We're back over the Grand National fences for the feature handicap on day two at Aintree and Kevin Blake is backing a horse that looks to have been primed for the race...
"He has shown himself to be a particularly sound and accurate jumper which should stand to him over these unique Grand National fences."
Patience required for Skelton to get Lucki
The Betway Top Novices' Hurdle (14:20) brings together a very competitive field of novice hurdlers and the one I'm keen on is the Dan Skelton-trained Third Time Lucki.
The six-year-old was right up there with the best bumper horses around last season, winning twice and finishing fourth in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. His transition to hurdling hasn't been without some bumps in the road, but thus far it has yielded three wins from six starts and the most promising of all his runs was his most recent in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
He shaped notably better than the bare result there, as having initially been dropped in, he ended up very wide without cover and made up ground to get into a prominent position a long way form home. Having hit the front still travelling well at the second-last flight, he was still right in the mix until giving way to those that were ridden with more restraint in the closing stages, being run out of the placings close home to finish a close sixth.
He shaped as well as anything in the race and had he been given a similar ride to what the winner Belfast Banter was given, he might well have won.
The presence of For Pleasure should ensure that this race is run at a true pace, which will help Harry Skelton in his task of getting him relaxed and riding him with patience. If he can succeed in anchoring him and distributing his energy more efficiently, this course and distance promises to play to his strengths and a very big effort could well be forthcoming from him.
Accurate jumper looks to have had the Topham as a target
My other fancy of the day comes in a fiercely-competitive renewal of the Randox Topham Handicap Chase (16:05).
The Henry De Bromhead-trained Visioman won't be a familiar name to everyone, as he has tended to ply his trade during the summer months in Ireland. However, he has made up into a useful chaser, winning four of his nine starts and shaping as though a stiffer test of stamina will bring out even more improvement in him. He has shown himself to be a particularly sound and accurate jumper which should stand to him over these unique Grand National fences.
Visioman is well suited by a sound surface and having been given a winter break, he caught the eye when given a pipe opener over an inadequate trip over hurdles back in February.
Given that his owner is on the Racing Committee of Aintree racecourse, one can only assume that this race has been the target for many months. Indeed. Henry De Bromhead mentioned him as a potential Topham type after he won at Limerick all the way back in October.
This is likely to have been a very long-term plan and De Bromhead will no doubt have done everything he can to have Visioman peaking on the day. A big run from him would not surprise in the slightest.