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Aintree - Grand National Day tips from Otis Brankin Frisby

Aintree 2024 – Day Three

 

1:20 William Hill Handicap Hurdle 3m½f

 

Dan Skelton and Nicky Henderson seem to hold the keys to this with three runners each and you could argue that the price differentials have something of a recency bias, such has been the contrast in their fortunes over the last month. Last year’s winner West Balboa was an eyecatcher in the same race as Kateira (won for same yard yesterday) behind Boombawn at Kempton and looks yet another long-term plot by the Skeltons. She doesn’t strike as being strikingly well-handicapped though – or at least not enough to be a 3/1 shot here. The form line I want to follow is the Haydock race in November won by Slate Lane. LORD SNOOTIE ran well that day and more recently was edged out by Cuthbert Dibble at the same track. He benefits from a 9lb swing in the weights with that rival and he supposedly reacted badly to a first-time tonguestrap last time out. BOLD ENDEAVOUR is not obviously well handicapped but seems a fair price to his the frame based on his run in the Pertemps, for which he can be marked up given that he charted a wide course throughout and was also running through stable woes. He has only been raised 1lb, has good a good record in big-field handicaps and Jango Baie ran a cracker off a big weight for the same colours yesterday. If you want something at an enormous price, Russian Ruler slightly interests me at 70/1. He ended last season with a win in a novice hurdle but after disappointing this season finds himself back on a mark of 120. He was sent chasing which he hated, then was travelling nicely into a handicap hurdle at Kelso before making a mistake which put an end to his challenge. He went to Cheltenham during the yard’s bug but Henderson’s horses seem to be coming back to themselves.

 

Bet: Lord Snootie @ 16/1 0.5pt EW

Bet: Bold Endeavour @ 25/1 0.5pt EW

 

 

1:55 Turners Mersey Novices Hurdle 2m4f

 

It is difficult to see beyond BRIGHTERDAYSAHEAD now that her half-brother Caldwell Potter is a non runner. She is a huge hype horse and Gordon Elliott speaks about her in a way that suggests she is the new Apple’s Jade. She’s got some way to go to prove that but this otherwise looks a weak field and I think that 11/10 is a very fair price. Supposedly a good thing at Cheltenham, she disappointed when second in the Mares Novice but was arguably a bit unlucky, falling short to a very well judged ride on Golden Ace in a tactical race. She came out best at the weights that day and it looks like she’ll appreciate the step up in distance. Jimmy du Seuil is probably the danger based on his run in the Gallagher.

 

Bet: Brighterdaysahead @ 11/10 2pt Win

 

 

2:30 Freebooter Handicap Chase 3m1f

 

Crebilly is undoubtedly very well handicapped but also far too short coming off the back of Cheltenham and attempting 3m for the first time. The Ultima could prove to be very strong form by the end of the day and TWIG did very well to get as close as he did to a flawless Chianti Classico, drawing well clear with Meetingofthewaters. He has only been raised 4lb and Beau Morgan said after the race that they were actually using it as a prep for Aintree. Ben Pauling is still in good form and it would be a timely winner after their main backers, the Megsons, withdrew all their horses from the yard on Thursday. Tom Lacey’s CRUZ CONTROL is a 7yo and I think this might be the perfect trip at this point in his career. He was steadily progressive over fences at the beginning of the season, looking like he would improve for a step up from 2½m before finding 4m too far in the Eider. He has since been dropped to 3m where he bolted up at Newcastle and I think there is more to come from him at this trip off a mark of 136. Forward Plan is the main danger I think.

 

Bet: Twig @ 15/2 1pt EW (4 places)

Bet: Cruz Control @ 9/1 1pt EW (4 places)

 

 

3:05 Liverpool Hurdle 3m½f

 

Not a vintage renewal of the Liverpool Hurdle and it is not easy to make a particularly convincing case for most of them. There are few old favourites lining up. Sire du Berlais is looking to repeat last year’s victory at the age of 12 and while he is a horse you can never write off, it is difficult to believe he is the same horse this year. That said, he took at a few runs to get going last season and it could be that his fifth in the Stayers has put him spot on for this fitness-wise. Flooring Porter ran remarkably well at Cheltenham and there’s no reason he won’t go close, although that track has always brought out the best in him and he’s not exactly a tempting price. Dashel Drasher is coming off the back of another gruelling season and it’s not clear what mileage he has left in the tank, while Crambo’s performance at Cheltenham left me scratching my head a bit.

 

Strong Leader has some very good novice hurdle form and recently looked to improve for the step up to 3m. He is relatively unexposed but seemed a bit outpaced in the Cleeve. The soft ground here should help in that regard but at the same time his trainer has said in the past he doesn’t want it too deep. Hiddenvalley Lake is perhaps of more interest as an unexposed winner of the Boyne Hurdle, who seems to have been targeted at this for owners who have a strong hand in this division. But with many of these horses being so closely bunched over the last few years, this division often throws up a finishing order at random and I wouldn’t be surprised if CHAMP ran a massive race in first-time cheekpieces at 33/1. He has an outstanding record when fresh and it was not long ago that he won the Long Distance Hurdle with an RPR of 162. If he can produce something nearer his best off a break and after the yard troubles, he is far more likely to be in the mix than 33/1 suggests. Strong Leader and Hiddenvalley Lake appeal most further up the market.

 

Bet: Champ @ 33/1 0.5pt EW (4 places)

 

                                            

4:00 Grand National 4m2½f

 

Despite being watered down somewhat, the National remains my favourite race of the year. The race is being eroded under the weight of pressure – the most significant change this year being the reduction of the field to 34 – but it is an event to be treasured and needs public support now more than ever. My punting record doesn’t quite match up to the romance of the race: in the fifteen years since I was first allowed to have a bet I have not found the winner once (and not for lack of trying), though I have had a handful finish second. So much is down to luck in running so the best approach is to pick a couple with a sporting chance and be hopeful rather than confident. My three selections:

 

Corach Rambler @ 8/1

Call me boring but I strongly believe that Corach Rambler can emulate Red Rum and Tiger Roll. It is easy to make the case as to why he won’t and many will say that horses simply don’t win back-to-back Nationals. But it has been done before and he strikes as just the sort of horse capable of doing it again. He idled out in front last year and the winning margin doesn’t do justice to how easily he won. He bolted up and, though hiked up 13lb, actually arrives here 3lb well in after his third in the Gold Cup. Many will argue that after the Gold Cup there’s not enough left in the tank for this, but there is no better pairing than Lucinda Russell and Peter Scudamore at getting horses ready for this meeting and they have made it abundantly clear that this has been the target. The fact that he finished third in that Gold Cup is testament to his ability in a race where he was taken off his feet for most of it. Yes he looked tired at the finish but if he has been prepared for this race then there is every chance he will improve for fitness rather than regress. My one reservation would be the ground but throughout the week I think it has been riding better than described. Of course, he needs luck too.

 

Meetingofthewaters @ 11/1

One of the many McManus horses that needs to be taken seriously. He won the Paddy Power Chase in emphatic style when it was bottomless – Daryl Jacob was on James du Berlais that day and said he couldn’t believe how this horse powered away from him on that ground. He has since run a very good race in the Ultima to prove that he remains on a reasonable mark. He travelled like a dream but never really seemed to be put into the race and my instinct is that it was a speculative diversion en route to this target. The likes of David Mullins, Paul Townend and Patrick Mullins have been saying the right things and, if he settles a bit better, I can see him going very close.

 

Galia des Liteaux @ 28/1

Though this hasn’t been won by a mare in 70 years I expect that statistic to change at some point. They have been underrepresented but Magic of Light went very close in 2019 and I think there are two in here with a very good chance. Galia des Liteaux proved that she stays in the Classic Chase at Warwick, a race that is normally a good trial for the National (One For Arthur ran there en route to winning in 2017). It was a particularly impressive performance to finish ¾ length second giving away 20lb on soft ground to My Silver Lining, who is now 11lb higher. She is a big mare by Saddler Maker who relishes testing ground so this should be right up her street. You have to forgive her last run but that is factored into the price. It would be a fitting end to an extraordinary season for the Skeltons and all but secure the trainers championship.

                                   

Running through other horses worthy of mention, I have been keen on Limerick Lace for a while but have decided to jump ship last minute as her price has plummeted in the last day or so. She is the fourth foal out of a JP McManus mare whose progeny have all been sent to Gavin Cromwell and include full-brother Inothewayurthinkin who won the Kim Muir impressively and the Mildmay yesterday. She was very impressive in the Mares Chase and, though she has been primarily campaigned over shorter trips, there is no evidence to suggest that she is a non-stayer. Her only run over 3m was a very good second to Coko Beach in the Troytown and, providing there is more left in the tank after Cheltenham, should run a big race. Mark Walsh has chosen to ride her over all of JP’s other horses.

 

I Am Maximus has won two serious staying chases and may be well handicapped, but he has serious jumping issues and wasn’t travelling a yard for most of the Irish Grand National. He lost ground at 14 of the 18 fences in the Bobbyjo and that race fell apart somewhat so I’d oppose him at the prices. Panda Boy will be popular in the betting and is a bit of a wiseguy horse for Martin Brassil, who won this with Numbersixvalverde in 2006. He has a chance based on his staying-on second to Meetingofthewaters in December but the price has probably gone. Mr Incredible is a quirky horse to say the least but he’ll love the ground and is a proven stayer, most recently second in the Midlands National off a big weight. There are a couple of pieces of standout form that suggest Mahler Mission might have a part to play for John McConnell. He was second in the Hennessey when losing his two front shoes and was set to romp home in the 3m6f National Hunt Chase. He jumps well and could run a big race but his mark isn’t particularly appealing.

 

Former winner Noble Yeats may be better on proper spring ground but he was fourth last year off 1lb higher and Emmet Mullins knows what he is doing. He has been given a slightly different prep this year over hurdles and it may be that he has more left in the tank this time round having missed the Gold Cup. It will be difficult for to win off a mark of 165 but he’s a good price to hit the frame and it’s easy to forget that he is only a 9-year-old. Minella Indo is the classiest horse in the field if he takes to the fences and the trip, while other old-timer Delta Work has apparently been bouncing at home recently and could benefit from a quieter preparation. He was a tiring third in 2022 not long after a gruelling battle with Tiger Roll at Cheltenham and will love the ground.

 

At much bigger prices, Roi Mage was seventh last year and with a better prep and suitable ground, could run another big race from 2lb lower, but he was beaten comfortably by Adamantly Chosen at Down Royal last time out. He kept good company in Grade 1s last year and would be my one to back at 50/1, though the ground is a slight question mark.

 

Prediction:

1. Meetingofthewaters

2. Corach Rambler

3. Galia des Liteaux

4. Limerick Lace 

5. Delta Work

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