Sportsmail’s racing expert Robin Goodfellow dishes out his tips for day one of the Aintree Festival featuring the Betway Bowl Chase.
Bristol De Mai, Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy feature in a six-strong field for the Betway Bowl
1.45 La Bague Au Roi
2.20 Pentland Hills
2.50 Bristol De Mai
3.25 Buveur D’Air
4.05 Burning Ambition
4.40 Diego Du Charmil (nap)
5.15 Miss Heritage
1.45 Glen Forsa
2.20 Band of Outlaws
2.50 Kemboy (nap)
3.25 Buveur D’Air
4.05 Road To Rome (nb)
4.40 Lady Buttons
5.15 Miss Heritage
NORTHERNER – 4.05 Road To Rome (nap); 4.40 Cracking Find (nb).
2.20: DOOM BAR JUVENILE HURDLE
There’s every chance both PENTLAND HILLS and Band Of Outlaws will develop into serious Champion Hurdle contenders next season and it is a tough call which, if either, will emerge on top.
The former recovered magnificently from a first-flight blunder in the Triumph Hurdle (Adjali 7th) to win with plenty in hand and is marginally preferred over the Joseph O’Brien-trained duo, Band Of Outlaws and Fakir D’oudairies who both arrive courtesy of fine efforts at Cheltenham.
Band Of Outlaws exploited an attractive mark in the Boodles Handicap (Fanfan Du Seuil 5th) and wouldn’t have been out of place in the Triumph, while Fakir D’oudairies was 11 lengths adrift in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after losing his position following traffic problems at the top of the hill. Song For Someone is also a smart prospect and could be overpriced.
BEST BET: PENTLAND HILLS
MAIN DANGER: BAND OF OUTLAWS
2.50: BETWAY BOWL CHASE
Given that four of the past five winners had won that season’s King George Chase, fans of Clan Des Obeaux will be optimistic the seven-year-old can reverse Gold Cup placings with BRISTOL DE MAI.
A return to a flat track and a shorter trip should play to the strengths of Clan Des Obeaux who battled on manfully at Cheltenham, but found the war of attrition too much, eventually finishing fifth.
He travelled well for much of that race and the dynamics of Liverpool should be a more suitable fit for a horse which displays so much speed.
Bristol De Mai was somewhat of a surprise package in the Gold Cup, given he moved as powerfully as any of his rivals until two fences from home, and he is afforded the opportunity to confirm there is a future for him away from his beloved Haydock.
He ran in this contest last year — like four of the last eight winners — giving a bold sight in front until worn down by an in-form Might Bite. He tenaciously saw off a number of challengers that day, including Clan Des Obeaux, and is narrowly preferred to his old adversary
BEST BET: BRISTOL DE MAI
DANGER: CLAN DES OBEAUX
3.25: BETWAY AINTREE HURDLE
Nicky Henderson has saddled four of the last eight winners of this race and he will be hopeful BUVEUR D’AIR can make amends for an early exit from last month’s Champion Hurdle.
It was too early to suggest the selection may have completed an historic hat-trick in the blue riband event, but he possesses a golden opportunity to repeat his victory of two years ago here and claim his third course win from four starts.
The Willie Mullins-duo Faugheen and Melon are two of his biggest threats, and the former makes some appeal now he steps back in trip following a game third in the Stayers’ Hurdle. However, it could be the case his legs simply aren’t up to winning at this level these days.
Melon would be only the second Champion Hurdle runner-up, from the past 17 that have tried, to win this. So Supasundae, second in the last two runnings, may emerge as the chief danger. He could at least make the frame at a decent price.
BEST BET: BUVEUR D’AIR
MAIN DANGER: SUPASUNDAE
4.05: RANDOX HEALTH HUNTERS CHASE
Irish-trained contenders have won four of the past five runnings of this race and BURNING AMBITION could be ready to realise his undoubted potential after swerving Cheltenham.
He ran in last year’s Foxhunters at the Festival and looked a threat until his stamina gave way on very soft ground. He appears to have been deliberately kept fresh 12 months on and arrives in good heart courtesy of an authoritative success at Down Royal last month.
The opportunity to tackle decent ground should suit and he appeals with Derek O’Connor an excellent booking. Road To Rome is respected along with Ucello Conti, who was bowling along in front in last year’s National before unseating his rider four from home.
He was never competitive behind Hazel Hill at Cheltenham, but may profit from a return to more proactive tactics today.
BEST BET: BURNING AMBITION
MAIN DANGER: UCELLO CONTI
4.40: RED RUM HANDICAP CHASE
Azurri have had this race in mind as he looks to follow up his stablemate and County Hurdle hero Ch’tibello by winning a prestigious spring festival handicap after a wind operation and prolonged absence.
Dan Skelton has established himself as a brilliant target trainer and the handicapper has played ball by dropping the seven-year-old 12lb in three starts since the beginning of February.
But he is reluctantly passed over in favour of DIEGO DU CHARMIL who is the class act in the race courtesy of a Grade 1 Chase win here 12 months ago.
It is fair to say he hasn’t fired since, but his last two outings have seen him try to keep tabs on Altior and he should be much more at home in a handicap providing the ground isn’t too testing.
Last year’s runner-up Theinval prefers a decent surface too, while Moon Over Germany is also respected for a trainer with a good record at this meeting.
BEST BET: DIEGO DU CHARMIL (nap)
MAIN DANGER: AZURRI
PETER SCUDAMORE – EIGHT TIMES CHAMPION JOCKEY
MINELLA MELODY looked like she could be well above average when winning at Gowran Park last month by 12 lengths.
The Irish-trained raider has plenty of rivals in the concluding mares bumper, but she should have enough to cope with them.
My Cheltenham Gold Cup worry that stamina was an issue with Clan Des Obeaux proved correct. He travelled well but ran out of steam.
The shorter distance of the Betway Bowl will suit the Paul Nicholls-trained King George VI Chase winner and he can return to winning ways.
BUVEUR D’AIR unexpectedly fell in the Champion Hurdle, but a second win in the Aintree Hurdle will be some compensation.
PETER SCUDAMORE’S SELECTIONS
1.45 LA BAGUE AU ROI
2.20 PENTLAND HILLS
2.50 CLAN DES OBEAUX
3.20 BUVEUR D’AIR
4.40 LADY BUTTONS
5.15 MINELLA MEL ODY (nap)
CAPTAIN HEATH’S SELECTIONS
1.45 LA BAGUE AU ROI (nap)
2.20 BAND OF OUTLAWS
2.50 KEM BOY
3.20. BUVEUR D’AIR
4.05 ROAD TO ROME
4.40 CHAMPAGNE AT TARA
5.15 TIME TOCHILL
LA BAGUE AU ROI (1.45) has had a blemish-free campaign. She goes best on a flat track like Aintree and by-passed Cheltenham so is a fresh horse.