Trust spring horse Lieutenant to come alive at Aintree again

Bill Esdaile
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THE Crabbie’s Grand National Festival has grown in stature over the past decade and with huge pots on offer you find that some trainers are willing to sacrifice a win at Cheltenham for a success at Aintree.

For others a crack at both meetings is irresistible, but with just a three-week gap between the two events this year punters need to look closely at those runners that may well have left their race at Prestbury Park, and decide if a fresher horse has a better chance.

The Betfred Bowl (2.30pm) is a prime example and I am very keen to take on Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti at 11/5 with BetBright, who surely had a very hard race in the Gold Cup.

Rewind the clocks back 12 months and Silviniaco Conti was the hot favourite to land this prize, but could only finish third behind First Lieutenant. He had fallen three out in the Gold Cup when still travelling well, but the fall at least saved him having to battle up that gruelling hill.

He once again travelled like the winner in the Blue Riband event last month, but emptied after the last, finishing a very tired horse, and I’m fairly sure that will have left its mark. Don’t forget that both Kauto Star and Denman were beaten in this having contested the Gold Cup.

I find it slightly more difficult to oppose Ryanair Chase winner Dynaste, as the step up in trip will suit and he won impressively at this meeting last year. However, he isn’t the most consistent and I would never be happy taking a short price about him.

The Ryanair isn’t as demanding a race as the Gold Cup, yet David Pipe’s runner still had to work hard to get on top and he might not be at the peak of his powers today.

FIRST LIEUTENANT was scratched from the Gold Cup on the morning of the race after a small setback and that was heartbreaking for me as I think he would have gone very close. However, compensation awaits at Aintree for the second year running as a near two-month break should leave him pretty much spot on.

This is First Lieutenant’s time of year. He loves spring ground and Aintree clearly played to his strengths last year. It is a shame that the injured Bryan Cooper can’t ride, but Mouse Morris has found a more than capable replacement in Barry Geraghty.

He has been called a few names in the past, but he is a very strong fancy for me and you should take the 3/1 with BetBright, who are offering new customers a £20 risk free bet on any race at Aintree this week.

Last year’s runner-up Menorah isn’t completely ruled out, although I don’t think he truly gets this 3m 1f trip.

The opening Injured Jockeys Fund 50 Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle (2.00pm) looks a very tough puzzle on paper. Harry Fry’s Activial has been kept fresh for this after winning the Adonis at Kempton and he should run really well.

However, he was beaten by CALIPTO at Newbury in November and I fancy that one to uphold the form after a luckless run in the Triumph Hurdle where he surely would have gone very close if his stirrup hadn’t snapped.

Nicholls’ inmate has looked the best juvenile so far this season and he is worth backing at 3/1 with BetBright.

There are plenty of other interesting contenders including Guitar Pete, Fox Norton and Broughton, but the best each-way option could be John Quinn’s Aurore D’Estruval who travelled supremely well at Haydock last time and fillies have a good record in this race.

■ Pointers…
CALIPTO 2.00pm Aintree