SPRINTER Sacre is the closest thing I’ve seen to unbeatable in the National Hunt game and Nicky Henderson’s stable star heads to Aintree tomorrow as the heavy favourite to stretch his unbeaten run over fences to nine – with five of those wins at the highest level.
The seven-year-old put up the performance of the Cheltenham Festival last month when bolting up in the Champion Chase without even coming off the bridle, but the John Smith’s Melling Chase (3.05pm) will be The Black Aeroplane’s toughest assignment yet.
Not only is he taking on battle-hardy Grade One performers in Cue Card and Flemenstar, he is stepping up to 2m4f for the first time over fences. On pedigree this shouldn’t present any problems but it’s still a step into the unknown against high-class rivals. Barry Geraghty’s mount should win, but I can swerve the superstar at 1/3.
Flemenstar was competing for the title of Ireland’s best chaser at the start of the season but Peter Casey’s charge has met with defeat on his last two starts. Both are excusable as he doesn’t quite seem to stay three miles and back in trip he’d have to be a big danger to Sprinter Sacre. But his trainer has made no secret in the past of his concerns of how his horse would be affected by a trip over to England. He also missed Cheltenham with a setback, so his well-being is taken on trust.
CUE CARD was a headline winner for us last month and I think he’ll give the favourite most to do. His stamina isn’t in doubt with five of his nine career wins coming around this distance. He will love the sounder surface and rates a knocking each-way bet at 7/1 with Coral to chase home Sprinter Sacre or, if there is to be an upset, deliver that surprise.
In the opener (2.00pm) I’d be shocked if Supreme Novices’ second My Tent Or Yours was beaten but he’ll be no sort of price and I’d rather put up a couple for the Topham Chase (3.40pm).
TARTAK ran really well at the Festival to finish third and is attractively handicapped on his effort in this race last year. He was top weight that day but broke a blood vessel and this time is 23lb lower, shouldering only 10st 5lb. Now he’s running into form it might be the time to catch him each-way at 20/1 with Coral.
GULLIBLE GORDON has contracted in price over the last couple of days but there’s still mileage in the 16/1 offered by Paddy Power. Peter Bowen has won this race four times in the last six years and his gelding showed up for a long way over these fences in December, so a drop back in trip may suit. Finally, the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (4.15pm) looks a hot race but it’s full of soft-ground horses and I’ll back OUR VINNIE. He’s run well on good ground before and his sire loved faster conditions. Charles Byrnes’ horse was travelling kindly at Cheltenham last month before being brought down and is worth another chance.
- CUE CARD e/w 3.05pm Aintree
- TARTAK e/w 3.40pm Aintree
- GULLIBLE GORDON e/w 3.40pm Aintree
- OUR VINNIE e/w 4.15pm Aintree
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