Ruben Cotter/Monetaire For Aintree Topham Chase (Fri)
The last two winners of the Topham Chase, which forms the centrepiece of Friday’s Aintree card, have been newcomers to the big fences. Ma Filleule and before her Triolo D’Alene, took to the unique test like proverbial ducks to water – they were both also trained by Nicky Henderson, and so coincidental punters will be keen to be with Rajdhani Express, as he is from the same Seven Barrows stable and encounters the National fences for the first time.
However, Ma Filleule and Triolo D’Alene were both unexposed six-year-olds, whereas Rajdhani Express is a slightly more exposed ex-French eight year old, and perhaps lacks the scope of his more precocious stablemates. Anything owned, trained or ridden by a Waley-Cohen is entitled to go well over the big fences however, but his form this season has lacked spark.
The three previous renewals were won by Always Waining, and that used to be the case, that you needed to be on a horse with proven previous experience. Not so much now the fences have been continuously modified.
So, with that in mind, I am willing to back two horses that arrive at Aintree having never seen a National fence in public, but both have the scope and jumping ability to really take to the place.
One is trained by Paul Nicholls, and having his runners on side this season in any big race has been a very wise move. The ground is coming right for his good ground-loving Ruben Cotter, who reappeared from a 16 month break by winning the valuable Cheltenham Festival consolation race at Kempton four weeks ago.
He jumped brilliantly that day, any was very fresh and keen. A 10lb hike is not ideal, but a mark of 142 could still underestimate, and handicap marks probably don’t mean quite as much in races over the National fences. At 14/1 with Ladbrokes he is a big price and surely will go off shorter as punters cotton on to the Nicholls genius.
The other that must be backed is the David Pipe-trained Monetaire, who has had three runs on these shores having come from France. In those three runs he has rocketed up 20lbs, and without the doubt the best was in the Festival Plate at Cheltenham, where the step up in trip looked to really suit him, and having barely touched a twig there, he could be even better over the National fences.
The 6lb rise he got for that is far outweighed by the fact that he was one of very few horses who came from off the pace in any of the races from the first three days of the festival. At 10/1 with Betway he is a very enticing second arrow to fire.
Topham Chase – Friday