In the absence of Altior the Tingle Creek at Sandown has a very competitive look and there is hope for fans of the veteran Un De Sceaux, the upstart Defi Du Seuil and the rarely spotted Waiting Patiently. But all three may be outdone by Janika (3.00), whose form over the past year looks all the more solid because it has often been in handicaps.
After joining Nicky Henderson from France he was a beaten favourite in all four starts last winter but there was no shame in twice failing narrowly to give lumps of weight to Sirruh Du Lac. The step back to this distance helped him score at Exeter last month and he is clearly ready to give them all a fright at the highest level.
At 13-8, Defi Du Seuil is very short for a horse who would be getting weight from five of these rivals in a handicap. He comfortably held Politologue last time and the market has accepted that as a strong piece of form but the grey’s record in Grade Ones is just 2/10.
At 11, Un De Sceaux would be the oldest winner in the 40-year history of the Tingle Creek and he could have used more recent rain. That might also be true of Waiting Patiently as he tries two miles for the first time in three years.
Sceau Royal appears to have been chosen by jockey Daryl Jacob over Janika and demands respect, having won the Henry VIII at 11-1 on this card two years ago. The drying ground is a help to him, though his stable could be in better form.
1.30 Aintree It is easy to see Vieux Lion Rouge running a big race in the Becher, a race he won three years ago when only 3lb below the rating he has now. There have been some disappointments since then but his reappearance win at Chepstow was encouraging and the David Pipe yard continues in fine form.
1.50 Sandown It is asking a lot for a horse to be pitched straight into Grade One company on his first try over fences but Grand Sancy could be up to it, for a trainer who has won this race three times in the past six years. His hurdles form certainly shows he has the necessary quality; he was beaten only half a length in the Tolworth here in January.
2.05 Aintree The well-related Midnight’s Gift looks one to stick with after a game effort to prevail on her hurdles debut at Fakenham.
2.25 Sandown Apart from a blip at Cheltenham in October Smarty Wild has been improving all year and the handicapper may not yet have caught up with him.
2.40 Aintree If race fitness makes the difference here, Black Corton ought to come out on top, being the only one to have run in the past 200 days. But the terms of the race hardly help him, as he must give 6lb to three classy rivals. Native River is marginally more appealing, though he could get outpaced in these conditions. Perhaps the blinkers will help.
3.15 Aintree Tom Scudamore might get a double over the big, green fences, as Ultragold knows his way round here, having twice won the Topham. The Becher was too far for him on this day last year but he has since come down to a fair mark.
3.35 Sandown Stan Sheppard and Coningsby were parted at the first at Ascot a fortnight ago but it is to be hoped they have a happier experience here because the young chestnut is of interest, now that Tom Lacey is firing in winners. The blinkers helped this one score easily at Exeter in March and there should be more to come.
11.30 Harry Senior 12.00 Casablanca Mix 12.30 Cracking Find 1.00 Notre Pari 1.30 Vieux Lion Rouge (nb) 2.05 Midnight's Gift 2.40 Native River 3.15 Ultragold
12.10 Le Cheval Noir 12.40 Manofthemoment 1.10 Electron Bleu 1.40 Charmant 2.15 Dear Sire (nap) 2.50 Cash To Ash 3.25 Storm Force One
12.15 Fiddlerontheroof 12.50 Oriental Cross 1.20 Silva Eclipse 1.50 Grand Sancy 2.25 Smarty Wild 3.00 Janika 3.35 Coningsby
12.20 Native Robin 12.55 Blackjack Kentucky 1.25 Supreme Escape 1.55 Captain Cattistock 2.30 Sojourn 3.05 Meyer Lansky 3.40 Drift Rock
4.50 Weloof 5.20 Born To Reason 5.50 Waldkonig 6.20 Raaeb 6.50 Top Boy 7.20 Paths Of Glory 7.50 Scrafton 8.20 Silverbrook