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2019 Grand National Festival tips – Through the card tips on day two at Aintree

A view of the runners, and the stands in the background, at Aintree.

Our expert takes a look through the full card on day two of the Grand National Festival and provides readers with his tips for Aintree on Friday 5th April.

Friday picked up where Thursday’s card left off at Aintree, with a capacity crown anticipating an action-packed afternoon. Four Grade Ones are on the agenda this Friday, with the Melling Chase and the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle headling the action on the second day of Aintree’s Grand National Festival.

Our expert takes a look through Friday’s card in full and provides readers with tips for every race on day two of the Grand National Festival.

Aintree Festival Day Two Tips

1:45pm Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m4f

One For Rosie was unlucky to get beaten carrying top weight in the Grade Three Handicap at Sandown last month and team Twiston-Davies will travel to Aintree with high hopes. Kateson is much better than his last result suggests and could be a big danger on his handicap debut, but the one they all have to beat is BRIO CONTI.

A series of excellent performance in handicap company saw Paul Nicholls throw Brio Conti into the 2017 renewal of the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle here at Aintree. Finian’s Oscar powered to an impressive victory, but Nicholls’ charge acquitted himself well on his Grade One debut, crossing the like an eight-length fifth.

Injury restricted Brio Conti to just one outing over the next 18 months and Nicholls’ eight-year-old looked extremely rusty when pulling up on his return to action back in February. Two weeks later, Bryony Frost’s mount scythed through the pack from the rear to snatch victory at Ascot and Brio Conti was travelling as well as anyone turning for home in the Coral Cup, before finishing a little one-paced back in fourth.

Despite a disappointing final furlong, Brio Conti was only upped two pounds for a fine performance and a mark of 11-9 looks more than manageable in what is a considerably weaker race. If Mohaayed and Top Notch drop out, then Brio Conti could be lumbered with top-weight, but classy horses can deal with such adversity and Paul Nicholls’ hurdler clearly has plenty of quality.

2:20pm Betway Top Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m½f

Precious Cargo sits prominently in the betting here for Nicky Henderson, having won well on his two starts over hurdles this season. Both came at low-key venues and he has plenty to prove jumping up into Grade One company – especially with four of the top six finishers in last month’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle surrounding him in the betting.

As several of his rivals got stuck in the mud at Cheltenham, Itchy Feet - alongside stablemate Thomas Darby - came through to snatch a place behind the superb Klassical Dream in the Supreme at Cheltenham. Felix Desjy and ARAMON travelled well for much of the race before fading after the final flight. While Felix Desjy should have enjoyed the softening ground, Aramon is a good ground lover and he's favoured to bounce back, now conditions seem to be in his favour.

I doubt Willie Mullins would have pinpointed Aramon as one of his most promising novice hurdlers at the start of the season. Yet, the Supreme Racing Club-owned six-year-old impressed during the first half of the season and even scooped a Grade One prize at Leopardstown over Christmas, powering to a superb 10 length triumph in the Future Stars Novices' Hurdle.

At the Dublin Racing Festival, Aramon looked to have got the better of Klassical Dream, only for his stablemate to drag himself back to the front in the strides before the line. UPDATKlassical Dream proved he was much better than his stablemate at Cheltenham, but Paul Townend's mount travelled smoothly for much of the race before the softening ground took it's toll. If the word "good" remains in the going description, my money is on Aramon.

Now that the ground has softened, this one will probably be a no-bet race for me. I still think Aramon represents some value. Maybe ROUGE VIF at an each-way price would be the most sensible bet.

2:50pm Betway Mildmay Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 3m1f

Champagne Classic is a horse I want to keep onside and he's progressed nicely over fences since returning from long-term injury. Chris' Dream got the better of Gordon Elliott's mount when they last met at Navan. While he's a sturdy stayer to be respected, I would be shocked if this year's Mildmay didn't go to one of the home challengers at the head of the market.

Colin Tizzard has been adamant that three miles would bring out the best in Lostintranslation and his seven-year-old will get the chance to prove that at Aintree, having bypassed the Manifesto to step up in trip. La Bague Au Roi has been rerouted to the Manifesto, which makes his task a little easier, but Lostintranslation will have to contend with the inform TOPOFTHEGAME (8/11 William Hill) and Paul Nicholls' novice will be on a high after scoring in style at the Cheltenham Festival.

Harry Cobden had to work hard to settle his imposing mount down for much of the first circuit in the Kauto Star at Kempton over Christmas, but still looked to have done enough to get the win jumping the last, only for La Bague Au Roi to battle back and steal the title. Topofthegame looked much more composed at Cheltenham and those who claimed he had a problem finishing his races were made to eat their words, as Cobden’s mount repelled the advances of Santini to claim a maiden Grade One victory.

I’m a huge Topofthegame fan, as regular listeners of the GG Racing Podcast will know and I have no plans to desert him here. In fact, I believe there is more improvement to come from this beast of a horse and Aintree could be the perfect setting for Topofthegame to flex his muscles.

3:25pm JLT Chase (Registered As The Melling Chase) (Grade 1) 2m4f

I’ve been on and off with Politologue over past few seasons. When I back him he runs poorly, when I ignore him he runs a blinder. Paul Nicholls’ charge clearly enjoyed his return to two miles at Cheltenham and battled bravely to beat Min here last year. Politologue returns to Aintree with strong form. Yet, I’m still unconvinced. 

I’m not part of Waiting Patiently’s fan club and will take him on until he proves himself worthy of such a lofty rating. Min is another horse I tend to avoid, which leaves me scratching around the middle section of the betting to find an each-way gamble and the one who catches the eye is TOP NOTCH (10/1 BetVictor)

Nicky Henderson admitted earlier this season that Top Notch is a little short of Grade One standard. That might be the case, and would explain why Henderson has campaigned his eight-year-old over hurdles for much of the season. Yet, Top Notch has won multiple Graded honours throughout his career and is obviously a much more adept chaser than a hurdler.

This plucky, diminutive chaser has tackled his favourite fences just once this term, handing Black Corton and the inform Charbel a sound thrashing in the Listed Casino Chase at Kempton. Top Notch has finished third on both his outings here at Aintree, including a narrow defeat to Flying Tiger in the 2017 renewal of the Manifesto. If the top three are on their game, I doubt Top Notch will get much of a look-in. If they fail to fire, as I suspect a couple of them will, Daryl Jacob's mount should be on the premises. He's my selection - but not a confident one.

Ballyhill (near, red) clears the water jump at Cheltenham on New Years' Day.

4:05pm Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m5f

Janika has finished second in three high-quality handicaps for Nicky Henderson this season and clearly has the class to cope with the Grand National obstacles. Top-weight hasn’t stopped Janika from challenging for victories so far this term, but only three horses have carried more than 11-00 to victory in the Topham since the turn of the Millennium, so it certainly pays to look towards the bottom half of the weights to find an each-way punt.

Ultragold could bid to follow in the footsteps of Always Waining and claim a hat-trick of Topham titles and Colin Tizzard’s eleven-year-old shouldn’t be overlooked. Call It Magic jumped beautifully over these fearsome fences during the Becher earlier in the season and could be a big player should Ross O’Sullivan leave his nine-year-old in the running. While both hold significant appeal, BALLYHILL (16/1 William Hill) looks like he’s been laid out for a tilt at the Topham and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ chaser could be the best-handicapped runner in the field.

This reliable jumper has found a new level of consistency this term and a very taking triumph here at Aintree in December helped Ballyhill reach a career-high mark of 144. Since then, Twiston-Davies’ eight-year-old has finished third behind Aso and Siruh Du Lac in Grade Three Handicaps at Cheltenham. Ballyhill was then thrown in with Clan Des Obeaux in the Denman Chase and ran a decent enough race to pass the post third once again.

Twiston-Davies will have been pleased with that effort, as he had no real chance of challenging the King George winner and Ballyhill stuck to his task well. The team decided to skip an outing at the Cheltenham Festival in favour of an appearance at Aintree and, with just 10-6 on his back, Ballyhill returns to Merseyside with serious winning claims.

4:40pm Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m½f

Emitom has been one of my most successful tracker horses this season, winning on the flat at Ascot before three straight victories over hurdles. While I think he’s worthy of a step up in class, I wasn't impressed with the style of his most recent run at Newbury and Warren Greatrex’s novice is in with several runners who have proven form at this level.

Dallas Des Pictons had the rest of the field throwing out distress signals approaching the last in the Martin Pipe, but Donagh Meyler’s mount found little when he came off the bridle, allowing Early Doors to come through and claim a narrow win. Gordon Elliott’s novice clearly has bundles of ability and winning form over three miles. I remain, however, a big fan of CHAMP (5/2 Paddy Power) and there’s more to come from Nicky Henderson’s Challow winner.

Champ was my NAP of the day as he entered the Ballymore at Cheltenham. I was impressed with the way Henderson’s seven-year-old had won his races this term, despite looking green on both occasions, and was sure he’d put in a more mature display at Cheltenham. 

That’s exactly what happened - for most of the race. When the field started to come down the hill, Barry Geraghty’s mount lost his rhythm for a couple of strides, but Champ was still in there pitching alongside City Island as the leaders approached the last.

Sadly, City Island had a little more left in the tank, pulling clear in the final 100 yards to claim a deserved victory. The result may have been disappointing, but I'm sure Henderson will have been pleased with Champ's efforts and this longer trip could eke out further improvement from this likeable novice.

5:15pm Weatherbys Racing Bank Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2) 2m1f

Master Debonair struggled to get involved in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, crossing the line with just two horses behind him. He did, however, carry Listed winning form into that Grade One and travels to Aintree as the highest-rated horse in the race, so Colin Tizzard must still fancy his chances.

McFabulous beat a nice horse in Faustinovick in convincing fashion last time out and looks to be moving in the right direction. I'd prefer to go in an each-way direction, however, and the one who looks like they will handle softer ground best is EBONY JEWEL (12/1 BetVictor).

The five-year-old Westerner gelding made a good impression on debut, finishing second to a favourite trained by Kim Bailey, who has come out and won again since. A move to Neil Alexander's yard followed and Ebony Jewel went to post as the favourite on his stable debut on soft ground. Neil's daughter, Lucy gave her mount a confident ride that day, dictating the tempo from the front before streaking clear to win by 12 lengths.

Ebony Jewel was awarded an RPR of 122 for that victory, a mark only McFabulous has bettered and third-placed Sidi Ismael won convincingly on his following outing. Ground conditions will be similar to those he thrived on at Ayr, so 12/1 looks a very attractive price.

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2019 Grand National Festival tips – Through the card tips on day two at Aintree

Our expert takes a look through the full card on day two of the Grand National Festival and provides readers with his tips for Aintree on Friday 5th April.

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