The three-day Grand National Festival at Aintree gets underway this Thursday and the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (14:20) is the second of four Grade 1 races on the opening day.
Band Of Outlaws is one of the progressive four-year-olds trained in Ireland by Joseph O’Brien that comes over from the Emerald Isle, and looks value at 15/8 with Paddy Power to follow-up on a taking success at Cheltenham.
This son of Fast Company won twice on the Flat as a two-year-old and landed a Premier Handicap at the Irish Derby meeting at The Curragh last summer.
A 50 per cent win and place ratio from 16 starts on the level made Band Of Outlaws an eye-catching recruit to National Hunt horse racing.
While he was a nearest at the finish third on hurdles debut at Cork in December, he was only beaten a length by Maze Runner and has since progressed past that one by reversing this form.
Band Of Outlaws scored next time out in a Limerick maiden hurdle when produced to lead on the run-in and score more easily than the winning margin of three-quarters of a length suggests.
He then backed that up by turning the tables on Maze Runner in a rated novice hurdle at Navan, easing clear when again hitting the front late on for a 4 3/4 lengths success.
Impressive Fred Winter win under welter burden
It was then simply a matter of which juvenile event at the Cheltenham Festival to aim Band Of Outlaws at. O’Brien chose the Grade 3 Fred Winter – a handicap – rather than pitching him in at the highest level.
This was a bold gamble from connections as Band Of Outlaws was very high in the weights, but he made a mockery of his opening mark of 139 when readily winning that ultra-competitive contest last month.
His Fred Winter win is one that can be upgraded, because he was squeezed up when mounting a challenge turning for home.
Regular jockey JJ Slevin did not panic, however, and switched Band Of Outlaws, knowing his turn of foot would soon have him back upsides.
Yet again, he led after the last and quickened clear in ready fashion to score by a cosy couple of lengths from Coko Beach.
It was a very taking display and, although now up in grade, there is the prospect of plenty more to come from Band Of Outlaws.
The surprise Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills and Supreme fourth Fakir D’oudairies, who also represents O’Brien, make this competitive, but he has the speed to tackle either.
Bet of the Day: 15/8 with Paddy Power, Band Of Outlaws to win the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.