We have a great meeting lined-up at Aintree, culminating in the greatest horserace on the planet – the Grand National. There will be a lot said over the next few days about safety, and horses, and jump-racing in particular. From my point of view, you cannot be a lover of the horse and oppose horseracing. The Grand National, being the most famous horserace in the world, is the focus for opponents of horseracing. But, if the Grand National is lost, that focus won't go away, it will simply move-on to another race and chip-away at what forms a huge part of the national character. Horses and Britain are indelibly linked.
We have some great racing today at Aintree. From the 1st race at 2:00 we have high-class fare, and the opener has been won by some really good hurdlers in the past few years. This race is dominated by trainers Henderson and Nicholls and I think it will be IRISH SAINT from Paul Nicholls yard that will take this. Even so, this won't be a betting race for me, as I'm waiting for what look to be more secure targets later in the afternoon.
Next up is the Betfred Bowl, a Grade 1 chase over 3m1f, and what a field we have for this. The hot-fav is SILVINIACO CONTI and I really cannot see this horse getting beat today. The ground is in his favour, as well as the trip and course – he won here last April over C&D as a novice chaser. Odds of "evens" are not generous in my opinion tho' as he took what looked a heavy fall in the Gold Cup and he will need to show there are no ill-effects from that race today. I cannot see First Lieutenant troubling the fav, even tho' this extended 3-mile trip will suit him a lot better than the Ryanair trip of 2m5f; I just don't think the horse is god enough. And the same can be said for Quito De La Roque who looks out of his depth. The ground will almost certainly be too quick for The Giant Bolster, and that brings me to that grand servant CAPE TRIBULATION. As I wrote yesterday, he also won here at Aintree last year, taking the handicap hurdle over 3m1f with 11st 12lb. As such, he will have no trouble handing this "good" ground and he could have too much speed for these over the final couple of fences and on the run-in. I took 10/1 eachway to ½pt yesterday thinking that he'd be 6/1 at the 'off', but he's 14/1 as I write with Bet365 and Stan James (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3) which I think is great value.
The John Smith Hurdle over 2m4f is at 3:05, and I think the new kid on the block, The New One can be opposed. Sure, he was a ready winner of the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival, but that race did not look as strong as we've seen in recent years. In my mind, the winner of this race will come from either Countrywide Flame @ 9/2, or Zarkandar @ 6/1. Of these, I favour the former as the 5yo Countrywide Flame was staying-on strongest when 3rd in the Champion Hurdle. The 2nd-fav Grandouet is a far from safe hurdler and falls too often for my liking. Zarkandar has long been thought to want this extended trip of 2m4f, but he looked one-paced on the Champion Hurdle and tho' he stayed-on that day he wasn't running-on in the manner Countrywide Flame was.
I've been studying the Grand National form and there are several that catch my eye initially. First-off, I don't like the fav On His Own as he fell on the 2nd-circuit last year in the National, and falling late in any race is a sign of fatigue. I do like the look of the next couple in the market, Seabass and Cappa Bleu who were both placed last year and are coming into this years race well prepared. I especially like Cappa Bleu as he ran a cracker at Ascot LTO. Colbert Station is an interesting runner, tho' for a horse so short on chasing experience his odds are very short at 11/1. Chicago Grey never really had a race in this last year and he started at 20/1. This year he comes into it with a perfect preparation and runs off a 7lb lower rating, he looks to have a great chance. One horse that looks to have slipped under the radar is QUEL ESPIRIT @ 50/1, tho' his big weight of 11st 7lb may prevent him winning he could be in the 1st-6 home so look out for bookies' who are paying 6-places eachway. Another is LOST GLORY @ 50/1 who has been kept off the track since the autumn as he is not a soft ground horse, but he will stay all day long.
It is likely that we will have a bottom-weight of 10st this year so I am not expecting a winner to carry more than 11st this year. I think that last horse to carry more than 14lbs greater than the bottom weight to victory was 3-time winner RED RUM. Weight in the National stops horses from winning. Those under 11st that I expect to be there at the finish are CAPPA BLEU, CHICAGO GREY, QUEL ESPIRIT and LOST GLORY. My final selection will be advised on Saturday morning.
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