RACING fan Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) picks out his best bets from Saturday's action at Aintree.
14:25 Aintree | ITV1
ITV's coverage gets underway with a Grade 1 and this two-and-a-half mile novice hurdle looks a good race. We have 13 runners lining up and most of the field have a chance of some description but there is one in here who could be very special.
Paul Nichols is desperate for winners as he tries to catch Nicky Henderson in the race to be champion trainer and Brio Conte (9/2 Betfred) looks his main hope here.
He's won his last two starts – both on good ground – and deserves his chance at this level. However, this is a huge step up in class and he's is a very short price so I'm looking elsewhere.
Le Breuil (7/1 BetVictor) is another who has won their last two starts and takes a marked step up in class here but he looks a progressive young horse. There are questions marks regarding the ground and his stable is not firing on all cylinders and there are too many negatives for my liking surrounding him.
The one I am backing comes from the stars of Day 2, the Tizzard-Potts-Power combination. Finians Oscar (7/2 Betfair) is unbeaten in three starts and a Grade 1 winner already so is of huge potential.
He missed Cheltenham because of a slight setback and should be 100% on Saturday. He has to prove he stays and handle Saturday's surface but he could be a lot better than his rivals here and he's a very generous price today.
15:00 Aintree | ITV1
A two-mile novice chase and with Altior having his sights set on Sandown later in the year it's a chance for someone else to have their moment in the spotlight. Only five go to post and only four of these hold realistic chances but there is one I like at a good price.
Charbel (4/5 Betfred) was still well in contention in the Arkle when falling two out and his connections are convinced he would have given Altior a real battle all the way to the line.
He is a brave front running horse and one I like, however his win to run ratio isn't great and though he is a deserving favourite I can't back him at odds-on.
Forest Bihan (6/1 William Hill) ran below expectations in the Arkle but I have a feeling the course will suit him much better this afternoon. A flat track and good ground seems ideal for him and it's worth nothing he has a win over Arkle second Cloudy Dream to his name so he may well bounce back here.
The one I do like here is the Paul Nichols trained Politologue (11/2 Betfair). Fourth in the JLT at Cheltenham, this looks an easier race and I have a suspicion this trip may suit him better too.
He is a fantastic jumper and I have a feeling he may attempt to put Charbel under pressure as he has guaranteed stamina over this trip. The ground is quicker than ideal however I think he is a good price in a five runner race.
16:20 Aintree | ITV1
The Ryanair Stayers Liverpool Hurdle is the final race before the main event however it's good race in its own right. Twelve line up and with question marks about almost every runner this race it could throw up a big price winner, however I suspect it won't.
Cole Harden (11/2 Paddy Power) won the Cheltenham Stayers Hurdle two seasons ago and despite numerous placed efforts in graded races since, that remains his last win. He will love the ground and is likely to run his usual solid race but I can't back him to win any race at the moment.
This is both a step up in trip and class and though he is a talented horse and both the trainer and jockey are going well I think he has an uphill battle to win this.
Yanworth (9/4 SkyBet) ran no sort of race when favourite for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and he takes a huge step up in trip on Saturday. That was the first time he hasn't run up to expectations and I'm prepared to let him away with that.
He's always shaped as if this trip is within range and ground out his races over two miles. On a flat track and decent ground he's not going to find a better chance of staying three miles and in a race that lacks a little bit of class I think he is worth the slight risk in terms of stamina. I think he will win this.