Darran Pearce’s Aintree Foxhunter’s preview

Reposted from: https://twitter.com/darranpearce/status/1113462807998148608?s=21

Asockastar – I said in my Cheltenham preview that I thought he would run with credit and that is exactly what he did to finish 8th. Patrick Mullins has been booked for the ride and I could see him finishing in the top 10 again without troubling the places.

Balnaslow – Great ‘winner’ of this race last year after finishing 2nd the year before. It seems like he will lose the race though from what we have been told which is a shame for connections. I’m sure he will have his fans given how he has run the last two years, but he doesn’t look in good form this and he ran no sort of race at Cheltenham. With no Derek O’Connor on top either I am more than happy to oppose.

Bear’s Affair – The horse who is set to become the 2018 winner once the BHA finally announce he has got the race. He won his seasonal return back in November, but then pulled up at Cottenham in December and was 2nd to his stablemate Optimised at Bangor last time out. He was beaten a neck that day and the winner has won 2 since including a Hunter Chase so the form isn’t that bad. The problem is he is 13 now as much as I am sure he will run well and get round I just wonder if a top 4 placing might be a bit above him this year.

Burning Ambition – Was the big talking horse all last winter ahead of Cheltenham and he travelled really well into the race which had me worried given I didn’t fancy him. However he didn’t stay up the hill and ended up only 8th. There was talk that he wouldn’t be hunter chasing this season, but he returned with connections saying Aintree rather than Cheltenham was the target which made sense given he didn’t stay at Cheltenham. He made a winning return in January, but then disappointed when beaten by Sidetracked the following month.Those two re-opposed at Down Royal the day after Cheltenham when Burning Ambition held on by a diminishing margin from Sidetracked. The jockey said he was just easing him down and he had plenty left, but I must admit that wasn’t how I saw it and I was slightly worried, having put him up as a bet, that he wasn’t actually going to win. I thought he didn’t have much left and that added to the fact he got beaten on his previous start is a worry for me. If this was last season I could understand why he heads the market, but this time around, especially given the UK horses seem to have the upper-hand based on Cheltenham in this sphere I don’t get the price. A big plus though is that he has Derek on top.

Champagne West – Miles behind Seefood at Leicester and impossible to see how he can reverse that form despite his back class which includes winning the 2017 Thyestes.

Coastal Tiep – Pulled up at Cheltenham and hard to see much of an improvement here.

Crazy Jack – Was well handicapped when winning the handicap Hunter Chase at Stratford last season, but that is is only Hunter Chase win and hasn’t shown much in 3 runs this season.

Dineur – Great winner of this race two years ago, but wasn’t see again until last month and he was miles behind Road To Rome. Unseated rider early on at Fakenham on Gold Cup day and it is hard to know what sort of ability he still has at the age of 13, but hard to want to back him to get back his crown.

Galley Exhibition – Wasn’t a bad run at Kingston Blount last time when 2nd but was last of 12 in this last year and hard to see him improving on that.

Greensalt – A surprise 3rd in this last year and then unseated at Hexham when badly hampered 2 from home by the leader who fell. Just seen the once so far this season when he was a 3L 2nd to Path To Freedom at Duncombe Park. That was a fair run and this clearly has been the target, but hard to see him equalling last year’s efforts let alone go 2 places better.

Just Cause – Beaten at odds on by Asockastar at Leicester and I don’t think he will reverse that form let alone trouble the judge here. Pulled up at Cheltenham.

Kruzhlinin – 7 out of 7 in Irish points this season, but not sure that means he has achieved a great deal and was 3rd at Down Royal in his only Hunter Chase behind Stand Up And Fight. That leaves him with work to do here. I also have a big concern about the trip as it looks on the short side and in his previous runs round here he has never really convinced either. Not for me.

Mr Mercurial – Been a really good pointer/hunter chaser over the years and ran well enough when 8th in his only run in this back in 2017. Had a superb season last time around and in that form I would be tempted to back him for this. The problem is he left Shelia Crow last season and has gone to Will Ramsey who trains him and rides him as well. He isn’t a great jockey and I don’t think he has given him great rides either start this season. If you give him a chance to dog it then he will and he was in front for way too long at Kelso when his head went straight up in the air after the last allowing Shantou Flyer to go past him. Granted that form is looking pretty decent now and Sir Jack Yeats was in behind them so it was still a good run. He was then 3rd in the Grand Military Gold Cup when he didn’t stay although his jockey did get carried away which didn’t help. This test will suit more but who knows what sort of ride he is going to get.

Mr Mix – Was a well beaten 2nd behind Hazel Hill at Warwick and although the winner is top notch I still think the form is suspect in behind. His pointing form is nowhere near good enough to get competitive in this. He was seen to have blood coming from his nose after winning at Charing which would explain why he was an unimpressive winner, but that also brings its own concerns as to if he will do it again. I think he is really short in the betting for what he has done this season.

Never Complain – Well beaten in 2 previous attempts and no reason why he should do any better here.

Numbercruncher – Too far for him and he will be outclassed anyway.

Pass The Hat – Got this horse very wrong in both his Hunter Chase wins as I didn’t fancy him at either Southwell or Carlisle. It could be argued Road To Riches needed it at Carlisle, but I thought he ran out a decent winner and it is hard to see why he should be such a big price compared to that horse for this. I can see him running well, but he ought not to be good enough to win this.

Road To Riches – Had a very easy task to win last time after that 2nd to Pass The Hat back at Carlisle. Was 6th in last year’s National and was 3rd to Coneygree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015, but as mentioned above I wouldn’t be certain he can overturn that form with Pass The Hat let alone win this and he isn’t for me.

Road To Rome – I’ve been saying for ages now that this is the race for him. He ran a stormer at Chetlenham finishing 4th after just not staying after setting a blistering gallop as he usually does. His jockey has a superb record round here and has won this race 3 times. The two minor concerns are his jumping, although he has never looked like falling this season, and a bigger worry would be that he has 8 races already since the season started in November. After a tough race at Cheltenham as well it might well catch up with him, but it hasn’t so far and I think that is the only thing that is going to stop him from winning this.

Seefood – Wasn’t exactly the strongest renewal of the Leicestershire Hunter Chase that he won on his only start so far for new connections, but he was an impressive winner and he was well backed ahead of the race as well so connections were clearly expecting a big run. His last good run under rules was in the Grand Sefton in December 2016 when he was a good 2nd so he ha crucial course form as well. His jockey isn’t the most experienced in the field, but she gave him a good ride at Leicester and I think he has a fair shout of hitting the frame.

Shantou Magic – No chance

Shimla Dawn – Has to front run as he did when winning well at Musselburgh but no way will he be pacey enough to keep up with Road To Rome here.

Sir Jack Yeats – I think he has a huge chance. Last season was all about qualifying him for Cheltenham which ended up being a bit rushed given he needed 3 runs to get qualification. He then run well enough at Cheltenham but didn’t really see out the trip. Aintree was very much an after thought and it told late on when he ended up finishing 9th although I do want to see him handle the Canal Turn better than he did that day. This season he looked like he might win at Kelso before the lack of a run told late on and his trainer admitted after he won at Fakenham that he had left him more under-cooked than he thought he had ahead of the Kelso run. He had little to beat at Fakenham, but he did it with ease and this has been his main target instead of an after thought this time around

Starkie – Not seen since surprisingly beating one of the best pointers in recent years Broken Eagle at Hackwood last season and on that form would be of serious interest in a normal Hunter Chase, but hard to see him being good enough for this.

Top Wood – A superb training performance to get him to finish 3rd at Cheltenham on his seasonal debut after finishing 2nd in the race last year. Has never been here before, but no reason why he shouldn’t handle it. The slight worry would be the trip as he probably needs slightly further, but this is likely to be a good test and given he should sit near or on the pace that should suit as well. Concern would be if he bounced after Cheltenham, but on the other side of the coin if he came on for the run then he is going to be right there at the finish.

Ucello Conti – As I said in my review of the Cheltenham Foxhunter I thought Jamie Codd gave him a terrible ride as he sat way too far off the pace and they were never going to get involved from that far back given the quality of horse up front. Was 6th in the 2016 Grand National, but unseated in the last 2 years although was a close 4th in the Becher Chase in 2016. I didn’t fancy him for Cheltenham though as I thought his form this season wasn’t great and this trip is surely going to be on the sharp side for him. I can see him being tapped for toe from an early stage and struggle to get into the race from there.

Wonderful Charm – Slightly surprised he is even running given Sam is on Road To Rome. Was always well behind in this last year and likely to be the same again especially with the cut in the ground.

Summary – As at Cheltenham I am more than happy to oppose the Irish here and am going to stick with the home team. As long as Road To Rome isn’t feeling a long season then he is the one they all have to beat and he is the main selection. Sir Jack Yeats has been specifically aimed at this race this year and until running wide at the Canal Turn was running a good race. I think he has a huge chance and is over-priced. Top Wood is the 3rd choice as hard to see him out of contention as long as he doesn’t bounce. A small e/w play on Seefood as well who is proven round here and is another to have clearly targeted this race.

Road To Rome 2pts @ 4/1

Sir Jack Yeats 1pt e/w @ 22/1

Top Wood 0.75pts e/w @ 14/1

Seefood 0.5pt e/w