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Aintree Festival Day Two horse racing tips: Jake Russell previews Friday's big races


Our racing pundit/writer Jake Russell has shared his tips ahead of the second day of the Aintree Festival

By @ Jake Russell

1.45pm - Grade 1 Mildmay Novices Chase

This is a real tricky contest to open Day 2 of the Aintree meeting, as the main protagonists at the top end of the market are stepping from handicapping into Grade 1 company for the first time, or the rest are stepping up in trip, which on the expected heavy going might not be ideal at this stage. 

Inothewayurthinkin has run in Grade 1 company previously when coming 2rd to Gaelic Warrior in the Faugheen Chase at Limerick (that horse has won the Arkle at the Festival since) so he will know what it takes to operate at this level, plus his Kim Muir win under top weight last time was an excellent bit of placing from connections, and it was a very pleasing performance to the eye. He carried top weight to an 8-length victory last time under Derek O'Connor, so back into Graded company he has to be very much respected here. 

However, I just feel Kim Bailey could have a potential superstar on his hands with Chianti Classico, who, like Inothewayurthinkin, was a very easy winner of a huge-field handicap at the Cheltenham Festival last time, so does take a steep step up in class on Friday. 

His record reads 3 wins and a 2nd in just 4 runs over larger obstacles this season, and he has progressed nicely from a 133-rated chaser to now be rated 154, and there is still potential for that to go a little higher now he is pitched into Grade 1 company. 

His Ultima performance last time was very taking, as that was just his fourth ever run over fences, and he travelled strongly throughout, jumping well all the way around, before forging clear up the Cheltenham Hill to win by 4 and a half lengths, with Twig a gallant 2nd in behind. 

As mentioned, he has to take a massive step up in class here into Grade 1 company for the first time, but he is certainly on an upward trajectory, and therefore I feel he could improve enough to land a contest of this nature. 

Ground conditions should be no issues on Friday, as that Ultima win was on heavy going last time. He is a thorough stayer who will relish the ground and trip, and Aintree itself should be no issue for this horse, so it would be excellent to see him back up his wonderful Festival performance last time and win at another major Festival again on Friday. 

2.55pm - Grade 1 TrustATrader Top Novices Hurdle

This is a very good contest, and one of the main races that I am very much looking forward to this week, and that could be down to the fact I am a huge fan of Mystical Power and Dysart Enos.

It will be great to see if Fergal O'Brien’s unbeaten mare has what it takes to win at Grade 1 level, back at the scene of her best triumph when landing the Grade 2 Mares’ Bumper at this meeting last season. 

However, I feel the first son of Anne Power could be too good for the rest of the field here, after a very good 2nd in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last time, pulling 3 and a half lengths clear of 3rd placed Firefox in the end. 

Mystical Power headed into the Supreme with a little reputation already building considering his dam, Anne Power, was arguably one of Willie Mullins’ greatest mares, and Mystical Power is the first foal out of her and Galileo. 

He kick-started his career with a 3-length victory in a bumper at Ballinrobe before going on to land a novice contest by 7 lengths (form of that race has been franked nicely since). He was then given a break by Willie before going on to land the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novices Hurdle at Punchestown, with Jigoro 7 lengths in behind, not particularly jumping well throughout the race and running a little green, so that was the big question mark heading into the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. 

Sent off the 100/30 2nd favourite for the Supreme in the end, he looked to have settled a lot better throughout at the rear of the field, which in turn meant that his jumping was much better, which could have been down to the pretty quick championship pace. Coming around the final bend and at the bottom of the Hill, he did look to be the winner in waiting, as he got his head to the front going over the last and was seemingly going pretty well, but was just out battled by Slade Steel who ended up winning going away in the end by a length and a half. One thing to bear in mind is Slade Steel was a winner over the 2m4f trip previously, so just had that little bit more in the locker. 

Mystical Power was well clear of the rest, and is pretty much clear of the rest on ratings for this contest,and although he has to give a few nice mares some weight in this contest, I just don't think they will match his speed on this flatter track. 

Mark Walsh might not have given him the best ride at Cheltenham 31 days ago (got to the front to soon maybe) but he does ride Aintree very well, so I can see him getting Mystical Power's head in front for his first Grade 1 victory of his pretty short career so far. 

3.30pm - Grade 1 My Pension Expert Melling Chase        

This to me is a real head scratcher at this stage, and ultimately we could just look back after the race and think it was obvious that Jonbon would have appreciated the step up in trip, something connections have wanted to do for a while with him, but is the heavy ground conditions going to suit him on his first attempt at this trip. 

Protektorat was a pretty impressive winner of the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last time, landing the contest by 4 lengths going away from Envoi Allen, who was well fancied to land the contest that day. Paul Nicholls won this contest this Pic D'Orhy last season, and this is ultimately his "Gold Cup" as he bypassed the Cheltenham Festival for this contest on Friday, so will have the freshness edge over a few of these. Paul also landed this contest with his future Champion Chase winner Politologue back in 2018, so he certainly knows how to train a horse to win this contest.

I think Protektorat might struggle to follow up his Ryanair Chase victory just 29 days later, and therefore I would be looking elsewhere, and I just can't help but end up back on Nicky Henderson's Jonbon, who has always looked like this step up in trip will very much suit him. 

He was so close to having a pretty flawless campaign when landing the Shloer Chase on debut at Cheltenham, then going on to land the Grade 1 Tingle Creek at Sandown in the mud (so the ground might not be as much of an issue as we think on Friday) before then going on to come 2nd in the re-arranged Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham in January, where a shuddering mistakes meant he just couldn't get his head in front. However he still battled on superbly well, and was only just beaten by a neck in the end, and considering the huge mistake he made at a crucial stage of the contest, he still ran on incredibly well to almost still land the contest.

He ultimately had to bypass the Champion Chase due to Nicky Henderson's horses not firing at all, so he like Pic D'Orhy he will arrive here fresh on Friday. It was a real shame Jonbon didn't run in the Champion Chase as red-hot favourite El Fabiolo made a mistake of his own and was pulled up in the end, it could have been another Grade 1 for Jonbon that day.   

It could go one of two ways for Seven Barrows, either the stars who missed Cheltenham will flourish and all go well this week at Aintree with freshness very much on their side, or they could still be feeling the effects from the yard issue. However, from what Henderson has stated in his interviews all week, the stars seem to be back firing on all cylinders, so let's all hope and pray the yard can have a better week. 

I think it has always been the plan to step Jonbon up in trip, and like last season when Nicky put him into open company at Sandown, he has rolled the dice late on in the season, seemingly to see how he fairs at this 2m4f trip before what they decide to do next season and beyond.

  • Selection - Jonbon (9/4)         

4.40pm - Grade 1 Cavani Sartorial Menswear Sefton Novices Hurdle

This race usually does have a pretty big field heading to post, and Lucinda Russell has won the race twice in three years, but sadly doesn't have a runner this year which is a real shame for her and the yard.  

An Irish-based trainer has not won this contest for a very long time, so this could be the rare big Festival contest in which the Brits excel, and with that in mind I am siding with a UK-based runner here. 

One thing I like to keep an eye on heading into the Aintree Festival is how horses fare after running at Cheltenham a month previously, especially when it comes to novices. I am siding with another Nicky Henderson runner (I promise I am not a fan boy) in the form of Shanagh Bob, who like most of the Henderson horses, did miss the Cheltenham Festival. 

One main thing I like about this horse is the fact he is lightly raced, and although he does have a 118-day break to overcome here on Friday, I think arriving into this contest fresh will more than suit this horse. 

He was a very nice winner of a novice contest at Plumpton, which isn't the usual place that Seven Barrows send their nice types, but he couldn't have won any easier really. He made all, jumped very well before surging clear up the Plumpton Hill, very much running through the line in very impressive fashion. 

He was then pitched into Grade 2 company next time out when running in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett trial at Cheltenham, sent off the 15/8 market leader, which he duly obliged by winning in very game fashion by a length and a quarter, really relishing the step up to 3 miles in the soft ground conditions. 

Having already shown what it takes to land a Grade 2 over this trip, that will very much set him in good stead ready for the final Grade 1 contest of the day at Aintree on Friday. With freshness very much on his side here, compared to Readin Tommy Wrong and The Jukebox Man, who both had completely different races last time. The Willie Mullins horse pulled up and The Jukebox Man had a pretty hard run in the Albert Bartlett when headed late on, claiming 2nd spot in the end.

I just feel freshness could come to the fore this meeting, therefore any horse that bypassed the Cheltenham Festival has to have a really good chance no matter what contest they line up in, especially the novices. 

 All prices are from Planet Sport Bet and are subject to change

 All previews and tips provided by @ Jake Russell

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