Who wins the feature race at Aintree on Thursday? Andy Stephens takes a closer look at the nine runners and gives his verdict
Tiger Roll has achieved many wonderful things in his exalted career but a Grade One triumph over fences is not one of them.
Don’t hold it against him, though, because he’s never run at the highest level over the bigger obstacles. The 11-year-old belatedly gets his chance in the Betway Bowl at Aintree on Thursday.
I’m not sure what the widest gap is between Grade One wins for a horse but I don’t imagine it’s more than seven years. Tiger Roll excels in the extraordinary and that’s the gap he will bridge if he happens to win, as his last (and only) success at the top level was in the Triumph Hurdle of 2014.
The feature race on the first day of the Randox Grand National meeting presents quite a puzzle. Watch tonight's Road To Aintree, at 9pm on the channel, for more clues.
Here’s a guide to all the runners.
Timeform rating: 169. General odds: 40-1
Positives: Classy customer who was runner-up to Frodon in the 2019 Ryanair Chase. Ran better than the bare form suggests when eighth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last time.
Negatives: The 11-year-old has not got his head in front for more than two years and suspicion he is not the force of old. Well-held fourth in the 2017 running of this.
Verdict: Is going to need a personal best to get involved
Timeform rating: 179. Odds: 5-2
Positives: Winner of the King George VI Chase in 2018 and 2019. Solid runs in defeat this season and placed in the past two runnings of this race. Missed Cheltenham and has had a relatively light season. First-time cheekpieces may also add an edge.
Negatives: The headgear offers a clue that he’s not been at the top of his game on his past two starts after a tough reappearance run behind Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase. Little margin for error given his price.
Verdict: Obvious claims if reproducing his best
Timeform rating: 172. Odds: 8-1
Positives: Likeable second-season chaser who took his form to a new level upped to 3m at Kempton last time, winning a competitive handicap in a slick time. Suited by goodish ground and was also a good second in the Old Roan at Aintree in October.
Negatives: Jumps back into Grade One company, and he’s always come up short when tried in Graded company in the past, albeit over shorter. Has at least 7lb to find with four of his rivals on official ratings.
Verdict: Needs more again but remains unexposed over trip
Timeform rating: 148. Odds: 100-1
Positives: Four-time winner over fences who jumps soundly and can go well fresh. Conditions to suit after four-month absence.
Negatives: Looks way out of depth and – being rated between 24lb and 37lb inferior to his rivals.
Verdict: Mountain to climb here.
Timeform rating: 177+. Odds: 8-1
Positives: Ran better than the bare form suggests in the Ryanair Chase last time, having won the rescheduled Peterborough Chase (Clondaw Castle back in third and 3lb worse off) back at Cheltenham in December. Unexposed beyond 2m4f.
Negatives: Pulled up in two of his three starts this term and not exactly been screaming out for distances in excess of 2m4f. This looks something of an experiment.
Verdict: Questions to answer here, including stamina.
Timeform rating: 181. Odds: 4-1
Positives: The 2018 Gold Cup winner made the frame in that race for a fourth time last month and arguably a bit unlucky not to be 3-3 at this track. Well served by testing ground but also effective on better going.
Negatives: Unlikely to get the deep ground that brings out the best in him, plus he had a tough race at Cheltenham last time when off the bridle a long way from home. Usual jockey Richard Johnson retired last weekend.
Verdict: Admirable performer but vulnerable unless the ground is slower than expected.
Timeform rating: 168+. Odds: 18-1
Positives: Dual Grade Two winner who ran a cracker in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last season until fading late on. Needed comeback run at Ascot and easy to forgive below-par run at Kempton last time as he was found to have bled. Will be fresh.
Negatives: Missed Cheltenham last month because of lameness, and his problem at Kempton last time also a niggle. A true-run race over this trip would also examine potential stamina limitations.
Verdict: His Gold Cup last season makes him a player but past year a bit of a write-off.
Timeform rating: 179. Odds: 5-1
Positives: The five-time Cheltenham Festival and dual Grand National hero needs no introduction. Looked in great fettle when hammering his rivals at Cheltenham last month and versatile regards ground. Jack Kennedy in plate.
Negatives: This will be his first run over regulation fences since November 2017, when he was pulled up in the Clonmel Oil Chase. Difficult to know what to expect away from cross-country scene or Grand National fences.
Verdict: This represents a different challenge but write him off at your peril.
Timeform rating: 182. Odds: 7-2
Positives: The Ascot Chase winner in 2018 and remains low mileage. Placed in Grade One company on his past five starts, keeping on well to split Frodon and Clan Des Obeaux in the King George on his penultimate start. Drop back to 2m against him last time.
Negatives: Never been the easiest to train and it’s been more than three years since he last won. Possible he’s at his best first time out and ran below-par when well-fancied at this meeting two years ago.
Verdict: His King George makes him an obvious player but not easy to catch right.
This is tricky with all the runners having potential chinks.
CLONDAW CASTLE was found wanting in Grade One company as a novice and has a bit to find on the book, but he impressed up in trip last time and, unlike some, at least looks likely to give his running.
He looks a fair price to emulate Nacarat, who took this prize in 2011 for the Tom George stable after running in the same 3m Kempton handicap.
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