What are the best bets at Aintree on Saturday?
The Aintree Grand National meeting reaches its climax with seven exciting races this afternoon, including the big one at a later start time of 5.15pm), and our racing expert has run the rule over them all.
13:45 Gaskells Waste Management Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3), 3m149y
A tricky handicap to start proceedings, with another to come later! Where to start? If In Doubt is as good as any as he was desperately unlucky not to win the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival, where pretty much everything went wrong for him, and should again be competitive here, though the handicapper has rather harshly nudged him up 4lb for his troubles.
He’s one of several who ran with credit last month who you can make a case for here – Arpege D’Alene, Squouateur and King’s Palace, to name three – but I’m drawn to one near the foot of the weights, the Tony Martin-trained MYDOR, who is potentially well treated on a mark of 133. A three-time winner over hurdles, including a big-field handicap at Leopardstown, he didn’t really take to fences earlier this season and showed his appreciation for the return to the smaller obstacles when finishing third (of 19) at Fairyhouse just 12 days ago, despite not enjoying the smoothest of passages. He’s the type who needs to be played late and will need some luck in running, but he has the right man for the job in Paul Townend and the partnership look decent each-way value at Betfair’s 10/1.
14:25 EZ Trader Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1), 2m4f
The 26 entries at the five-day stage have been whittled down to just seven and that’s not too surprising as the presence of Neptune winner YORKHILL will have scared most of them off. Willie Mullins’ charge is now unbeaten in five starts under Rules, the last two at the highest level, and is clear best of his six rivals on the ratings. He only has to stay on his feet to collect but, sadly, at odds of just 2/7 we’re not going to get rich backing him.
15:00Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1), 1m7f176y
That comment applies here too as his stablemate and Arkle winner DOUVAN is an even shorter price – 1/6 best with Ladbrokes – and he too has only to jump round to make it five wins on the bounce over fences. He was top class over hurdles – winning Grade 1 ‘s at Cheltenham and Punchestown – and if anything he’s even better over the larger obstacles, with his aggregate winning margin now standing at 491/2 lengths. He’s never looked like falling so his four rivals – headed by Henry De Bromhead’s Alisier D’Irlande – are battling for the place money.
15:40 Liverpool Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1), 3m149y
Punters are faced with yet another short-priced favourite with impressive World Hurdle winner THISTLECRACK a best-priced 2/7 (Sky Bet) to follow up. Colin Tizzard’s gelding has come a long way since landing the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting last year, sweeping all before him in a stellar campaign which has seen him thrash everything that is put in front of him. Faster ground than he was used to at the festival allowed him to be sent off at what in hindsight was a hugely generous even money, but his backers had few anxious moments, with Tom Scudamore needing only to let an inch of rein to for him to quickly put the race to bed and go clear on the run-in.
He has a different set of rivals here and Nicky Henderson’s Different Gravey is a fascinating runner, having been a deeply impressive 16-length winner of a handicap hurdle at Ascot in February, when defying a ten-month absence. He skipped Cheltenham to wait for Aintree and could I suppose make a race of it, but I can’t see him beating the favourite, who is in the same form as he was going into Cheltenham according to his trainer.
That’s three very short-priced favourites in a row and you might be interested to know the treble pays a shade better than 10/11 with Paddy Power, though as we found out with Vautour on Friday even the supposed ‘bankers’ don’t always win.
16:20 Betfred Handicap Chase (Listed), 3m210y
This is more like it as a betting medium and, while there are a several others with better claims on more recent form, I’m going to take a flyer with RACING PULSE at a big price – bet365 make him a 20/1 shot. A 144-rated hurdler who ran sixth in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle behind Beat That at this meeting in 2014, he was always going to be a better chaser and he confirmed that view when winning a decent handicap at Chepstow in January on his first try at 3m.
He flopped at odds-on when trying to follow up at Warwick on his next start, but the stable was badly out of form then and was still under a cloud at the Cheltenham Festival, where he finished midfield in the opening day novices’ handicap chase over a trip short of his best. With the stable in much better form now – five winners from the last 11 runners including 9/1 and 20/1 shots – it would be no surprise to seem him bounce back and run a big race under optimum conditions.
17:15 Crabbie’s Grand National Chase (Grade 3 Handicap), 4m2f74yds
I’ve covered the big race elsewhere but the four horses that will be carrying my cash are: SAINT ARE, GALLANT OSCAR, MORNING ASSEMBLY and UNIONISTE – good reasons why here. Whatever you back, though, do make sure you take a price early in the morning as they will only go one way (it rhymes with frown), and I’d strongly advise you to place your each-way bets with bet365. Why? The Stoke-based firm are giving you half your stake back as cash up to £125! So, for example, a £5 each-way bet will only cost you a fiver and not £10. It’s a no-brainer, really.
18:10 Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle (Conditional Jockeys And Amateur Riders), 2m103y
The bookmakers got what they wanted with a later start time for the Grand National and this impossible-looking finale confined to conditional jockeys and amateur riders is the icing on the cake. Best of British if you decide to play up your Grand National winnings / chase your losses (delete as appropriate) and, as this is a tipping piece, I will put up a token selection, the David Pipe-trained DELL’ ARCA at bet365’s 22/1. Ignore his recent form figures; he’s a well-handicapped horse with a good conditional up and hails from an in-form stable.