Ayr – Saturday selections

1.45 Ayr – Vaniteux 5/1ew

2.20 Ayr – Barney Dwan 6/1ew

2.55 Ayr – Claimantakinforgan 8/1ew (NAP)

3.30 Ayr – Mia’s Storm 7/4

4.05 Ayr – Sizing Tennessee 16/1ew

4.40 Ayr – Moon Racer 7/1ew

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Cheltenham – Thursday selections

Scored with a nice double yesterday, including 14/1 Traffic Fluide, so here’s hoping for more success today. Here are my selections for ‘ladies day’ at Cheltenham…

2.05 Cheltenham – Dame Rose (NAP) 11/2ew

3.15 Cheltenham- Indian Stream 20/1ew

3.50 Cheltenham- Same Circus 5/1ew

4.25 Cheltenham- Harmonise 9/1ew

5.00 Cheltenham- The Nipper 4/1ew

5.35 Cheltenham- Diamond Gait 12/1ew

Cheltenham – Wednesday selections

A month after the Festival it’s back to Cheltenham on Wednesday, this time on more Festival type ground, for a quality card. Here are my selections, including Steely Addition, who I’ve been waiting to reappear since November when he bolted up by ten lengths at Chepstow. He’s been put up 14 pounds for that but still has room for further improvement off 137.

2.05 Diese des Bieffes 5/2

2.40 Traffic Fluide 14/1ew

3.15 Stick to the Plan 11/1ew

4.25 Steely Addition (NAP) 11/2ew

5.00 Singlefarmpayment 7/2

5.30 Capitaine (NB) 6/1ew

Fairyhouse – Tuesday selections

Some top notch action at Fairyhouse on Tuesday evening with the rearranged card from the postponed last day of the recent Easter festival. Here are my selections…

4.40 – Saldier 7/2

5.15 – Poli Roi 9/1ew (NAP)

5.50 – Meri Devie 10/1ew

6.50 – Asthuria Evens

7.50 – Motown Girl 8/1ew

Aintree antepost – Saturday selections

GASKELLS HANDICAP HURDLE

Won by the much-missed Fountains Windfall last year, the opening contest on Grand National day is a race claimed four times before by Jonjo O’Neill and the Jackdaws Castle trainer looks to have the right candidate to make it five in Dream Berry. Beaten just half a length by Rather Be at Aintree last year, the seven-year-old followed that up by losing by a similarly agonising margin at Punchestown, so deserves to get his head in front at a big festival like this. A more than respectable seventh on his belated seasonal debut in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham last month, he steps up to three miles for the first time and can build on the promise he showed a year ago.

Another horse who has endured a troubled campaign is Debece, who is also worth backing at 10/1. Tim Vaughan’s son of Kayf Tara was third in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices last year, less than a length behind The Worlds End, but has yet to be sighted this term. If he can show the same form of a year ago he looks well treated off 141 here.

MERSEY NOVICES’ HURDLE

On The Blind Side would have started second favourite behind Samcro in the Neptune last month had a setback not ruled the Nicky Henderson six-year-old out of Cheltenham. Unbeaten in a point and three hurdle contests, his nine-length Winter Novices Hurdle win at Sandown in December was one of the most striking displays of the season and he can continue his upward curve in this Grade 1, which Henderson won back-to-back with Spirit Son and Simonsig in 2011 and 2012. Neptune second, Black Op, is a formidable opponent but there shouldn’t be the current disparity between the prices of the two and I think they will be closer on the day.

MUGHULL NOVICES’ CHASE

The winner of this race will be joining the likes of Douvan and Sprinter Sacre on an illustrious roll of honour and it looks like a golden opportunity for Henry De Bromhead’s Petit Mouchoir. Davy Russell has admitted he got the tactics all wrong when going on too early in the Arkle and he can redeem himself here with no Footpad in opposition this time. All value in his price has gone but he looks like the banker of the meeting and is streets ahead of those lining up against him, therefore rates as the starting point for your multiple bets.

BETWAY HANDICAP CHASE

From the banker of the meeting to one of the trickiest handicaps and a race won by Don’t Push It in 2009, a year before he came back to win the most famous race of them all under Tony McCoy. I have two suggestions for the 2018 renewal – On Tour is a horse with excellent course form having not finished outside the first two in either of his previous visits to Aintree, including a win on soft ground in November. He’s not shown the same form in four runs since but back down to a mark of 137 (only two pounds higher than his rating when winning here last time) and with the Liverpool air in his lungs he can bounce back here.

I’m also taking a chance on Jessica Harrington’s A Sizing Network, who looks big at 20/1. The eight-year-old hasn’t been seen on a track since November when pulled up in the Cork Grand National. A line can be drawn through that experiment, over an extreme distance he’d never tried before, and if you look at his form before that he wasn’t out of the first two in five previous runs including a nine and a half length win at Punchestown in October when giving lumps away to a decent field. He wouldn’t want it too soft but if it’s true that it’s good to soft then he goes with a big chance if reproducing his form from early in the season.

STAYERS HURDLE

A very tricky looking contest and a chance is taken on The World’s End, a winner at the festival last year in the Sefton Novices. Tom George’s seven-year-old hasn’t really pushed on from that form this season but ran a decent race when seventh in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham and this is his time of the year, having won on his only run in April in each of the last two years. But this is a race to tread very carefully with as cases could be made for most of the field.

GRAND NATIONAL

The big one and a race that from a betting perspective you have to expect to lose your money in. I can’t recall ever backing the winner, but of course it’s not about that, it’s about the excitement, drama, history and the spectacle of the world’s most loved national hunt race. You need to fire a few bullets at it as there is nothing more frustrating that seeing your horse fall at the first with ten minutes of the race still to go, so I propose three horses to back.

Blaklion looked like the winner last year when leading up to two out and a year older and wiser can convert his eventual fourth place that time into first this year. He loves Aintree, having never been out of the first four here, and has taken a liking to the unique National fences, romping to a nine-length success in the Becher Chase in December. He adds a touch of class too, being a winner of the Grade 1 RSA at Cheltenham in 2016. He ticks a lot of boxes and has to go close if he gets around.

Minella Rocco is another horse who has been running in top class company, the top weight having been second in last season’s Gold Cup. The problem with Jonjo O’Neill’s charge is that he pretty much runs one good race a season and has a tendency to put in some real shockers. On the positive side, he hasn’t had that really good race this season yet and has always seemed to be a horse who would be perfectly suited to the National test, having won the four-miler at Cheltenham in 2016 when he beat this year’s Gold Cup hero Native River.

With a different profile to those two, I also like the chances of Captain Redbeard making it back-to-back wins for Scotland. Stuart Coltherd’s nine-year-old has been running well in top handicaps all season and will relish the predicted cut underfoot on the National course. His second in the Peter Marsh on bottomless ground at Haydock in January tells you he has the stamina for the race and he arrives here perfectly tuned up after a prep win over hurdles last month. He also has a very nice weight off 10st 6lbs.

PINSENT MASONS HANDICAP HURDLE

If you’ve done your dough on the National, fear not Chesterfield is here to save the day. Seamus Mullins’ son of Pivotal easily won this race last year before following up with the Scottish Champion Hurdle two weeks later. He arrives here this year in tip top form having claimed fourth in the County Hurdle at the Festival last month and runs off a mark of 141, two pounds lower than his winning rating at Ayr a year ago. He surely has a big chance and can be backed at 8/1.

SELECTIONS:

Gaskells Handicap Hurdle (Saturday 1.45) – Dream Berry 8/1 & Debece 10/1

Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Saturday 2.25) – On The Blind Side 9/4

Mughull Novices’ Chase (Saturday 3.00) – Petit Mouchoir 4/7

Betway Handicap Chase (Saturday 3.40) – A Sizing Network 20/1 & On Tour 12/1

Stayers Hurdle (Saturday 4.20) – The Worlds End 9/2

Grand National (Saturday 5.15) – Blaklion 12/1, Minella Rocco 20/1 & Captain Redbeard 28/1

Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle (Saturday 6.20) – Chesterfield 8/1

Aintree antepost – Friday selections

ALDER HEY HANDICAP HURDLE

A race won in three of the last five years by Nicky Henderson – most recently with Rather Be 12 months ago – Lough Derg Spirit is the most fancied of the champion trainer’s entries this time around but I’m looking elsewhere for the two bullets I’m going to fire at this 2m 4f contest. Euxton Lane also has an entry in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices on Saturday but this handicap would look the more likely option for a horse very much on the upgrade in 2018. A winner the last twice, his three length defeat of De Rasher Counter at Newbury last month was particularly impressive as, despite showing signs of inexperience, he came home with much more in hand than the winning margin suggests. Oliver Sherwood has good memories of Aintree winners in the Trevor Hemmings colours and this six-year-old could provide him with another.

My other fancy is Paul Nicholls’ Zubayr who bounced back to form with a good second behind Kildisart at Kempton last month. Despite being raised three pounds for that run, the six-year-old (yes, he’s still only six) is still six pounds lower than his peak rating of 144 back in December 2016 and is now on the same mark as when going down by a short head in last season’s Scottish Champion Hurdle. Sixth in this race last year, he can go closer this time around.

TOP NOVICES HURDLE

Another race that Henderson has an outstanding record in, with five wins since 2010, and I like the chances of Claimantakinforgan adding to that number. There can be no denying favourite Global Citizen was impressive in the Dovecoat, but the strength of that race has yet to be tested and I’d rather be with Henderson’s son of Great Pretender, who finished fifth in the Supreme last month. Fifth in the Grade 2 bumper at this festival 12 months ago, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him this season, despite winning two of his four starts, and I’m hopeful he can show more of his potential here.

MILDMAY NOVICES CHASE

Might Bite and Native River won the last two renewals of this race, which has an illustrious roll of honour which also features Silviniaco Conti, who we so tragically lost this week. I’m not convinced this year’s race will produce any such superstars but there can be little doubt that Black Corton has been one of the stars of the season and I think he can get another deserved success here for Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost. Fifth in the RSA last month, he’s won eight times this term (since his first race in June!) and his defeat of Elegant Escape and Ballyoptic in the Feltham reads as good as any form in the lineup.

MELLING CHASE

A race that very much revolves around Min‘s participation, if Willie Mullins’ Champion Chase second does turn up then he will undoubtedly be very tough to beat. I advised him at 4/1 the other day on social media and, although he still may be rerouted to Punchestown, believe there are very valid reasons why he may run here. Mullins has Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Great Field for the Champion Chase over in Ireland, so is almost certain to mop up all the prize money with or without Min and with no two and a half mile alternative there it seems logical (to me at least) that he would send something over to Aintree for another big pot. That something is Min, who would still be much shorter than the 7/4 he is now if he runs.

If he doesn’t then it turns into a very open contest. Ryanair winner Balko Des Flos is the obvious alternative but I think that race fell apart a bit and I’m not convinced he’s as good as that win might have suggested. Had the rain stopped I’d have liked the chances of Cloudy Dream but it now looks as though it’s going to be soft so I’d rather be with Politologue, who can avenge his defeat at Aintree last year when looking the winner when falling at the last in the Maghull Novices’ Chase. Fourth in the Champion Chase behind Altior at Cheltenham, he won the Haldon Gold Cup, Tingle Creek and Desert Orchid Chase before that run and shouldn’t have any issues stepping up in trip on a flat track. This is a race that Nicholls won with another horse more famous for his two mile exploits, Master Minded, back in 2011.

TOPHAM HANDICAP CHASE

Like a mini Grand National, this is always one of the highlights of the meeting. Like the big one, form over the unique fences always counts for a lot and with this in mind last year’s winner, Ultragold, looks overpriced at 25/1. He showed his liking for the obstacles again when second in the Grand Sefton in December and today runs off the same mark as that day. Colin Tizzard’s 10-year-old looks to have obvious claims.

Meanwhile, a big handicap featuring Ballyalton can’t go by without me advising and backing Ian Williams’ 11-year-old. He’s been so consistent this season, being placed in the Bet Victor Gold Cup, Caspian Caviar and the Plate at the Festival last month and runs here off the same mark as when fourth behind The Storyteller at Cheltenham. At 16/1 he is again great each-way value.

SEFTON NOVICES HURDLE

With only six runs to his name at the age of eight, OK Corral has been making up for lost time this season, not finishing outside the first two in four runs, the latest of which in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last month. A horse with a huge amount of ability, Nicky Henderson’s charge can go one better here, with his main rival appearing to be stablemate Santini, whom he finished ahead of at Prestbury Park.

WEATHERBYS BUMPER

If Henderson’s Pym runs in this Grade 2 then for me he is without doubt the one to beat and looks outstanding value at 10/1. Second behind current race favourite Danny Kirwan at Kempton in February, when giving the Nicholls horse seven pounds, he meets that rival again on level weights here and should be able to reverse that two-length defeat. There is a big if however, as despite Henderson confirming Mister Fisher he’s been silent on his plans for Pym. So any bets must be taken with risks in mind.

Aside from Pym, the other one I like is Severano, who could bookend a very good day for Oliver Sherwood if Euxton Lane delivers in the opener. This five-year-old son of Shantou was a very impressive seven-length winner at Kempton in February and has an eye-catching jockey booking in Noel Fehily. Fehily rode the same Tim Syder colours to success in the race with Killyglass for Emma Lavelle in 2011 and could be on for a repeat here in a race also won by the likes of The New One and Barters Hill.

SELECTIONS:

Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle (Friday 1.45) – Euxton Lane 16/1 & Zubayr 16/1

Top Novices’ Hurdle (Friday 2.20) – Claimantakingforgan 6/1

Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Friday 2.50) – Black Corton 7/1

Melling Chase (Friday 3.25) – Min 7/4 & Politologue 100/30

Topham Handicap Chase (Friday 4.05) – Ballyalton 16/1 & Ultragold 25/1

Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Friday 4.40) – OK Corral 3/1

Weatherbys Bumper (Friday 5.15) – Pym 10/1 & Sevarano 9/1