Day two of the Aintree Grand National meeting sees an uptick in the level of the action and I’ve found two at pretty big prices that I like the look of.
Viva la Vina!
The first of them comes in the Top Novices’ Hurdle (14:20) and while Jonbon sets the bar pretty high, I’m happy to take him on with the Gordon Elliott-trained Vina Ardanza. The five-year-old has much lower mileage than many of these, but has looked a promising horse in his career thus far.
Having made a winning debut in a bumper at Ayr for Stuart Crawford, he changed hands and joined Gordon Elliott. He made a winning hurdling debut in a maiden at Thurles in November, travelling smoothly and getting the better of a battle with Walnut Beach by a short-head. He was absent for the rest of the winter after that and didn’t seem especially well fancied for his return to action in a Grade 3 novice hurdle at Naas, but that didn’t stop him running a big race in defeat.
Given a much quieter ride that saw him settle better than he had on his hurdling debut, he made smooth headway into the race before the third-last hurdle and squeezed his way into a challenging position approaching the final flight. Despite getting leaned on all the way up the run-in, he stuck on very well and only just lost out by a head to Highland Charge.
Vina Ardanza seems sure to improve from that experience and comes into this race fresher than most. A flat two miles will suit him well and Davy Russell might well look to deliver him even later than he did at Naas. He looks to be notably overpriced.
Jonjo can take the Topham
The other one I like at a big price is the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Palmers Hill in the Randox Topham Handicap Chase (16:05). The nine-year-old has clearly been difficult to train given he has only had 11 starts on the racecourse in his life, but he has always appealed as being a talented sort. That promise has quickly been realised since he has been sent chasing, with him winning a handicap chase at Wetherby in snug style prior to running out the emphatic winner of a handicap chase at Ascot in December.
Both of those wins came at around two-miles-three-furlongs, but the way he shapes and even his form over hurdles suggests that this longer trip will play to his strengths. He has also given the impression that being ridden with patience suits him well and this big field should make it easy for him to be ridden that way.
Palmers Hill also appeals as having a desirable style of jumping for these unique fences.
While he was pulled on his most recent start back in January, that run was too bad to be true and I’m happy to put my faith in Jonjo O’Neill to have him back in top form for this contest. His record when fresh is very good and he appeals as being overpriced.