A fascinating renewal of the extended 3m Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle on Grand National day at Aintree this Saturday sees course winner Apple’s Jade looking to bounce back after really disappointing in the Champion Hurdle.
The Gordon Elliott trained wonder mare won the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle here three years ago and had come into the Cheltenham Festival off the back of a Grade 1 hat-trick.
Now back up in trip, Apple’s Jade heads the betting here at 2/1 with Betfred. If turning up in the same shape as when she landed the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown over this trip, then she fully deserves to be favourite.
However, the Gigginstown House Stud owned seven-year-old saw her form tail off towards the end of last season too. Perhaps Apple’s Jade has gone to the well once too often with this her sixth run of the season.
She was 30 lengths behind runaway Champion Hurdle hero Espoir D’Allen, but over this distance her record is two from two.
Betting value perhaps lies elsewhere and Stayers’ Hurdle second Sam Spinner is top on ratings but, adjusting those to reflect the 7lb sex allowance he gives to Apple’s Jade, he has 6lb to find on her.
The Jedd O’Keeffe stable star hasn’t been consistent of late, but chased home Paisley Park at Cheltenham when running more like the force of old.
Sam Spinner was a 15-length third in this race 12 months ago to the ill-fated Identity Thief off the same mark, but 5/1 with Unibet to go better here.
If the bare form is to believed, then he has 10 lengths to find on Wholestone, but reversed that form at Cheltenham last time out when Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge was only fifth.
Roksana and William Henry each-way plays
Dan Skelton sends surprise Mares’ Hurdle winner Rokasana back to Merseyside, where she ran a huge race when chasing home Santini in the Sefton last year.
This seven-year-old hasn’t had her rating revised by the assessor for her Festival triumph last time out. While that is because hot favourite Benie Des Dieux took a tumble at the last when in firm command at Cheltenham, all Rokasna could do was profit from that good fortune.
That Grade 1 victory can’t be taken away from her and she retains her progressive profile from last season. Soft going also suits Rokasana and she thus has more going for her than her rating suggests.
It makes the 10/1 available with BetVictor, who pay four places, look solid each-way value if she can repeat or better her Sefton performance when only being held in the final 50 yards over course and distance.
William Henry represents Nicky Henderson, meanwhile, and ran a huge race following a wind op when landing the Coral Cup at Cheltenham last time out.
The nine-year-old comes out third best on official figures and now tries 3m for the first time. His back form includes a taking success in the Listed 2m 5f Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton.
That suggests flatter and tighter tracks also suit William Henry. If able to follow-upon his Festival exploits, then like Roksana he looks another worth considering each-way at 14/1 with Paddy Power, who are also offering four places.
Harry Fry saddles two and the unexposed If The Cap Fits is preferred to veteran Unowhatimeanharry. This seven-year-old is four from seven and lightly-raced over hurdles.
If The Cap Fits now gets fitted with headgear and tackles 3m for the first time. He’s another that could go well.
Us And Them can go one better in Maghull
Before the Liverpool Hurdle is the 2m Maghull Novices’ Chase (15:00) for which Us And Them has leading form claims.
Trained in Ireland by Joseph O’Brien, this six-year-old has finished runner-up at Grade 1 level in each of his last three starts.
Those runs include when twice chasing home leading Emerald Isle two-mile novice Le Richebourg. Us And Them then stayed on best to be runner-up again in the Arkle and, on that form, has nothing to fear from those who re-oppose and completed.
At 5/2 with BetVictor, this looks a great opportunity for him to go one better. If conditions remain testing, then Us And Them has stamina on his side but also handles good ground fine.
Lalor was never at the races at Cheltenham when pulled-up, but has won at this meeting in each of the last two years.
Kayley Woollacott’s stable star loves Aintree and, although not the most consistent overall, that course form counts for a lot.
He is 5/1 with betway, while fellow Arkle non-completer Ornua took a tumble at Cheltenham but was a fine second to Dynamite Dollars in terrible conditions in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase beforehand.
Henry De Bromhead’s runner does like to bowl along in front though, and if he races too freely looks vulnerable.
Ornua also has course hurdles form with Lalor to reverse here, but at 11/2 with William Hill still has a shout based on his consistent performances over fences.
Angels Breath the Mersey bet
Angels Breath is up in trip for Henderson in the 2m 4f Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (14:25) and looks well worth a wager at 7/2 with Boylesports to resume winning ways.
The five-year-old Irish point winner made a successful debut under Rules when landing the Grade 2 Kennel Gate at Ascot.
That meant Angels Breath had to shoulder a penalty when running again at the same level and he found those terms too sharp when runner-up in the Dovecote at Kempton.
As he was only seventh when well-fancied for the Supreme at Cheltenham, this son of Shantou is clearly worth trying over further. This new trip looks sure to suit Angels Breath giving his point-to-point background.
He is unexposed over the distance and the same cannot be said of Brewin’upastorm, who is winless in three runs at two-and-a-half miles.
Olly Murphy’s runner just missed out on the frame when fourth in the Ballymore at Cheltenham. At 11/4 with Coral, punters backing Brewin’upastorm do so on the premise that the flatter track and slight drop back in trip here at Aintree will suit.
Angels Breath is preferred as a result and the remainder of the field look to have something find with the exception of Chosen Mate.
This Irish raider is trained by Gordon Elliott and won a point before landing his hurdles bow at Fairyhouse. Although then beaten three-quarters of a length by Sinoria at Listed level around Punchestown, Chosen Mate was giving the winner a sex allowance.
He’s since landed a Grade 2 at Naas when just holding on by a nose giving a stone away to Hannon. That suggests this trip will suit Chosen Mate too and, at 9/1 with Betfair, there’s more to come from him.