Aintree Festival – Day 3


14:25 – Mersey Novices’ Hurdle

Yorkhill is your winner of this race and the odds are generous, all he has to do is get round. He beat the talented Yanworth last time out and had some of this field well behind him in some style. The only other horse that appeals and could get anywhere near is Le Prezien. This horse came second to Yanworth first time out as they both left the field behind but has gone on since to win impressively. The gelding’s only defeat since came to Its’afreebee who is certainly no slouch and came 3rd behind Yorkhill and Yanworth at Cheltenham. Also beating The Dutchman last time out, take your pick on how to get some value out of this race on the betting without Yorkhill market, to be placed market or a straight forecast market.

Le Prezien (w/o Yorkhill) @ 13/8

15:00 Maghull Novices’ Chase

Unfortunately for punters, the Mullins hotpot Douvan (1/5) has scared off the majority of the field here. Fortunately for racing fans however, we get another chance to see equine perfection. A non-event as a betting proposition, sit back and enjoy. A real hope should be that the slightly quirky Alisier Dirlande tears off in front and allows Douvan to take aim. An official rating of 161 hopefully isn’t coming close to scraping the surface of what this animal can achieve who has been foot perfect in all his races so far.

There are no fancy markets available as yet, but unlike Vautour on Friday who fluffed his lines, Douvan will win comfortably and take Mullins 56,270 steps closer to the UK Trainer’s title.

Douvan by 8L or more @ 10/11

15:40 Liverpool Stayers’ Hurdle

Another non-event for punters, but another chance to see one of Cheltenham’s heroes. We wrote in our preview for the World Hurdle that the staying division needed a star, and Thistlecrack (3/10) provided just that in one of the most impressive staying performances in recent years. Another disappointing field but it is really no surprise given the engine the favourite possesses. No bet in the race, just crack open another cold one and appreciate how lucky we are to witness this animal.

16:20 Handicap Chase

By this time of the day the buzz will be slowly building for the National. Not the most exciting race on paper, but after three long odds on shots earlier in the day, there may be some at juicy prices to tempt us in and hopefully go into the big one with some extra shekels.

Virak is near the top of the market and heads the weights. A string of seconds this year followed by a disappointing appearance last time out in the Betbright Chase at Kempton, this boy has talent and even though he is top weight we wouldn’t be surprised if Nicholls has aimed with this race in mind this year.

Taking the Virak form line you have to seriously consider Cloudy Too following his demolition of Virak at kempton. The form is very respectable and we would recommend a little place bet on Sue Smith’s charge at a nice price of 14/1.

Local trainer Mick Channon has two decent priced fancies in the shape of Warden Hill and Knock House who just missed out in the day’s main event. We wouldn’t berate anyone who happened to have a bet on either horse.

A tough race to weight up, we think that Virak might just be classy enough to defy top weight, and failing him, Cloudy Too and hopefully give you that extra bit of money going into the next.

Virak (e/w) @ 16/1
Cloudy Too (e/w) @ 14/1

17:15 Grand National

Looks like it’s time for one of the hardest punting races of the year and if you weren’t suitably inebriated by this point in previous years then the powers that be have given you every chance of making doubly sure this year, with the start being moved back to 5:15pm. Bearing that in mind, the first rule of Grand National betting carries even more importance this year…get your bets placed in the morning! The margins on this race at sp’s is absolutely astonishing. If you want to get any real value to your picks, make sure you’re up bright and early to catch the best prices rather than when you can’t tie your shoe laces and your cheering home the wrong horse because the bookie couldn’t understand a word you were saying.

This is a race that has historically broken it’s winners, with Red Rum being the last to defend his crown all those years ago. You could look at statistics until your face goes blue, but the truth of the matter is, it is a race that is changing and by the looks of things quicker than most had realised.

Many Clouds became the first horse since Bindaree to win another race after winning the Grand National when cantering to victory at Kelso last time out. With the fences becoming easier and easier to jump and the race shortening in length it appears as though the attritional nature is diminishing somewhat . For those reasons you’d have to think Many Clouds comes back to Aintree with a fantastic chance, ticking a large number of boxes along the way.

Here’s an attempt to give you a little bit of our insight here at TNS, in order to whittle the 40 runners down to a manageable size. 1) First things first, rule anything out in single figures. Yes this may sound ridiculous, but think about it…this is 4 miles over some of the toughest fences in the world of Steeplechasing so it takes a brave man to wade in at single figure odds. With the likelihood of your selection seeing trouble at some stage in the race we really don’t think it’s worth backing horses in single figures.

There are a number of other obvious assets you are looking for in a race of this nature, these include; 2) solid jumper with experience over these fences a big plus; 3) proven stayer; 4) suited by the ground; 5) attractively weighted (although Many Clouds winning off top weight last year solidified the view that this race is going to classier animals nowadays); and 6) coming into the race in good form i.e. hit the frame last time out. Bearing all of those in mind allows you to have some sort of stab at cutting the field down in size.

Yes we realise we are telling you not to back the majority at the top of the market, but in a race of this nature you need to go hunting for value and we’d like to think that starts at the 16/1 mark and above.

TNS will be a little cheeky here and take three against the field with a brief summation of how we stumbled across the 1-2-3 in the 2016 Crabbie’s Grand National.

Gallant Oscar, looking at this boy he doesn’t necessarily fit the bill in regards to what is written above but one thing I think he most definitely is, is seriously well handicapped. He acts on all ground, was seen last spring staying on at the end of a gruelling 25f at Cheltenham festival and then romping home at Punchestown. He’s one that has been lined up for this all season and for those reasons will be getting my money.

Morning Assembly ticks all the right boxes to finish in the places for the National and even to win it. A dual grade one hurdler winner that has taken to chasing, beating the highest rated chaser of this season on both occasions  – Don Cossack. That doesn’t just mean you’re guaranteed to place in the National on that basis but it does guarantee the horse can jump. The Grand National has been the aim for this horse with Pat Fahy and was lightly raced last time out at Cheltenham and still finished 4th, his first time out the frame when standing. He has a lovely weight, is likely to get the trip, and he’s lightly raced, very consistent and the perfect age coming into this race. So as with all runners in the National you’re just hoping for a solid clear round for our money.

Those above like to waffle on so i’ll try and keep this succinct. If Saint Are doesn’t hit the frame i’ll be bitterly disappointed. The price may have gone now and there is a slight niggling doubt on the ground which tempers enthusiasm slightly but he has an unbelievable record at Aintree in the spring and simply has to go well.

Gallant Oscar (e/w) @ 16/1
Morning Assembly (e/w) @ 20/1
Saint Are (e/w) @ 16/1