Aintree Angle: Follow horses that go fresh
The following fresh horses could pay dividends at Aintree
It should be easier to find winners at Aintree than at Cheltenham, right? One of the biggest challenges for those seeking a profitable Cheltenham festival is that many of the horses haven’t raced against one another during the course of the season, so judgment of form lines can become blurred. Before Aintree, however, most of the key protagonists have faced off recently at Prestbury Park, and so this should – in theory – provide extra clarity to the season’s previous form.
Wrong. Following the Cheltenham form wouldn’t have led to a profitable investment in Group Ones at Aintree in either 2016 or 2017. Only 7 winners of the equivalent races at Cheltenham (counting the Champion Hurdle as closest to the Aintree Hurdle) went on to double up in Liverpool – just 32% - and all 7 of those winners were long odds-on! It’s no different in the place markets either: only 39% of horses placed at Aintree had also placed at that year’s Cheltenham.
This makes sense for three reasons. Firstly, the Championship races at Cheltenham can be physically tough and mentally gruelling for even the fittest animals, and four weeks is not long to recharge the batteries for another battle. Second, even if they didn’t have a hard race at Cheltenham, some horses simply run better fresh. Lastly, and crucially, the two racecourses are dramatically different in character: some horses much prefer flatter tracks such as Aintree and don’t appreciate the undulations of Prestbury Park.
Yet most bettors continue to place all their faith in Cheltenham form year-in, year-out when considering Aintree wagers, which means there must be some value in the markets for this year’s Group One races at the Liverpool track. We’re looking for fresh horses with strong Aintree form, particularly in races where there are Cheltenham-loving horses who had hard races at this year’s festival.
Aintree Bowl 3m
Might Bite had the definition of a ‘tough race’ in the Gold Cup, heroically battling against both the hard-as-nails Native River and the desperate ground, and as such the horse may be mentally finished after that monumental effort only four weeks ago. But laying him is still a very bold move, because Might Bite loves flat galloping tracks like Aintree: he won the Mildmay easily enough last year, as well as adoring Kempton Park. Second favourite Bristol de Mai should be fresh, having last raced in January, but isn’t guaranteed to perform well at Aintree; in fact his best RPR at the Liverpool track is 147, and his best RPR anywhere other than Haydock or Wetherby is 162.
Instead, there are alternatives to back as value on both the to win and to place markets. DOUBLE SHUFFLE is fresh, having missed the Gold Cup purposely for this engagement, and was last seen when finishing only one length behind Might Bite in the King George at Aintree-like Kempton. That effort earned him an official rating of 166, which puts him ahead of Bristol de Mai, and he’s preferred to the Twiston-Davies horse. At a longer price to back, TEA FOR TWO also fits the criteria. The winner of this race in 2017, he had a nice easy spin round in the Gold Cup, and always saves his best for flat galloping tracks, notably when finishing a close up third in this season’s King George. With 8 horses left in the race, the ‘to place’ market particularly appeals for Lizzie Kelly’s mount.
Aintree Hurdle 2m4f
With Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air having been scratched, Stayers’ Hurdle 2nd Supasundae carries the best Cheltenham form into the race. However, the Prestbury Park version of the Stayers’ was a very odd race: front-running Sam Spinner’s inexperienced jockey Joe Colliver got his sectionals all wrong and set the race up as a sprint-finish, in which non-stayer Supasundae was narrowly beaten by Penhill. When considering Supasundae was also beaten at Aintree in 2017, laying the favourite seems an attractive option. Although bettors should beware that this race is at the lesser distance of 2m4f, and probably on better ground that the surface at Prestbury Park, so the Jessica Harrington horse is far from a ‘lay’ banker. The horse that fits all the criteria for backing in the Aintree Hurdle looks to be MY TENT OR YOURS in the ‘to place’ market: he’s fresh, having last run in December; he likes Aintree, having placed in the last two renewals of this race; and he’s had the beating of The New One (at similar odds) already this season.
Melling Chase 2m4f
This is shaping up to be a great race, and the odds suggest it’s close between three market principals. Min was 2nd in the Champion Chase behind the super-horse Altior; Balko des Flos hosed up in the Ryanair; while Politilogue could only finish back in 4th in the same Champion Chase as Min, 16 lengths behind the Irish horse. All three had hard races just four weeks ago, but there are no classy, fresh horses to back instead. Cloudy Dream finished a distant third behind Balko des Flos at Cheltenham; Le Prezien won a brutal Grand Annual in which three of his rivals died; and Sizing Granite looks like a handicapper in graded company. In a tricky betting heat BALKO DES FLOS looks the best option for backers: he hacked up in the Ryanair and was never all-out to win, proved he can handle soft ground and will stay the trip. Alternatively a lay of Politilogue could be a wise angle: he’s never stayed 2.5 miles in a top class race before, and his much feted run in last year’s Aintree festival (when he fell at the last when clear) came over 2 miles on good ground, and as such the available price looks far too short.
Stayers Hurdle 3m
As argued above in the Aintree Hurdle focus, SAM SPINNER looks the textbook example of a horse which underperformed at Cheltenham for an obvious reason, yet didn’t have a hard race. He’s the outstanding horse in this otherwise weak renewal and is readily backed to win. The Worlds End is respected and may offer some value in the ‘to place’ market depending on the final number of runners. The Tom George-trained 7-year-old won on his only start at Aintree in the 2017 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle after a disappointing run in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham – but has been soundly beaten twice by Sam Spinner twice this season already, and as such does not make much appeal in the ‘to win’ market.
To summarise, as much as we all fall in love with our winners at Cheltenham, the form accounts for little compared to Aintree form itself, especially considering the short lay off between meetings. Look for fresh horses who don't need to be judged on whether they have been given adequate recovery time and it may well lead to a profitable three days.