Our man Chris Day has four long-range fancies for Saturday's card including two 40/1 chances in the Randox Grand National.
1pt win Third Wind in 3.35 Aintree at 20/1 (Betfair & Paddy Power)
1pt win Lalor in 4.15 Aintree at 16/1 (Bet365)
1pt ew Mister Malarky in 5.15 Aintree at 40/1 (Bet365 - 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt ew Takingrisks in 5.15 Aintree at 40/1 (General - 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
This week’s Randox Grand National meeting at Aintree offers probably the best three days of racing anywhere outside of the Cheltenham Festival with betting opportunities galore on ground which looks like being on the easy side of good.
The big race itself, off at 5.15 on Saturday, seems to revolve around the Trevor Hemmings-owned Cloth Cap, bidding to give the race's great supporter a fourth win in the big event.
His Ladbrokes Trophy win over Aye Right is arguably the best piece of handicap chase form this season and he followed that up when showing an ability to handle slower ground at Kelso last time when, although not favoured at the weights, he won cosily under Tom Scudamore, after which he was given a 14lb rise by the handicapper.
As this is an early closing race he runs off his old mark with no penalty and, as a horse who loves to race up with the pace, jumps like a buck and stays very strongly - as shown by his excellent third in a Scottish National - there really is very little not to like about him and he must take all the beating.
The idea of ante-post betting though is to find value in the markets and it’s hard to say current prices around 4/1 represent any of that.
It’s much easier to trot out the arguments about 39 other runners, 30 fences and needing luck in running but the same is true for all contenders hence I cannot contemplate tipping any of the next few in the market who all have factors to overcome in addition to being unfavourably treated in comparison to the favourite.
At much bigger prices, two horses stand out as having similar chances to these, the first being Colin Tizzard’s MISTER MALARKY, who can be difficult to catch right but won a Listed Chase at Ascot in December and was a good third off this mark to Clondaw Castle at Kempton at the end of February.
Harry Cobden, who rode him at Ascot, said he’d be ideal for the National on dismounting and he’s just the type of quirky individual who can find this test lights him up. At 40/1 he’s my idea of an each-way bet with no issues regarding ground conditions.
The other horse I can’t resist backing is the Nicky Richards-trained 12-yeasr-old TAKINGRISKS, a Scottish Grand National winner who comes here on the back of a victory in Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase 10 weeks ago.
He needed all of the three miles that day and will be staying on when many have cried enough in the latter stages on Saturday afternoon. He too makes each-way appeal at 40/1.
He also beat Aye Right on Town Moor and is actually well in with Cloth Cap on their form in the Scottish National - albeit from two years ago.
The supporting card is tremendous with the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle second and third, Sire Du Berlais and Paisley Park, taking each other on again in the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle with Thyme Hill, who missed the Festival due to a minor injury, also scheduled to return.
This weekend’s meeting at Fairyhouse illustrated the difficulty for horses trying to back up a tough race at Cheltenham and Sire Du Berlais failed to do so in 2019 after winning the Pertemps Final.
It’s also fair to say Paisley Park, whose form ties in closely with Thyme Hill, is no longer the monster he once looked and, at the prices, the one I like is Hughie Morrison’s THIRD WIND, who comes here fresh having been off the track since winning Haydock’s Rendlesham Hurdle in February.
He was in receipt of weight from last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar on that occasion but I thought he won well enough and he may be the big improver here.
Fresher than most and at 16/1, I think he’s good value to see if he can bridge the gap to Grade One level.
The other race with early prices is the Betway Handicap Chase, a Grade 3 contest over three miles.
This is always a strong affair but the one I like is the Kayley Wonnacott-trained LALOR, a horse with a superb record at the track, having won the Grade One novice hurdle here three years ago.
He’s got a good record fresh too and, having struggled as a novice chaser after a scintillating debut at Cheltenham, his last couple of runs looked as though he was really getting the hang of things again before injury kept him off the track.
He’s also got an entry in the Melling Chase but looks for all the world like he needs three miles now and must be well handicapped off 151 if Grade One entries are being considered
At around the 16/1 mark, I rate his chances here in a race that should suit.