Poquelin to have his day in the sun at Aintree
The Paul Nicholls trained Poquelin is a hopeful selection in the Grade 1 John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree today has he bids to upset the two market leaders.
Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Finians Rainbow heads the market and is closely followed by Albertas Run who finished second in this year’s Ryanair Chase. Although these two will take a lot of beating, I have a sneaky feeling that today might be Poquelin’s day. Many people underestimate this horse as he has disappointed in the past when expected to run a big race. However, many people forget that this horse won a handicap off a mark of 170 which isn’t easy by any means. He missed the Ryanair at Cheltenham after getting a kick at the start and that may be a blessing in disguise as the Ryanair turned out to be a very tough and gruelling race.
Although he has finished second to Albertas Run twice, he is two years younger than him and that might be a telling factor now that Albertas Run is 11. Cheltenham is a tough place to go and there’s a chance that at 11 years of age, it may have taken the sharpness off Jonjo O’Neill’s charge. Finians Rainbow is the deserving favourite for the race and Nicky Henderson has done a great job improving him since his Victor Chandler run. He tackles 2m 4f for the first time over fences and he should have no problems getting it at Aintree but he is thrown in at the deep end against two proven stayers. If Cheltenham hasn’t taken too much out of him he is definitely the one to beat but I’m still not certain he is a hardy sort who loves a battle. Paul Nicholls is confident Poquelin will run a big race “I think he could give the front two in the market plenty to think about” and for that reason my selection is going to be Poquelin at around 7/1.
The day kicks off at 2.00 with the Grade 2 Tangle Teezer Top Novices´ Hurdle where Darlan bids to go one better than he managed in the Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham. Nicky Henderson’s gelding had a massive reputation going into Cheltenham and many people, including myself, thought he wasn’t as good as he was being hyped up to be. However, he ran a very creditable race and really stuck his neck out and battled well. That performance has changed my opinion of him and he comes into this race as the one they all have to beat. Prospect Wells has only a length to find with Darlan on their Supreme Novices’ run and the flat track may suit him. However, his form before that run was pretty ordinary and he has too many doubts over him for my liking.
The Grade 2 John Smith’s Mildmay Novices’ Chase has disappointingly only attracted five runners but there’s no doubting how much quality there still is in the race. They are a very closely knit bunch and it is very hard to separate them and come out with a confident selection for the race. You could make a strong case for each of the runners, with the exception of Yes Tom. I have gone for the Nicky Henderson trained Solix. I don’t think there is much between him and Champion Court based on their run at Cheltenham in January and he gave him 3lbs that day which may have made the difference. When you look at the market, Solix is over-priced and at 6/1 I think he is a cracking bet. Whatever happens, there isn’t going to be a whole lot between them but Aintree should suit Solix and he is the value selection of the race.
Of the other races on the card, Fingal Bay lines up in the Grade 1 Grand Sefton Novices’ Hurdle and should take all the beating. He trounced Simonsig at Sandown and we all know what Simonsig went on to do at Cheltenham. Fingal Bay missed Cheltenham because of a slight setback and he comes here a fresh horse who should take all the beating. Gullinbursti may be best of the rest after missing his engagement in a handicap hurdle here yesterday to run in this race. 14/1 may be too big about him and although he shouldn’t beat Fingal Bay on form, 14/1 is still great E/W value.
Ruby Walsh getting down to 10st 3lb to ride Frankie Figg in the Topham Chase over the National Course is a tip in itself and he has to be the selection in that race. Its A Gimme is expected to run well in the Handicap Hurdle at 4.50 and the concluding bumper could go the way of Eddie Hales’ Hidden Lite ridden by Ruby Walsh.