Our racing expert Ben Linfoot seeks out the best value bets on day one of the Grand National meeting at Aintree with a Jonjo O'Neill-trained horse fancied.
Recommended Bets: Grand National Meeting Day One
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Aintree begins with a bang with four Grade Ones kicking off the Grand National meeting and the age old ‘how will they have come out of Cheltenham’ question hangs over all of those races.
In the Betway Bowl all six horses ran at Cheltenham and only getting as far as the first in the Gold Cup could well be a blessing in disguise for Kemboy, who holds solid claims.
His jumping has become a slight concern now but three miles around Aintree looks ideal for him and he didn’t have a hard race in the Gold Cup, unlike Bristol De Mai and Clan Des Obeaux, who looks like he needs to go right-handed to be at his very best.
In the opening Devenish Manifesto Novices’ Chase La Bague Au Roi brings the freshness angle to the table after purposely being kept out of battle at Cheltenham and she deserves to be a hot favourite.
Her form has worked out well all season long and the 7lb sex allowance gives her an extra edge. Richard Johnson will likely be aggressive from the front and I don’t want to take her on.
Likewise, Pentland Hills and Band Of Outlaws look to have the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle between themselves and, while it’s difficult to pick between the pair, it’s hard to see both of them being turned over.
Bets are thin on the ground in the Grade Ones, then, but the Betway Aintree Hurdle at 3.25 has a nice each-way shape to it with Buveur D’Air the 10/11 favourite in a nine-runner race.
He loves Aintree and if he can cut out the mistakes he’ll likely win with ease, but his low jumping is a concern following Kempton and Cheltenham, particularly his fall at the latter track in the Champion Hurdle where he took off far too early.
At the prices I’m happy to take him on and I don’t like those immediately behind him in the betting.
Faugheen had a really tough race in the Stayers’ Hurdle, ditto Supasundae, while Melon seems to reserve his best for Cheltenham and Verdana Blue doesn’t look like she’s gagging to be stepped up in trip.
A third place in the Champion Hurdle rather fell into Silver Streak’s lap, Ch’tibello looks a good handicapper and Brain Power showed nothing in the Champion Hurdle, while his stamina would be a worry as well.
Process of elimination leads us to SUMMERVILLE BOY (33/1 bet365, 28/1 General, 1/5 1,2,3) and those odds do look to underestimate him considering it’s not that long ago he was 12/1 for the Champion Hurdle.
That was on the back of an excellent novice campaign where he won two Grade Ones in the Tolworth and Sky Bet Supreme, the latter a remarkable win after a couple of late mistakes that should’ve really meant the end of his challenge.
On those runs he shaped like he’d thrive over further and the hairline fracture that has kept him off the track so far this year could well be a viable excuse for his lacklustre run at Cheltenham in December.
It looks significant that trainer Tom George, who has had some high-profile wins at this meeting before, has got him back in time for Aintree and I’m of the firm opinion he’s going to be a better horse over this trip.
He’ll have to step up to win this but he remains a horse with potential, unlike the rest of the field, and at 33s I’m happy to take a chance on his fitness in this line-up.
The big handicap of the day is the Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase at 4.40 and the key to this race could well be a rip-roaring gallop with a plethora of prominent racers in the field.
Theflyingportrait, McGroarty, Cracking Find, Addrastos, Molineaux and Azzuri have all raced prominently in the past and they could well help force a solid pace that would play right into the hands of CHAMPAGNE AT TARA (22/1 1/5 1,2,3,4,5 General).
Jonjo O’Neill’s horse needs a strong gallop over two miles to be at his best and there was plenty of encouragement from his ninth-placed effort in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham last time, a track that doesn’t suit.
He’s never really acted around Cheltenham, but with that in mind he ran quite well, beaten 13 lengths, and the way he finished his race was promising with a return to Aintree in mind.
Second in a competitive handicap hurdle at this meeting behind Party Rock three years ago, he confirmed his love for the track last June when winning a two-mile handicap chase easily from a few course specialists.
He followed that up with a win at Uttoxeter off 135 and though he’s struggled from marks in the mid-140s since he’s been given a chance dropped to 141 with the talented Jonjo O’Neill Jnr taking off a further 3lb.
If he can get this horse into a nice rhythm early doors I’m sure he’ll relish chasing a strong gallop at this track and anything 20/1 or bigger looks a good each-way bet.
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 and Ireland. Running total: +335.29pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 BST on 03/04/19.
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