The long-awaited comeback of Altior will be the headline story in Saturday’s feature Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown (14:25), but he is too short to back at 8/11.
Altior rarely loses, but he is a year older and missed the Champion Chase last season due to a setback. The likeable grey Politologue took advantage of Altior’s absence to win at Cheltenham by a wide margin, and 7/2 looks a tasty price to back him on what is his first run of the campaign.
He ticks a lot of boxes as he relishes soft conditions, is a brilliant jumper and produced one of his best-ever performances last term at the Festival. He also won the Tingle Creek in 2017 for trainer Paul Nicholls, who has a superb record in this with 10 victories.
It just might be the time to catch Altior, as he needs to prove what sort of shape he is in following a season that didn’t quite go to plan. Politologue has gone well fresh after a break in the past and looks the value bet here.
Hales can hit his rivals for six in Becher
Over to Aintree’s superb Saturday card, and Northamptonshire trainer Alex Hales can claim some big scalps in the Becher Chase (13:30) with the veteran Smooth Stepper. He is a player to outrun his odds of 16/1.
The underrated Hales has collected 13 winners this season and can often pop up with a success at a decent price, and his chaser has a chance to hit the frame on his second outing of the campaign.
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Stamina is very much his forte and he will be one of the strongest in the finish over the 3m2f distance, even in soft conditions.
He won a gruelling edition of the Grand National Trial at Haydock last term at a huge 33/1, a race in which he found plenty for pressure in the mud. He beat Yala Enki that day back in third, and yet that horse is shorter in the betting for this race at 9/1.
Smooth Stepper reverts to a more taxing distance up to the searching 3m2f, but that will suit, and he can build on a comeback run at Sandown last time on ground that was too quick.
Running from a low weight is also a plus.
Mesnil can Lord it over his Aintree rivals
Trainer Richard Hobson has a gem of a horse in Lord Du Mesnil, and this flying front-runner looks tailor-made to attack the famous Liverpool fences in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (Aintree 15:15). It could be some sight with him in full flow and he is an attractive 7/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook.
The seven-year-old enjoyed a superb campaign last season with strong staying performances in two valuable Haydock races, one of which was the famous Tommy Whittle Chase – and he hacked up in that by 13 lengths.
He also finished second at the Cheltenham Festival in the stamina-sapping National Hunt Chase, but it was hard to knock a brave run from the front with a near exemplary jumping display.
Hobson will have him spot-on in terms of his fitness following a spin over hurdles with a comeback run at Kelso last month, and any rain in the build-up to Saturday will play to his strengths as he stays all day in testing ground.
It will be a tough ask from top weight and 152, but jockey Paul O’Brien takes off 3lb, and these small margins are very useful in these big handicaps.