Countrywide Flame can light up Aintree… Sportsmail's experts dissect day one
Sam Turner and Peter Scudamore
21:04 GMT, 3 April 2013
21:04 GMT, 3 April 2013
The decision to switch the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle to the opening day of the National meeting looks a smart move as the track is rewarded with a tremendous renewal.
Countrywide Flame (Aintree, 3.05), Zarkandar and Grandouet represent the Champion Hurdle form, while star novice The New One, a classy winner of the Neptune Investments Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, adds further glamour.
The celebrated quartet are supplemented by Oscar Whisky and Thousand Stars, first and second in both the last two renewals, to give the contest even further depth.
In form: Countrywide Flame will be suited to the step up in trip Aintree provides
This lofty level of competition means selecting a winner is anything but straightforward.
However, Countrywide Flame did enough at Cheltenham to suggest he can mix it at this level and the step up in trip should suit a horse who was narrowly denied in the marathon Flat handicap, The Cesarewitch, last autumn.
I like the fact that John Quinn’s horses are in rude health, their wellbeing advertised by a Lincoln Handicap win for Levitate at Doncaster on Saturday, and the selection has already run with great credit at today’s venue when a game second to Grumeti in the opener 12 months ago.
Warne (Aintree, 3.40) caught the eye at Fairyhouse with a stylish defeat of Tammys Hill under Mikey Fogarty and could prove the answer to the Fox Hunters’ Chase with the drying going over the National course likely to play to his strengths. He looks to have the touch of class required to win.
Tony Martin enjoyed a wonderful Cheltenham with two winners and Pires (Aintree, next best, 4.15) can strike for the shrewd Irish handler in a warm renewal of the Red Rum Chase.
Hot contest: Zakandar (left) and Countrywide Flame (right) will renew battle in the Aintree Hurdle
A flat two miles on decent ground are the nine-year-old’s optimum conditions and I’m hoping his ability to travel well off a strong pace before displaying a change of gear are two attributes which come into play this afternoon.
Sixty Something (Aintree, nap, 5.25) is a sporting nap in the finale as he stuck to his task well to score at Market Rasen last time and has a seven-length win over course and distance to his name, courtesy of an easy victory in a hood last October.
SCU'S VIEW – Peter Scudamore's verdict on the 2.30 Aintree Betfred Bowl Chase
Favourites have a poor record in the Betfred Bowl Chase with only one winning in the last 10 years but I still think market leader Silviniaco Conti will be tough to beat.
The seven-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls, seemed to be going best of all when falling three fences out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
One to watch: The Paul Nicholls-trained Silviniaco Conti will be tough to beat in the Betfred Bowl Chase
Some had questioned his ability to handle that undulating track — something he clearly did — but his record on flat left-handed tracks this season is three from three.
The unknown is how much the Gold Cup run took out of him but he should have too much speed for Gold Cup fourth and fifth, The Giant Bolster and Cape Tribulation.
Quito De La Roque commands respect as a novice winner here at the 2011 meeting who is fresh having by-passed the Cheltenham Festival. He may be more of a threat than fellow Irish raider Flight Lieutenant, the Ryanair Chase runner-up.