AINTREE stages the opening day of its historic Grand National meeting this afternoon - where all eyes will be on Cue Card as he bids to land another Betway Bowl (2.50pm).
He crashed out at the third last for a second year in a row in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but don’t forget he proved all his doubters wrong by bouncing straight back here 12 months ago.
He could repeat the trick again this afternoon, but he’s short enough and I’m prepared to take him on with Cheltenham disappointment EMPIRE OF DIRT at 11/4.
I fancied him strongly in the Ryanair Chase, but he just didn’t seem to have the gears to stay in contention.
This afternoon’s step up in trip will mean a slightly slower pace which should allow the horse to travel in his comfort zone.
He was only just behind subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup back in February.
All eyes will be on hot favourite On The Fringe in the Foxhunters’ (4.05pm), as he bids to land the race for a third consecutive year.
He is such a good jumper that 15/8 could well look a monster price, but I’m always prepared to take on one at such a silly price over these obstacles.
Cheltenham Foxhunter winner Pacha Du Polder looks the most likely danger on paper, but that fact is also not lost on the bookmakers.
Instead, I’m taking a chance on BALNASLOW at 10/1 and last year’s runner-up DINEUR at 20/1.
The former looks just the type to go well from the front around here and has a great pilot in Derek O’Connor.
As for Dineur, he has proven form over these fences and looks to be have been trained for the race once again.
Empire Of Dirt 2.50pm Aintree
Balnaslow e/w 4.05pm Aintree
Dineur e/w 4.05pm Aintree
AINTREE’S brilliant Grand National meeting gets underway with Cheltenham Festival winners Defi Du Seuil and Buveur D’Air bidding to complete big spring doubles for owner JP McManus, but their superiority over their respective rivals will be reflected in their odds-on quotes.
Both are likely to feature in plenty of accumulators, and with Top Notch and Cue Card among the other favourites today, there is certainly the potential for punters to gain a measure of revenge for a Cheltenham that largely went our way.
McManus has an excellent chance of a treble this afternoon, with his On The Fringe favourite to make it a hat-trick of wins in the Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase.
Two years ago Pacha Du Polder filled the runner-up spot in the race, but Andy Stewart’s charge came out on top when the pair clashed at Cheltenham last month.
He’s my bet of the day to confirm that running, while Gino Trail can hopefully add to another excellent season for trainer Kerry Lee in the Red Rum Chase.