It’s here, the Aintree Grand National! How time flies but the race that stops a nation is one where even my Nan can have a strong view. Blackouts and sweepstakes up and down the country will be taking place on this outstanding Saturday of sport, and I wish you all the luck in the world.
We attempt to land a fifth winner in three days on this column after headline tip Langer Dan rewarded the faith of his backers, and today I am hoping to get the party started early!
Aintree has watered overnight with Chase & Hurdle tracks described as – Good, Good to Soft in places Grand National – Good to Soft, Good in places.
Money Talk continues to highlight the Betfair Sportsbook big-money moves to keep you in the loop. This section highlights market moves between 1:00 am and 9:00 am.
Mark your card
The Betfair Sportsbook is paying extra places today!
Five of the last nine winners have been single-figure prices, and three have been favourites.
Five of the last nine winners had run at Cheltenham – two in the Coral Cup, one in the Stayers Hurdle, one in the Martin Pipe and one in the Pertemps (won).
The average rating of a winner in the last nine years is 141.2.
Emmet Mullins has had seven winners from 22 runners over hurdles in Britain. He is currently zero for six this season. He saddles Winter Fog 6.05/1.
Nicky Henderson’s Walking On Air 4.57/2 will put his reputation on the line as he takes his first steps into Graded company after trouncing a field on his hurdle debut at Newbury.
He has a bit to find on the bare form, but he could be anything and is highly regarded by his connections.
Six favourites have won this contest in the last nine years, and Three Stripe Life 4.03/1 sets the standard after his Ballymore second, but will his jumping hold up to this Aintree test?
Stage Star 13.012/1 and Colonel Mustard 15.014/1 wear a first-time hood.
Edwardstone 1.84/5 will look to continue his fantastic form and bids for his sixth win on the bounce over fences this season after landing the Grade 1 Arkle at Cheltenham last time out. This season, trainer Alan King is zero for seven over fences, but Edwardstone has swept all before him thus far.
Will it be third time lucky for Third Time Lucki 6.05/1, who has seen the backside of Edwardstone twice this season? He is a better horse when arriving at his races fresh. His form figures after a 50-day break or more read 11113. He looks like the each-way play in the race.
Flooring Porter 2.47/5 will bid to follow up his excellent Stayer’s Hurdle win at Cheltenham. However, he did pull up at Punchestown on his next start last year, which is the only time he has run a big speed figure. May he need more time between his races?
There is a case to be made that last year’s winner Thyme Hill 3.55/2, and Nicky Henderson’s Champ 5.04/1 are best when fresh. Could this be ripe for an upset?
There are two potential graded horses in this handicap chase, Shan Blue 4.03/1, who figures on a handy mark of 148 on the balance of his form, and the horse that had him 15 lengths behind at this meeting last term Espoir De Romay 9.517/2.
Kim Bailey won this race last year and has targeted Espoir De Romay at this meeting. He looked like the winner of the Grade 1 contest last season on this card before falling. Could redemption be on the cards?
Twelve of the 17 runners wear some sort of headgear in this contest. The last four winners wore none, and they were all eight years old or younger–no winner in the last ten years wearing first-time headgear.
Eight of the last 11 winners were priced 11/1 or bigger.
Eight of the last 11 winners had their last run within the last 35 days.
Nine of the last 11 winners had one previous run at Aintree.
Ten of the last 11 winners had at least seven runs over 3m, or further, and nine had at least one win.
Eleven of the last 11 winners had at least three previous runs that season and ten of the last 11 winners had no more than six runs that season.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has won this race for the last two years. Today he saddles Henri The Second 6.05/1.
Trainer Willie Mullins took Thursday’s bumper and today saddles two runners. Rath Gaul Boy 4.57/2 and Houlanbatordechais 6.05/1.
I tried my best to help you with this one, but unfortunately, I have no answers. I wonder if Paul does?
Horses for courses
This section highlights the best bets from horses that have won twice or more at today’s tracks.
There are no horses that have won twice or more at this track today.
Today’s furthest traveller is trainer Chris Honour who has made the 245-mile journey for his runner Grumpy Charlie 16:15. This is Honour’s second career runner at Aintree.
Race of the day
We look at the 14:25 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, which seems highly competitive with plenty of improving Novices likely to make a bold showing. I am absolutely shocked at the price of one of these, and I just want to get out of my chair and scream!
That horse is Colonel Mustard, who ran a blinder on the sharp end of the pace in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and despite bumping into a graded performer in State Man, he finished with running left under what was a cute ride by Conor Orr which didn’t work.
His jockey waited until after the last to really ask him for his effort, and by that time, he had given first run to the winner and runner-up but stuck to the task well.
He has now bumped into, Jonbon, State Man and Sir Gerhard in his last three starts. He was undone by a sedate pace at Ascot behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Jonbon, outpaced by State Man and likely conserving his handicap mark behind Sir Gerhard and today’s favourite Three Stripe Life.
He has been crying out for a step up in distance all season and today gets his wish. Connections apply the first-time hood to settle him in the early part of his race, and he will be finishing strongly here with a long home straight likely to suit. He is a massive price!
Walking On Air needs to improve significantly on the bare form of his Newbury run, but it was full of promise, and he is held in the highest regard by Nicky Henderson. He won on debut in the manner of a very smart horse, and he could yet be anything. Most interesting!
Three Stripe Life is a worthy market leader after chasing home Sir Gerhard for the second time in the Ballymore Novice Hurdle. Still, his jumping is cause for concern, and the three hurdles in the home straight today could find him out as he is asked to jump and quicken three times. His last three starts have seen him sweep around a bend and tackle one hurdle, and he has messed that up on all occasions, so this configuration may not suit him; for all, he has an excellent chance on the ratings.
Big race verdict
I have taken a stab with Colonel Mustard, who I think is a wild each-way price and Walking On Air, who could be anything. If you only want to side with one, it has to be the outrageously double-figure priced Colonel Mustard, who has been crying out for this step up in trip, has the form and time figures in the book, and is the joint second top-rated in the field. With four places on offer, this is a no brainer bet.
Check out the Betfair family video of Grand National selections!
Get the party started early on Saturday at Aintree
We go in search of our fifth winner of the meeting today, and we kick off in the opening 13:45 Handicap Hurdle, and while his price has collapsed since yesterday, I still want to advise backing Party Business 6.05/1.
I have been trying to get a win out of this horse since he recorded an excellent time figure at Ascot earlier in the season when scalping a Nicky Henderson improver now rated 133. He fell next time at Newbury when about to make his challenge in a race won by Stage Star (142) and then was bogged down in the dire conditions at Warwick behind Staghorn. It was good to see the runner-up from that contest, Gentleman At Arms, run a promising race in the Grade 1 yesterday behind Gelino Bello to boost the form. Still, that wasn’t him, and it was much more like it at Cheltenham when a huge eye-catching in the Martin Pipe. That race was full of unexposed Novices’, and he had his run stopped twice but still hit the line hard with plenty of petrol left in the tank.
Today he steps up to 3m for the first time, which looks like a good move by connections, and the drying ground is undoubtedly in his favour. He has all the attributes to confirm that this handicap mark of 132 underestimates his ability and must go close.
In the 16:15, I hope that the return to Aintree and a sounder surface can see Espoir De Romay 9.517/2 bounce back to form. He has clearly had some issues this season, and his run at Kelso, although full of promise, was desperately needed, according to connections. He is the graded horse in a handicap here, and he would likely have won the Grade 1 contest on this card last year if not for a fall. He had today’s favourite Shan Blue 15 lengths behind when he departed, and it’s hard to think seven pounds will make up those lengths today if on song. He loves a flat track and a sounder surface, and this is just his second start in a handicap. He is an attractive price at 6/1 or bigger.
Final Word – A group of pandas is called an embarrassment
Ok, right, Ok, the trade paper is at it again, it seems, with their latest clickbait video, which slags off every trainer in horse racing. This is getting a little bit boring now, it’s quite clearly a ploy for clicks, comments, and exposure, and the biggest way to do that is to give a negative opinion and cause a Twitter storm. The sad part is that those who are getting angry with quote retweets and comments are doing nothing more than fueling their bizarre agender.I can’t help but feel sorry for Graeme Rodway. He is actually a good judge, in my opinion, but as soon as he opens his mouth, the vultures circle and egg him on with peer pressure like school kid bullies – go on, say it G-rod, say it, “get it off your chest mate”. Yesterday was even more strange as Graeme seemed to be doing his best to put a practical slant on his argument. Still, Bruce Millington – a former editor – thought he would ramp it up a notch and saw a good opportunity to get those clicks. You could see the excitement on his face when Graeme opened and started his segment.It’s a shame. The days of excellent and informative journalism seem to be gone from that place. The nonsensical articles and clickbait videos with umpteen “click here to sign up for a free bet” banners are becoming more and more regular.Some great people are working tremendously hard, but unfortunately, one video like this often overshadows that, and it must be frustrating for those putting in the sound shifts.On the flip side, shows like In The Know and Good Morning Aintree are doing excellent work. It’s just unfortunate that when the “cool kids” all get together on one show, it seems they are not afraid to throw one other under the bus for a click or two.Until Monday, have a great weekend and be lucky.
Follow Daryl Carter on Twitter @DarylCarter7
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