Black Op is a horse I obviously know well and he probably should be coming here off a win at Cheltenham last time, where he missed out the last and it cost him dear. But I suspect they all have it to do to beat Samcro, the horse that everyone is talking about and with good reason after that Deloitte win over 2m.
I like Monalee best in here. He really ground it when winning the Flogas last time and the step back up to 3m won’t be a problem for last year’s Albert Bartlett runner-up.
I spent half an hour looking at this and I am none the wiser. Maybe Topofthegame, though he does have to carry a lot of weight. He is built for it, though.
The news that Altior’s participation was in the balance after suffering a foot problem probably throws this race wide open. I thought it was his to lose but, even if he gets to the race now – and the last report I read was more encouraging – then clearly there is a question mark over his head. Everyone will be fancying their chances a bit more.
Hopefully, a spin in the Cleeve Hurdle, without his usual headgear, would have served him well and he certainly appeared to be in good order when I schooled him around the Cross Country course last week. We jumped a couple of banks and hedges, and he really enjoyed himself. I actually rode my first ever Festival winner when taking this race on A New Story in 2010, and I am predictably a big fan of the contest. He would undoubtedly prefer better ground but the cheekpieces are back on and this Aintree standing dish is capable of going well.
Act Of Valour
He was impressive at Newcastle on his debut and then was clearly not right when disappointing at Doncaster next time out. But we were delighted with him when he was second to the classy We Have A Dream at Musselburgh last month, and I think he is entitled to come on a good deal for that run. Hopefully, a mark of 136 gives him every chance – and don’t forget he was rated 97 on the Flat in Ireland – and Paul Nicholls has a great record in this race. Everything points to a big run from him, and I just hope he handles the ground.
I see that he is 40/1 for this race and I reckon that is an excellent each-way price. I know there are a lot of unknowns and good horses in here but I’ll be honest and say I am hopeful that he will be placed. He is a lovely individual, tall and athletic, and he had shown us a fair bit at home before his debut at Musselburgh. So his win there, in soft ground, was not a surprise, and he has done really well since. He is a young horse I really like, and I really do think he has place chances at a massive price.
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