Patrick Weaver previews the first day of the Grand National Festival and recommends a place lay of Tiger Roll in the Betway Bowl...
"Tiger Roll has an enviable record on the Grand National course, and in cross-country races, but doesn't have a good record over standard fences."
There has been plenty of fast ground at the jumps tracks this week but that is not the case at Aintree.
The first of the three days takes place on good to soft and there are showers forecast tomorrow and Saturday.
Hitman will need to improve to win
The SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices' Chase at 13:45, like many of the Grade 1s at Cheltenham last month, may be lacking in numbers but certainly not quality.
Six of the seven that line up are rated between 150 and 155, only the complete outsider Phoenix Way has a CV that is out of keeping with the rest.
Trends lead you to six-year-olds - the age of six of the last seven winners of the Manifesto Chase - and Paul Nicholls has yet to train the winner. That makes his Hitman an unlikely winner.
The five-year-old comes into the race fresher than most, having won the weakest of races at Newbury at the start of last month at odds of 1/7. He barely came out of a canter.
Hitman had fallen at Sandown when joint-favourite for a Grade 1 the time before, though, which should be a red flag for those thinking of backing him. The time to back him was when he was 3/1 first time over fences at Ffos Las in November, not at the same price today in a Grade 1.
Cheltenham trio make more appeal
A stronger case can be made for the three that come on from Cheltenham. Eldorado Allen did not have a hard race chasing home Shishkin in the Arkle over two miles. He has not raced over two and a half before but he went from fourth at the final fence to second at the line, posting a career-best at Cheltenham. His half-brother Auvergnat was a cross-country winner, as was his dam, so there is plenty of stamina in his family.
The Shunter landed some big bets when winning the Paddy Power Chase over the trip on the Thursday of the Festival and Fusil Raffles was second to Chantry House in the Marsh Novices' Chase earlier on the card.
Umbrigado is not out of it either, despite being double-figure odds. He won the Greatwood Gold Cup in 14 seconds faster than Hitman took on the same Newbury card.
Hitman's short price today owes a lot to Nicholls training him. His morning odds of 5/2 definitely flatter the favourite, and he may well continue his overnight drift on the Exchange.
Adagio preferred to Monmiral
The betting for the Doom Bar Anniversary Four-Year-Old Hurdle at 14:20 would suggest that only Monmiral and Adagio have a realistic chance of winning. That is backed up by the Timeform and Racing Post ratings. They are a stone or so clear of their rivals.
Using Gary Moore's Nassalam as a yardstick, you would quickly conclude Monmiral should beat Adagio. But did Nassalam have an off-day when runner-up to Monmiral at Haydock compared to when second to Pipe's young star in the Grade 1 Finale Hurdle?
Adagio is match-fit from his second in the Triumph at Cheltenham but is that an advantage? Monmiral, on the other hand, dodged Cheltenham and may be all the better for seven weeks off the track.
The unbeaten filly Fiveandtwenty gained the third of her three wins at Musselburgh in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle. On a line through the runner-up, Historic Heart, she fully deserves her position as third in the betting as she beat the second by a similar margin as Adagio beat him in the JCB Triumph Trial at Cheltenham in December.
John Locke has as hard a task as when thrown in the deep end at Kempton where he tired in the home straight.
I'm hopeful Adagio will make it a true-run race and have too much up his sleeve for Monmiral. Fiveandtwenty appeals at Evens in the 3 places market.
Tiger likely to be tamed in the Betway Bowl
And so to Tiger Roll. Has the dual Grand National winner got a realistic chance of being placed in the Betway Bowl Chase at 14:50 or will he be run off his feet?
There's no doubt that he has become used to the slower pace of long-distance races over spruce and birch fences. He has an enviable record on the National course and in cross-country races but doesn't have a good record over standard fences. Indeed, he has not run in a conventional chase since he was pulled up at Clonmel in 2017.
His back-to-form win at Cheltenham last month entitles him to a stab at a Grade 1 - many have said he is a 'Gold Cup' horse for the past three years - but I don't think today will be his day, despite his love of Aintree.
Who will keep him out of the places? Well, the two that came second and third in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, for starters. Waiting Patiently and Clan Des Obeaux head the betting being tried and tested Grade 1 types.
The pair have been placed in most of their chases - Waiting Patiently in all 11 races over fences that he has completed; he was unseated by another runner in the 2018 King George.
Native River has a good record over the Mildmay fences. He hasn't fallen in a chase and the only time he has not finished in the first three has been in the two Gold Cups at Cheltenham when fourth.
I wouldn't be sure about Mister Fisher being placed on his first attempt at three miles but Clondaw Castle won the valuable Close Brothers Handicap Chase off 11st 8lb at Kempton in February and has been prepared with this race in mind. He is officially rated 7lb inferior to Tiger Roll but this tight oval should be more to his liking and he is still improving.