The Betway Bowl Chase is a Grade 1 handicap run over 3 miles and 210 yards and is the highlight of day one at the Aintree Festival on Thursday, 6 April 2017.
Key Race Trends
8 of the last 10 winners were aged between 8 & 10
8 of the last 10 winners were rated 159+
8 of the last 10 winners finished in the first 2 in 1 of their last 2 starts
8 of the last 10 winners had their last run in March
8 of the last 10 winners had between 2 & 4 runs that season
9 of the last 10 winners had won or placed in a Grade 1
The Verdict
The horse that fits all the key race trends is the Gordon Elliot trained EMPIRE OF DIRT. This runner was fourth behind Un De Sceaux at Cheltenham back in March at the Festival and in a lot of people's opinions was quite disappointing. I don't agree totally because I think a lot of the jockeys/trainer's game plans for that race went out the window as soon as UDS took matters in to his own hands and ran the other horses in to the ground. Another factor that day could possibly of been the ground although he won on good ground before at the Festival in 2016 but looking at form and previous runs he much prefers a bit of cut in the ground with five of his six wins coming on either soft or heavy. Another thing is how will he handle the track as he has never raced at Aintree before. I do think he'll run better than he did at Cheltenham on his last run but with no rain forecast, a new track and up against some classier opposition I won't be backing him at 7/2.
The horse everybody loves heads the betting for Thursday's race and hes hoping to repeat last year's success. It will be identical to 2016 if he was to win. CUE CARD fell, again in this year's renewal of the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, at the exact same fence but then went on to win the Betfair Bowl at Aintree nearly a month later. He won that day by 12 lengths and had the likes of Don Poli, Djackadam, Dynaste and Taquin De Seuil all behind him. A repeat of that performance would surely make him go close again and make it back to back victories in this race. His Aintree form reads 12221 so likes it round here and despite being eleven now I think he still has class in abundance. Cue Card can be backed at 15/8 with SkyBet. Another eleven year old and previous winner of this race back in 2015 is SILVIANCO CONTI. 
Although a weak renewal when he won it, it shows he knows how to win this race and on this track. He has very impressive Aintree form reading 1131 and he also pulled up during his crack at the Grand National last year. He's has big as 14/1 with William Hill and really could be a dark horse in this if he can regain some form and the spark is there this Thursday. He by passed the Festival this year and Paul  Nicholls could have laid him out to run a big race. SMAD PLACE and OUTLANDER were 8th and 10th respectively in this year's Gold Cup last month and neither of them really got in to the race with both of them weakening turning for home. The latter, the Gordon Elliot second string can be backed at 7/1 with Bet365 but will need to put on the same performance he won the Lexus Chase with if he is to win this. I'm not too keen on the chances of him but you never know with a Gordon Elliot trained horse as the trainer has been firing on all cylinders recently, but a horse who has won just once over three miles and never won over a longer trip worries me and I think his optimum trip is over a shorter distance considering all his wins have come over between two miles and two miles five. He too, is another horse running for the first time at Aintree.
The six year old BRISTOL DE MAI also ran in this year's Gold Cup finishing seventh with three of today's rivals behind him, Smad Place (8th), Outlander (10th) and Tea For Two (UR) and can't be discounted here. A very sound jumper, he's never fallen or unseated the rider in his career and has finished either first, second or third in his 13 previous runs before the Gold Cup. Another one that has only ran beyond three miles once (The Gold Cup) and just the one win at three miles coming at Haydock in January. Ran at Aintree just the once finishing third of ten over 17 furlongs in a Juvenile Hurdle back in April 2015. Has place claims once again but maybe too young and inexperienced to get his head in front. ASO ran a cracker of a race at Cheltenham finishing third behind one of today's rivals SUB LIEUTENANT and the winner that day Un De Sceaux (the same race Empire Of Dirt was fourth).
He outran his massive odds of 40/1 that day and just struggled with that final push up the hill. Just the one run at Aintree finishing sixth of eight and will have to run even better than he did at the Festival to win this in my opinion. SUB LIEUTENANT can be backed as big as 12/1 with Bet365 but other firms such as William Hill have him priced in at 7/1 and he could be one of the bigger priced ones to watch out for.  Fourth to Nicols Canyon at Aintree back in 2015 over two miles four and the second to UDS at Cheltenham are his only two runs in England with the rest of his runs all coming in Ireland. His last six race form figures read 223113 so he certainly knows how to hit the frame, has won on good ground and heavy ground so won't mind if there is rain or not and he's placed in a grade one chase over three mile one furlong. Could run a big race. Lizzie Kelly will be hoping to make amends for her early departure from the Gold Cup on TEA FOR TWO. Certainly a horse with talent who can hold his own in these sort of races and has some good form in the book, most notably beating Native River over three miles at Kempton back in December and if he jumps well and is calm and relaxed there's no reason why he can't outrun his odds of 14/1. The outsider of the field OTAGO TRAIL brings some decent form to this race, second to Bristol De Mai (reversed the form from when Otago Trail got the better of BDM at Newcastle in November) in a class one at Haydock over three miles followed up by a win on soft ground at Sandown in a class two in February. Pulled up on his only start at Aintree and will have to be very finely tuned to win this. 
The more I look at this race the more I struggle to pick a horse that really stands out from the others. The class horse in the race is Cue Card and if anywhere near his best he should win this. But could a younger horse spring a surprise? I'm going to have a win bet as well as a small each way saver just in case this horse doesn't perform on the day.
Win Bet: CUE CARD 15/8 (2pt win) 
Each Way Bet: SILVIANCO CONTI 14/1 (0.5pt each way)
Both Bets with SkyBet. Good luck what ever you decide to back.

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