Fresh and feared: six Cheltenham absentees who could light up Aintree
As the attention of jumps fans turns to the Grand National meeting, those horses who avoided the demanding test of the Cheltenham Festival will be at the forefront of many punters' minds. Here Kitty Trice identifies six Aintree-bound hopefuls who are set to arrive with fresh legs after skipping the festival and could make a big impact
The decision to skip Cheltenham with Waiting Patiently, who was an emphatic winner of the Ascot Chase last month, beating the likes of Cue Card and Top Notch, may well pay dividends as he avoided a prolonged battle in the mud against Un De Sceaux and Ryanair winner Balko De Flos. He has the option of staying at 2m4f in the Melling Chase or stepping up to 3m for the Betway Bowl and would be a potent threat to all in either race.
On The Blind Side
This unbeaten hurdler missed his clash with Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle due to a muscle issue but, similar to Finian’s Oscar who won at Aintree last season, that could prove to be a blessing in disguise.
The son of Stowaway won on his hurdling debut at Aintree back in October and was impressive on his latest start when winning a Grade 2 at Sandown in December. The six-year-old will make a fine chaser for Nicky Henderson next term but could collect a top-level prize over hurdles in the meantime.
Despite going without a win so far this season, Tom George’s charge has done nothing but improve. A second to Top Notch in a Grade 2 at Ascot over an inadequate trip was followed by a gigantic effort when a length second to Might Bite in the King George at 50-1.
Ruled out of the Gold Cup due to the testing conditions, the eight-year-old looks set to head to Aintree for the Betway Bowl and could make quite an impact if getting his preferred good ground.
Global Citizen has won both starts over hurdles since joining Ben Pauling and his nine-length demolition of a decent field in the Grade 2 Dovecote last month was one of the most impressive performances by a novice this season.
After going up an enormous 19lb for his Kempton effort, plans to go for the County Hurdle were scrapped and a step up to Grade 1 company at Aintree is on the cards for this talented six-year-old.
This Alan King-trained mare made quite an impression on her first two starts over fences, beating subsequent RSA third Elegant Escape on her chasing debut before destroying a useful field by 13 lengths in a mares’ Listed contest at Market Rasen in November.
She fell in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in December when struggling, but notably was sent off favourite for that Grade 1. She did not take up her Cheltenham entry due to the soft ground but, granted the right conditions, has the ability to run well at the highest level.
Last year's Gold Cup runner-up was another high-profile runner to miss this year's festival due to the ground and it could pay dividends given his excellent spring record.
Jonjo O'Neill's charge carries top weight for the Grand National but is capable of running a big race – his defeat of Gold Cup hero Native River in the 2016 National Hunt Chase looks even better now! A tired fall last time at Leopardstown would not be the ideal prep run but he's in the right hands as trainer Jonjo O'Neill sent out Don't Push it to Grand National victory in 2010.
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