There are four more Grade 1 races on Ladies Day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree this Friday.
Topofthegame is a red-hot and worthy 4/5 betting favourite with Unibet for the 3m 1f Mildmay Novices Chase (14:50) after winning at Cheltenham when last in action.
Paul Nicholls’ charge actually started last season over fences, but came down at Newbury and was soon back over hurdles in handicap company.
Topofthegame put in several fine efforts in that sphere, including when winning over almost 3m in a Sandown Grade 3 and when a neck second to Bleu Berry in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
Ditcheat handler Nicholls went back to novice chasing with him this season, and he ran two very solid races in defeat at Exeter and when pitched straight into Grade 1 company at Kempton.
A whip round at the start meant Topofthegame was always playing catch-up on reappearance, but he put in a huge effort after giving 20 lengths plus away to chase home Defi Du Seuil.
That minor event in Devon was a very hot class 2 contest indeed, not least because the winner has since improved to win both the Scilly Isles at Sandown and JLT at Cheltenham.
Topofthegame was then upped in trip to 3m and chased home La Bague Au Roi in the Kauto Star on Boxing Day. As he was giving that gutsy mare a 7lb sex allowance and only went down by 1 1/2 lengths, this was an effort which can be upgraded.
La Bague Au Roi, who won a second Grade 1 when scoring in the Flogas Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival, is a high-profile absentee here. Connections dropped her back in trip instead and that hands Topofthegame a huge advantage.
Lostintranslation the forecast choice now up in trip
With no mares in the race, the Mildmay will see the entire field meet off level weights. As Topofthegame is 6lb and upward clear off his rivals on official ratings, he will have to run considerably below par to get turned over.
Instead, this looks his for the taking as he has earned a top rating of 163 after his superb success in the RSA Chase last time out. Topofthegame was always travelling sweetly and jumped well.
Harry Cobden, who again takes the ride, crept him into the race as the field bounded down Cleeve Hill and he was in a threatening position turning for home.
All Topofthegame had to do then was stay on best when produced to challenge over the last and he beat Santini by half-a-length, but he was value for more than that winning margin.
With only one rival Lostintranslation rated above 150, Topofthegame has virtually a stone in hand on most. That is why he’s such a short price here and his main market rival has only won once in five starts.
If anything, Colin Tizzard’s charge is relatively exposed to Topofthegame. Lostintranslation is unexposed, however, over this trip and a 4/1 chance with Coral to go one better after having Dipper form reversed twice by Defi Du Seuil.
It’s double figure prices bar those in the Mildmay betting. That makes a straight forecast with Topofthegame for first and Lostintranslation in second worth considering.
Of the rest, in-form trainer Phil Kirby saddles dual wide-margin Wetherby winner Top Ville Ben and he’s each-way value at 18/1.
He fell early on in the RSA after not being suited to running right-handed at Ascot. Top Ville Ben clearly handles flat anti-clockwise tracks just fine though, so is worth another chance.
Supreme trio trying to prove they are Top Novices
A fascinating renewal of the Top Novices’ Hurdle over an extended 2m (14:20) pits three who took minor honours in the Supreme at Cheltenham against sorts that skipped the Festival.
Itchy Feet is one of two in the race for owners Kate and Andrew Books and heads the betting after coming third in that other Grade 1 contest.
Trained by Olly Murphy, the five-year-old won his first two hurdles starts including a Listed event at Kempton. Itchy Feet was then runner-up to subsequent Tolworth winner Elixir De Nutz in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham in November and put away for the Festival thereafter.
Given the Supreme was his first run for 114 days, he could come on for that run. Itchy Feet is 7/2 favourite with Paddy Power.
Aramon is the sole Grade 1 winner in the line-up, but was sixth on a soft surface last time out. He only has a head to find on Felix Desjy, but more than six lengths on Itchy Feet.
It may be Aramon, who is trained by Willie Mullins, prefered better going. As for Felix Desjy, Gordon Elliott’s charge may not find this any easier.
Precious Cargo is two from two this season for Nicky Henderson since joining the Seven Barrows handler, record a fine eight-length victory on soft ground at Sandown last time out.
This improving six-year-old clearly handles this surface and is 5/1 with Boylesports to land the hat-trick.
The betting value perhaps lies in looking at each-way options instead of these horses. The Supreme was a tough race and just three-and-a-half weeks ago, and a number of those engaged have had a busy campaign.
Rouge Vif can go well at big price
Grade 2 winner Rouge Vif will need to make a step up despite a taking all the way victory in the Premier Hurdle at Kelso last time out, but he looks capable of making the frame now dropping back in trip.
Trained by Harry Whittington for the Brooks’, Rouge Vif was allowed to dictate affairs from the front up in Scotland and nobody pegged him back as made all and won unchallenged by four lengths.
The assessor may have taken a chance in leaving him on an unchanged mark of 142 as that may underestimate his ability.
Rouge Vif also handles soft ground, having previously scored at Newcastle and won his sole bumper at Ludlow on the forecast going.
Taking all that into account, he looks overpriced at 11/1 with BetVictor and that may be the best each-way value in his race.
Southfield Stone is three from five over hurdles for Nicholls and resumed winning ways when landing the Grade 2 Dovecote at Kempton last time out.
He just held Angels Breath there after previously finishing a find third at the highest level in the Tolworth at Sandown.
Like Rouge Vif, Southfield Stone skipped the Cheltenham Festival and is surely a fresher horse for it. However, he doesn’t have form on sound ground.
That means he may have less going for him at 13/2 with Betfred than the Whittington horse. It may be Southfield Stone wants further.
Coral Cup form looks key to Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle
The fourth and fifth horses home in the Coral Cup meet again in the Grade 3 Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle over 2m 4f that kicks Ladies Day off (13:45).
Brio Conti stayed on best for Nicholls to just get the better of Irish raider Canardier then and is shorter in the betting here.
This is a typically wide-open renewal of this race, but the slight drop back in trip and meeting off just 1lb better terms may suit Canardier better.
Trained by Dermot McLoughlin, he has won or placed in six of his eight hurdles starts. Running in the Coral Cup was his handicap debut off 141 and the assessor has only nudged Canardier up 1lb for that.
However, Brio Conti has seen his rating go up 2lb. With just half-a-length between the pair, this might be enough for the tables to be turned.
At 9/1 with Betfair, Canardier looks the value play of the pair each-way. Brio Conti is shorter at 7/1 with bookmakers paying at least four places on this event.
Another who has been well-supported in the market is Tedham, who is much lower in the weights. This improving sort is trained by Jonjo O’Neill and has a progressive profile over hurdles.
A five-length second to Getaway Trump on his penultimate outing, Tedham then scored on handicap debut off an opening mark of 125 at Wincanton.
While a 6lb rise for a 1 3/4 lengths victory looks severe at first sight, the way he stayed on well for victory suggests it actually may be fair. Tedham is thus another with leading claims at 7/1 with 888Sport.