Full race preview and free betting tips for the 2.50 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree.
Top quality Grade 1 racing continues into the third day of the Grand National Festival with the Liverpool Hurdle. A small field of 7 runners look set to contest this stamina test. The recent record of the race has been dominated by Big Buck’s but with his retirement, the 3m hurdling division is far more competitive.
This year’s renewal of the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival saw a trio of today’s runners defeated by the impressive More Of That. Stablemate to the World Hurdle winner – AT FISHERS CROSS (13/8 BetVictor) finished the best of the three runners some six and half lengths behind the eventual winner. This horse is a frustrating sort who started the season poorly (disappointing at Newbury and then unseated his jockey at Ascot) but has seemingly started to rekindle his ability of old. He performed well in the Cleeve and then improved with returning to Prestbury Park on his latest start. His jumping has certainly improved throughout the season and this race could well be his highlight. Unbeaten last year, he won the novice equivalent of this race at Aintree some 12 months ago in impressive fashion beating a competitive field by eight lengths. He obviously handles the track and the ground conditions and, if able to tidy up his jumping, he should have the ability and class to put in another bold show.
Two lengths behind the aforementioned horse in the World Hurdle came Zarkander (3/1 SkyBet). A consistent performer who has so found the likes of Annie Power too good this season over shorter trips, this horse looks to have improved for the step up in trip and is representing a trainer who has a fan static record in the race. He won the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f last year, staying on dourly in the finish to beat The New One. That form is particularly noteworthy considering what the runner-up has achieved this year. He was able to dictate matters from the front last year and looks likely to get a similarly soft lead here. With the blinkers now reattached he could well dominate at the front from start to finish and has to be respected.
The third horse to contest the World Hurdle was another Paul Nicholls trained runner – Salubrious (16/1 Stan James). Unable to claim a victory so far this season the horse perfumed well finishing only two and a quarter lengths behind More Of That at Cheltenham in December and could well have won his next start at Ascot had he not blundered one of the final hurdles. Despite this, he looked to struggle in the World Hurdle and finished a well beaten ninth of ten runners. His trainer has opted for a hood to help him concentrate but I would question this horses ability to beat truly top class rivals. He has had a hard season and I wouldn’t be confident that he wouldn't put in another lacklustre display.
The inform partnership of Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty are represented by the Coral Cup winner – Whisper (6/1 SkyBet). This horse pulled hard in the early stages of this ultra-competitive handicap but found for pressure and won by a very narrow margin. Nico de Boinville was able to claim a crucial 5lbs and that looked to make all the difference. That effort came over 2m5f and the obvious concern is whether or not this horse will respond as well to a step up in trip. He looked to be all out at the line and may well not appreciate the increase in distance considering his tendency to be a little free in the early stages. He is a sound jumper and his connections have to be respected, but I would prefer others in the race.
Another horse who will be stepped up in trip is Melodic Rendezvous (6/1 BetVictor). A good quality horse over 2m, beating the likes of Zarkander and Ptit Zig this season, he struggled to make an impact in the Champion Hurdle. Connections have always though this horse acts better on truly testing ground and conditions are unlikely to suit come tomorrow afternoon. The extra 1m might not suit either as there are definite stamina questions to be answered. With such a significant increase in trip I think he’s best watched for the future.
The field is completed by The Knoxs (100/1 Stan James) and Thousand Stars (9/1 SkyBet). The former looks to be considerably outclassed here and needs to find around 35lbs to figure, whereas the latter has run some good races in his career. Despite this, is held on last year’s Aintree running by Zarkander and should struggle to get the better of that rival here.
For me the race boils down to a match between At Fishers Cross and Zarkander. Looking at the runners, Zarakander should be gifted an easy lead with A P McCoy likely to position At Fishers Cross just in behind. Providing Zarkander doesn’t set a particularly sever pace AT FISHERS CROSS shouldn’t be hurried with his jumping and a repeat of the form he showed here 12 month ago should be enough to claim victory.
AT FISHERS CROSS (WIN) (13/8 BetVictor)
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