IT isn’t easy to pinpoint value on this afternoon’s Aintree card, but I don’t think the bookmakers have got it right in the John Smith’s Melling Chase (3.05pm). I’m a big fan of Finian’s Rainbow, but he has always struck me as a genuine two-miler and he has been beaten both times he has been stepped up to 2m4f plus. He’s 5/4 with Coral, but it’s a long punishing straight at Aintree and I’m happy to take him on with the remarkable ALBERTAS RUN.
Jonjo O’Neill’s 11-year-old has never been given the credit he deserves, but he has won three times at the Cheltenham Festival and was only just touched off by Riverside Theatre in the Ryanair this year. He also won this race in 2010 and finished second to Master Minded last year. He is a tremendously gutsy horse and is worth a bet at 10/3 with Paddy Power.
It was a real shame that FINGAL BAY didn’t make it to Cheltenham as it would have been fascinating to see him take on Simonsig in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle. Compensation awaits, however, in this afternoon’s John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (4.15pm). The step up to three miles promises to suit and the rain that came earlier in the week has made the ground perfect for Philip Hobbs’ runner.
Nicky Henderson had a memorable Grand National Saturday 12 months ago, despite not even having a runner in the big one. He landed the first three races on the card with Spirit Son, Finian’s Rainbow and OSCAR WHISKY and there is every chance he can pull off the same treble tomorrow.
Both Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre are sure to go off very short prices in the opening two contests, but Oscar Whisky is certainly backable at 9/4 with Coral in the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle (2.45pm). There seems little doubt that Dai Walters’ pride and joy is best at 2m4f and it looked as though he simply didn’t stay when taking on Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle last month.
He showed real guts when winning this race last year, sticking his neck out to hold off the challenge of Thousand Stars. That rival takes him on again, but I’d expect my selection to confirm the form. Rock On Ruby has to be a danger on his Champion Hurdle form, but he had a tough race that day and I’d actually be more scared of his stablemate Zarkandar. If Sporting Index offer a match bet on the two Nicholls runners, I’d definitely favour last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner.
ALBERTAS RUN 3.05pm Aintree (today)
FINGAL BAY 4.15pm Aintree (today)
OSCAR WHISKY 2.45pm Aintree (tomorrow)