promising seasonal debut – far from it in fact. Nonetheless, given his overall in and out record I do not believe that this poor run is much reason in itself to mark his chances down at Aintree.

I feel fairly confident that he rather ‘spat the dummy out’ when headed by Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase. Prior to the festival I was hoping that he would be fitted with a visor again. Maybe it would not have made any difference - we will never know…

I think it could be significant that the Willie Mullins horse will not be taking him on again in the Melling Chase. Hopefully Uxizandre will have the visor back on and be ridden extremely positively out in front. One can never be sure that the visor will work as well as it did the first time it was applied in the 2015 Ryanair Chase; on the balance of probability, however, it looks worth another try.

Uxizandre may not have Un De Sceaux to take him on for the lead on Friday; nevertheless, it will be fascinating to see how he gets on against Royal Regatta over the first few fences. If he can master that horse early on without expending too much energy it will greatly enhance his winning claims. Uxizandre’s chances of doing so are doubly enhanced by his tendency of jumping to his left and Royal Regatta’s habit of edging right at his fences. Moreover, Smad Place was able to match strides with Royal Regatta over the first four fences in the Old Roan Chase last October; I would be very surprised if Alan King did not think that Uxizandre had more speed than his Hennessy winner.

Given the likelihood of Uxizandre racing into an early lead I feel more inclined to view him as a strong trading prospect rather than as an out and out win bet. He is currently trading at around the 7/1 mark which would make Uxizandre an interesting back to lay proposition if that sort of price holds up when the NRNB rules come into play.

Video Form
27 Dec 2014:
×