A poor start to the meeting with none of the selections running well and I think the racing today showed that the form from earlier in the season is questionable. I was impressed with Zarkandar and the New One which fought out a tight finish and it will be interesting to see what distances they are campaigned at next season.
John Smith's Melling Chase Grade 1 Class 1, 3.05 Aintree
Sprinter Sacre will win this if he stays as he is a superb animal and probably one of the best in my memory. However he was beaten over hurdles at this distance when he appeared not to stay and he is (justifiably) 1/3 in the betting. Flemenstar has been starring in Ireland around this distance up to 3 miles but all his main wins have been on soft or heavy. The ground will be a test for him and also this is the first time he has travelled outside of Ireland. Cue Card on my speed figures is the best at two and a half miles and he can stretch his rivals here. If he replicates his Cheltenham run he will give Sprinter Sacre and Flemenstar a real scare at very decent odds.
John Smith's Topham Chase Grade 3 Class 1, 3.40 Aintree
This is always one of my favourite races of the meeting and we gave members Always Waining last year. This race tends to go to horses carrying 10-5 or less, which if that trend continues will rule out a lot of the shorter priced selections. Criqtonic and Pacha du Polder are both trained by Paul Nicholls who will have been delighted to see Zarkandar win today. Criqtonic probably just lacks a bit of experience to win this but he is still well handicapped and is a threat. Pacha du Polder is carrying too much weight but will probably be in the picture until the final furlong. I am concerned that he has been pulled up twice in his last four runs. Chance du Roy and Fistral Beach both ran well in this race behind Always Waining and can go well again this year with both having place claims. It is a big ask for the latter as this is his first run for almost a year and I have never been overly convinced with the attitude of Chance du Roy. Tartak has won over the course and distance and will like the going. He has dropped down the weights and showed at Cheltenham by running on third that he still has ability. His weight now gives him a real chance here despite not having won for a couple of years. Jamsie Hall has been put away for the last three months in preparation for this and his stable is firing. Davy Condon will give him a patient ride and if replicating his third in the Kerry National he will not be far off winning here.
John Smith's Sefton Novices' Hurdle Grade 1 Class 1, 4.15 Aintree
We backed At Fishers Cross at Cheltenham and I would expect that he will go close again, but this race tends to go to horses which have missed Cheltenham. At Fishers Cross must have strong claims for the World Hurdle next season. Yesyoucan is one of those but at eight has less potential than a lot of his rivals. Master of the Sea ran well to finish 4th at Cheltenham but that race looked to have taken quite a bit out of him. He is one to keep an eye on next season. Gevrey Chambertin is another one I will be backing next season but he had a tough and disappointing race when pulled up at Cheltenham and probably needs a break. Of the others Uxizandre and Just a Par are not without a chance especially for a place; however Road to Riches has looked very impressive in hsi two hurdles to date winning both. His last win was in a Grade 3 and he has masses of potential for further improvement and Barry Geraghty is a strong booking for Noel Meade. He represents good value against the favourite.
With regard to the other races : (but no bets)
200 My Tent or Yours
450 Barbatos and Native Gallery
525 Cailin Annamh