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Thursday 4 April 2019

Aintree Grand National meeting - Day 1

For me, the Aintree Grand National meeting is just as exciting as the Cheltenham Festival.  I've been watching horseracing since I was a toddler, and my earliest memory is watching Freddie - the 7/2 fav for the 1965 Grand National - beaten under a length in a close finish by Jay Trump. Watching the old black & white film of the race on YouTube, you are reminded of just how huge Bechers Brook used to be.
We've come a long way since then, and the National fences have been completely re-designed and remodelled, and the length of the race has been reduced, but - somehow - the magic pull of the race still captures the imagination of the public and, for 15 minutes, nothing else matters.
I have already written my appraisal of the big race on Saturday, and I was going to wait until Friday evening before posting it, but I think I'm going to post my Grand National preview this evening as I'm expecting some significant betting market moves in the final 24 hours before the race at 5:15pm on Saturday and I do not want readers to miss out on what could be some considerable value in the market.  My expectation is that the support for the fav Tiger Roll will subside and he will lengthen in the market from his current 4/1 odds, and that there will be major moves for several other entries. Over the past week, the more I've looked at the Grand National form, the more competitive a race I think it will be - it looks like being a cracker.  

On to today's racing from Aintree, and in the opening race at 1:45pm the Manifesto Novices' Chase over 2m4f, the mare La Bague Au Roi looks a worthy fav, and odds of 7/4 (with Paddy Power) look fair value. Long time readers of this blog know that I do not recommend wagers on horses that are under 9/4, that's not my angle, so while I expect the mare to run well and win I can't recommend having a wager on her. But she may not have things all her own way, and I reckon that BAGS GROOVE could push her all the way.  He ran a stinker at Kempton on Boxing Day when La Bague Au Roi beat him over 3-miles, but he's since won again over this trip at Kempton, and at his best he's not far off the level of the fav.  Before Cheltenham, I thought Glen Forsa needed to find 15lb to win the Arkle, and I think he will have his limitations exposed in this race today, and while Kalashnikov should run better going left-handed here, he also needs to find about 10lb of improvement to win this.  On known form, both Mengli Khan and Spiritofthegames look outclassed.  For me, BAGS GROOVE at 8/1 looks a fair eachway wager (quarter-odds a place 1st or 2nd).

At 2:20pm the Juvenile Hurdle over 2-mile & 1-furlong looks to be in the hands of Triumph Hurdle winner PENTLAND HILLS, and I'm surprised that odds of 9/4 are available, as he looks the best 4yo hurdler in this race.  Is he value? For that you have to reckon he should be considerably shorter in the betting than 9/4, and I don't as to be value I would have to rate Pentland Hills a 5/4 chance and I don't, he's probably a 7/4 chance. 
The Betway Bowl at at 2:50pm over 3-mile & 1-furlong has a select band of top class chasers. I'm discounting Balko De Flos and Elegant Escape as they just aren't good enough at this level. The grey Bristol De Mai never seems to run well after Cheltenham and was easily beaten in this race in 2017 and 2018. Maybe he's a better horse now, but I'm not so sure.  Road To Respect is one of the most consistent chasers in training, and this trip and track could be right up his street. He has to find over 7-lengths to beat Kemboy based on their meeting at Leopardstown over 3-mile on 28th December, but that race was run at a slow tempo, and the resultant quicker pace over the final half-mile perhaps suited Kemboy better than Road To Respect. As for Clan Des Obeaux, I think he had a hard race at Cheltenham and he was also beaten in this race last year (finished behind Bristol De Mai).  All things considered, I think ROAD TO RESPECT is the way to go in this, and odds of 5/1 look decent considering he has no questions to answer, while each of the other rivals does.

BUVEUR D'AIR won the Aintree hurdle over 2-mile & 4-furlongs in 2017 with perhaps the best performance of his career, and I cannot see him losing this race today. Nothing else comes close to him on ratings or likely performance, and he could well go off at odds-on.

I'm giving the Foxhunters Chase over the National fences, and the Red Rum handicap chase over 2-miles a miss, as well tas the closing bumper.

My best bet of the day is ROAD TO RESPECT @ 5/1 (available generally) in the 2:50pm Betway Bowl.

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