Friday, April 05, 2024

Aintree antipasti

Today's cards at Fontwell and Wetherby have been abandoned due to waterlogging, along with tomorrow's at Kelso and Stratford; Uttoxeter has reported standing water in places with a precautionary inspection due to take place at 7.30 on the morning.

So, very early thoughts on Aintree next week...

Three horses with the Topham (4.05 Friday) as their stated target are: Your Darling; Arizona Cardinal; and Lounge Lizard. 

Your Darling: owned by Lord Vestey, he hasn't been seen since beating Flegmatik nine lengths at Ascot in November. He was raised nine pounds for that win, after which trainer Ben Pauling said:

"Your Darling is probably the most frustrating horse I'll ever train - if only he turned up every time. He's probably one of the most talented horses I've trained in a long time and when he wants to do it he's electric. When he got deep into one there, he still landed 15 yards out the other side of it but he doesn't want to want to do it, he flops through it. It's quite clear the rating doesn't overly matter to him. It's whether he wants to do it or not." 

His profile suggests he probably prefers better ground - if he's in the mood, that is.

Arizona Cardinal: beat One True King 14 lengths to win the Forba Gold Cup at Ludlow in February; subsequently raised nine pounds, he handles soft ground. 

Lounge Lizard: last to finish (fifth) in the war of attrition that was this year's Becher Chase, 137 lengths behind winner Chambard. He then finished just under two lengths behind Ga Law at Cheltenham in January before rallying to beat Dibble Decker a neck at Huntingdon at the beginning of March. After that win, handler Henry Daly said:

"We'll aim Lounge Lizard at the Topham. He ran a corker at Cheltenham in January and I don't think Huntingdon suits him all that well. Aintree will suit him better and he loved jumping around there before."

Last year's Topham winner Bill Baxter goes off the same mark this year. 

Handler Warren Greatrex was confident his charge would stay further this season and wasn't displeased with eighth in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury in December. The acid test came at Haydock in the Tommy Whittle where the grey weakened from two out to finish fourth behind Famous Bridge. He was subsequently eighth behind Ga Law and Lounge Lizard at Cheltenham and, to my mind, hasn't been in the same form this term. 

Two Dan Skelton horses missed Cheltenham and hold possible Aintree targets: Boombawn (desperate for better ground) and Etalon (Maghull Novices' Chase on Saturday).

Returning from an absence of 458 days, Highstakesplayer won well at Kempton in February but disappointed at Newbury three weeks later. He could run in the three mile one handicap chase on Saturday. 

I've done nothing at all on the Grand National (4.00 Saturday) with this year's field reduced to 34 runners for the first time. However I note that last year Corach Rambler (10-05) beat Vanillier (10-06) in second and Noble Yeats (11-11) in fourth; this year Corach Rambler carries 11-05, Vanillier 10-11 and Noble Yeats 11-11. Many Clouds won the 2015 renewal with a burden of 11-09.

Finally, I'll be interested to see if Ruth Jefferson declares her River Don winner Kerryhill here.

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