Patrick Weaver previews the second day of the Grand National Festival and recommends laying Dusart in the Top Novices' Hurdle...
"Dusart's lack of a race in the last five months makes him an appealing lay.."
The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at 13:45 is a tricky race to start the card.
There are 22 runners with an in-form favourite Wilde About Oscar and three that both Timeform and the Racing Post consider well-handicapped: Monte Cristo, Edwardstone and Mister Coffey.
I wouldn't dare lay any of that quartet, so which of the others near the head of the market is the least likely to miss out on a 1-2-3-4 finish?
Sky could cave in under pressure
Tronador, Solwara One and Amarillo Sky have been backed in the last 24 hours with Tronador looking particularly interesting. He wasn't ready for the Cheltenham Festival where he ran so well in 2020, so went to Downpatrick instead where he went off at 22/1 and never figured under the stable claimer, Jordan Gainford. Today Jack Kennedy takes over and he is 7/1 second favourite in a far more competitive contest. Clearly he is seen as well handicapped, so I wouldn't advise laying him.
Solwara One won over the trip last time at Huntingdon while Amarillo Sky ran his best race yet, when winning at Exeter over two miles last month. They are both improving novices with their best to come but I would be happy to lay Amarillo Sky as he lacks the experience of most of the rivals. His overnight odds of 9/1 look too short.
Dusart needs to improve if he is to remain unbeaten
Dusart is seen by many as the banker of the day in the Grade 1 Betway Top Novices' Hurdle at 14:20.
The logic behind the support for Nicky Henderson's youngster is that he beat Soaring Glory in receipt of 6lb on his only start back in November and the runner-up has since won the Betfair Hurdle comfortably off a mark of 133.
Given Soaring Glory is now rated 143, you could argue a case for Dusart being rated 140 but that assumes he has improved at the same rate while not having had a run in the meantime.
Third Time Lucki had a hard race in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He led into the straight but the hill found him out and he finished sixth of 25 to Belfast Banter. It was a good run in defeat, and as Belfast Banter is a stone worse off it is no surprise Peter Fahey's winner is double the odds of Third Time Lucki, the second favourite.
Houx Gris was fourth in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham. He lasted a little longer in front than Third Time Lucki, jumping the last in front but then passed by Jeff Kidder, Saint Sam and Elham Valley.
Ajero has won four in a row at a lower level despite making errors under pressure. I wouldn't be sure he is the answer here whereas For Pleasure was third to Appreciate It in the Supreme Hurdle at Cheltenham.
On that run, Alex Hales' 10/1 shot has a great chance of nailing the favourite, whose lack of a race in the last five months makes him an appealing lay.
Favourites look good in the feature races
Chantry House is understandably favourite for The Betway Mildmay Novices' Chase at 14:50, having won the Marsh Novices' Chase at Cheltenham. He would be a risky lay and it was difficult to find one that is unlikely to be placed.
Espoir De Romay, Fiddlerontheroof, Shan Blue, The Big Breakaway, Silver Hallmark and Empire Steel have all finished first or second more often than not this season.
I won't be opposing the Nicholls' favourites in the other two Grade 1 races either. Politologue is an old favourite that is getting on in years but still capable of winning the Marsh Chase at 15:25 for which he is 5/2, half a point longer than Fakir D'Oudairies.
The champion trainer's Bravemansgame ought to win the Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle at 16:40 on the back of his third to Bob Ollinger and Gaillard Du Mesnil at Cheltenham. That is strong form and puts him in the front rank of his race.
I have my doubts about the second favourite Cape Gentleman being placed, though. The Kempton race he narrowly won does not look that strong, in hindsight.
He would be worth laying for a place as he has a Flat pedigree and is less likely to last the three miles than others at longer odds.