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Five Cheltenham Absentees who might appear at Aintree
The 2023 Cheltenham Festival has now passed, however the Grand National Festival at Aintree is drawing ever closer and the fields across the meeting are starting to take shape. Here, we take a look at five runners who bypassed Cheltenham last week in favour of the three-day meeting on Merseyside.
Fakir D’Oudairies bypassed the Cheltenham Festival twelve months ago and he skipped the latest renewal in favour of making an appearance at Aintree in April where has won the Marsh Chase two times in succession (2021 and 2022). His choice was made easier this time around when he was put firmly in his place by Shishkin when defending his Ascot Chase crown from the previous year, the latter going on to claim runner-up in the Ryanair.
This horse prefers softer ground, however he remains undefeated over fences at Aintree and as such, he should be respected completely as he goes all out for his hat-trick at the Merseyside track.
Clan Des Obeaux
Clan Des Obeaux has failed to line-up at Prestbury Park since coming in eighth in the Gold Cup in 2020 behind Al Boum Photo although he has been something of a standing dish in this Aintree contest. Not only that but he has lined-up in all-but-one of the last five renewals of the 3m 1f Grade 1 contest with two wins (2021 and 2022) as well as a second and a third.
The eleven-year-old has been absent since coming in second to two-time Ryanair winner Alllaho in the Gold Cup at Punchestown due to a tendon injury, however handler Paul Nicholls has stated that he was targeting this horse at Aintree in April.
Betway Bowl or Grand National
Regarded as a contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after his triumph in the Dooley Insurance Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in April 2022, this runner was absent from duty this term prior to coming in third in the Red Mills Chase behind Janidil last month.
This contest was over an inadequate trip and the likelihood is that it was a prep run for the Aintree Festival where he is currently on the list for the Grand National itself. This marathon contest would be a very bold move given that he has made just six Chase starts and it seems more likely that he will instead be aimed at the Betway Bowl which Willie Mullins claimed in 2019 with Kemboy.
Prior to 2023, Champ took part in the Cheltenham Festival each year since 2019 with a second place in the Ballymore that year, a win in the RSA Novices’ Chase in 2020, an appearance in the 2021 Gold Cup where he was pulled up and a fourth-placed finish in the 2022 Stayers’.Nicky Henderson opted to leave him out of this year’s Festival and this could be seen as a sign of intent given that the trainer has made it extremely clear that this horse is at his best when best.
After breaks of at least 100 days, this runner’s form reads an impressive 2111211 and this includes his latest triumph in the Long Distance Hurdle (Grade 2) where he edged Paisley Park by a neck. With many of his competitors having a rather tough time at Cheltenham last week, we envisage Champ having a very big role to play on Merseyside.
Manifesto Novices’ Chase
The only one of these five Cheltenham absentees to be actually aimed at the Festival was Banbridge who was withdrawn from the Turners due to the soft ground. The market fancied his chances and should the ground be more to his taste, he should feature in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase which takes place over the same trip as the Turners.