After landing a nice 17/1 winner in the Red Rum on Thursday, Tony Calvin returns with a look through Friday's card at Aintree and picks out a number to back at big prices...
"She had earlier run a great race when second to subsequent Festival winner Mister Whitaker over 2m5f in the soft at Cheltenham, and an aggressive ride from the front here – she is a superb jumper – could see her hard to peg back."
Two-handed attack on the opener
No faffing around today and straight into Friday's action, and I narrowed the opener at 13:45 down to three at the prices.
Sumkindofking, Three Musketeers and Cyrius Moriviere were the trio in question, with the former biting the dust at my final forfeit stage, mainly because I think he will find the ground too testing, especially if the forecast Friday rain arrives. And, of course, I have been banging on about the stable form for the past two days.
However, I do think the 25/1 chance is weighted to go close - and he has also had a wind op since we last saw him - if he can handle the conditions. He is reluctantly passed over.
The last time we saw Three Musketeers he was finishing second in a heavy-ground chase at Market Rasen in January, and running well too, but I massively like the idea of him switching to hurdles here.
He is 8lb lower in this sphere and I thought he ran a real eye-catcher when fifth over course and distance in October, off a 4lb higher mark than this - he wasn't given a hard time at all there - and that wasn't his only decent showing at this course.
He finished third in the 2m4f Grade 1 novice hurdle here in 2015, and he has a fair record fresh. He is worth a decent bet at [19.0] or bigger.
Cyrius Moriviere is apparently not a straightforward horse and had his problems, but he certainly comes here in good form after a second over 2m at Ludlow last time.
To finish runner-up to a Tom Lacey horse in recent weeks is no disgrace (the stable continues to fly), and that form looks pretty decent to me, so a 1lb rise is very fair.
He is yet another horse who may prefer better ground this week, but the Ludlow run was on soft and he was rated 8lb higher than his current mark back in 2016, and the step back up to 2m4f hopefully won't be an issue.
The trip is a slight concern, as his best form under Rules has come over 2m, but he was a winning pointer over 2m5f and he would have probably won over 2m3f over fences at Doncaster last year but for unseating his rider 2 out. He is worth a saver at [19.0] or bigger, stamina doubt or not.
Irish Roe can bounce back from Betfair Hurdle disappointment
Global Citizen is undeniably the horse to beat in the 2m Grade 1 novice hurdle at 14:20 following his impressive nine-length defeat of Scarlet Dragon in the Dovecote, but he doesn't have that much in hand of his main rivals and looks short enough at around 2/1. To these eyes, at least.
I am going to take a chance with Irish Roe at [21.0] or bigger to bounce back from her poor showing in the Betfair Hurdle.
I know she blew out big-style there but it was worth remembering that she went off 10/1 for that ultra-competitive handicap and I can forgive any horse a modest showing in what was pretty atrocious ground at Newbury.
Prior to that, she had proved herself a fast-progressing horse in handicap wins and when running Maria's Benefit to 3/4 length in a Grade 2 over 2m in the soft at Doncaster.
If she comes back to that form, in receipt of her 7lb sex allowance, then she will run far better than her price of 20/1+ implies and hopefully cause a mini-shock. This track could suit her, too, as she travels really well when on song.
Her small trainer - though Peter Atkinson could be an elongated 6ft 6in for all I know - only just missed out on a good prize at Kelso last Saturday when his Reverant Crust was just touched off in the 2m handicap hurdle.
Nothing interests me in the 3m1f Grade 1 novices' chase at 14:50 though I'd love Coo Star Sivola to back up his Cheltenham win simply because I won a chunk on him last month and I like him quite a lot as a result. I think Terrefort is the most likely winner, though, but the betting tells you that.
I also don't have any betting opinion at all in the Melling Chase at 15:25, where I think it is a toss-of-the-coin job between the market leaders Min and Balko Des Flos.
They come into the race in top form after excellent Cheltenham efforts, and they are comfortably the best of the sextet on their Festival showings. But their prices reflect that - though I would have the Ryanair winner closer to Min in the market - so let's move on.
Theatre Territory to put up a good show in the Topham
I do like the look of the Nicky Henderson's market leader O O Seven in the Topham at 16:05 - the stable won this three times in a row from 2013, and wasn't in too shabby a form here on Thursday - and he also has a fair shout with Kilcrea Vale.
I nearly made the mistake of thinking Theatre Territory was his, too, as he carries the colours of the Waley-Cohens, and I have to make her my main bet in the race at [11.5] or bigger.
I was very sweet on her in the old 3m Racing Post Chase - apologies to the five or so sponsors since - at Kempton last time and she ran a really good race to finish third.
I take a very positive view of that form, so I have to like her chances off the same mark here.
She had earlier run a great race when second to subsequent Festival winner Mister Whitaker over 2m5f in the soft at Cheltenham, and an aggressive ride from the front here - she is a superb jumper - could see her hard to peg back.
I have to save with Mystifiable though, as I wasn't expecting him to be anywhere near the price he is (one firm was 40/1 earlier this afternoon). Back him at [30.0] or bigger.
Jockey Paddy Brennan was delighted when the horse crept in at the bottom of the weights on Thursday morning, but he wasn't so chuffed when I told him he was doing 10st. "That's my dinner gone," he said.
He was also very honest about the ride he gave him over 2m at Newbury last time - "a shocker" - so, back up in trip and off a 2lb lower mark, he has to interest me at the prices.
The winner of that Newbury race bolted up at Ludlow on Monday, and Mystifiable travelled and jumped really well for a long way on heavy ground in the Sefton here in December.
The soft ground is the reason for his big price here, but he has won on it, and his normally assured jumping and favourable handicap mark makes him worth chancing. Rogue Angel is another who I can see going well at a price.
Count on Meribel to outrun big odds in the Sefton
I don't have a betting opinion in the last two races but I will give you interesting headgear stat in the bumper.
Since 2013, Nigel Twiston-Davies is six from 16 when sticking a hood on his horses for the first time, so that makes his Bangor winner Al Dancer a fair proposition at around 33/1.
Actually, hold on, I have just seen the price of the same stable's Count Meribel in the Sefton at 16:50 and I have just have to have a few quid on him at [26.0] or more.
He has run poorly on his last two starts but he has been given a break since that Ascot run in February and I keep on coming back to his run in the Albert Bartlett trial at Cheltenham in December.
Most people will remember him for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory that day, but he was beaten by the Albert Bartlett victor Kilbricken Storm let us not forget and he looked the winner for all bar the final 100 or so yards there, and his in-running low of 1.03 underlines.
That run came over 3m in the soft, and he is no 33/1 poke here on that form.
Three Musketeers at [19.0] or bigger and Cyrius Moriviere at [21.0] or bigger in the 13:45
Irish Roe at [21.0] or bigger in the 14:20
Theatre Territory at [11.5] or bigger and Mystifiable at [30.0] or bigger in the 16:05
Count Meribel at [26.0] or bigger in the 16:40