Grand National Thursday preview: Get on the Road To Rome in FoxhuntersPublished on: April 3, 2019Author: David Metcalf
The Grand National Festival at Aintree gets underway this Thursday and the sole race over the unique spruce fences of the famous staying contest is the 2m 5f Randox Health Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase (14:50).
Pick of the home team, according to the betting is Road to Rome, who is the 9/2 favourite with Paddy Power.
This John O’Shea trained nine-year-old has been in fine form this season, winning his first four starts by an aggregate of just over 20 lengths.
However, his best effort came in defeat last time out when fourth of 24 to Hazel Hill in the St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase over 3m 2f at the Cheltenham Festival.
Road To Rome raced with plenty of zest at the head of affairs until weakening two from home to be beaten 15 1/2 lengths.
The drop back in trip in this looks sure to suit and his attacking run style is ideal for this venue where the emphasis is on speed rather than stamina.
If allowed to bowl along in an uncontested lead, then this son of Choisir, who has the services of crack amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen in the saddle, could prove extremely hard to peg back.
As he pilots rides the Grand National fences so well, Road To Rome thus deserves his place at the head of the betting.
Ucello Conti the pick of Irish challengers
There are a host of challengers from the Emerald Isle that hold leading claims, and the Gordon Elliott trained duo of Ucello Conti and Kruzhlinin both command the utmost respect, given they have proven form over the fences.
Slight preference is for Ucello Conti, who can be backed at 7/1 with William Hill. This Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned 11-year-old lowered the colours of prolific winner Sydney Paget in a point and then won his two starts after being switched to hunters.
Although he finished behind Road to Rome when fifth at the Cheltenham Festival, Ucello Conti got hampered on more than one occasion before keeping on quite well to be nearest at the finish in the hands of Jamie Codd.
Codd is once again in the saddle and that looks significant as he has partnered Kruzhlinin to his last three successes in points.
Ucello Conti’s runs when sixth of 39 to Rule The World in 2016 Grand National and fourth of 22 to Vieux Lion Rouge in the Becher Handicap Chase here also read well in relation to this. He has a touch of class and a bold bid looks assured.
The aforementioned Kruzhlinin, who has won seven of his last eight starts between the flags, also can’t be discounted and looks a decent each-way betting proposition at 8/1 with BetVictor, who are paying a fifth the odds five places.
Brelan D’As weighted to go well Red Rum
Trainer Paul Nicholls saddled Edgardo Sol to land the 2014 running of the Red Rum Handicap Chase and Brelan D’As looks to hold leading claims of landing the spoils in this year’s running of the 2m contest (16:40).
This JP McManus owned eight-year-old is a progressive sort who has won two of his last four starts and has a 50 per cent strike rate over the trip.
He comes into the race on the back of a career best effort when third of 19 to Croco Bay in the Grand Annual at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.
After tracking the leaders racing keenly, Brelan D’As made a costly mistake three from home but stuck to the task well on the run-in to go down by five lengths.
He’s able to race in this off an unchanged mark of 138 and that looks exploitable, as he was rated as high as 133 as a novice.
Brelan D’As also looks the type that is open to further progress and can be backed at a top-price 15/2 with Ladbrokes. That looks value as he is as short as 11/2 elsewhere.
Forest Bihan an each-way alternative
Given that he finished just a length behind Brelan D’As when fourth in the Grand Annual, and now meets that rival on 2ln better terms, Forest Bihan looks overpriced and an appealing each-way punt at 14/1 with BetVictor, who are paying a fifth of outright odds for five places.
Things also didn’t go to plan for the Brian Ellison trained eight-year-old as, after being short of room three out, he was then denied a clear run when trying to make a move two from home.
Forest Bihan then briefly went third on the run-in before weakening late on to be beaten five lengths. Given how the race panned out, it was a run that could be upgraded and his current mark of 153 is 1lb lower than when last successful over fences.
It also worth remembering that he was a very smart novice in 2017 when among his efforts was a cracking head second to San Benedeto in a Grade 1 at this meeting.
Jockey Brian Hughes also now gets the call-up to do the steering. That looks significant as he has won twice and been placed once in four starts on him
Minella Melody the mares’ bumper bet
Minella Melody looked an exciting prospect with a massive future when making a winning debut unde rules, so looks a worthy 9/2 favourite with William Hill to follow-up in the Grade 2 Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race over 2m that brings proceedings to a close (17:15).
This five-year-old joined top Irish trainer Henry De Bromhead after running out an easy 10-length winner of a point at Boulta back in December.
She was backed off the boards on debut under Rules when sent off odds-on and landing a 12-runner bumper at Gowran Park.
After racing in mid-division and taking a keen hold early doors, the daughter of Flemensfirth made smooth headway on the outside travelling strongly under Patrick Mullins to take up the running three furlongs out.
She then cruised effortlessly clear to impressively beat Miss Pernickity easing down by 10 lengths.
As she won with any amount in hand and crack Irish amateur Mullins is once again in the saddle Minella Melody looks the one they all have to beat. She is open to stacks more of improvement and can demonstrated further progress here.
The Glancing Queen and Timetochill worth considering
The Alan King trained The Glancing Queen looks the pick of the home team. This five-year-old brings the strongest form into the contest having finished a fine 7 1/4 lengths fourth of 14 to Envoi Allen in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival.
That run has earned her an official rating of 122 – the highest in the 20-runner line-up. This also represents a drop in grade and The Glancing Queen now races solely against her own sex.
It makes her a major player and she is an 11/2 shot with betway to take advantage and land the spoils.
Of those at bigger odds, Timetochill looks a lively outsider at 14/1 with William Hill having landed a Listed bumper at Huntingdon last time out in game fashion.
The Kelly Morgan trained six-year-old has now won her last two starts and is clearly going the right way, so looks well worth considering each-way in a wide-open contest.