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Grand National Meeting: Day One Preview and Tips

Grand National 2013 Day One Preview Tips

Grand National 2013 Day 1 Preview Tips

It's day one of the Grand National meeting at Aintree and, aside from the big race itself on Saturday, there's plenty of very high class action and - of course - a series of impossible handicaps. In this post, I'll preview the Thursday races with some trends and a tip or two to boot.

Enough with the preamble, let's get cracking. It all kicks off with the...

2.00 MATALAN ANNIVERSARY 4-Y-O JUVENILE HURDLE GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo) (2m 1/2f)

The Aintree equivalent of the Triumph Hurdle and a number of runners back up from there, and also from the Fred Winter. Rolling Star, sent off favourite in the Triumph, but only sixth; and stablemate Vasco de Ronceray, one place ahead of his higher profile colleague; are joined by Frew Winter winner, Flaxen Flare, Ruacana (7th) and Zamdy Man (12th).

Those Festival attendees are joined here by notable Cheltenham absentees, Irish Saint and L'Unique.

This is a race which has historically gone either to the favourite or to a big priced outsider. Specifically, in the past decade, seven favourites have won. The other three winners were priced at 25/1, 33/1 and 40/1!

The favourite here will most likely be Rolling Star, bidding to atone for a disappointing effort behind the brilliant Our Conor in the Triumph. The problem with him, quite apart from his flop at Cheltenham, is that he has to prove he's equally as effective on good ground. His two wins to date - one in France and one verdict over Irish Saint in Britain - have been on heavy ground.

It was good to soft officially - but I suspect quicker than that, unofficially - and that may well be the reason for Rolling Star's defeat. Even if you accept that he wouldn't have beaten Our Conor, it's hard to overlook the fact that five other horses beat him and he was 23 lengths behind the winner. Moreover, he had an impressive track win at Cheltenham as well so we can't say the course was against him.

No, I'm against Rolling Star because I think he needs it softer. It's hard to see Vasco de Ronceray winner either, as I believe he ran as well as he can last time, and that's not good enough to win this.

The Fred Winter form is primarily represented by runaway winner, Flaxen Flare. In contrast to Rolling Star, Flaxen Flare has proven his liking for quicker turf, and he's had plenty of match practice, both on the level and now over hurdles. He could double up and represents the best chance of a Cheltenham Festival horse winning this in my view.

Of those that swerved the mid-March madness, the pick is probably Irish Saint. Put in his place by Rolling Star two starts back, he bounced back to wear down Vasco de Ronceray last time out at Kempton. The former race was run in a bog, and the latter was a crawl and then a quarter mile sprint. I remarked at the time that Irish Saint, who was given a waiting ride and ceded first run to all his rivals that day, was value for more than that bare form, and I reckon he has a decent chance here if they go a good gallop. Certainly, I'd expect him to reverse form with Rolling Star, and the 40 day absence means he comes here a fresh horse.

There are a couple of darker types stepping up in grade on last time out wins: Hefner, Runswick Royal and Bob's World. Hefner, rated 90 on the flat, won in a protracted duel with Looking On on his hurdling debut and only start over timber. The second and fourth have both come out and won since, giving the form a really solid look, and this chap might run well for Playboy fans at a decent price on ground he'll love. He's clearly talented.

Runswick Royal is slightly more exposed, having now raced twice over hurdles. In three prior bumper starts, he'd recorded one win. Two hurdle runs see him unbeaten over obstacles, and while he is progressive, I suspect he'd be a bit better on softer.

Bob's World was disappointing early in his career, but was likely a victim of whatever it was that was ailing the Jennie Candlish yard. Since her horses have started firing again, he's unbeaten in two. Again, while he's a progressive type, he ought not to be quite good enough to beat these.

Selection: Irish Saint 7/2
Next best: Flaxen Flare 5/1
Outsider with a squeak: Hefner 33/1

Click here for the latest Anniversary Hurdle odds

2.30 BETFRED BOWL CHASE GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (5yo+) (3m1f)

A decent renewal of a decent race, though perhaps not the greatest Grade 1 of the year. It was won by a 50/1 poke last year (nominated here), but is normally slightly more market conformist. Indeed, the other nine winners in the past decade were 14/1 or shorter.

Older horses have a fantastic record in this, with those aged nine to eleven having won ten of the last sixteen renewals. That's not enough to discount the younger brigade, but it does mean we shouldn't discount the older guard either.

Silviniaco Conti leads the charge and is around the even money mark to erase memories of that fall when going well in the Gold Cup last time. There's no telling how he'd have finished his race there, and my suspicion is that he'd have been outstayed by the likes of Bobs Worth, a horse which gets every yard of the extended three and a quarter mile test.

Here, the trip is shorter, the opposition easier, and the ground quicker. Those are optimal conditions for SC, and he's a course and distance winner too, having won the Grade 2 novices' chase here last term. He's only had four runs this year and, if that fall hasn't dented his confidence, he'll take a lot of beating here.

His main market rivals here also ran at Cheltenham: First Lieutenant was second in the Ryanair; and The Giant Bolster was fourth in the Gold Cup. First Lieutenant is one of those horses which doesn't seem to have a trip... or at least which seems to get beaten at whatever trip he races over. He's clearly a high class horse, and this track/trip/ground could be optimal for him, but he's just not in the winning habit, having failed to score since November 2011. That's nine races, in which he's been second five times. It would be no surprise to see him 'silvering' again.

The Giant Bolster ran a fine race in the Gold Cup, and this better ground will suit him well. He did have a hard race at Cheltenham, which is my worry, but if he's sufficiently recovered, I can see him going close with a clear round. Of course, that seemingly throwaway statement is material for a nag which has belted plenty in his career. Whilst he's definitely a better fencer this season, he's still prone to the odds lapse of focus.

Further down the lists, I'm not interested in Cape Tribulation on fast ground on a flat track. He's won handicaps on quick turf, but a Grade 1 is another matter entirely, especially a relatively slick circuit like this.

Quito De La Roque won here two years ago in the same race Silviniaco Conti won last year; but he's been off for 77 days and that's plenty long enough. In mitigation however, he does seem to go well fresh, as three wins and a Grade 1 third on his seasonal debuts attests.

He's classy on his day and acts on quick ground, even though his best form is probably with more give. At the price, he might be worth a tickle each way.

I can't have Menorah over this trip. He just doesn't stay and anyone who says he does is a liar. So there! 😉 He also doesn't jump very well and, while he is classy, there are too many negatives for me.

If I had to entertain the notion of one at a massive price, it'd be Wayward Prince. Well named after a couple of poor performances in muddy ground slogs, he's got plenty of track form. Indeed, in three runs here, he's 141, which includes a Grade 1 hurdles win and a Listed chase win in December. I'm not suggesting he'll win necessarily, but I do think 50/1 is worth a chuckaway win and place sniff.

Most likely winner: Silviniaco Conti Evens
Fair each way value: Quito de la Roque 11/1
Outsider with a squeak: Wayward Prince 50/1

Click here for the latest Betfred Bowl odds

3.05 JOHN SMITH´S AINTREE HURDLE GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) (2m4f)

The high class fare cracks on with a third Grade 1 in succession, this time the Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles. Serial winners are a feature of recent years, with first Al Eile (won the 4yo hurdle in 2004, then won this in 2005, 2007 and 2008), and latterly Oscar Whisky now bidding for the hat-trick after wins in 2011 and 2012.

Bizarrely, Oscar Whisky is fifth favourite here after a disastrous second tilt at the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he was never going and eventually pulled up. But I think he's over-priced, and here's why. He wasn't given a hard time of it last time. In fact, it could be argued he was given a racecourse gallop. Now that is of course a controversial thing to say, but one thing I can be sure of is this: his day of the season will be this day, and a lot of people may be kicking themselves a) for letting him go off a big price, and b) for not backing him.

I might be wrong, I often am, but 13/2 about a dual winner with optimal conditions in his favour is too big.

He's rated a pound inferior to Countrywide Flame (167 to CF's 168). The latter is an admirable sort, but he simply doesn't have the class of Oscar Whisky. He ran a blinder in the Champion Hurdle, and his second in the Cesarewitch over two and a quarter miles on the flat gives every indication he'll stay this far. He's tough, very tough, but I find it hard to see him beating OW.

Then there's Champion Hurdle fourth, Zarkandar. He seemed to be exposed as not quite good enough there and, though he ought to stay this far, his only attempt was when falling as favourite in this race last year. He was being pushed along at the time, and he might struggle to beat all-comers here.

Talk of fallers brings in Grandouet, a beast which has two F's in its last five runs, and which has a lot to prove over this trip. No thanks, though he could surprise me.

The aspirant in the camp is The New One, winner of the Neptune over this sort of trip at Cheltenham, and vanquisher of My Tent Or Yours in the Grade 2 bumper here last year. He's had five runs this year, which is plenty, and he had a fairly tough race at Cheltenham, so it says something for the shape of this book that he's favourite despite officially being a stone behind the pick of the more exposed runners.

Naturally, the key is in that last statement: he has upside where they mostly don't. So the question is, can The New One 'officially' improve a stone to win this (assuming one of the top four rated runs to par)? The answer for me is 'perhaps, but I don't want to take 11/4 about it'.

He's a lovely horse, but that's too short against seasoned professionals.

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Thousand Stars is an old bugger now, but he's run some fine races down the years, including when beaten a neck in this the last two years. If you can forgive his clunker last time on seriously quaggy turf, and he can rediscover the form of those two narrow defeats, he must have a squeak.

The rest don't look interesting to me, with so many possibles further up the lists.

Value Selection: Oscar Whisky 7/1
Each way alternative: Thousand Stars 11/1

Click here for the latest Aintree Hurdle odds

3.40 JOHN SMITH´S FOX HUNTERS´ CHASE (CLASS 2) (6yo+) (2m 5 1/2f)

OK, let's profile this one. It's a very different race from the Cheltenham Foxhunter's, as it is a) five furlongs shorter, and b) over the National fences.

All of the last sixteen winners have been between nine and twelve (79 horses older or younger have tried and failed to win in that time, with just five placed efforts to their names).

All bar two of the last sixteen winners finished 1-2-3 or fell or unseated last time under rules.

All bar two of the last sixteen winners came from the first four in the market.

And All bar two of the last sixteen winners ran within the last sixty days.

Pulling all that - bar the market - together gives us a shortlist of Silverburn, Rash Move, Boxer Georg, Battle Front, Cool Friend, Gwanako, Gentle George, Cottage Oak, Mourne Paddy and Warne.

Although the temptation is to get cute and look for a price here, it's sobering to note that apart from 50/1 Silver Adonis in 2010, every other winner in the last decade was 13/2 or shorter.

That leaves us Gwanako and Warne, and perhaps Cottage Oak. I'm against the last named as he had a tough old race at Cheltenham (though he does fit my Aintree April mini-system).

Gwanako has to be call though, despite the relatively short price. He's a Topham Chase winner over these fences, and he was also second in the same race. Against that, he has fallen twice over the fences too, so you need to have that in mind if wagering. But he's probably the best of these and, with plenty of local knowledge, will be tough to beat if standing up.

For those looking for an each way play, the natural place to start is with the above shortlist. Of those, Battlefront should love the ground and has an excellent pilot in Katie Walsh (bidding to win the Grand National on Saturday aboard Seabass, riding both for her 'old man', Ted).

Cool Friend might also run well: his two regulation runs here ended in a second in a decent field handicap hurdle, and a win in a novice chase. Still only ten, and a 'goer' on good ground, he's a big price at around 33/1 if he can recapture some of his best form. If.

Selection: Gwanako 5/1
Each way: Battlefront 20/1
Outsider with an each way squeak: Cool Friend 50/1

Click here for the latest Foxhunters' Chase odds

4.15 MATALAN.CO.UK RED RUM HANDICAP CHASE GRADE 3 (CLASS 1) (5yo+) (2m)

And so, finally, to the first of the handicaps. The first handicap here mimics the last handicap of the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand Annual, and as such horses running here which also ran there might be treated with caution. Then again, given that eight of the last thirteen winners ran at Cheltenham, most of them in the Grand Annual, we might not!

Fifteen of the last sixteen winners of this either finished in the first five last time out, or failed to finish. All bar three of that group were aged seven to nine. And only three winners in that group were able to win off a weight of more than 11-02. All save one of those sixteen were rated between 129 and 143.

That whittles the field of eighteen down to six: Rebel Rebellion, Viva Colonia, Pires, Kings Grey, Echo Bob and Silver Roque.

Rebel Rebellion seems versatile regarding trip and ground, though this combination may be close to optimal. Nevertheless, he's 13/2 in a big field and that is no better than fair.

Pires is next, and he has an obvious chance. Indeed, the obviousness of his chance may be his undoing, as he doesn't look to have hidden much from the handicapper. He goes on decent ground, the trip is spot on, and he's a winner, which I always like. Alas, his handicap mark has risen from 114 to 135 and that leaves less scope for improvement than some of these potentially.

Viva Colonia probably needs a bit further, and is overlooked here. Kings Grey is a strong traveller but doesn't find much usually. Echo Bob might be more interesting. He was third in this race last year off today's mark of 135, and shouldn't mind the ground. Saying that, he was beaten 21 lengths last term, and the Irish have a less than stellar record here (just two winners since 1991 and none since 2005.

All of which leaves Silver Roque. In the frame in ten of his eleven chase starts, and a winner last time out at the beginning of March, he comes here a fresher horse than many, and on an upward curve too. Whilst a mark of 133 is hardly 'thrown in', it's definitely workable, and trainer Fergal O'Brien knows what to do with a good'un. It's not a race I'll be getting too excited in, and I'll be saving a number of bullets in placepot terms for this, but Silver Roque at around 12/1 looks a decent each way shout.

Possible each way: Silver Roque 12/1

Click here for the latest Red Rum handicap chase odds

4.50 BETFRED MANIFESTO NOVICES´ CHASE GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (5yo+) (2m4f)

A fourth Grade 1 on the card, and this time it's the novice chasers strutting their stuff. The lop-sided book here has Captain Conan in at 6/4 or so but, based on official ratings, that looks short enough. The Captain is joint second top-rated on 152 with Changing Times, and they're both two pounds behind Fago and only two in front of His Excellency.

In truth, it's a bugger's muddle of a race, with plenty looking to redeem themselves after disappointing efforts, including Captain Conan. In the circumstances, I'm looking for a horse about whose recent failure I can find a ready excuse. And the one which is easiest to forgive is Carlito Brigante.

In a nutshell, Carlito Brigante is a very high class good ground horse. He just doesn't act on soft. Quite why he was sent off at 8/1 at Cheltenham on soft ground is beyond me, and with firmer footing assured, he looks good enough and well enough matched to conditions to run a big race.

With three places to go at, I'm more than happy to side with CB. He has a hurdle mark the equal of most of these chase marks (153) and has clearly had his own fencing mark 'managed' with a view to a big tilt at the Centenary Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. That was ground dependant and went west, but I expect him to far outrun his official peg this time.

Captain Conan has never run on ground quicker than soft four times, and they're the only four times he's been beaten in UK. If you want 6/4 about that, good luck!

Fago is almost certainly over the top for the season (six runs already) and has also shown all his best form on slower turf. He was thumped in a short field on good ground the last day, and is waaaaay too short to be a play.

Changing Times ran a blinder at Cheltenham to be third, but he's another which prefers softer ground. He also might not be quite as scopey as some of these. Not for me, though he's admirably tough.

The one other of slight interest is the David Pipe-trained His Excellency. This fellow could have run in the Red Rum race half an hour earlier, but has been re-routed here instead. He was going well when falling three out in the Grand Annual and has a consistent profile. He won't mind the ground but all his form is at two miles and the extra half mile here is a big question mark. At around 12/1, you might be prepared to take that chance, and he should go well for a long time even if his stamina doesn't last out. (This flat track will give him every chance of getting home).

Selection: Carlito Brigante 8/1
Each way alternative: His Excellency 14/1

Click here for the latest Manifesto Chase odds

5.25 SILVER CROSS HANDICAP HURDLE GRADE 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) (3m 1/2f)

And we close with an impossible handicap hurdle. This is not a race to go mad in, and I'm looking for a horse aged six to eight; carrying eleven stone or less; and rated 126 to 140 or so.

My shortlist is Sixty Something, Hada Men, Connectivity and Battle Group.

Sixty Something won a much weaker novices' handicap hurdle over course and distance and on good ground last October, proving his affection for conditions. This is a marked step up in class, but he has commensurately less weight as a consequence. He's a fairly lightly raced novice, so has scope to improve and could just be up to a race like this. He's been backed this morning but 16/1 still around in bits and pieces.

Hada Men is trained by that shrewdie amongst shrewdies, Venetia Williams. She's won plenty of Festival handicaps in recent years, including with Carrickboy at 50/1 at Cheltenham. This fellow ran all right at Cheltenham behind Holywell, and will be much better suited to this flat track (his wins have come at places like Haydock, Doncaster and Folkestone). He's a right to run better than odds of 40/1 suggest.

Connectivity comes here on his second run off a long layoff, and it's possible he could bounce as a consequence. But Dr Richard Newland is another wily old fox, and he too can ready one for the big pots. Connectivity's wins are around three miles on good ground and, while he too needs to step up in class, he's got a racing weight so to do. 20/1 is fine.

Finally, Battle Group was the winner of this two years ago off a six pounds higher mark. He's been in reasonable form and sneaks in here off bottom weight and with conditions optimal. While you won't get rich backing favourites in handicaps of this nature, he's a logical sort for a race like this, and 9/1 or so represents good saver material if you must go long in this contest.

Three against the field: Sixty Something 20/1, Hada Men 40/1, Connectivity 20/1
Saver type: Battle Group 9/1

Click here for the latest Silver Cross handicap hurdle odds

Aintree System Qualifiers

My simple Aintree system has thrown out the following picks today:

First Lieutenant (IRE) 2.30 Aintree 7/2
Countrywide Flame 3.05 Aintree 4/1
The New One (IRE) 3.05 Aintree 11/4
Cottage Oak (IRE) 3.40 Aintree 7/1

Typically, I'm not that keen on any of them, but one winner amongst the quartet would pay for the losers.

Aintree Placepot Bankers and Blowouts

I'm not going to share my entire Aintree day one placepot here, mainly because I haven't finished pulling it together. But I will offer a couple of horses I'll be relying on, and a couple I'm fielding against.

Firstly, on the banker side, I'm putting a fair bit of my placepot faith in Irish Saint in the first, and Silviniaco Conti in the second. I'm hopeful that both of those two horses will at least make the frame for the Denizen of Ditcheat (Paul Nicholls, if you prefer).

On the blowout front, I'm trying to get the following out of the frame: Rolling Star in race one; Bold Addition in the Foxhunters'; Kid Cassidy in the Red Rum; and both Captain Conan and Fago in the Manifesto Novices' Chase.

Obviously, even if I get most of that right, there's still plenty of work to do. That's why the placepot is a bet worth playing!

Best of luck to all.

Matt

p.s. what are your best bets of day one? Placepot bankers and blowouts? Leave a comment and let us know.

Aintree Day One Preview and Tips

Aintree Day One Tips/Preview

Aintree Day One Tips/Preview

Racing's National Hunt roadshow heads Northwest for three days of high class racing and, of course, the biggest jewel in any of any equine sporting crown, the Grand National itself. Whilst we'll have to wait for Saturday for that great race, there is much to entertain between now and then, and many a fine (and awful!) punting opportunity.

First, let's talk about a few good ways to stand a winning chance at Aintree. Here are my three top tips for coming out in front here:

1. Avoid the handicaps! Only nine of the 69 handicaps run in recent seasons during the Aintree April meeting have been won by a horse priced 6/1 or shorter. It's very, very hard to find handicap winners.

2. Don't expect Cheltenham form to stand up necessarily. 65 of the 83 Cheltenham winners who came to Aintree were beaten, with just eleven horses priced at evens or greater winning from the 73 who attempted the follow up.

3. Beware the 'over the top' horse. This is by far the hardest to quantify, but it seems best to focus on runners with between two and four runs since the turn of the year. These animals, when priced at 40/1 or shorter, hit the frame more than 27%. Bizarrely, concentrating on those who haven't won in that time turns a profit of 127 point! This is likely down to the 'under the radar' nature of them. In any case, look to relatively lightly seasoned campaigners.

OK, that's my top tips for playing Aintree. Now let's look at Thursday's races, and it's a game of (roughly) two halves, with the first four races being non-handicaps, and the last three races featuring two of those pesky weight-related affairs.

We kick off at 2pm, with...

2.00 Aintree - BGC PARTNERS LIVERPOOL HURDLE GRADE 1

A stayers' hurdle, and so clearly the province of Mr Big Buck's himself. He's 1/5 to win this afternoon and, whilst I couldn't possible suggest betting against him in the win pool, there are reasons to look elsewhere.

Principal amongst these is the fact that, as I write, the race is a 'dead eight' affair, meaning three each way places, and some bookmakers are going a quarter the odds a place. Moreover, one bookmaker - bet365 - is also best place price on anything you like outside of the front two in the betting!

Let's just deal with Big Buck's first. He's won sixteen straight over hurdles and is going for a record today. He was probably more impressive than he's ever been last time out, when Voler La Vedette threatened to beat him before BB showed scrapping ability for the first time (i.e. the first time he's had to over hurdles in Britain).

That was a hard race, and it may have made his mark. But this is a weaker contest by far. The waxing Smad Place and the waning Tidal Bay are next in officially, fully a stone behind the champ. Smad Place finished a creditable third at Cheltenham behind BB, without ever threatening to take the champ on.

He definitely had an easier race than King BB, and his previous flat track form gives him strong place prospects. He's more likely to stay this less daunting three miles than he was last time and is clearly the most obvious 'danger'.

For pin money, if you want to play each way here, there's a 66/1 chance who might just step up a gear or two on what he's done in recent times this afternoon. Say hello to our old friend, Crack Away Jack.

Form figures of 50P this season are hardly encouraging, but let's look more closely at how they were accumulated. The initial fifth place was in a blundering, bungling round of jumping at Cheltenham last November at the Open meeting; the 0 was when never put into the race in an Ascot handicap hurdle; and the P was when bungling and blundering his way around the Byrne Group Plate course as a 13/2 chance!

He's since switched stables - from Paul Nicholls to Tom George - and the latter is having a 'season mirabilis', so it could be hoped that improvement for the change of scenery will follow.

Crack Away Jack was fourth in the 2009 Champion Hurdle, so has plenty of speed and class, assets which are ideal for this race. The ground will be fine and, if you can buy a small bar of the 'back class' notion, then you'll be happy enough to attempt a 66/4 (or 16/1) place burglary for small beer here.

Latest Liverpool Hurdle Odds

Selection: Big Buck's 2/9
Next best: Smad Place 6/1
Interesting outsider: Crack Away Jack 66/1

2.30 Aintree - MATALAN ANNIVERSARY 4-Y-O JUVENILE HURDLE GRADE 1

It's time for the babies to take centre stage, and the Liverpool Triumph Hurdle, aka the Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle. A very good race won by some very good horses in recent times - Detroit City, Katchit, Binocular, Walkon, and Zarakandar - it has also been won by some bombs.

Indeed, it's a bit of a chalk and cheese race for punters, with six winning favourites four 16/1+ winners. There were winners at 40/1 and 33/1 in that quartet.

Looking at the form, and the highest rated horse is Countrywide Flame, who did many geegeez readers a favour when winning at Cheltenham. He's the highest rated because he's performed to the highest level, and he should - in my opinion - be favourite.

Countrywide Flame is versatile as regards ground, having won on soft and good; he was third in a Leopardstown Grade 1 as well as winning the Grade 1 Triumph; and, despite having had fourteen races since this time last year (the first of which was a Class 6 Wolverhampton handicap!), he's only had two runs in 2012, so comes here relatively fresh, but also with bags of experience.

His Cheltenham form was not a fluke and he'll be tough to beat.

Of the vanquished that day, perhaps the most realistic table-turners are the third- and fourth-placed horses, Grumeti and Dodging Bullets. I'd been a bit unkind to Grumeti prior to Cheltenham, largely because he hadn't really achieved a lot in his prior starts.

Well, considering he clouted the last in the Triumph, he did well to get a place, and he is clearly almost as good as connections think he is. That might be good enough this afternoon, and he's hard to ignore from a placepot perspective at least.

Dodging Bullets is much less exposed, and both his two runs to date have been in good class. First, he was beaten a length and a half by Grumeti in the Grade 2 Dovecote Hurdle, which at the time looked to lack depth. Then he was fourth in the Grade 1 Triumph, getting to within half a length of Grumeti.

It's reasonable then to argue that improvement might take Dodging Bullets past Grumeti, and that would give him a strong winning chance. While that's certainly possible, I'm happier to side with the two who finished in front of him at Cheltenham.

Of the rags, Gottany O's has been very well supported this morning. His Newbury defeat of Lyvius was impressive, but then he curled up behind Guess Again at Hexham when sent off 1/3. It's hard to know what to make of Gottany O's, but he obviously has ability when he wants to show it, and 25/1 with Stan James is still available.

One who might be getting the hang of this hurdling thing and is 66/1 in a couple of places, is Eagle Rock. He's been second three times, including behind Countrywide Flame; won last time out; goes on any ground; and, is trained by the excellent Tom Tate. He probably won't be good enough to make the frame, but at those odds, perhaps it's a small beer chance worth taking...

Latest Anniversary Hurdle Odds

Selection: Countrywide Flame 5/1
Next best: Grumeti 7/2
Interesting outsider: Eagle Rock 66/1

3.05 Aintree - BETFRED BOWL CHASE GRADE 1

Ah, the totesport... sorry, I mean, Betfred... Bowl. An excellent Grade 1, worthy of its stature. And this season, it has much interest indeed. No horse bigger than 14/1 has won in recent years, which means it's something of a punter-friendly race to boot.

This year, there are six horses from the eleven entries that align to that criterion, and I'd be wagering at pretty short odds that one of them prevails. But which?

The jolly is Riverside Theatre, yet another Cheltenham Festival winner bidding to follow up. But we already know that most of them don't, especially when odds against, and I'm against this chap. He had his headlines when his famous owner - and now almost as famous stable lad  - copped for plenty on Festival Thursday in the Ryanair.

Of course it's possible he'll win, but his fencing was a bit sticky early last time, and I'm not sure how many races he'll take close together. In fact, this is the first time he's had three races in a little over two months since 2009. Then, he won the first but was beaten on both subsequent starts. He might be older and stronger now, but at the price, I'm going elsewhere.

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Burton Port is next in for the same trainer, and he ran another cracker to confirm form with Long Run in the Gold Cup. He won around here at this meeting in 2010, and comes here with a decent chance if that last run hasn't bashed him up too much. I respect his chance without seeing him as the winner.

Next in is the incredible Hunt Ball, a horse that - literally - just keeps winning. The demolition job he performed off top weight in the novices' handicap chase at Cheltenham was brutal. And, whilst the phrase 'novices handicap chase' is hardly the ideal prep for 'Grade 1 Festival Chase', there's no denying the most vertical of upward profiles merits a shot at the big time.

I'd love to see him win, and I can envisage it. He actually won under twelve stone last time with his ears pricked! That has earned him a rating of 154, fully sixteen pounds below Riverside Theatre, and only the eighth best of eleven here. But. But... But! He's worthy of 154++, as that last run implied there was still a fair bit more to come.

How much more is the question. He went up twelve pounds for the Festival win, and he needs to improve around another stone to win here. Given that he started the season rated 69 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), it's been a phenomenal rattle already, and I won't be backing him today. But if there's one horse I'd cheer when my money's been done, it's this one.

The trainer used to be his jockey; the owner's a nut job who jumped on the back when he came into the unsaddling enclosure one time (behind the jock!); and they've improved 85 pounds in ability this season. Brilliant.

Wiping away the mists of sentiment and getting back to the cold numbers, Medermit must have a chance on any line of form you care to choose. Of course, he should be thereabouts.  But therein lies the problem: he's a 'thereabouts' sort of horse.

Third, beaten a length in the Ryanair; second, beaten three lengths in the Ascot Chase; second, beaten three-quarters of a length in the December Gold Cup; third in the Amlin Chase; second in a Grade 2 here last year; and so it goes on.

The record shows that Medermit has been placed five times in the last year, but won only once - and that was when Captain Chris gifted him the race in the Haldon Gold Cup. Deserves it, but not carrying my money. Ever!

All of which to'ing and fro'ing brings me to my idea of the winner. Here's a clue: he won it last year. Yes, good old Nacarat, who has been having last hoorah's for about two seasons now.

The keys to this horse are simple: flat tracks and just below the very top class. This race fits the bill perfectly. And, before you cry, 'but he's an eleven year old', consider this: six of the last ten winners were aged in double figures (four aged ten, two aged eleven).

He comes here in form - bolted up in a Grade 3 chase at Kempton last time; he swerved Cheltenham, rendering him a fresh horse; and he obviously likes conditions, which are exactly the same as last year, when he beat a field including 177-rated Denman, amongst others.

In truth, it looks more competitive this year, but track/trip/class form is always an attractive proposition for me, and at 12/1 BOG, he looks a value play.

Follow The Plan was third at 40/1 last year, and he's 66/1 this time. He'll probably be further back than third today, but you never know. At least he likes the place!

Latest Betfred Bowl Odds

Selection: Nacarat 12/1
Next best: Burton Port 9/2
Interesting outsider: Follow The Plan 66/1

3.40 Aintree - JOHN SMITH´S FOX HUNTERS´ CHASE (CLASS 2)

Ah, the foxhunters. And over the National fences to boot. Twenty-six of them. Amateur riders. Lovely. Ahem.

Actually, I'm really looking forward to this race, both as a spectacle and a punting proposition. After one of my bets of the meeting came home in front in the Cheltenham Foxhunters, I'm believing that that one swallow makes me a bather in hunter chasing summer sun... if you see what I mean.

In any case, I'll cut to the chase here: aged 9-11 (14 of last 15); first three or fell/unseated last time (14/15); no rating or 120+ (14/15); ran in last sixty days (13/15); first three in the betting (12/15).

The winner is Gwanako. Dangers are My Way de Solzen and Silver Adonis.

Job done. 🙂

OK, it may well not be as simple as that. But in a race where you're relying on amateur riders over 2m6f of the National course, don't over-think your falling wager!

Latest Foxhunters' Chase Odds

Selection: Gwanako 4/1
Next best: My Way de Solzen 7/1
Interesting outsider: Silver Adonis 14/1

4.15 Aintree - MATALAN.CO.UK RED RUM HANDICAP CHASE GRADE 3

And then it got tricky (if it hadn't already). In truth, I'll only be trying to get through the placepot by this point, assuming I'm still going. This is a very trappy race, and I was surprised to see all the horses I like are big prices. This means I'll have very (very!) small interest bets and hope to get it right for aforementioned placepot purposes.

Six to nine year olds have dominated, which removes only three horses but all three fancied: likely favourite Edgardo Sol, Kumbeshwar, and well backed Oiseau de Nuit.

A top five finish last time, or a failure to complete, would have found fourteen of the last fifteen winners. Cheerio to De Boitron, Tara Royal, Kid Cassidy (another fancied runner) and Astracad.

Horses rated 129 to 143 have won fourteen of the last fifteen renewals. Takeroc is rated 145 and is left in, as a horse with strong track form. But Tanks For That and Oiseau de Nuit (again) are surely too highly weighted, off 155 and 152 respectively, to give lead all round here.

That leaves Silk Drum, Free World, Echo Bob and Song Sung Blue. Plus Takeroc. These are priced up at 10/1, 10/1, 22/1, 28/1 and 22/1 respectively. So don't expect me to play a shortie here.

Last year's winner Silk Drum looks to have been trained for this, and is actually a few pounds lower than he was in 2011. His trainer, Dianne Sayer, is in excellent form and I think he'll run close.

The Irish burglar, Free World might be the one though. A faller when going well in the Grand Annual, for which he'd been punted, a clear round will put him right in the shake up, especially when he receives an extra seven pounds from Tanks For That and two pounds from Kumbeshwar (level with De Boitron).

Takeroc is interesting. A winner here in October, and a swerver of the Festival, he comes here a fresh horse. Placed in thirteen of his twenty chase starts, I can see him again making the frame under my mate, Harry Derham (rarely fails to deliver, very promising pilot).

That leaves the other Irish raider, Echo Bob, and the other Tizzard runner, Song Sung Blue. It's my suspicion that the latter wants a stiffer track, and probably isn't good enough anyway, whilst Echo Bob just doesn't win often enough. Just two victories from 29 starts mean I'm happy to let him beat me if today is to be three from thirty.

Latest Red Rum Handicap Chase Odds

Selection: Free World 10/1
Next best: Silk Drum 10/1
Interesting outsider: Takeroc 22/1

4.50 Aintree - BETFRED MANIFESTO NOVICES´ CHASE GRADE 1

More Grade 1 action, this time for the two and a half mile novices. In truth, it's a very disappointing turn out for good prize money and a prestigious pot.

Al Ferof ought to win this, and I'll be banking on him in the placepot. He made a shuddering error when asked to go too quick last time, and this longer trip without the pace pressers which contributed to that Cheltenham undoing looks perfect. I've actually had a decent bet at 6/5, as I think he's 'bar a fall' material.

Obviously, Menorah is a danger. Indeed, he finished in front of Al Ferof the last day. But that was a day when jumping frailties were reversed, as it had been typical of Menorah - not Al Ferof - to blunder. Menorah is a very good horse and, to me at least, is the only conceivable danger.

Pepite Rose, who is second favourite, beat a 134 rated horse when herself only rated 135 last time. She's gone up fifteen pounds for that and still has to improve another ten pounds to beat Al Ferof if he runs to his mark. At the price, she's easy for me to swerve.

This is Cristal Bonus' sort of trip, track and ground, and he ought to run back to form. But, even if he does, I can't see him beating Al Ferof.

Latest Manifesto Chase Odds

Selection: Al Ferof 6/5
Next best: Menorah 6/1
Interesting outsider: Cristal Bonus 15/2

5.25 Aintree - SILVER CROSS HANDICAP HURDLE GRADE 3

We close out Day One with a very trappy handicap hurdle. Do not be fooled by its Graded status: this is hard to pick the winner!

In recent times, you've needed a decent priced horse, who finished in the first four last time out, was aged between five and eight, and who ran within the last thirty days.

I'm not going to get too stuck into form here, as in truth, this race is a bit beyond my compass. It certainly fits into point 1 of my three tips for Aintree.

One I think will run well at a decent price is Veiled, and she's available at 12/1 (or 10/1 with five places at Bet365). I will be having a small each way tickle on her, but otherwise you're on your own here!

Latest Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle Odds

Selection: Veiled 12/1 (10/1 five places with bet365)

Placepot picks are as follows, using the A/B method.

Race 1 - A 2
Race 2 - A 2, B 3,6
Race 3 - A 1, 7, B 5, 8
Race 4 - A 8, B 16, 21
Race 5 - A 3, 11, B 4, 9
Race 6 - A 1

Use the ticket builder here to create the slips. If I'm still going, and it's worth it, I'll be laying Al Ferof for a place to cover my stakes.

Who do you like today? Leave a comment, and let us all know!

Matt