The Grand National is the biggest show in town this week so it’s no surprise the ITV Racing cameras are focussing solely on the racing from Aintree on Saturday. They will give the historic handicap the build-up that it deserves but won’t skimp on the coverage for the other races on an excellent card. The trio of Grade 1 races and an 18-runner handicap are well worth paying attention to and we’ve picked out the best bets from all of Aintree’s races in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
2:25 Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
Grade 1, 2m4f
Gordon Elliott saddles no fewer than seven runners in the Grand National. He is hoping to get off the mark on Saturday long before the big race and has a very good chance with Three Stripe Life the 5/2 favourite for the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle. The six year old has given the syndicate who own him big days out at the festival at both Leopardstown and Cheltenham already this season. However, he’s fallen just short in each of his last three starts and may well suffer the same fate at Aintree.
Dan Skelton had some very good horses at Cheltenham but failed to saddle a single winner. His form has picked up recently though and he is right to be confident about the chances of Elle Est Belle in this race. Skelton decided it was best for the six year old to skip Cheltenham so she arrives at Aintree fresher than many of her competitors. She was well suited to the step up to 2m3½f last time out and providing she takes another step forward Elle Est Belle can prove her trainer’s decision was a wise won.
3:00 Poundland Maghull Novices’ Chase
Grade 1, 2m
On a day when the big race is incredibly difficult to predict the Poundland Maghull Novices’ Chase should provide some relief for punters. Edwardstone is the 8/11 favourite for this Grade 1 minimum distance chase and it would be a major surprise were he not to reward his backers just as he did at the Cheltenham Festival.
Winners of the Arkle at Cheltenham have a good record in this race. Although the presence of Gentleman De Mee and Third Time Lucki in the field will keep Edwardstone honest, he should improve the record of Arkle winners and secure a sixth win on the spin.
3:35 JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle
Grade 1, 3m½f
Storylines from the Cheltenham Festival are always picked up at the Aintree Festival. That’s very much the case in the JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle as three of the first four home in the Stayers’ Hurdle renew hostilities. Flooring Porter and Thyme Hill were first and second respectively at Cheltenham and the market is predicting the same result this time around with Champ priced as the third favourite.
Away from the top three and Sire Du Berlais is an interesting option at odds of 10/1. He encountered some trouble in running in the Pertemps Network Final at Cheltenham but even so did not give his best running that day. Sire Du Berlais fits the bill for each way backers but with the suggestion that Aintree’s flat track could bring even more out of Flooring Porter it’s the Stayers’ Hurdle champion who gets the nod to win at a price of 7/4.
4:15 Betway Handicap Chase
Grader 3, 3m1f
Shan Blue has one more chance to turn around an incredibly frustrating season. Based on raw ability, Shan Blue is one of the best horses under the care of Dan Skelton currently. He showed all of the talent when sauntering through to take what was surely an unassailable lead in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. Then came a fall out of nowhere which kept him off track until the Ryanair Chase where he never got competitive against a top-class field over a trip that was too short.
The bookies make Shan Blue the 9/4 favourite to turn things around as he drops into handicap company. While he has to carry second top weight in the Betway Handicap Chase, Aintree should hold no issues for him while the 3m1f trip will play to his strengths as a stayer and a quality jumper.
5:15 Randox Grand National Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 4m2½f
This is the race that the whole three-day meeting has been gearing up to. For most of the 40 horses in the field for the Randox Grand National it’s the race that their whole season has been built around. That’s the case even as the calibre of horses running in the National continues to improve.
The fact that Emma Lavelle spent so much of last week whether Eclair Surf would make it into the Grand National off a mark of 143 tells you just how competitive the race is now. The eight year old snuck in at 39 in the weights and has been backed in to 14/1 from 25/1 since final declarations were made on Thursday. Lavelle is confident that her Classic Chase winner will run a very big race and you have to think that he is well treated with just 10st6lb to carry. With positive reports coming from his work at home, Eclair Surf is a very good each way bet at odds of 14/1 and could well do better than just placing.
Everybody is looking for a big priced horse who can run well in the Grand National and in that regard it’s worth considering both Blaklion (66/1) and Samcro (80/1). Blaklion looked to have rediscovered a new lust for life at the age of 13 when winning two races in December and while he was pulled up in the Grand National Trial at Haydock he is sure to plug on and give his best at Aintree. Samcro got a surprising mention by Gordon Elliott in the week with the trainer saying he wouldn’t be at all surprised if the talented but frustrating 10 year old did something special in the Grand National.