Grand National Festival 2022: Day 1 Spot Plays

April 7th, 2022

The Grand National Festival at Aintree is best-known for the eponymous feature race, which runs on Day 3 of the festival.

But with 11 Grade 1 races, 2 Grade 2s, 6 Grade 3s among the 21 races over the three-day meet, it’s second in importance only to Cheltenham among British jumps racing festivals.

Unlike many jumps courses in Britain, Aintree has two steeplechase circuits: the 2 1/4-mile National course, featuring the 16 challenging fences used for the Grand National, and the 1 3/8-mile Mildmay Course, a much sharper course with more standard fences. The hurdle circuit is also 1 3/8 miles. Only one race each day is held on the National course.

As we did for Cheltenham, we’ll have a look at spot plays for all races at the festival – starting with Day 1 on Thursday, April 7.

Race 1: Manifesto Novices’ Chase (G1), 2 1/2 miles, novice chasers

A small but useful field contests this novice chase, the best of whom looks to be #4 Pic D’Orhy. He’s won twice at Grade 2 level this season and his only defeats came with a fall and when he ran into subsequent Cheltenham Grade 1 winner L’Homme Presse. The wildcard is Irish visitor #7 Gin On Lime, winner of five of her last six races, the last coming in November when her only opponent fell.

  • $10 win/$30 place: #4 Pic D’Orhy
  • $4 exacta: 4 with 7

Race 2: Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle (G1), 2 1/8 miles, four-year-old hurdlers

A clash between two Irish juveniles who ran well at Cheltenham – Triumph Hurdle (G1) third #7 Pied Piper and Fred Winter (G3) winner #1 Brazil – and two unexposed British horses, #6 Petit Tonnerre and #9 Fautinette. Value may be a little scarce so we’ll focus on the leading two in trifectas and some place money on Fautinette.

  • $10 place: #9 Fautinette
  • $1 trifecta: 1, 7 with 1, 7 with all

Race 3: Betway Bowl Chase (G1), 3 1/8 miles, open steeplechasers

An intriguing race featuring last year’s winner #2 Clan Des Obeaux, 2019 winner #6 Kemboy, and four horses that contested features at Cheltenham: Gold Cup (G1) third #8 Protektorat and fifth #9 Royale Pagaille, Ryanair Chase (G1) third #4 Eldorado Allen, and Irish Gold Cup winner #3 Conflated, who was contesting second in the Ryanair when he fell two out. I’m going with Protektorat, unbeaten in two races here, with Clan Des Obeaux and Eldorado Allen the toughest opponents on what is likely to be good to soft footing.

  • $10 win/$30 place: #8 Protektorat
  • $1 trifecta: 2, 8 with 2, 3, 4, 8 with 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9

Race 4: Aintree Hurdle (G1), 2 1/2 miles, open hurdlers

A chance for Cheltenham Champion Hurdle (G1) second #7 Epatante and third #6 Zanahiyr to get some compensation with the unbeaten Honeysuckle out of the way. The sharper course suits Epatante, but the extra 3 1/2 furlongs probably suits Zanahiyr.

  • $20 win: #6 Zanahiyr
  • $1 trifecta: 6, 7 with 6, 7 with all

Race 5: Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase, 2 5/8 miles (National fences), open steeplechasers

The only race of the day over the National fences has drawn 24 hunters, and as usual it’s an open affair, even at set weights. However, the likely favorite #13 Jett looks a strong chance. He jumped well and led for much of the Grand National last year before fading late; the much shorter trip should help and he’s in good form. Last year’s Cheltenham Hunter Chase winner #21 Porlock Bay looks a great chance, while don’t forget this year’s Cheltenham Hunter Chase third #18 Mighty Stowaway.

  • $10 win/$30 place: #13 Jett
  • $10 show: #18 Mighty Stowaway

Race 6: Red Rum Handicap Chase (G3), 2 miles, open steeplechasers

Another open race over the shorter trip of two miles. The one to beat may well be #3 Before Midnight, who has been in very good form this season and should enjoy the good track. The most intriguing runner is #16 The Last Day, who was set to win at his reappearance Jan. 22 before falling at the last.

  • $10 win/$30 place: #3 Before Midnight
  • $10 win/$10 place: #16 The Last Day

Race 7: Mares’ National Hunt Flat (G2), 2 1/8 miles, National Hunt flat race

A tough but even field runs here. If in doubt for National Hunt flat events, look to the Irish, and Willie Mullins in particular. He has #2 Ashroe Diamond here; she was fourth in a Grade 2 National Hunt flat event at the Dublin Festival and that will be very hard form to overcome here.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #2 Ashroe Diamond