It was Aintree preview night at the London Racing Club last night, and the esteemed panel was comprised of Racing Post's longshot pundit, Ed Quigley (EQ); The Guardian's Chris Cook (CC), deputy racing editor; and, Rory Jiwani (RJ), Stan James' bookie rep and top banana.
Here follows their potted wisdom on the three days of Aintree, mindful that many of the races have yet to take final shape...
RJ - Silviniaco Conti is the lay of the meeting. Had hard race at Cheltenham and didn't like his attitude especially. Hard to split Dynaste and First Lieutenant, but Rory's layed Silviniaco Conti, and that'll do for him.
CC - Discouraged by the way Silviniaco Conti finished at Cheltenham, whereas Dynaste seemed better for the wind operation he'd had when winning at the Festival, and 2/1 is a fair price all things considered.
EQ - Menorah is one of only a couple of Aintree bets Ed has struck, and he thinks 11/1 is a fair each way bet despite there only being six runners and, therefore, two places to go at.
RJ - The New One is too short. He's still clearly the one to beat but long odds on offers no value. Rock On Ruby has plenty to find to reverse early season form with TNO.
CC - Respects the Twiston-Davies team's current 28% strike rate with reference to TNO's chance. But Chris liked Diakali as a possible dark horse in the race at 12/1 or so.
EQ - No view
RJ - This has been the target for Activial, and he swerved the Triumph specifically to come here. Rain helps his case and he must have a solid chance. Fox Norton and Katgary could be interesting if lining up.
EQ - Spoke to John Ferguson, and he's lined Commissioned up for this. His second to Activial puts him in the frame and he might be a nice price against higher profile rivals.
CC - Really likes Activial, even though eight of the last nine winners had run well in the Triumph [editor's note: L'Unique, last year's winner, skipped the Triumph]
Manifesto Novices' Chase
CC - Oscar Whisky could be the sort of price to be taken on, especially after that early tumble at Cheltenham. Western Warhorse a dangerous and potentially under-rated opponent. Uxizandre could be ignored in the betting again. It's "not a race for confident betting".
EQ - Fox Appeal is of minor interest, specifically trained for the race.
RJ - No view
Red Rum Handicap Chase
CC - Keep an eye on the Tizzard horses now the virus has passed. With that in mind, Oiseau de Nuit could run well (finished 3rd, 2nd and 1st in the last three renewals!)
EQ - Oiseau de Nuit is a spring horse, and his form earlier in the year can be ignored.
RJ - Astracad might be interesting at a price.
Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle
EQ - Two Rockers has really struggled with a virus this term and, if back from that, he could run well. Stable [Alan King] really likes him.
CC - Crowning Jewel and Josie's Orders could be worth noting, especially the latter who is trained by Jonjo O'Neill [won this three times since 2006]
Top Novices' Hurdle
RJ - Clever Cookie is apparently the best horse Peter Niven has ever had and, if he can improve marginally, could win this.
RJ - A bad race with lots of rogues, and as weak a Grade 1 as you're likely to see. Wishfull Thinking has a standout chance if he turns up, at 6/1
CC - Agrees that Wishfull Thinking is the most obvious play and if 6/1 was available on the day it would be well worth taking.
CC - A couple of 25/1 shots each way: Eastlake for Jonjo, where the step up in trip could help; and Minella For Value - still entered in the National and trainer John Butler is one of the shrewdest operators around. Chris felt the horse has a "fascinating profile".
Sefton Novices' Hurdle
RJ - Seeyouatmidnight could be the best bet of the day if overlooked by the betting public again, due to unfashionable connections. He's the clear top rated horse in the race.
EQ - Has been told The Govaness is expected to run very well for Fergal O'Brien.
CC - More Of That has to prove he's as adept on a speed track, but with his highly progressive profile, it's far too early to be trying to get him beaten.
Maghull Novices' Chase
CC - Tempted to give Trifolium another chance. He was a good third in the Supreme before being a good third in the Arkle, and it looks as though McCoy has been booked for the ride. Balder Succes might need more of a test than this.
EQ - Has a strong fancy for Balder Succes!
RJ - Does Teaforthree actually stay the trip? With the race changing to favour potentially better horses, Rory likes Long Run. At bigger prices, he's throwing his darts at Chance du Roy, Shakalakaboomboom, and Pineau de Re.
Monbeg Dude could go off favourite, as the story horse. Prince de Beauchene and The Package are big losers for Stan James.
CC - Chris feels that the softening of the fences may place a greater emphasis on stamina and, in that context, he thinks higher weighted horses will struggle more due to the sustained level of pace in the early to middle part of the race. [Editor's note: I thought that was probably the single most interesting comment of the night, and as a theory I like it].
Long Run looks regressive and has plenty of weight in any case. Triolo d'Alene may have a breathing issue, and Teaforthree hasn't won for two years.
Chris really likes Big Shu, and feels we still don't know how good he is because he's been running in hunter chases and cross country races, which hasn't necessarily allowed the handicapper to get his measure. He might still be nicely treated and 33/1 is a bet.
1. Long Run 2. Pineau De Re 3. Burton Port
1. Big Shu 2. The Rainbow Hunter 3. The Package
1. Long Run 2. Walkon [Editor's note: seriously?!!!] 3. Teaforthree
EQ - £25 e/w Walkon at 50/1 [Editor: sigh]
CC - £25 e/w Big Shu at 33/1