So here we are, the day when the whole nation has an interest in jumps racing. It’s Grand National day! Followers of my tips over the past couple of days have had a mixed time of things but importantly we’ve managed to score with a double digit winner each day to leave us ahead going into the finale. I can’t remember ever getting the winner of the National itself, and don’t expect to today (it’s hope rather than expectation), but there are plenty of nice chances that we can get stuck into…
1.45 Gaskells Handicap Hurdle
A fiercely competitive opener over three miles in which you can make cases for plenty including No Hassle Hoff, Barney Dwan and old favourite Zarkandar, who has Stan Sheppard on his back taking five pounds off. I’m going for No Comment though, a horse who has enjoyed a fine novice hurdling season, winning three times before a seventh place finish in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham. A year ago Philip Hobbs’ six-year-old beat Henry De Bromhead’s Albert Bartlett runner-up Monalee at Punchestown, so he has plenty of ability. He runs in today’s race off a very fair mark of 137 and, although the trip is an unknown, usually travels well into his races and is sure to be in contention turning into the straight.
Recommendation – No Comment 10/1ew
2.25 Mersey Novices Hurdle
Le Breuil is the horse that I have been looking forward to back more than any other this week. Ben Pauling opts to send him here rather than the three-miler yesterday and it could prove to be a wise choice at this young stage in the five-year-old’s career. A brilliant jumper, he has been mightily impressive in winning his two starts over hurdles to date, at Sedgefield and Newbury, and even though he hasn’t beaten anything of any note the manner of his performances have suggested that he’ll take the rise in class in his stride. He also arrives here fresh after skipping Cheltenham with this week in mind. The likes of Yorkhill and Simonsig have won this race in the past, whether Le Breuil is of that level is doubtful but not many are and I think he can bring more big race success over two and a half miles to Ben Pauling following his Neptune glory with Willoughby Court.
Recommendation – Le Breuil 6/1ew
3.00 Maghull Novices Chase
This race offers Charbel the chance to make up for his fall in the Arkle when he was giving the mighty Altior a serious run for his money. We’ll never know if he would have won at Cheltenham but he should do today and rates as a very confident selection. He was even money earlier in the week and I hope, like me, you filled your boots while he was.
Recommendation – Charbel 4/6
3.40 Betway Handicap Chase
Henri Parry Morgan was second in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novice Chase at this meeting last year, finishing ahead of dual Ultima Handicap winner Un Temps Pour Tout and last year’s RSA victor Blaklion. He was just three lengths behind Native River (we all know what he’s done this season) and now arrives in this handicap off a mark of 138. Peter Bowen’s charge has been disappointing this term but if the Aintree air can reignite the memories of last year he must go close today.
Recommendation – Henri Parry Morgan 9/1
4.20 Liverpool Hurdle
The premier contest for staying hurdlers, this race was won by the brilliant Thistlecrack last year. There doesn’t seem to be anything of his class in the lineup this year and the favourite, Alan King’s Yanworth, is on something of a recovery mission after a very poor showing in the Champion Hurdle. This trip should be more to his liking but I’m still not convinced about him and instead am taking a chance on Coral Cup winner Supasundae. Robbie Power is flying at the moment, with his wins on this lad and Gold Cup winner Sizing John being followed up by success aboard Pingshou and Fox Norton yesterday. Trainer Jessica Harrington is also in superb form and doesn’t enter horses in these festival races willy-nilly, as shown by her amazing strike rate at Cheltenham last month. Supasundae wasn’t stopping in the Coral Cup so you get the feeling the step up in trip will suit and at his current price he is a cracking each way bet.
Recommendation – Supasundae 7/1ew
5.15 Grand National
Picking the winner of this race is, fairly obviously no easy task, so all I can do is offer some reasons why four horses should be involved when the leaders reach the famous elbow. I think you need to have at least three or four runners as there’s nothing worse than seeing your selection crash out at the first fence. Vieux Lion Rouge and Ucello Conti both have valuable experience of the National fences, the latter having finished sixth last year and fourth in the Becher Chase in December, while the former was the winner of that race and finished seventh in last year’s National. My other two picks are based on class. More of That is the only horse to have beaten Annie Power when she’s completed a race when he won the 2014 World Hurdle. It’s fair to say he’s had his issues since then but has shown signs of coming back to himself this year, finishing sixth in the Gold Cup last time out. He’s the choice of Barry Geraghty and if he can bring his A-Game he holds strong claims. My final choice is O’Faolains Boy, who simply has to be backed at 66/1. Yes, he’s been woefully out of form but has reportedly had a wind operation and a revival to the form of last year when he was seventh in the Gold Cup and still challenging three out would put him right in the mix. He runs carrying just 10-11 and I think a chance has to be taken on him on these terms.
Recommendations: Vieux Lion Rouge 12/1ew; More of That 14/1ew; Ucello Conti 16/1ew; O’Faolains Boy 66/1ew
6.15 Conditionals Handicap Hurdle
Possibly a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show but this could be our biggest priced winner of the week, so pay attention. Two years ago The Grey Taylor was rated 140 and was running in the grade 2 Dovecoat Novices Hurdle. Since then he has embarked on a chasing career which, it’s fair to say, hasn’t seen him fulfill his undoubted talent. Today, however, he reverts to hurdles off a mark of 126, and with his jockey taking off a further seven pounds, goes into this contest carrying just 10-2. Ground is also key to The Grey Taylor and today he gets the good ground he needs. Everything is set for a big run and the best thing is he’s a big price too. 22/1 is still available (he was 33s yesterday) and should be taken.
Recommendation – The Grey Taylor 22/1