Free betting tips for each race shown live on Channel 4 as part of Day 3 of the Aintree Grand National Festival.
So here we are, the first Saturday in April and Grand National day! A race that brings young and old together in a contest that has always captured the imagination of the nation. Channel 4 are covering five races live and here are my best bets for each contest shown live.
The Channel 4 coverage begins with the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle over 2m4f.
DELL’ ARCA (7/1 Ladbrokes) is interesting back in novice company having climbed the handicap ranks rapidly this season. He coped with these conditions well when fifth last time in the Coral Cup and he must enter consideration.
Lac Fontana (11/2 Betfred) is another who has been rapidly improving in handicaps this year, getting up close home to win the County Hurdle on his latest start. On that effort he looks as if he will stay this trip especially on a flat track with the booking of Tony McCoy interesting.
Oscar Hoof (5/1 Stan James) did well to beat a couple of solid yardsticks at Kempton last time with a minimum of fuss giving weight all round. Neither the distance nor the ground hold any fears for Nicky Henderson's charge and he might just prove a spot of value.
The step up in trip looks intriguing for Volnay De Thaix (9/1 BetVictor) who stayed on strongly at Ascot behind Irving before an impressive winner of a solid looking handicap at Newbury. He looks to have a little to find on the bare form but further improvement is likely.
Wilde Blue Yonder (5/1 Ladbrokes) has found himself on the deck a couple of times this season but was staying on stoutly in the Supreme to suggest a step up to this trip would be suitable. His jumping has to be a concern but he should be involved at the business end if he stands the test here.
1.30 Betting Tip – DELL’ ARCA (WIN) (7/1 Ladbrokes)
The Maghull Novices’ Chase looks like a fascinating renewal which is likely to be run at a decent pace.
Balder Succes (10/3 Betfred) has had a great first season over fences, setting a new course record at Chepstow on his return before recording a pair of successes at Warwick and a victory at Kempton. The only blemish came at Sandown in this grade on good ground which raises a red flag here.
HINTERLAND (3/1 SkyBet) showed the benefit of being a second season novice with a pair of Sandown wins late last year. He was still travelling well in the Champion Chase when unseating and after a relatively light campaign is worth the selection.
Next Sensation (9/2 Stan James) has a little to find with the principals here but looked all over the winner of the Grand Annual before getting tired up the hill. The return to a speed track is in his favour and he may well run a big race.
Trifolium (10/3 BetVictor) ran well enough in the Arkle to justify his highest rating in the field here. His most impressive run this season came on heavy when beating Felix Younger but ended up well beaten by the same horse on quicker ground which is a concern considering conditions.
2.05 Betting Tip – HINTERLAND (3/1 SkyBet)
The stayer’s hurdle has a small but select field of seven with a few in here with a solid chance of winning.
At Fishers Cross (13/8 Betfred) looked back to more like his best in the cheekpieces on his two most recent starts having begun the season jumping sloppily. He won the novice staying hurdle at this meeting in fine fashion last season but very quick ground would be a slight concern.
Melodic Rendezvous (7/1 Stan James) is interesting here under conditions that would raise massive question marks. On all known form he wants ground as heavy as possible while this is a huge step up in trip compared to what he is accustomed to running over. Those reasons are more than enough to avoid him but connections must think it is worth having a go.
WHISPER (5/1 Ladbrokes) has been a massive improver this season winning the Coral Cup at the Festival last time. He has a little to prove over the trip but he stays a stiff 2m5f well enough and goes well on good ground and, although this is his first crack at a Grade 1, he looks worth chancing at current prices.
Zarkandar (7/2 BetVictor) put any doubts about him over this trip to bed in the World Hurdle when finishing a game fourth, just two lengths behind At Fishers Cross. He has his quirks, as connections have shown with the headgear (back on here), but he has won at this meeting twice before.
2.50 Betting Tip – WHISPER (WIN) (5/1 Ladbrokes)
A hugely competitive handicap chase up next with any number in here with chances.
Gullinbursti (11/1 Stan James) should find things suit him slightly better here having failed to get home over slightly further at Kelso last time. He ran well at Newbury in a hot little graduation chase while his Doncaster run can be forgiven when resenting the tongue tie. He probably doesn't win as often as he should for one of his ability but he shouldn't be overlooked.
VICTOR HEWGO (10/3 Betfred) is very lightly raced for a nine year old, coming here after just four starts over fences at his favourite track – Doncaster. His two wins are solid form but it's two runner up efforts off level weights when beaten less than a length by Western Warhorse and Holywell (rated 161 and 157 respectively) that makes him a standout off just 139.
Our Mick (25/1 Stan James) hasn’t shown anything much in the way of form this season and as a consequence finds himself 8lbs lower than when runner up at the Cheltenham Festival last season. He is a risky proposition at present but could prove to be a big price if back on song.
SAINT ARE (8/1 Ladbrokes) is massively unpredictable and a hard ride to boot but he almost ran into a place for this column at 20/1 at Haydock back in November. He is now 8lbs lower than when he won this contest in 2012 and with conditions to suit is worth an each-way punt.
3.25 Betting Tips – VICTOR HEWGO (WIN) (10/3 Betfred)
– SAINT ARE (E/W) (8/1 Ladbrokes)
So here we are, the one they all want to win, the Grand National itself with thirty famous fences between the forty runners and potential immortality. With the big field and unpredictable nature of the race it's always advisable to take a few against the field!
TIDAL BAY (18/1 Stan James) and Long Run (12/1 Betfred) add a touch of Grade 1 class to the head of the weights with both given a real chance by the handicapper. The latter has the tendency to clout the odd fence which is a slight concern while the former although not as quirky as he once was wouldn't want to get too far behind in a race of this nature.
Triolo D'Alene (22/1 Stan James) and Rocky Creek (16/1 SkyBet) both bring strong handicap form to the table with little to choose between then on their Hennessy run. The former is probably a year too young to win a race like this but is proven over the fences while a little extra cut in the ground wouldn't hurt the latter’s chances.
Balthazar King (16/1 Betfred) has been a revelation this season over the Cheltenham cross country course winning both at the Open meeting and again at the Festival. He is still fairly weighted on the back of those efforts but got very tired last year when similarly well fancied.
Teaforthree (10/1 BetVictor) will be well tipped up to go two places better than last year off a 2lb lower mark. His preparation all season has been leading to this and having run a nice prep race in the Gold Cup on his most recent outing is worth his spot at the head of the betting.
Good ground is key to DOUBLE SEVEN (16/1 Stan James) who ran up a sequence last summer/autumn in conditions that suited him well. He is unproven over further than three miles but has been coming home well enough at that distance so is worth considering for a yard who have tasted National success before.
Alvarado (33/1 Betfred) is another for whom good ground is essential, showing he stays well when taking the three and a half mile handicap at Cheltenham's open meeting. The yard have done well with their National runners before but Alvarado has refused a couple of times in the past. He could love it or hate it so might be an in-play bet if not spitting the dummy out early on.
LAST TIME D’ALBAIN (50/1 SkyBet) has caught the eye at a massive price down at the bottom of the weights. His campaign this season smacks of hiding a light under a bushel, as last time we saw him in this country he was running on strongly to grab third in the 2013 Topham. That run (21lbs better off with Triolo D'Alene for a six length beating) will have given connections hope that he can come back this year for the big one. The big doubt is that three miles is as far as he has previously raced but hopefully his ability over shorter will allow him to travel well through the race.
4.15 Betting Tips – TIDAL BAY (E/W) (18/1 Stan James)
– DOUBLE SEVEN (E/W) (16/1 Stan James)
– LAST TIME D’ALBAIN (E/W) (50/1 SkyBet)