Grand National Day. The one day a year that everyone becomes a punter and ventures to the betting shop or their betting app to place a wager on the Grand National.
There are six other races to find the winner of though, so let’s attack them with the same gusto we started out with on Thursday!
1.45 AINTREE – PARTY BUSINESS
There is a sense of unfinished business with PARTY BUSINESS after his luckless run at Cheltenham which it seems went far from unnoticed.
He has been hampered more times than Harvey Nicholls in the Martin Pipe, especially when nearly brought to a standstill at the second flight. From there he was always playing catch up and stayed on strongly up the hill to be fifth, beaten just seven lengths despite being last turning for home.
He beat a subsequent smart Sandown winner at Ascot earlier in the season and was still in contention when falling in the G1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury over Christmas. There are certainly races to be won off his mark, and hopefully it starts in the opener here.
Winter Fog ran well to be fourth in the Pertemps Final and is a danger off 1lb higher while Beauport and Serious Score both won on the Midlands National card at Uttoxeter three weeks ago. The former was rewarded for some strong runner-up efforts and is up 6lb higher while the inexperienced but very progressive Serious Score impressed on his first start at the trip and although a 13lb rise asks more, he looks sure to be capable of improving further.
2.25 AINTREE – MIGHT I
Seven of the last eleven favourites have won this race and Three Stripe Life sets the standard on his Ballymore second at Cheltenham, plus there is no Sir Gerhard to chase home this time.
It does look A wider open contest this year though and Nicky Henderson’s easy Newbury winner, Walking On Air, must have a chance having missed Cheltenham and having this as his target.
Good Risk At All was a handicap blot at Ascot and its connections are having a tilt at G1 honours instead of exploiting a favourable mark.
I will take a chance on MIGHT I for Harry Fry. He won on hurdles debut despite pulling like a train and then has bumped into Constitution Hill and Jonbon on his two recent starts. He is another who swerved the festival so arrives a fresh horse and the trainer has been looking forward to stepping him up to this trip. He is worth an each-way play at around 14/1.
3.00 AINTREE – EDWARDSTONE
I mentioned earlier in the week how some races had better stars for Cheltenham winners than others, and the Maghull Novices Chase is one where the form from last month looks to stand up.
Since 2008, four Arkle winners have come to Aintree and all have won. It is hard to see past EDWARDSTONE bucking the trend. He overcame plenty of trouble in the Arkle, sidestepping fallers like Wayne Sleep in his heyday to take his second victory at the top level and his form throughout the season has continually been franked, with Sandown victim War Lord finishing a fair second at Aintree on Thursday and Do Your Job, who was well behind at Kempton, winning twice since including a nice prize at Ayr last weekend.
He holds Third Time Lucki on two pieces of form and despite Dan Skelton’s runner likely to be better on this decent ground on a speed track and being the fresher horse, it is still hard to see him turning the form around, considering connections ducked the Arkle to avoid the favourite.
We have learnt little in the last two starts about Gentleman De Mee as he has landed long odds favouritism in facile style, but his jumping was a little sticky on occasions and that is a concern under pressure on a speed track here.
3.35 AINTREE – THYME HILL
Only two of the last 17 winners of the Liverpool Hurdle has been trained in Ireland while of the six Stayers’ Hurdle winners to come onto this race since 2010, five of them have won. These are stats that apply both positively and negatively for likely favourite Flooring Porter in this year’s renewal.
He retained his Crown at Cheltenham with an all the way success and excellent front-running ride from Danny Mullins. Can he get the fractions right again around a very different track, a speed circuit here at Aintree? He had THYME HILL back in second and Cham back in fourth three weeks ago, but I think the runner-up can gain his revenge as the defender of his crown here on Merseyside.
THYME HILL saw off the cracking mare Roksana in last year’s renewal and has only had the three starts this season for Phillip Hobbs. He is very consistent, as five wins and three seconds in his ten race hurdles career is testament too and we know he handles conditions.
Champ won here in his novice hurdle days and after a comeback win at Ascot before Christmas, hasn’t been at his best the last two times, affirming the assertions of Nicky Henderson that he is best fresh. The yard has had a decent week though so he can’t be ruled out, neither can Stayers’ Hurdle seventh Koshari, who won here at a huge price earlier in the season in handicap company and was beaten less than eight lengths at Cheltenham.
4.15 AINTREE – TEA CLIPPER
Always a competitive handicap chase with potential future Grand National runners lining up in the race that precedes the World’s Greatest Steeplechase.
Of the last nine winners of this contest ran at Cheltenham on their previous start while 3 of the last four carried more than 11-3 and is a good race for favourites too, winning two of the last three runnings.
Tom Lacey won this race in 2018 and he saddles TEA CLIPPER in this year’s renewal having run fourth in the Ultima at the festival on his handicap chase debut. He had some decent novice form going into Cheltenham and ran like he has races in him, only weakening up the hill. A flat sharp track should suit him, this is his second start since having a wind operation and he reminds me of the yard’s 2018 winner of the race.
Just ahead of him that day was Oscar Elite who was third to Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame over hurdles here last season. He hasn’t quite hit the heights I was expecting over fences and although it was a much better effort last time, I fancy TEA CLIPPER on these 3lb better terms on this track.
Kim Bailey won the race last year and saddles top weight Espoir De Romay who fell two out behind Chantry House in G1 novice company last year and had today’s favourite Shan Blue, well held in that. Shan Blue runs in his first handicap today having been highly tried in his chase career. If the Shan Blue that was running riot in the Charlie Hall before falling in November turns up, they won’t see which way he went, but he was below par in the Ryanair and despite this being his easiest task to date, his well being must be taken on trust.
5.15 AINTREE – ANY SECOND NOW
Please see the rundown of every Grand National runner here.
ANY SECOND NOW
TWO FOR GOLD
The 174th Randox Health Grand National is as ultra-competitive as one would always expect.
Of the market leaders, it looks like ANY SECOND NOW will be pitching in at the business end. He has enough speed to win over two miles and showed his stamina when third last year. He has the perfect blend and although a little higher in the weights than a typical winner, he has plenty in his favour and looks a solid proposition.
Of those at bigger prices, I think the market has underestimated the claims of TWO FOR GOLD who is actually well in at the weights after his excellent second a Ascot in February and if he stays I can see him running a huge race, while KILDISART can also make it a three strong attack on the race. He hasn’t won since taking the race that precedes the National in 2019 but is lightly raced since and has an ideal profile for the race.
Another likely to run a solid race is BURROWS SAINT. Despite being disappointing at Fairyhouse last time, the experience of last year will stand him in good stead and if he can be held onto for longer, can see his race out better and hit the frame.
6.20 AINTREE – PRAIRIE WOLF
The 21st and final race of the 2022 Aintree festival is the bumper.
Willie Mullins took the mares' version on Thursday and is always to be feared in this sphere. His Rath Gaul Boy won impressively on debut at Leopardstown and will be popular while Alan King’s Ernest Gray won by thirteen lengths at Warwick, a track not too dissimilar to Aintree, and will have supporters.
Paul Nicholls has won the last two renewals and his unbeaten Henri The Second, who was a listed winner at Ascot, has leading claims although he hasn’t been seen for four months which is a concern.
I will take a chance on Ryan Mania’s mount, PRAIRIE WOLF, at a decent price.
He won easily on debut and just couldn’t quicken in the soft ground at Carlisle on second start. He showed he has plenty of ability when beating a subsequent winner of Nicky Henderson’s under a penalty at Doncaster, pulling out plenty in the run to the line and well clear of the third. He needs to step up but is certainly capable and I know Ryan is a fan of his future. He can go well at a healthy each-way price in the finale.
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