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Kevin Blake’s Aintree Day 1 Tips: The King to rule supreme in Red Rum on Thursday

Betfair ambassador Kevin Blake has found two selections he likes the look of on the opening day of the Aintree Festival, starting off with a Gordon Elliott horse…

“The seven-year-old improved a massive 32lb in just seven starts over fences last season and has shaped with plenty of promise without winning this season.”

The Aintree Grand National meeting kicks off on Thursday and while the build will be to the main event on Saturday, the day one action presents some appealing opportunities for those hoping to get the meeting off to a winning start.

Zanahiyr looks a solid bet

The 15:30 Aintree Hurdle is the feature race on the first day of the Grand National meeting and it promises to be a fascinating contest.

SBK15/8

EXC3.2

Trainer: Gordon Elliott, Ireland
Jockey: J. W. Kennedy
Age: 5
Weight: 11st 7lbs
OR:

The headline attraction will be the rematch between Epatante and Zanahiyr after they filled the placings behind Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle. Given Epatante made quite a bad mistake at the final flight, she is sure to have plenty of supporters that feel she will uphold the form, but I have a different read on it.

The pair had notably contrasting spins through the Champion Hurdle. Epatante was given a quiet ride hard up on inner in an effort to get her settled. In contrast, Zanahiyr ended up getting a wide trip with no cover as Jack Kennedy sought to both have him forward and to keep Honeysuckle wide. The end result was that Zanahiyr ended up covering significantly more ground than Epatante, which puts a different spin on the true merits of their individual performances on the day.

Just as significantly, the Aintree Hurdle is over the longer trip of two-and-a-half miles. Epatante has never run over the trip and her free-going tendencies could make her a challenging ride over the longer distance, whereas Zanahiyr has been shaping as though the longer trip will suit him all season long.

With very little separating them in price terms, clear preference is for Zanahiyr to get his revenge on Epatante.

The King’s a cracking price

The other race of interest is the 16:40 Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase and the one I like is the Dan Skelton-trained King D’Argent. The seven-year-old improved a massive 32lb in just seven starts over fences last season and has shaped with plenty of promise without winning this season.

SBK8/1

EXC10

Trainer: Dan Skelton
Jockey: Harry Skelton
Age: 7
Weight: 10st 12lbs
OR: 139

Having been primarily seen to best effort under positive rides last season, more patient tactics haven’t seemed to have suited him as well this season which has led to him dropping in the ratings.

He bounced back to form last time in a handicap chase at Doncaster and might well have won had he been given a more positive ride. It wouldn’t be a surprise if his connections have had this valuable prize in mind for him for quite some time and granted a more positive ride, he could well run a very big race.

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