Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with five to follow on Saturday at Aintree including Burton Port in the Grand National. View selections below
The Crabbie’s Grand National is the greatest horserace in the year and Saturday’s feature promises to be a cracker with a maximum field of 40 due to face the tape on Saturday over Aintree’s unique fences. The ground is pivotal to any race but, at the time of writing, it is unsure how soft the ground is going to be with rain forecast for Friday and Saturday.
We are betting each way ¼ odds the first six at BetVictor and, having backed Teaforthree at the announcement of the weights back in February, confidence is waning and at 8/1 he looks a bit too short in the betting and I will, reluctantly, look elsewhere.
He is the 5/4 favourite to start the race as the jolly put looks unsteady at the head of the market with growing support for the likes of Monbeg Dude, Long Run, Tidal Bay and Double Seven; the latter 12/1 from 25/1 after the news that AP McCoy rides for boss JP McManus.
Long Run is bidding to give trainer Nicky Henderson his first winner in the great race having had 33 previous runners including two seconds and the handicapper has certainly given him a chance. No Gold Cup winner has won the National since L’Escargot back in 1975 but jockey Sam Waley-Cohen has a great record over the larger obstacles and if he stays he must have every chance.
The pin has come down on Burton Port (4.15), however, somewhat ironically formerly trained by Henderson and now with Jonjo O’Neill who saddled the winner of the race with Don’t Push It in 2010. The selection should not be inconvenienced by any significant rain, has a touch of class and has been laid out for the race by leading owner Trevor Hemmings whose colours have already been carried to success in 2005 Hedgehunter and Ballabriggs 2011.
In the opening Mersey Novices hurdle it would be folly to look away from the combination of Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty, who have combined to win two of the last renewals with the pair of Spirit Son and Simonsig respectively. Team Seven Barrows saddle both Volnay De Thaix (1.30) and Oscar Hoof (1.30) with Geraghty opting for the latter after guiding the 6-y-o to an impressive success last month at Kempton.
He had previously won over the two and a half miles trip at Doncaster in December and then an impressive turn of foot to pull clear and win by four lengths lto. He was punted like a good thing that day and is clearly well respected at home.
The pair also team up with Whisper in the Liverpool Hurdle, with two of last year’s festival winners’ year challenging and dangerous. Zarkander beat The New One in the Aintree Hurdle and is one of two runners for Paul Nicholls with Salubrious whilst, last year’s Sefton Novices Hurdle winner At Fishers Cross runs after his excellent 3rd in the World Hurdle behind More of That and Annie Power.
Whisper (2.50) is preferred however having won the ultra-competitive Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival and has the profile of an extremely progressive animal. Despite the step up in class the 6-y-o has just 4lb to find with Jeremy Scott’s top rated Melodic Rendezvous, who is tackling the three miles trip for the first time.
Moscow Mannon is a fascinating runner in the Maghull Novices’ Chase over two miles but could just find one too good and that one is Balder Success (2.05) for the in-form Alan King team, kept fresh after missing Cheltenham.
He has won four of his five completed starts over fences, fending off God’s Own and Fox Appeal last time out at Kempton but seen to his best with two wins at Warwick over the minimum trip and on unsuitable ground and should put his best foot forward around Aintree.
The three mile handicap chase is another competitive affair however Victor Hewgo (3.35) with the Reveley inmate seemingly well-treated from a mark of 139. The 9-y-o chased home Festival Handicap winner Holywell at Doncaster, narrowly losing by a length.
Jonjo O’Neill’s animal is now rated 157 and Victor Hewgo franked the form himself by winning Close under a penalty on his next start; the horse is a confident selection.