Grand National Festival 2022: Day 2 Spot Plays
Day 2 of the Grand National Festival at Aintree has a solid card, featuring four high-quality Grade 1 races, two Grade 3s, and a hurdle for conditional jockeys and amateur riders.
It serves as a great warm-up for Grand National day itself, but the quality of the horses makes it a great event in itself.
Only one race, the Topham Handicap, is held over the 2 1/4-mile National course, which features the 16 challenging fences used for the Grand National. The other two steeplechases are on the 1 3/8-mile Mildmay Course, while the remaining four races are over the 1 3/8-mile hurdle circuit.
Here are some spot plays for the seven races on Day 2.
Race 1: Alder Hey & Aintree Handicap Hurdle (G3), 2 1/2 miles, open hurdlers
A highly competitive handicap hurdle to start the day. #5 Langer Dan is back for another go after being brought down after two obstacles when favorite for the Martin Pipe Hurdle at Cheltenham; also returning from that race is second-place finisher #3 Cobblers Dream. If that form holds up, then watch for #12 Highway One O Two, second to Cobblers Dream Jan. 15 and 11 pounds better off at the weights here. One to beat them all, however, might be #19 Speech Bubble, an honorable second last start to subsequent Cheltenham winner Love Envoi.
- $10 win/$30 place: #19 Speech Bubble
- $1 box exacta: 3, 5, 12, 19
Race 2: Top Novices’ Hurdle (G1), 2 1/16 miles, novice hurdlers
Some exciting horses line up here, but it looks like being excellent compensation for #6 Jonbon, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up at Cheltenham who doesn’t have to worry about his superstar stablemate Constitution Hill here. Jonbon’s biggest problem will be if he hasn’t recovered from that effort 24 days ago; in that case, look out for stablemate #5 First Street or Willie Mullins’ #3 El Fabiolo.
Race 3: Mildmay Novices’ Chase (G1), 3 1/8 miles, novice steeplechasers
Only four runners, but a fantastic quartet: Brown Advisory Chase (G1) first and second, #4 L’Homme Presse and #1 Ahoy Senor; unbeaten #2 Bravemansgame, favorite for the Brown Advisory before being withdrawn due to heavy ground; and the Irish Grade 1 winner #3 Fury Road. Some local books had Bravemansgame as favorite, but I’m sticking with L’Homme Presse, who has shown he can back up quickly in the past. But it should be a great race.
- $20 win: #4 L’Homme Presse
Race 4: Marsh Melling Chase (G1), 2 1/2 miles, open steeplechasers
With Ryanair Chase (G1) winner Allaho bypassing this race, it looks made for #4 Fakir D’oudairies. He has found Allaho too good on a few occasions, and has won his only two races this season when his rival is absent. There are some good runners here, including Champion Chase (G1) runner-up #5 Funambule Sivola, but it looks like Fakir D’oudairies’ race to lose. It might be worth a place bet on #8 Paint the Dream, a highly impressive winner at Newbury last time.
- $20 win: #4 Fakir D’oudairies
- $10 place: #8 Paint the Dream
- $1 trifecta: 4 with 2, 5, 8 with all
Race 5: Topham Handicap Chase (G3), 2 5/8 miles (Grand National course), open steeplechasers
Good luck with this race! With a potential 30 runners over the National course, anything could happen. Note also that because TwinSpires’ mutuel system is only set up for 24 runners, horses #24-#30 are all treated as one entry — and they include one of the UK early favorites, #26 Five Star Getaway. The form horse is #15 Mister Coffey, runner-up in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at Cheltenham and the Scilly Isles Novices Chase (G1) behind L’Homme Presse. But frequently it’s best to look for previous form on the National course, and here two stand out: #9 Senior Citizen, third in this race last year, and #23 Mac Tottie, who beat Senior Citizen here Nov. 6 and who is on four pound better terms due to indifferent form since. I’m going to go for Senior Citizen.
- $10 win/$30 place: #9 Senior Citizen
Race 6: Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (G1), 3 1/8 miles, novice hurdlers
With only fifth-placed #10 Green Book backing up from the Albert Bartlett Spa (G1) at Cheltenham, this is more open than many Grade 1 races. #1 Banbridge will likely be favorite after his Martin Pipe victory at Cheltenham, though the distance is an unknown for him; one to watch could be #5 Crystal Glory, who put in a good effort behind the promising Hillcrest at Haydock Feb. 19.
- $10 win/$30 place: #5 Crystal Glory
Race 7: Park Palace Ponies Handicap Hurdle, 2 1/16 miles, open hurdlers
There are plenty of good contenders in the final race of the day, for conditional jockeys and amateur riders. The one that could send the local crowd happy is #3 Richmond Lake, from the stable of Donald McCain, son of “Ginger” McCain, who trained the mighty Red Rum from nearby Southport to an amazing three Grand National victories in the 1970s. Richmond Lake has won twice this season and was an honorable second to Jonbon in the Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle (G2) Jan. 22. Another one to watch could be #2 Hacker Des Places, third to Suprise Package in the rich Imperial Cup (G3) at Sandown March 12 and three pounds better off here than second-placed #17 Lively Citizen.
- $10 win/$20 place: #3 Richmond Lake
- $10 place: #2 Hacker Des Places