Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Aintree on Saturday including Blacklion for the Grand National. View selections below.
BLAKLION (5.15), a nimble and accurate jumper, can provide Nigel Twiston-Davies with his third Grand National scalp at Aintree.
The open nature of this year’s tea-time National, sponsored by Randox Health, has resulted in double-figure odds at the top of the betting market, with Blaklion available at 12-1 in most books.
The 2015 RSA Chase winner at Cheltenham chased home Vieux Lion Rouge in Haydock’s Grand National Trial and little separates the pair on revised terms. On that occasion Blaklion, not the biggest of horses, lumped 11st 12lb and he races off a more lenient 11st 1lb here under top jockey Noel Fehily.
Vieux Lion Rouge went on to land the Becher Chase over the National fences in December, pipping Highland Lodge on the line. Highland Lodge, The Last Samurai (third), Ucello Conti (fourth) and One For Arthur (fifth) throw down the gauntlet once again and clearly this is a key piece of form.
Blaklion had More Of That eight lengths behind in the RSA but the JP McManus-owned gelding ran a promising race (sixth) behind Sizing John in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Twiston-Davies saddled another eight-year-old in Bindaree to land the 2002 National, four years after stablemate Earth Summit had excelled in a war of attrition, and he has brought Blaklion along steadily. My selection got a rear view of ante-post market leader Definitly Red at Wetherby on Boxing Day and the formbook finds it hard to split them. Definitly Red is probably the best handicapped horse going to post but he isn’t always foot-perfect.
Of course, horses and riders need a dollop of good fortune just to survive, especially in the frenetic cavalry charge over the early fences, and we need a few extra arrows in our betting quiver.
Vieux Lion Rouge has the look of a National horse and needs to be included, plus at bigger each-way prices The Young Master, Ucello Conti, One For Arthur and Double Shuffle complete the portfolio.
The Young Master edged out Just A Par in the bet 365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April and could be a spring horse. He didn’t jump with any fluency before falling two out in the Becher Chase but Neil Mulholland will have been heartened by The Young Master’s sixth to Un Temps Pour Tout at Cheltenham. Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen has an excellent record over the National obstacles and at 20-1 The Young Master is worth an interest.
Ucello Conti, trained by the masterful Gordon Elliott (also saddles better-fancied Cause Of Causes and outsider Roi Des Francs), finished sixth last year and could hit the frame along with Double Shuffle.
A consistent sort in good form this season, Double Shuffle could well outrun his 40-1 odds.
One For Arthur, the pride of Scotland, has been trained especially for this race and Lucinda Russell has him spot-on after a long break following his impressive Warwick Classic success over 3m 5f.
My other advice is to take a morning price on your fancies as the on-course bookmakers are notorious for shortening up prices. Also study each-way terms, with some firms offering six places.
On a magnificent support card, MESSIRE DES OBEAUX (2.25) looks nailed on to run a big race in the Grade 1 Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle.
Alan King’s charge ran a cracker in the Neptune Management Investment Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, finding only Willoughby Court and Neon Wolf too strong up the hill. At 7-1 he is a very attractive each-way option against favourite Finian’s Oscar.
The ex-irish point winner is unbeaten in three starts for Colin Tizzard and Finian’s Oscar bypassed Cheltenham to turn up here a very fresh horse. All his wins have come on soft, so quickish ground is an unknown.
Brio Conti was most impressive when beating Divine Spear and Dream Berry at Kempton, and Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old will make a bold bid to complete his hat-trick.
Lough Derg Spirit steps up in trip after making all to land the Sky Bet Supreme Scottish Trial at Musselburgh in February beating a useful sort in Peter The Mayo Man. Nicky Henderson’s gelding is another sure to attract support in an intriguing contest.
The opening three-mile handicap hurdle has attracted a big field and JP McManus has a strong hand with FOR GOOD MEASURE (1.45) and No Comment.
For Good Measure ran a fine race at Cheltenham in December when chasing home Call To Order, trying to concede lumps of weight, and Philip Hobbs’ gelding looked a bit unlucky in the Pertemps Network Final at Cheltenham when finishing ninth to Presenting Percy after being short of room two out.
No Comment also ran well at the Festival, moving strongly into contention rounding the home bend before his effort fizzled out. This flatter track will suit him better.
STARCHITECT (3.40) is yet another Cheltenham refugee after producing a solid fifth to Road To Respect in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate. David Pipe’s dual-purpose horse was hampered two out and this 3m 1f trip should bring out the best in him.
Potters Legend, fourth to Domesday Book in the 3m 2f Kim Muir at Cheltenham, is interesting wearing first-time cheekpieces.
The concluding two-mile handicap hurdle is restricted to conditional and amateur riders and SO CELEBRE (6.15) has the invaluable assistance of David Noonan as he bids to follow-up last weekend’s superb Ascot victory under a 5lb penalty.
Ian Williams is a trainer in cracking form and So Celebre clocked a very fast time. As long as there is no overnight watering, the drying ground is very much in So Celebre’s favour.
Compare horse racing odds and bet at the best prices