2019 Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase tips – Murphy’s 11/8 chance can gun down defending champion at Aintree

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look at the big feature race on Sunday, the Old Roan Chase and gives his selection to land Grade Two success.

The feature race of a cracking Sunday racecard at Aintree is the Virgin Bet-sponsored Grade Two Old Roan Chase, which in recent years has been named after Monet’s Garden, who largely made this race his own with three wins during his top-class career.

This classy 2m 4f contest boasts a first prize in excess of £45,000 and despite a small entry of just six runners, it is sure to be a cracking renewal and a potentially fascinating race.

In addition to Monet’s Garden, other notable winners include Kauto Star, Alberta’s Run, Smad Place and defending champion Frodon who returns in a bid to retain his crown.

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look at the big race field for Sunday’s feature at the Liverpool venue and gives his big race selection.

Defending champion Frodon (5/2, Virgin Bet) went from strength to strength last term, winning four of his five starts which included in this contest twelve months ago where he beat Javert by just over one length.

The wind surgery he had received in the interim had clearly worked the oracle and although beaten behind Baron Alco under a big weight in the BetVictor Gold Cup, he went on to strike a hat-trick of wins – all at Cheltenham – which included the Grade One Ryanair Chase and the Grade Two Cotstwold Chase where he proved his stamina for three miles.

Tough and consistent, Paul Nicholls’ Nickname gelding is sure to put up a bold defence of his crown, but his exploits last term may just leave him vulnerable at the weights where he has to give away a stone and more to his rivals in this handicap contest.

Defending

Defending champion Frodon could prove a tough nut to crack

And it could be Amy Murphy’s rising star KALASHNIKOV (13/8, Virgin Bet) who might gun down the defending champion, and the Kalanisi gelding showed his class over fences last month when winning a Grade One over course and distance, beating La Bague Au Roi to collect the Manifesto Novices’ Chase when stepped up to this distance.

Things didn’t go altogether to plan last term for the six-year old who had made a good impression with back-to-back wins at Warwick and Plumpton on his first two chase starts before finishing runner-up the next twice with slightly disappointing runs upped into Graded company at Kempton and Sandown.

The latter in particular saw him jumped and ran ragged by the free-going Glen Forsa; but tried in the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March he was still tanking along when hampered and unseating his rider.

He was all out to hold on over this trip when bouncing back to win over the course, but he is thoroughly unexposed at the longer distance and probably still has plenty of scope to improve as a second season chaser. He could make the most of the weight he receives here from Frodon to make a winning return to action at the expense of Paul Nicholls’ star.

The top pairing could have this race between them, but it might be unwise to discount Born Survivor (6/1, Virgin Bet) who goes well fresh and may have more to offer over fences although this represents a big step up the ladder for Dan Skelton’s charge.

The King’s Theatre gelding has won four times over fences in all, including a defeat of Guitar Pete at Wetherby last November where he won in Listed company, and he later ran respectably without troubling Aso at Cheltenham on New Years’ Day, crossing the line in fourth but beaten almost 25 lengths.

Given a break following that run, he returned to strike in a Listed contest at Ayr, beating Sizing Granite, and he has since undergone wind surgery which may unlock further improvement as many from the yard tend to do.

He is 10lbs higher here in a much stronger race so clearly needs to find improvement to feature; while he is perhaps more exposed than others in this field. Nevertheless, given his record fresh he could post a big effort although he might struggle to trouble the big two in the betting.

Dan

Dan Skelton saddles Born Survivor in the Old Roan Chase on Sunday

 

Forest Bihan (13/2, Virgin Bet) perhaps hasn’t quite hit the heights over fences that connections might have hoped, but the Forestier gelding could pose a threat if at his best as a former Grade Two-winning chaser back in the 2016/17 season where he won the Lightning Novices’ Chase.

Despite winning twice the following season, latterly in Newcastle bumper, his progression over fences seemed to stall and he has been winless since although did run well at Cheltenham in the Grand Annual Chase to finish five lengths’ fourth behind Croco Bay, and he arrives here fit following a recent spin at Kelso behind Mcgroarty where the soft ground might have been against him.

He has course form to call upon, having been narrowly beaten behind San Benedeto here as a novice in the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase, and while a return to better ground will be in his favour he does need to step up his game if he’s to beat this field.

Bigmartre (12/1, Virgin Bet) won three of his five starts over fences as a novice, including the Grade Two Future Champion Novice Chase at Ayr; however Harry Whittington’s charge largely failed to build on that last term despite winning at Perth in April, and the Montmartre gelding looks up against here.

That was a much easier race than the one he finds himself in here, and he has to contest from 9lbs higher in the weights which makes life much tougher for the eight-year old who largely struggled last term.

Trip and ground will be fine, and he has won first time up in the past; however, he probably needs the big guns in the race to underperform while he finds some improvement if he’s to come out on top and he is opposable at the weights which aren’t favourable to his chances.

Bigmartre

Bigmartre looks to face an uphill task to win the Sunday feature

 

The field is completed by Flying Angel (16/1, Virgin Bet) who was a Grade One course and distance winner as a novice, but the Arcadio gelding hasn’t reached anywhere near that level since and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge is likely to find this too much on his reappearance.

Wind surgery ahead of his reappearance last term failed to spark any improvement in the eight-year old who had shown some solid form prior to his operation, chasing home the likes of Top Notch and Definitely Red; but a runner-up effort at Ascot last term aside, he struggled to get competitive although did manage to finish fifth to Beware The Bear in the Ultima Chase at the Cheltenham Festival,

There were signs though that his powers were perhaps on the wane, and he is fully 8lbs out of the weights here so has plenty to do and looks hard to make a case for.

VERDICT

This could develop into a shootout between defending champion Frodon and KALASHNIKOV (13/8, Virgin Bet) with slight preference for the latter who is thoroughly unexposed at this longer trip and could have greater scope for progression.

Paul Nicholls’ charge will be tough to crack in defence of his crown, but he does have to give away a stone to Amy Murphy’s charge who bounced back from an unfortunate incident in the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival to post a course and distance success in the Manifesto Chase.

He was all out to hold on, but he may have more this term and the ground will prove no issue for him. He’ll get a good tow into the contest with the front-running Frodon – who stays further – likely to set a decent pace, and the strong-travelling Kalanisi gelding can gun down the defending champion to get his season off to a winning start.

2019 MONET’S GARDEN OLD ROAN CHASE SELECTION – KALASHNIKOV (13/8, Virgin Bet)