1.45pm – Gaskells Handicap Hurdle – Debece 1pt Each Way (8/1, 5 Places with bet365)
I’m quite sweet on the chances of Tim Vaughan’s Debece in the opener, both his attempts on soft ground have resulted in 19 length victories so these are conditions that he evidently has a real liking for. He’s won off a break before and when last seen he was third in the Grade 1 Sefton at this meeting last year amongst The World’s End, Beyond Conceit and Constantine Bay, those four were clear of the rest and that’s a really good piece of form. Debece is a half-brother to RSA winner and Gold Cup placed Don Poli so he has the pedigree to be high class, this mark of 141 shouldn’t be beyond him.
2.25pm – Mersey Novices’ Hurdle – On The Blind Side (Double advised below)
Nicky Henderson has already claimed 5 Grade 1’s in the first couple of days here and On The Blind Side can definitely make that 6 as he comes here fresh after skipping Cheltenham. He’s unbeaten in three starts over hurdles including a pair of Grade 2’s, a course and distance winner back in October that proves he has no problem with the track. He didn’t seem to handle coming down the hill at Cheltenham after that but he still managed to win which is testament to his ability, then he was impressive at Sandown where he had his rivals strung out like washing. If handling the ground today he should have too much for his rivals, Black Op is the main danger but he had a hard race at Cheltenham, his yard aren’t in good form and he can be a bit of a sketchy jumper.
3.00pm – Maghull Novices’ Chase
Not really a race that makes a huge amount of appeal as a betting medium, but after taking a closer look I think I’ll be laying Petit Mouchoir on the exchanges. He was out on his feet in the Arkle at Cheltenham and I expect that race took a lot out of him, as well as that Henry De Bromhead’s string just aren’t firing at the moment as they’re yet to have a winner from 19 runners in the past couple of weeks. He’s also got a couple of worthy, fresh opponents in the shape of Shantou Rock and Lady Buttons.
3.40pm – Betway Handicap Chase
I don’t have a particularly strong view on this race at all, Thomas Patrick has a lot going for him but his price isn’t appealing for a competitive handicap such as this. Old Grangewood will likely run well for Dan Skelton just a pound higher than his last winning mark and if On Tour can find his form back on a track he likes then he can go close, but 3 miles is a worry for him.
4.20pm – Ryanair Stayers Hurdle – Sam Spinner (Double advised below)
This doesn’t appear to be a very strong Grade 1 to me and I don’t feel there are many in here that can win it. Wholestone has the ability but I would question his staying power over a truly run 3 miles on soft ground, the Stayers’ Hurdle which he took in last time wasn’t a truly run race and it turned into a bit of a speed test in the straight which suited him, I’m not sure he’ll get the same luxury today. Also his best form as all come at Cheltenham which is a concern. Sam Spinner wasn’t seen to best effect last month and I think he’ll be given a far more no nonsense ride here to really make use of his stamina. He was relentless at both Haydock and Ascot, Coole Cody won’t be hanging around so I believe this is all but guaranteed to be stamina sapping and Sam Spinner looks rock solid. Identity Thief is interesting stepped up to three miles for the first time and his pedigree suggests he’ll get the trip, he has class but once again his yard form is a real worry.
On The Blind Side & Sam Spinner 2pts Win Double (4.91/1 SkyBet)
5.15pm – Grand National
I won’t go too deeply into this race as I’ll be here all day otherwise, but below are my three selections with a little reasoning as to why I think they’ve got a great chance.
Ucello Conti 1pt Each Way (18/1 bet365, 6 Places) – Has a real liking for the fences, in 2016 he was 6th in this and 4th in the Becher. Was still traveling strongly when unluckily unseating at the 22nd fence last season and has been trained since that day with this contest in mind, Gordon Elliott seems bullish on his chances. It’s been a brilliant festival so far for the owners and Daryl Jacob, hopefully this can top it off.
Blaklion 1pt Each Way (12/1 bet365, 6 Places) – Ran a blinder in this last year when fourth and should be able to go even closer with a more patient ride. Hacked up in the Becher in December, is a great jumper and loves these fences. Has a lot of class, ground won’t be a problem and surely goes close with a trouble free round.
Seeyouatmidnight 1pt Each Way (12/1 bet365, 6 Places) – Been plotted out for this race for some time, beat Blaklion and Bristol De Mai back in 2016 and is on a lenient handicap mark. He goes well in testing ground and is a good jumper, was third in the Scottish National a couple of seasons ago so he shouldn’t have a problem staying the trip and jockey Brian Hughes has had a brilliant campaign.
6.20pm – Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle – Michael’s Mount 2pts Win (5/1)
James Bowen has been a revelation this season and is serious value for his 3lb claim, he can end the Grand National Festival with a winner for the in-form Ian Williams. Michael’s Mount was a decent flat performer rated 86 at his best and has made a promising start to hurdling life with two wins from three attempts, with the loss being a third in the Grade 2 Dovecote which is by no means a bad piece of form. He has tended to jump slightly left so being back on a left handed track will suit, he’s 4-6 on soft ground which is a huge plus today and his opening mark of 134 is not harsh by any stretch of the imagination.