Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Red-hot Vic the pick for key National pointer

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

On the back of the John Smith's Aintree Grand National weights being revealed on Tuesday, this afternoon's At The Races Bobbyjo Chase takes on added significance.

The Fairyhouse three-miler is always a popular stepping stone for Aintree-bound horses, with Hedgehunter landing the spoils en route to National glory five years ago.

Of today's nine runners, just two, Hurricane Carter and Florida Express, aren't engaged in the Liverpool showpiece.

Notre Pere, which showed improved form to be fourth in the Hennessy Gold Cup a fortnight ago, is one of three horses set to shoulder top-weight of 11st 10lb at Aintree, but the conditions of today's race bear little resemblance to the configuration of the National field.

If Jim Dreaper's charge can build on his Leopardstown showing, he will be very hard to beat, though slight preference is for Vic Venturi. Along with Dessie Hughes' other runner, the 2009 winner Black Apalachi, Vic Venturi is best in on official ratings.

The 10-year-old, which won a conditions chase at Clonmel and the Becher Chase at Aintree on his last two chasing starts, is at least three pounds well in with the field. Back over the bigger obstacles now after a couple of spins over flights, Paddy Flood's mount should be able to take advantage of the way the weights are framed.

In the other Grade Two contest on the seven-race card, the Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle, some useful Triumph Hurdle prospects come together.

Politeo had the rub of the green when scoring on his hurdling debut for Paul Nolan at Thurles and can only improve, while Big Game Hunter will be better for his third behind Pittoni at Leopardstown.

Despite being beaten at odds-on last time though, Alaivan may be the one. If Edward O'Grady's representative settles better than he did at the Dublin track on St Stephen's Day, he should make amends. Cross Appeal, which was a long way behind in fourth on that occasion, gave the form a solid look by splitting Big Game Hunter and Pittoni.

In the With Free Timeform Handicap Hurdle, the in-form Willie Mullins is well represented by Dorset Square. Seventeen runners will make for a competitive affair, but Paul Townend's mount has been in good fettle.

Having tipped up at Down Royal last time with a race at his mercy, Corkskeagh Royale bids to make amends in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners' Chase, but faces a stern test from the likes of Browns Baily and Becauseicouldntsee. The latter may have run into a good horse when second to Jagoes Mills last week, and is fancied go one better now.

Irish Independent

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