Ante-Post Armchair: All Roads Lead To Aintree

It was a relatively quiet weekend in regards to any major antepost implications. Chindit returned to winning ways in the Doncaster Mile, despite being very keen in the early part of the contest. Jockey, Rossa Ryan was happy with his mount getting the job done, indicating that the four-year-old would prefer much faster ground to be seen at his best, as opposed to the ‘tacky’ surface the pair encountered on Saturday. Ground permitting, the Lockinge at Newbury on May 14 has been pencilled in as the next port of call and looks a logical early season target.

Over at The Curragh, last year’s 1,000 Guineas winner Mother Earth, made her seasonal reappearance in the Group 3 Express Stakes in the hands of Ryan Moore. She scored by three-quarters of a length, a run in which it looks as though it will benefit her enormously, as she should strip a lot fitter for her outing on the back of that. She is versatile in regards to ground and rarely runs a bad race so should be set for another great season for the Ballydoyle team, looking at all the top Fillies’ events in the calendar.

Changing codes, and the Bumper at Limerick on Sunday provided an upset of sorts as hot favourite, 1/4 shot Mercurey could only manage third under Patrick Mullins, with stable companion Impulsive Dancer landing the spoils by a comfortable three lengths, with Blizzard Of Oz just holding off Mercurey for second place. Highly-touted, he was considered for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham at one stage, before connections opted against it. With the benefit of hindsight, that looks like it was a wise move, and although it is far from a case of having his reputation in tatters on the back of this, the hype-wagon may need to pull-over for a pit-stop for the time being. Nonetheless, he will be one to be keeping a close eye on moving forward, especially once sent over hurdles.

With the Cheltenham Festival now firmly in the rear-view mirror, the momentum is gathering towards Aintree’s Grand National meeting which starts next Thursday. Any Second Now, Delta Work, and Escaria Ten are all vying for favoritism for the world’s most famous steeplechase. Fiddlerontheroof and Kildisart have been my two long-term fancies for the Liverpool spectacular, and no doubt there will be at least a couple more added into the mix once we know the exact lay of the land.

Paul Nicholls has expressed that he has a strong hand for the meeting with the likes of Clan Des Obeaux, Bravemansgame, Hitman, Monmiral and Stage Star amongst the possible runners for the Ditcheat maestro. With Willie Mullins not ruling out an assault on the meeting as well, we should be set fair for three days of spectacular action, with the likes of Stayers’ Hurdle winner Flooring Porter and Grade 1 winner Fakir D’Oudairies due to come over from the Emerald Isle it all bodes well.

Don’t forget, we have the Masters, dovetailing beautifully, and remember, if you can land the Green Jacket-Grand National double it is happy days! Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith and Jordan Spieth have long been locked in the antepost portfolio, and no doubt there will be lots of great value floating around just before the tournament – keep your eyes peeled for those bookmaker’s concessions!