Five @ Five – Aintree Festival (Thursday and Friday)

A new column which will highlight five runners of interest at the five day stage. Kicks off with Thursday and Friday’s entries at Aintree. Paul Ferguson has looked at the open races for Thursday and Friday of the Aintree Festival and here’s my five at the five day stage for the handicap races: Edgardo Sol Entries

4Apr13 4:15 (Four Day) at Aintree, Red Rum Handicap Chase Grade 3
5Apr13 4:50 (Four Day) at Aintree, John Smith’s Daily Mirror Punters Club Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race)

An emphatic winner of the Red Rum Chase last season, if running he would be of a 12lb higher mark, however I don’t think this would stop him. The key is seemingly a left handed track with a pace to aim at, 10 or more runners likely sees him get that: LH >10: 132166 LH <10: 31233 RH: 452 Within his form running LH in a large field is a 2012 County Hurdle 2nd and 2013 County Hurdle 6th, ground slightly easier than ideal in the latter, and arguably his other poor effort, 6th in Scottish Champion Hurdle, can be excused as this was 9 days following his win here last year. Connections have the option of utilising Harry Derham’s claim if they don’t want him to carry 11-12, which was mentioned as a worry following his hurdle win back in 2011, and he has ridden him in both of his County Hurdle bids. With ground conditions coming into his favour, I very much expect him to put up a bold show. Cucumber Run Entries

4Apr13 3:55 (Four Day) at Taunton, toteexacta Handicap Hurdle
4Apr13 5:25 (Four Day) at Aintree, Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle Grade 3

Disappointed on his latest start in the Long Walk Hurdle, but I think the testing track, and heavy ground would have been against him. His six career wins have come at the following tracks; Kempton, Huntingdon, Hereford, Ludlow, Wetherby and Ayr. Flat tracks and his promising run this season was at Newbury, another flat track. I was impressed with Nico de Boinville’s ride at Newbury, and would like to see him back in the saddle if taking up his engagement at Aintree, where the flat track and better ground would be in his favour. Sixty Something Entries

4Apr13 5:25 (Four Day) at Aintree, Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle Grade 3
5Apr13 4:15 (Four Day) at Aintree, John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1

A revelation since a hood has been applied to this Dom Alco gelding, the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle entry shows the esteem he is held in at Paul Webber’s yard as per his blog post in the new year:

SIXTY SOMETHING Terrible juvenile error by the Trainer to run him back only 15 days after winning at Bangor. Although he won well that day, the ground was heavy and it had exacted a greater toll than any of us could spot at home. He is definitely the type of horse for the Pertemps Final, but will now struggle to get in without winning. May be Aintree should be his goal, as he could have an easier path towards that rather than Cheltenham? Whatever, he’s a serious prospect to chasing next season.

Started this season rated 115, he ran away with a fair handicap hurdle over course and distance back in October, and from then on has been coping with easy ground far better than I expected him too. A very uncomplicated ride, Doncaster run was too bad to be true, as per above connections gave him a break. Arguably his two other below par efforts were at Haydock, where on the hurdle track if worse than prominent from the last down the back then you are fighting a losing battle. Raised just the 8lbs for his win at Market Rasen where Dominic Elsworth was happy to make a mid-race move with him showing that the hood has helped Sixty Something considerably, we’ve already seen the second Crowning Jewel come out and pick up a win. Handicap mark of 135 is still a winnable mark and this will be an easier assignment than the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle. Peckhamecho Entries

5Apr13 4:50 (Four Day) at Aintree, John Smith’s Daily Mirror Punters Club Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race)

The Welsh Champion Hurdle form has been franked considerably in recent weeks, and Peckhamecho who finished second to Medinas would be one of interest if taking up his engagement on Friday. He looked to be the winner between the last two flights, and just got run out of it late, possibly the ground taking its toll late on. Still that form is very solid. Tanerko Emery was given a shocker at Sandown in the Imperial Cup where it seemed he was happy to allow his stable mate to take the honours, and Kieron Edgar only got serious once Kazlian’s chance was gone. He followed that up with a staying on 5th in the County Hurdle behind Ted Veale. Medinas won the Coral Cup, and even off his higher mark would be a worry, but connections seem to be tilting towards the 3m race. Fifth at Ffos Las was Double Ross who finished a good 3rd in Martin Pipe’s Hurdle to Salubrious, so the form is rock solid. At Kempton on his latest start he jumped slightly to his left in the Pendil Novices’ Chase, and wasn’t fluent at the majority of the fences, so it is not such a surprise to see him reverting to the smaller obstacles here. Yet there were still positives to take from that run, as at Ffos Las, he traveled a lot kinder for his jockey compared to early season form. Winner on Good to Soft ground as a novice, so drying conditions wouldn’t worry me should he take up his engagement. Minella Forfitness Entries

5Apr13 4:50 (Four Day) at Aintree, John Smith’s Daily Mirror Punters Club Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race)

Connections have had eye on Aintree for some time now, and following his wins at Doncaster Nicky Henderson will no doubt be overjoyed at his mark of 135. Keenness along with the heavy ground probably cost him victory on hurdles debut at Ascot, connections have seemingly kept him away from the worse of the weather with him only having two runs since, both at Doncaster on the better ground. Both were wins, and both have a solid look to it. He beat Zuider Zee on his first trip to the North with Aim To Prosper back in third, both have won since. However, there was more to like about his most recent win when defying a 6lb penalty to defeat the 2011 Champion Bumper winner Cheltenian in the dying strides over a trip that he’d have found too sharp. Still runs with the choke out slightly and if Barry Geraghty can get him to settle, I think he’s one that could make a mockery of his current mark and jockey has been impressed with both of his wins as stated on his At The Races Blog:

MINELLA FORFITNESS really pleased me in the two and a half mile maiden hurdle which rode a pretty good race. He was a little bit keen but that was exaggerated by the slow pace and there was also a desperate headwind which lit him up a bit. This is a horse that’s definitely going the right way (11/02/13)

MINELLA FORFITNESS did well to get up and win the two-mile novices’ hurdle under a penalty. He was dropping back to two miles but still ran a bit keen early on so when they quickened past him three out I just let him gather himself. He’d composed himself going to the last and showed a good attitude under pressure. I’d say that two and a half miles might suit him better (25/02/13)

Needs half a dozen or so to come out, they will have everything crossed in the hope that he gets in and it wouldn’t surprise me if they used ear plugs on handicap debut. For more analysis of the first two days at Aintree don’t forget to come back to the site for our TV Aintree Preview from 7pm on Easter Monday.