The new National Hunt season is now starting together momentum and that will continue this weekend as Aintree play host to their first card of the season. The Merseyside track is always popular with fans and that will be the case on Saturday with the Old Roan Chase taking centre stage. The Old Roan is a Grade 2 contest run over a trip of 2m4f and has been won by some excellent horses down the years which ensures it is always a race to keep an eye on.
The most famous winner of the Old Roan is of course the great Kauto Star who won the race back in 2006 before he went onto win the Gold Cup later that same season. That was a famous win while the same can be said of Albertas Run who won the Old Roan in 2011 for Jonjo O'Neill and he was always a top class performer during his career. It is Monet's Garden though who is most synonymous with the race as a three time winner in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and the popular grey now has his name attached to the Aintree contest.
There is a strong cast list for the race on Saturday although Dynaste will not be running after connections decided to send him to Haydock next month for the Betfair Chase. That has left Uxizandre as the market leader and the one to beat in the Old Roan Chase betting and his form from last season certainly does put him a little way clear of the field. The Alan King horse ran a blinder to finish 2nd in the JLT Novices Chase at Cheltenham last March before claiming a Grade 1 success a Aintree in the Manifesto Novices Chase last in April.
Alan King has started the season in decent form which is a bonus for Uxizandre and he is the worthy favourite here, Punters who do however want to find a little bit more value may want to take a look further down the market with the hugely consistent Module likely to attract some money. He will take top weight for Tom George in the absence of Dynaste which is a worry but his third in the Champion Chase last season is top class form by any standard, while the same can be said of his Game Spirit success last February.
Conquisto was the surprise winner of the Old Roan 12 months ago and although he has been unable to replicate that form since, he remains of interest here as he bids to defend his title. The course and distance clearly suit the Steve Gollings in-mate which is interesting but punters backing Conquisto will need to keep their fingers crossed he can find his form from last year.
Other horses to consider include Rajdhani Express, who was third in the Ryanair Chase last season for Nicky Henderson and Rolling Aces, who likes like the main challenger for Paul Nicholls and he is a top chaser on his best day.
It is certainly likely to be a competitive renewal of the Old Roan Chase this year with some solid performers taking one one or two younger improving chasers. Uxizandre certainly sets the standard after his Grade 1 win at Aintree last April and if he is going to make up into a Ryanair Chase horse in the spring, he should be performing well on Saturday afternoon for Alan King.