A 20/1 winner on Friday, Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) is back with his Saturday thoughts including his Grand National view.
14:25 Aintree | Channel 4
The EZ Trader Mersey Novice Hurdle is a Grade 1 over two and a half miles and sees the impressive Neptune winner Yorkhill defend his unbeaten record. He lines up here as very short price and is difficult to oppose but is there any value in the race?
I love Yorkhill. I tipped and backed him at Cheltenham and he is a rare underrated Willie Mullins horse. Well I say is, he is now seen as the top staying novice around and is highly touted for the Arkle next season. He lines up here well clear on ratings, will handle the ground and is an uncomplicated sort. He should win but I'm looking for an each way alternative.
La Prezien from the Paul Nichols yard has had a good season so far. He won Kelso's big novice hurdle last time out and deserves his place in this field. I'm not convinced he is a stayer however he seen out the trip well at Kelso last time out which is a stiff track, however this is a tougher assignment and I'm not sure he is the most likely winner if Yorkhill underperforms.
The one I like here is the Willie Mullins second string Bello Conti. A winner of a Clonmel maiden on his Irish debut he wasn't seen again until finishing 4th in the Neptune behind Yorkhill. To achiever that on only his third career start is a mighty effort and he is a very unexposed horse.
He finished ahead of some decent horses that day and though he has something to find with La Prezien on a direct form line through Its'afreebee he will surely progress from that start. He will appreciate the softer ground here as he won his maiden on heavy and I think he will grab a place here. I'm backing him each way in this.
15:00 Aintree | Channel 4
The Doom Bar Novice Chase over 2 miles sees Douvan line up and it's impossible to oppose him on all known form. One of the most exciting horses in training, he won the Arkle and looks like he will dominate the 2 mile division for a while. I'm a huge fan of his, like every racing fan should be and it's a case of what comes second to him and how far behind him they come. Someone has to come second, so who will it be?
The Game Changer and Fox Norton finished behind Douvan in the Arkle and neither hold particularly strong claims to reverse the form. Fox Norton ran a personal best at Cheltenham but if you look through his form he is no back number. Granted he falls short at this level but he deserves his place here.
The Game Changer returned after a long absence at Cheltenham and it's possible he will be fitter here, however I would be surprised if connections had left much to work with as the Arkle was his long term aim. He is expected to reverse Cheltenham form with Fox Norton but I'm not sure if he will.
The one I think is the main danger to Douvan is Alisier D'Irlande from the Henry De Bromhead stable. Since being sent over from the Phillip Hobbs yard he has made massive strides and looks like a high class prospect. He is a bold front runner, and providing he doesn't go head to head with Douvan should run a massive race here.
Unlucky not to be unbeaten over fences he is still unexposed and I make him the only danger to Douvan. He is available at Even money in the betting without Douvan and for the more ambitious he could be backed each way here which could be more rewarding if the favourite fails for whatever reason.
15:40 Aintree | Channel 4
The Aintree Stayers Hurdle sees the impressive World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack return to the scene of the track where he first shot to prominence as a staying hurdler. Since winning here last season he has gone on to become the highest rated staying hurdler since Big Buck's and it's possible he will improve further. Once again he looks impossible to oppose but is there a value alternative?
Prince of Scars has had a great season racking up a hat-trick of staying hurdle wins progressing from handicapper to Grade 1 winner in a short period of time. His last win over Alpha Des Obeaux, Martello Tower and Arctic Fire reads incredibly well but I can't take it at face value.
It was Alpha Des Obeaux's seasonal debut and Arctic Fire didn't stay in the heavy ground and overall he was flattered that day. However he is clearly a talented young horse but I don't expect him to go close here.
Different Gravey returned from a long absence to hack up in an Ascot handicap over 2 and a half miles off top weight and is a very interesting runner. He has won four of his five career starts and is very progressive. He missed Cheltenham to stay fresh for this and his trainer is in fantastic form. He is definitely of interest however this is a step up in trip and class and at these prices I'm against him but I think he is a fascinating runner.
I'm going to take a chance on the Willie Mullins trained Shaneshill. He has been novice chasing this season and although he came second in the RSA I'm not convinced he is a chaser. He is prone to making mistakes and the fact he got as close to Blaklion as he did at Cheltenham is testament to his engine. He is still young and has a very good record at this time of year. He is a fairly speculative each way selection but I wouldn't be surprised if he was to come second here.
17:15 Aintree | The Grand National | Channel 4
The Voice of Value has written a fantastic preview for the National so I'm going to keep this short. This race is great for the sport as it attracts a massive audience but for me it's not a betting proposition really. Having said that the quality is improving every year and this looks a tremendous renewal.
Silviniaco Conte is a dual King George winner and has won at Grade 1 level at this track and last time out he looked close to his best. He is a straightforward front runner who jumps magnificently and if he gets in to a rhythm could be a cut above these rivals. Ideally I look for a bigger priced runner in the National but he screams out value to me here.
Buywise is an interesting runner as he loves handicap chases and always finishes strongly. However he has a tendency to make mistakes and doesn't do a great deal early on in races so I worry about him at the first few fences. If he goes the early pace and gets his confidence up he could run in to a place at a big price.
My other fancy would be Holywell. A horse I love, he is another Grade 1 winner and loves this time of year. At his peak he would be shouldering top weight here so the fact he's receiving 10lbs from Many Clouds is incredible. He looked close to his best at Cheltenham and if he takes to the fences he could well win this. I plan to have a small bet on all three but by no means am I overly confident! Let's just hope all horses get round safely and horse racing is in the news for all the right reasons come 530!! Good luck guys!
14:25 Aintree – Bello Conti each way (14/1 Ladbrokes)
15:00 Aintree – Alisier Dirlande without Douvan (Evens Paddy Power)
15:40 Aintree – Shaneshill each way (14/1 BetVictor)
17:15 Aintree – Silviniaco Conte each way (14/1 BetVictor)
17:15 Aintree – Buywise each way (50/1 Bet365)
17:15 Aintree – Holywell each way (16/1 Ladbrokes)
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