Handicapper’s Blog: Our take on the Bowl and Melling Chase, Liverpool and Aintree Hurdle

16 Apr 23

Alder Hey Aintree Bowl, Martin Greenwood

Of the five runners, Shishkin had easily the best form on show from this season, but had stamina to prove on his first attempt at around 3m and had to put a disappointing second at Cheltenham behind him. With A Plus Tard again looking a shadow of the horse that exploded up the Cheltenham hill just over a year ago, this left the error-prone, but unexposed Ahoy Senor to put up the stiffest resistance to the favourite. Bowling along and not blemish free as usual, Ahoy Senor had briefly seemed to have burnt Shishkin off by the time they hit the home straight. However the warning signs were out for him by the last as Shishkin’s resilience kicked in, and the favourite collared the brave Ahoy Senor close home.

This is obviously a trappy contest to rate, with Shishkin 173 (based on his Ascot win) and Ahoy Senor 166 going in. An average winner of this race over the recent years is 172, and the best 2nd place effort in that time period was 169. With that in mind, I have Shishkin a shade below his pre-race rating but left on 173, while Ahoy Senor’s new rating is now 169, while acknowledging I have scope to rate the latter a bit higher down the line strictly based on the winner.

William Hill Aintree Hurdle, Andrew Mealor

By his own exalted standards, Constitution Hill’s performance in landing a sixth Grade 1 success in the William Hill Aintree Hurdle was relatively unspectacular. Nicky Henderson’s charge was asked to win the race and no more, with Nico de Boinville content to just nudge the gelding out in a race that developed into a dash from three out after Constitution Hill had dictated a very modest gallop trying the trip for the first time (slow overall time).

A performance figure in the mid-160s – underpinned by the previous form of Sharjah and Zanahiyr and factoring in some extra for ease of victory – betters recent average renewals of the Aintree Hurdle but sits below the 169 figures achieved by Buveur d’Air and Jezki, the two best performances in the race since the turn of the century.

Constitution Hill stays on his pre-race mark of 175, a figure recorded in the Champion Hurdle (when Zanahiyr was beaten thirteen lengths in third), and that race remains the best guide to his outstanding merit.

Marsh Melling Chase, Michael Harris

Pic D’Orhy had bypassed Cheltenham to target Aintree and a sure footed performance saw him collect his first Grade 1 success in the Marsh Melling Chase. Having tracked leader Minella Drama, he was always travelling strongly down the inside and saw his race out well to see off a staying on Fakir D’oudairies, who himself left his below par effort at Ascot behind him in his bid to win this race for the third successive year.

In terms of ratings, pre-race standards suggests a range of 162-165, and whilst it seems likely Pic D’Orhy has run right up to his best of 162 it may be that he has not had to improve much, if at all, to beat his rivals on the day. Minella Drama took the step up in grade in his stride and put in a career best performance, whilst the three horses who went to Cheltenham, most notably Hitman, all struggled to run up to form on the day.

JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle, James Norris

Once again, defying age and expectation, Sire Du Berlais won the Liverpool Hurdle in ultimately convincing style. Flooring Porter set a relentless pace and though at various junctures it looked just the opposite, this suited last month’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner. Having been on and off the bridle, Sire Du Berlais powered past rivals in the straight and the writing was on the wall as he loomed up alongside Marie’s Rock at the last.

A figure of 162 matches the rating he achieved in this race last year and at 11-years-old Sire Du Berlais continues to run right up to his best. Gordon Elliott’s largely unheralded hurdler has quietly compiled an enviable CV and now sits on top of the staying division.