One of the most popular spectator days of the British sporting calendar, Ladies’ Day at Aintree promises to be another colourful affair, with bright and sunny weather and a sell-out crowd predicted at the Merseyside course. Fashion shows, giveaways and top prizes will be in abundance in the Red Rum Garden.
On the racing front, the feature races of the afternoon are the Melling Chase and the Topham Chase. The £175 000 John Smith’s Melling Chase will feature Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Finian’s Rainbow amongst an eight strong field which also includes 2010 winner and 2011 runner-up Albertas Run. Doubts have been raised over the stamina of Finian’s Rainbow, but he stayed two and-a-half miles over hurdles and there is little to suggest he won’t over fences. The tough Albertas Run has an excellent record at the meeting and so the potential tussle between the two is mouth watering. Wishfull Thinking has been inconsistent this season and does need to bounce back from a horrific fall at Cheltenham but retains plenty of ability. Poquelin, on the other hand, may not be the force of old and has a better record around Prestbury Park.
Nicky Henderson is bidding to win the trainer’s championship and a good run from his Finian’s Rainbow may prove essential in the title race.
The Topham Chase is run over the Grand National course and this year’s renewal looks as open as any recent running. Horses with experience over the National fences have an enviable record and the winner of the last two renewals, Always Waining, may once again take some beating if a return to his beloved Aintree sparks a return to form. Peter Bowen, who has a good record here, runs another two and Rio Gael may surprise a few. Paul Nicholls’ Frankie Figg needs to improve on his last two runs over these obstacles, but has been allocated a lighter weight than usual. Gonebeyondrecall came fourth in the race last year and has plenty to find on form with Always Waining, but does go well fresh, whilst fellow Irish raiders Paradis De Thaix and Apt Approach look interesting, hailing from two powerful yards.
Two Graded hurdles form part of the supporting card and the first of these, the Tangle Teezer Top Novices’ Hurdle sees several who contested the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle out again. Darlan finished second and will be popular, with Tony McCoy on board for Nicky Henderson and J.P.McManus. He had Prospect Wells behind in fifth. The latter named will appreciate the quickening ground however, and is entitled to be somewhat closer to his rival. Absolutlyfantastic would perhaps be a surprise winner, but comes over from Ireland from a yard in good form (a big price place at Aintree on Thursday) and jumps economically. He could give a bold show from the front.
Fingal Bay, a highly regarded inmate of the Philip Hobbs stable, will attempt to maintain his unbeaten record in the John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle and will defy a 104 day absence if doing so. He missed Cheltenham through injury and although considered fully recovered, doubts may have arisen. Knock A Hand skipped Cheltenham and heads to Liverpool looking for a fifth straight win, whilst Gullinbursti skipped Thursday’s last race at Aintree and steps up in class. Cotton Mill was travelling well enough when unseating at Cheltenham and a flatter track may suit him better. The race often goes to a good stayer and the likes of Harry Topper and outsider Forgotten Gold fit that bill. Both need to improve, but could run well at rewarding prices and it will be interesting to see how they go.
Fingers crossed for another exciting day.
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