Thomas Patrick: likely to have plenty of backers at Aintree on Saturday

Mark Cranham

3.40 Aintree
Betway Handicap Chase | 
3m1f | G3 | ITV/RUK

Thomas Patrick could be hard to beat

Thomas Patrick brings the profile of a rapidly progressive performer into this stamina test, and he could prove hard to beat under champion jockey Richard Johnson.

Winner of two of his last three starts, most recently when slamming Dawson City by eight lengths over 3m2f in the Newbury mud, an 8lb higher mark doesn’t look an insurmountable rise based on the manner of that success.

His trainer Tom Lacey, who is enjoying a wonderful season and saddled Jester Jet to win the Grade 3 handicap hurdle at the meeting yesterday, said: “He seems in good order. They’ve had plenty of rain which will be in his favour and, if he can get into a rhythm like he did at Newbury, should go well. He’s a lovely, progressive horse.”

Rocklander may improve again for step up in trip

Rocklander put up a career-best effort on his latest outing when third to Mister Whitaker in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

The handicapper has put him up 3lb for that effort, but trainer Tom George said: “He ran a great race to finish third in the Close Brothers and I think he will improve for the step up to three miles as they quickened past him after the last at Cheltenham.”

Rocklander had certainly given the impression he would stay further when forging clear of Duke Des Champs over 2m6f at Newbury in December.

Light campaign a plus for Ibis Du Rheu

Ibis Du Rheu: has the scope to improve over fences

Ibis Du Rheu, winner of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle two years ago, has the scope to prove just as good over fences.

He would have finished closer to Rocklander at Cheltenham if he hadn’t made a mistake at the final fence, and this will be only his third race of the season.

While many others in the field could be feeling the effects of an arduous campaign, Ibis Du Rheu is likely to be at his peak, and trainer Paul Nicholls said: “He ran very well the other day. If he had jumped the last better he might well have been third. I think this trip will suit him better, but I was hoping for good ground.”

What they say

Dan Skelton, trainer of Oldgrangewood
He will relish the track and the step up in trip. I wish it hadn’t rained, but hopefully the ground won’t be as heavy as it was at Cheltenham. He’s a better horse on better ground.

Gary Moore, trainer of Casse Tete
It looked like he didn’t get three miles at Cheltenham, but I can’t believe that’s the case. If he puts that run behind him he will give a good account of himself.

Phil Middleton, trainer of Holly Bush Henry
I thought he ran a bit flat at Ascot last time so we’ve freshened him up for Aintree and he’s come back bouncing. I think it’s a definite plus to have missed Cheltenham with him. He’s enjoyed a great season, and this would be the icing on the cake if he managed to win.

Tim Easterby, trainer of Very First Time
He’s a really nice horse, and has been in good form since Cheltenham. The softer the better for him.

Tim Vaughan, trainer of Bells Of Ailsworth
He’s in great form, and has been progressive all season. The horse who won the race he finished third in at Taunton last time, Regal Flow, came out five days later and bolted up in the Midlands Grand National so that’s good form. It’s a big step up in class, but he deserves to take his chance.

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