What are the best bets at Aintree on Thursday?
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The Aintree Grand National meeting gets under way with seven exciting races this afternoon and our racing expert has run the rule over them all, highlighting his best bets.
13:40 Merseyrail Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1), 2m3f200y
With Douvan sticking to two miles, this looks a great opportunity for that horse’s ‘bunny’ SIZING JOHN to add a Grade 1 success over fences to his CV. Henry de Bromhead’s charge has now finished behind Douvan on four occasions – twice over hurdles and twice over fences, including when finishing seven lengths adrift in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival last time after making the running – and he faces nothing of that calibre here. What’s more, his style of running and pedigree strongly suggests he’s crying out for a step up to today’s trip with the better ground another thing in his favour. Take bet365’s 3/1.
L’Ami Serge is the shortest of the British-trained horses after his third in the JLT (2m5f), but even this shorter trip on an easier track might prove a shade too far for a horse who looks an out-and-out two-miler at the top level at least. Garde La Victoire probably would have had a say in that race had he not come down at the top of the hill but his fencing had been far from fluent up to that point, and the selection is far better in that department.
14:15 Betfred Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1), 2m209y
Three Triumph Hurdle winners have followed up in this race in the last ten years and this year’s winner, IVANOVICH GORBATOV, can do the same providing the heavens don’t open. The Montjeu gelding clearly appreciated ‘good’ ground at the Festival and he looks an above average winner, with 20/1 quotes already being bandied for next year’s Champion Hurdle. A quick weather check suggests the course could be hit by some heavy rain in the morning, so I wouldn’t be rushing to snap up quotes of 5/4 (Paddy Power) and, should the ground turned ‘soft’, I might be tempted to back the Triumph third, the Willie Mullins-trained Footpad, a current 11/2 shot with Paddy Power, who are refunding stakes (as a free bet) should your horse finish second to the SP favourite throughout the three-day meeting. But I’ll most likely sit this one out with nothing else making much appeal.
14:50 Betfred Bowl Chase (Grade 1), 3m210yds
I’m convinced CUE CARD would have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup had he stayed on his feet and, providing he’s none the worse for that experience, he can gain some compensation for connections (including a dejected Paddy Brennan) by beating the Gold Cup second and third, Djakadam and Don Poli respectively. Any doubts over whether he’s still feeling the effects of that fall were allayed by his trainer Colin Tizzard, who said this week: “ He’s been the same right through the winter, in great form and nothing’s changed. He looks very well so we’re really looking forward to it.” With his ability to handle this course proven beyond doubt – he’s never finished outside the top two in four previous visits – I’m struggling to see how he gets beat and the current 7/4 at Betfair – he’s 11/10 generally – is a gift (an arb in fact as he’s 2.38 to lay). Am I missing something here?! If that price has gone by the time you read this, the 5/4 on offer at Hills is still fair.
Fancy the Annie Power-Cue Card double yourself? Well, a £25 double at current William Hill odds (1/2 and 5/4 respectively) pays £84.38.
15:25 Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1), 2m4f
The remarkable ANNIE POWER beat all bar one of today’s rivals – rank outsider Court Minstrel – in the Champion Hurdle last time and given she should be even more at home over this longer trip (she stays as far as 3m) and is not ground dependant, she is going to be tough to beat in receipt of the 7lb mares’ allowance – though we won’t get rich backing her at just 8/15. The stats boys will tell you otherwise as she would become the first Champion Hurdle winner to follow up over the extra yardage of Aintree since the days of Istabraq – Rock On Ruby, Rooster Booster, Make A Stand, Flakey Dove, See You Then and even Istabraq himself have tried and failed. However, she’s no ordinary mare and can lead home a 1-2 for the stable, with Nichols Canyon, an impressive winner of a Grade 1 over course and distance at last year’s, fancied to reverse form with the Champion Hurdle second My Tent Or Yours.
16:05 Crabbie’s Fox Hunters’ Chase (National Course), 2m5f19yds
This is more my idea of a betting race as I’m keen to take on the favourite On The Fringe, who is defending his crown having done that already in the Cheltenham Foxhunter, with decent prices on the rest. With Nina Carberry banned, Jamie Codd takes over on the Enda Bolger-trained 11-year-old and he’s an able deputy, but the difference this time is that he had the kitchen sink thrown at him at Cheltenham when hanging on by a neck from Marito, whereas he has able to coast through that race last season. In the belief that bruising encounter 20 days ago may have left its mark, he’s easily swerved at just 7/4 in favour of the Foxhunter fourth CURRENT EVENT, who is value at 10/1 with Paddy Power, especially given their concession. The nine-year-old has unfinished business in this having unseated his rider at the seventh last season and considering how well he travelled at Cheltenham before not quite getting home on the run-in, he will be well suited to the drop back to this intermediate trip of 2m5f. With Katie Walsh taking over in the saddle, he should give us a great run for your money granted all the usual provisos about races over the National fences – a good rhythm, clean round of jumping and luck in running.
16:40 Betfred Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade 3), 1m7f176yds
They always go a good clip in this and not surprisingly the Grand Annual – also run at a helter-skelter gallop over the minimum at the Cheltenham Festival – has been a decent guide with two of the last six winners who headed to Aintree doing the double. Solar Impulse and Dandridge, first and second at Cheltenham, therefore demand plenty of respect, though respective 9lb and 5lb rises will make life tougher for the pair. One horse I can’t have is the current favourite Fayette County given his completion record (form figures FF4P2) and he made plenty of mistakes when runner-up at Ludlow last time. Minella Present would have been the selection on genuine good ground as he looks to have been laid out for this, but the forecast rain is a worry with him. Instead let’s take a punt on CROCO BAY at a massive 25/1 (bet365). He same down in the Grand Annual last time but is normally a safe jumper and showed he was suited to a fast-run 2m when finished third in the 2014 version of that race off a 2lb higher mark. His trainer Ben Case is on good form too, with five of his seven runners in the last fortnight finishing second.
17:15 Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race (Grade 2), 2m209y
Trainer Warren Greatrex has long held LA BAGUE AU ROI in high regard, describing her as “the best filly I’ve trained” after she won here in October, and this has been her target since she landed a hot Listed bumper at Huntingdon in December to stay unbeaten in this sphere. She’s no price sadly – Betfred go a standout 9/4 which might be improved upon during the afternoon, depending on previous results – but I’m not going to look past her here.
BANKER – LA BAGUE AU ROI @ 2/1 BET365 (BOG)
NEXT BEST – CURRENT EVENT @ 10/1 PADDY POWER (MONEY BACK IF 2ND TO SP FAVOURITE)
BEST EACH-WAY – CROCO BAY @ 25/1 BET365