Value Bet: Alvarado a Grand bet
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on Crabbie's Grand National day at Aintree, and he's keen on a Fergal O'Brien-trained horse.
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The Crabbie's Grand National. It remains the toughest test on the planet for racehorse and jockey, the finest spectacle for racing fans and the trickiest of puzzles for punters.
The modifications made recently add another dimension and a whole set of different questions - is previous form over the fences as important as it used to be? And the way the handicapper frames the race these days - does it favour the classier horses?
When you think of the victories for Don't Push It and Ballabriggs and Neptune Collonges you would have to say yes to the latter, though last year's winner Auroras Encore was one of ten horses in the top 11 that carried under 11 stone.
Old trends may have to be thrown out of the window - it was said French bred horses couldn't win it and then came along Mon Mome and Neptune Collonges, while older horses have certainly done better than their younger counterparts in recent years.
The best thing might be to concentrate on the formbook and such homework will tell you that Teaforthree, Tidal Bay, Long Run, Burton Port, Rocky Creek and The Package all have good chances.
However, they are all shorter than 20/1 and picking between them isn't easy. Perhaps Burton Port, a horse that is very well handicapped on his old form, and The Package, a horse that looks even better now than he did on Friday morning thanks to the victories of Holywell and Ma Filleule, could be the two.
Both are tempting, but the one horse I think is the wrong price in the race is Fergal O'Brien's ALVARADO at 40/1.
He's been on my radar all week, but with the rain forecast I didn't think I'd be siding with him as he needs good ground. Yet the precipitation missed Aintree - they are even watering on Friday evening - and conditions look perfect for him.
The negatives are he hasn't run over the Aintree fences before (is it as important - neither had Ma Filleule) and he can be a tricky customer having refused twice in his career.
But, there are plenty of positives. He jumped really well when landing the Murphy Group Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November - a race that has been a good pointer to the National in the past (Don't Push It was second in it the season he won at Aintree).
That was the furthest he's ever been, three and a half miles, and he just outstayed them, promising to relish a trip over even further.
The form of that race is also outstanding. Second was Cleeve Hurdle winner Knockara Beau, fourth was subsequent Cheltenham winner Monbeg Dude, eighth was Kim Muir winner Spring Heeled and 10th was Midlands National winner Goulanes.
Racing off a 10lb higher mark than when he won at Cheltenham, Alvarado sneaks in towards the bottom of the weights for the Ruckers, who have had placed horses in the last five Nationals thanks to the antics of State Of Play and Cappa Bleu.
Under a patient ride from Paul Moloney, Alvarado can make it six - if he takes to the fences!
I also have to take the 25/1 about Willie Mullins' PRINCE DE BEAUCHENE, a horse that has long looked a likely type for Aintree.
In fact, he's been ante-post favourite for this race in previous years but has never made the contest until now.
However, he's always looked to have the right tools for this unique test given he's a sound jumper, races prominently and he promises to stay - his half-brother Miko de Beauchene won the 2007 Welsh National.
His effort when fourth in the Kinloch Brae Chase in January was a season's best and he's now 8lb below his highest ever rating over fences.
It's a fine undercard too, with Whisper perhaps the one to be on in the Silver Cross Stayers' Hurdle with the Coral Cup form boosted (Clondaw Kaempfer, Meister Eckhart) and Nicky Henderson back in sparkling form.
Prices around 5/1 look fair but I really like the look of a couple of likely improvers in the Maxilead Metals Handicap Hurdle at 5.10.
STRONGPOINT is worth a bet at 20/1 now dropped 3lb following the County Hurdle. He raced on the outside for much of the race and is better judged on his earlier form when making all.
If the talented Steven Crawford can get him travelling in a prominent position, ideally closer to the inside, he could power away from them in the straight as he stays much further.
In the same contest MASSINIS TRAP also appeals in a first-time hood for Irish handler James Nash.
He was a good eighth in the Boylesports.com Hurdle in January but looking at his overall record he looks sure to improve now racing on better ground.
Katie Walsh takes over in the saddle and if they go too fast up front, this hold-up merchant could well pick up the pieces.
1pt e.w Alvarado in 4.15 Aintree at 40/1
1pt e.w Prince De Beauchene in 4.15 Aintree at 25/1
1pt win Massinis Trap in 5.10 Aintree at 25/1
1pt win Strongpoint in 5.10 Aintree at 20/1
Ben Linfoot's Value Bet Aim: The Value Bet is designed to generate long-term profit by searching for overpriced horses in the feature weekend races and at the big Festivals in the UK. Running total: +221.81pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).