1.07pm Navan - Grade 2 Tote Navan Novice Hurdle
A very nice Hurdle contest over 2 and a half miles, and while all eyes will mainly be on Slade Steel for Henry de Bromhead, Stellar Story can not be ruled out just on Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy's form alone.
The Elliott horses have achieved a 23% win rate over the last 14 days, while Jack Kennedy has struck a very good 34% strike rate, with 13 winners in just 38 rides.
The trainer and jockey combination were in greta form last weekend, landing the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle as well as landing back to back Grade 1 Hatton's Graces with Teahupoo. That alone is enough to catch the eye heading into the weekend, and as is the fact that Kennedy has opted for Stellar Story, who was a very easy winner on his hurdle debut over course and distance last time.
A point-to-point winner from just two attempts, he had three runs in bumpers last season winning on two occasions, and although they might not have been as flashy as some other bumper winners, he still won twice over quite clearly an inadequate trip.
He took the step up to Saturday’s distance for his hurdle debut just three weeks days ago, and that set him in perfect stead, as he jumped well in the main and stayed on very well, pulling further and further away the longer they went on.
He was actually headed by another horse three out, but when push came to shove he battled on superbly to win going away by a little under five lengths. That was a decent hurdle debut in soft-to-heavy ground, so his chances should be enhanced by the fact that Navan is expected to present similar conditions on Saturday.
All eyes will be on Slade Steel for this, but Stellar Story should be there staying on well on the run-in to the finish line.
- Suggested bet: Stellar Story (2/1)
1.50pm Sandown - Grade 1 Betfair H/enry VIII Novices Chase
Now this race might not bring us any real Grade 1 horses like Jonbon, Edwardstone and Altior (to name a few previous winners), there could be a nice improving chaser to come out of it.
JPR One was a very unlucky faller/unseater at Cheltenham last time out, when running in the Grade 2 Arkle trial, and he went into that race with quite a few going against him saying he might not be a true graded chaser. Although he unseated at the last and didn't win the race, he probably came out with a lot more credit than people were expecting as he looked to be cruising to victory until the last fence mishap.
His hurdle form isn't the best in the world, as he was just a 130-rated hurdler who only really won handicap races, which is probably why people seem to go against him and doubt him as a chaser. However he has already shown he is a much better chaser than hurdler, when winning on debut at Newton Abbot before going on to put in that excellent performance next time out at Cheltenham, posting an Racing Post rating of 147.
He led virtually the whole way around, jumping like a stag most of the time, and looking like a real natural chaser. He was three lengths or so ahead of the rest and still going very well when unfortunately not finding his footing at the last and unseating Brendan Powell Jr, giving him no chance to stay on board.
He was in the process of winning that race very comfortably, and has been hiked up 11 pounds for his troubles, which when you think about it is quite ridiculous for a horse who didn't win, but that goes to show how well he might have won the race in the end.
Now rated 145 and just a pound below the highest rated runner in the field Unexpected Party, JPR One could win this and easily improve into a 150+ horse, proving all the doubters wrong.
Let's be clear about it, though, this isn't a great Grade 1 novice chase, but JPR One could come out of it with his stock raised higher if he was to jump like he did last time and win with relative ease.
- Suggested bet: JPR One (7/4)
2.05pm Aintree - Boylesports Becher Handicap Chase
As usual with this contest, it is a very wide open affair as the staying chasers tackle the Grand National Fences for the first time this season.
Ashtown Lad comes into this race looking to defend his crown from last year, but has pulled up on his last two runs, making Highland Hunter the one who catches our eye here.
Once trained by Paul Nicholls and a one-time winner of the London National over 3 miles 5 furlongs before coming second in the very testing Welsh Grand National behind Iwilldoit, he is quite clearly a thorough stayer who will relish these conditions.
The Fergal O'Brien runner had his first run in 630 days at Kelso last time, and ran an absolute cracker to come second, just 2 lengths behind Elvis Mail with the Grand National and two-time Cheltenham Festival winner Corach Rambler well in behind that day.
Highland Hunter was staying on very well when a little short of room, which might have checked his momentum in a crucial stage of the race, which wouldn't have stopped him winning as he had a little bit to do to catch the winner, but he might have finished closer to him that day.
Being his first run in over 600 days, there might be a bounce effect here, however that run last time and previous form shows he is a real stayer who will love the National fences. Hopefully that run last time was a pipe opener and he can go one better here at Aintree on Saturday.
- Suggested bet: Highland Hunter (9/1)
Treble Selections Summary:
- Stellar Story 2/1
- JPR One 7/4
- Highland Hunter 9/1
Treble pays more than 80/1 at current odds
- Prices provided by Planet Sport Bet and could be subject to change
Race preview provided by @ Jake Russell