What chance the Paul Nicholls acca? We assess his Grade 1 runners on Thursday
Britain's leading trainer Paul Nicholls had his first winnerless Cheltenham Festival since 2002 but his string appears in perfect shape to bounce back to form in style on day one of Aintree's Grand National festival, where he saddles four short-priced fancies in each of Thursday's Grade 1s.
Here's an assessment of the quartet, with a rating out of five on the respective chance of each . . .
Hitman moved to Nicholls from France last summer and made an instant impression when thrashing his rivals by 30 lengths on his debut for connections at Ffos Las in November.
The five-year-old was then narrowly beaten by Allmankind when thrown into Grade 1 company in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase before falling when travelling well in the Scilly Isles at Sandown in February.
Nicholls signalled his intent after that race to skip Cheltenham in favour of Aintree, and has given his charge one more confidence-booster in an uncompetitive three-runner affair at Newbury in between.
That should leave him spot on for this assignment, but he faces strong competition in the shape of Nicky Henderson's Fusil Raffles – second in the Marsh at Cheltenham over the same trip – and The Shunter, who steps up to Grade 1 company after impressing in several big-field handicaps this season.
Rating: Four out of five
Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (2.20 Aintree)
Forecast odds: 10-11
The unbeaten Monmiral is a strong favourite to assert himself as the best of the British juveniles having skipped the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in favour of this.
His last outing saw him effortlessly beat the smart Nassalam by seven and a half lengths at Haydock whereas his main rival today, Triumph Hurdle second Adagio, could put only two and a half lengths between himself and Nassalam when winning the Grade 1 Coral Finale at Chepstow in January.
Nicholls has plotted Monmiral's campaign carefully with the expectation of going novice chasing next term, but there is no reason why he can't pick up this Grade 1 on the way.
Five out of five
The dual King George VI Chase winner has had a slightly subdued campaign by his own high standards.
There was no shame in finishing second to Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, but underwhelming displays in his bid for a third Boxing Day win at Kempton and then in the Denman Chase are a worry.
This will be the nine-year-old’s third attempt at the Bowl having finished third to Might Bite in 2018 and second to Kemboy 12 months later.
Native River, Waiting Patiently and Tiger Roll make up an intriguing list of opposition but question marks can be drawn over each and Clan Des Obeaux should be arriving a fresh horse, with first-time cheekpieces expected to help.
Victory could crown a spectacular afternoon for Manchester United's legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who part-owns all three of Hitman, Monmiral and Clan Des Obeaux.
Four out of five
McFabulous must overturn form with the Olly Murphy-trained Brewin'upastorm after being beaten in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell following a couple of costly early mistakes.
He appears to have plenty in his favour, though, with ground and trip both seeming ideal. McFabulous was soundly beaten over three miles by Thyme Hill and Paisley Park earlier in the season but this intermediate trip of two and a half miles has brought the best out of him before.
The negatives are a seriously competitive field featuring the likes of Abacadabras, Jason The Militant, Song For Someone and dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D'Air.
Three out of five
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