What are the best bets at Aintree on Friday?
The Aintree Grand National meeting continues with seven exciting races this afternoon and our racing expert has run the rule over them all, highlighting his best bets.
13:40 Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3), 2m4f
A tricky handicap to solve with many of the runners coming on from the Cheltenham Festival. They include Ibis Du Rheu, who has been hit with an 8lb rise for winning the Martin Pipe, and Coral Cup fourth Blazer, one of three Willie Mullins-trained runners in the race. They should go well again and you wouldn’t rule out last year’s winner Theinval off just a 4lb higher mark. He looks a tad overpriced at 22/1 with Paddy Power.
However, I’m going to chase even bigger odds and suggest a small each-way wager on James Nash’s CARDINAL PALACE, who is a whopping 40/1 with the same firm on account of a couple of poor efforts over hurdles this winter. They can be forgiven as the ground was bottomless and he is better judged on his short head second in the Grade 2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle Chepstow in October (2m3f, good) behind Roadie Joe, who was completing a four-timer. The winner of a maiden at this track last June and back to form when finishing second on the all-weather at Dundalk last month, he could easily outrun his odds with Paul Townend booked to do the steering.
UPDATE – the selection is proving friendless in the market and is out to 50/1 with bet365. He’s still the pick but keep stakes small each-way.
14:15 Imagine Cruising First In The Frame Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1), 2m103y
Nicky Henderson has ducked this with Altior, who is being prepared for a chase campaign, and relies on Supreme third Buveur D’Air instead. However, he was outpaced at Cheltenham before staying on and he might prove vulnerable over this sharper track. Besides, they’ve all got Willie Mullins’ LIMINI to beat and the mare, who maintained her unbeaten record when winning the new mares’ novices’ hurdle at the festival in devastating fashion, could well prove too classy for her male rivals in receipt of the 7lb sex allowance. Paddy Power’s 13/8 is standout.
Of the rest, emphatic Betfair Hurdle winner Agrapart should go well with the form of that Newbury race having been boosted several times since, while his Tolworth third to Neptune winner Yorkhill looks even better now. At 9/1 with the Irish firm, he rates solid each-way value.
UPDATE – Limini is proving very weak in the market (out to 9/4 with bet365), while Buveur D’Air is strong and into 7/4 probably on account of the overnight rain, so the advice now is to back AGRAPART each-way at 9/1 with bet365, who are one quarter the odds.
14:50 Betfred Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1), 3m210y
Un Temps Pour Tout took full advantage of a generous handicap mark when winning at the Cheltenham Festival and may find this tougher against genuine Group 1 performers, including gutsy RSA Chase hero Blaklion. The latter endured a hard race at Cheltenham and that did for O’Faolains Boy, the last RSA winner to run here when only fifth of the six runners.
With that pair dominating the market, we could get a surprise result and Peter Bowen’s HENRI PARRY MORGAN, a 20/1 shot with bet365, may provide it. The eight-year-old has been transformed by fences and a tongue-tie, winning his last two starts in imperious fashion and jumping brilliantly in the process. Connections are eyeing up a tilt at either the Scottish National or bet365 Gold Cup and, while taking on Grade 1 horses is even more ambitious, the feeling is he won’t be disgraced with his stable in great form – two winners from just four runners in the last fortnight.
15:25 JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1), 2m3f200y
This Grade 1 contest features one of the bankers of the meeting, with the Willie Mullins-trained VAUTOUR no bigger than 2/7 to follow up his brilliant Ryanair Chase success at the Cheltenham Festival, having been pipped at the post by Cue Card in the King George previously – that form looks even better now! A three-time Cheltenham winner, he’s never previously come on to Aintree, but there is no reason why he shouldn’t act on the course as he has form on flat tracks like Kempton and is best going left-handed.
Besides, it’s hard to see who beats him as his nearest rival in the betting is veteran Al Ferof, who finished a highly creditable fourth in the Ryanair without giving any reason why he would turn the tables here.
16:05 Crabbie’s Topham Chase (Grade 3 Handicap) (National Course), 2m5f19y
Nicky Henderson has won the last three runnings with Triolo D’Alene, Ma Filleule and Rajdhani Express and COCKTAILS AT DAWN, his sole representative this year, should give backers a good run for their money in a wide open renewal. He jumped well when making all in races at Sandown on his final start of last season and when reappearing at Chepstow in October, the form of which looks strong with As De Mee, Native River and Blaklion amongst the vanquished. He hasn’t run since disappointing in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, but he goes well fresh and has likely been targeted at this prize. Nico de Boinville rides and he gets a good tune out of the eight-year-old, who can be backed at 22/1 with bet365, who are paying out on five places.
In a race of this nature and with luck in running playing a massive part, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of stabs at finding the winner and KILLER CROW makes plenty of appeal at the same firm’s 14/1. A steamer for the novices’ handicap chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival only to miss the cut, his backers would have been left thinking what might have been after Empire Of Dirt, whom he had beaten into second at Leopardstown in January, won the Festival Plate. The seven-year-old has since finished seventh in the Irish Grand National where stamina proved an issue (travelled well until fading three out), and he deserves another chance back over this shorter trip and off his low weight.
16:40 Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1), 3m149yds
This is a hugely competitive renewal and given the race’s recent history of upsets – five 16/1 or bigger winners since 2006 – it could be worth trying to find another one here. Of those at 16/1 or bigger, none make more appeal than the Rebecca Curtis-trained MYSTICAL KNIGHT, who runs in the green and gold colours of JP McManus who bought him after he landed a hat-trick in bumpers at Warwick in December. His previous owner was very complimentary about him that day, saying: “He’s the best bumper horse I’ve ever had. To watch him jump a hurdle is electric. He’s a horse for the future and will be hopefully be a top-class staying hurdler.
It must have been a wrench to sell him and the gelding has already looked the part in a couple of runs over hurdles since for his new owner, showing great determination to win a novice event at Naas last month (3m), following on from a respectable debut second behind Open Eagle over an inadequate 2m5f. Both those runs came during a spell when the stable was badly out of form and, with the winners starting to flow again of late, it’s not unreasonable to expect the seven-year-old to step up again with conditions in his favour. Let’s back him each-way at 16/1 with bet365, who are one quarter the odds.
17:15 Weatherbys Private Bank Champion Standard Open NH Flat Race (Grade 2), 2m209y
Cheltenham winner Ballyandy could prove vulnerable to a speedier type on his sharper track and under his penalty, and he looks a favourite (5/2 general) taking on. However, I’m struggling to form a strong opinion about any of his rivals – the market may provide the best clues – and WILLOUGHBY COURT, the winner of his last two bumper starts but not seen out since December, is just a speculative choice at the 33/1 on offer at Hills.