We get our first sight of the Grand National fences this season in the William Hill-sponsored Becher Chase and Grand Sefton at Aintree, while of the biggest races of the National Hunt calendar takes place at Sandown in the shape of the Tingle Creek. 

Here are Nick Luck’s thoughts on a thrilling day of racing.

Aintree

COO STAR SIVOLA comes with many risks attached in the William Hill Becher Chase at Aintree (1.30pm) but is much the most interesting runner from a handicapping viewpoint. He won a handicap at Cheltenham three seasons ago off a higher mark but hasn’t had much racing since. To my eye, he raced with tons of enthusiasm until getting tired at Bangor on his comeback from a long absence and that should have put him right for this. If the ground gets very testing he’ll love it, and I expect him to show up well for a long way here under his low weight at 10/1.

I am sure WALK IN THE MILL (11/2) will run well again in his bid for a hat-trick, while KIMBERLITE CANDY (11/2) will be fascinating to watch around here with a view to how he might perform in the National itself (he looks an extreme stayer).

BELLATRIXSA is a sporting each-way suggestion at 14/1 in the fillies’ juvenile hurdle (2.05pm). A useful and unexposed flat performer for Michael Dods, this daughter of Gregorian changed hands for 80,000 to join Venetia Williams. She has a soft ground pedigree on both sides and, even more significantly, her half-brother Daybreak Boy ran to a 140 rating over hurdles.

FRODON is a fair bet to win the William Hill Many Clouds (2.40pm) at 9/4. A past winner of the Old Roan round here, a relative test of speed at today’s trip will suit him well against the confirmed high-class sluggards Santini and Native River. He has a fitness edge over his rivals, both of whom will have more meaningful targets later in the season. Santini is my idea of the Gold Cup winner but ran pretty ordinarily on his first run last season and may need a run to put an edge on him.

MIGHT BITE – don’t laugh – makes quite a bit of appeal in the Sefton (3.15pm). You half have to forget what he was, because he may never get back there, but it’s perfectly reasonable to point out how well he ran on his comeback at Ascot, when he shaped like the second best behind a very impressive winner. He has apparently schooled well over the fences and this trip should be ideal on softish ground. He could be quite a sight round here at 14/1. Two others at prices that interest me are SWIFT CRUSADOR (22/1), who boasts some deceptively smart Hunter Chase form and comes from a yard well among the winners, and FEDERICI (25/1), who has run really well in two previous runnings of the Becher Chase.

Sandown

HITMAN could be a bit of a superstar, but he’ll need to be to win an unbelievably strong renewal of Sandown’s Henry VIII (1.50pm). All of these are unbeaten over fences and have performed to a very high level, but there was something almost arrogant about the way Hitman had dismissed the 146-rated Highway One Or Two before that rival fell at Ffos Las. The pace had been plenty strong enough on softish ground, and I think the likely frenetic gallop here will suit him at 11/4.

POLITOLOGUE might be the answer to the Tingle Creek (2.25pm) at 9/2. Although he is 3-0 down to Altior through their careers, he got pretty close to him in the Champion Chase two seasons ago and, on their very best, there are only two or three pounds between them. What is more, the selection may well have the balance tipped narrowly in his favour by the recent rain. The other compelling factor is that Politologue may well enjoy an uncontested lead – he is sure to be boldly ridden – and this very sound jumper may take a bit of pegging back having been well tuned for this.

CLOUDY GLEN is a pretty short price at 15/8 for the London National (3.00pm), but he’s run into a short field of likeable but exposed horses. By contrast, his runaway win at Fontwell was his first try at a marathon trip and the easier rhythm of the race allowed him to saunter round on the bridle. I am not sure an 11-pound higher mark will stop him and you can bet that Robbie Dunne will not get him engaged earlier than necessary.

ROSIE AND MILLIE is a bit more of a known quantity than a few of her rivals in the concluding handicap hurdle (3.35pm), but she’s posted two very solid efforts from the front behind talented rivals this season and will not mind how bad this ground becomes. There are some flashier types in here, but neither Mister Coffey nor Solo look the most bankable, and the selection offers fair each-way value at 8/1.

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