Grand National Tips

Aintree Grand National Festival Thursday Tips: Tony Calvin's two to back at 6/1 and 16/1

Betfair horse racing tipster Tony Calvin
TC is backing two in the 16:40 on Thursday at Aintree

The Aintree Grand National Festival gets underway on Thursday so read Tony Calvin's in-depth preview and find out why he's backing two in the penultimate race...

Rachael Blackmore Superboost!

Betfair ambassador Rachael Blackmore has a great chance on Bob Olinger in the 15:30 at Aintree today, and if you fancy the horse to run well you can back today's Betfair Superboost for her to finish in the top two at 1/12.00 (was [8/15!]).

Back Bob Olinger to finish in the top two (15:30) at Aintree @ 1/12.00

Bet here

This National Hunt season can't seem to catch a break, and the unremitting wet weather has resulted in the first three Grade 1s on Aintree's Thursday card cutting up a fair bit, especially the opener that went from 18 entries to five at the overnight stage.

The ground is now surely heavy all over after another 9.2mm landed on Tuesday. Not officially (that description is below in the information section) but must be in reality.

I doubt we will get into inspection territory, but the current forecast isn't providing much joy at the moment, with more rain to come through Wednesday (5.8mm) and Thursday (3.1mm). Another 4mm or so on Friday and Saturday, too.

Hopefully, we get far less but the going stick readings on Wednesday suggest it is already heavy and then some.

Punting on deep ground is not ideal, especially when it will bring with it non-runners and Rule 4s and reduction factors, but we are where we are and at least we know exactly what conditions we will be getting.

Once again, I have included what I consider to be relevant betting information and statistics below.

They are a personal take as regards stable form and pace angles, so it's fine if you disagree, but the idea is to give you as much information as possible.

Thankfully, the excellent Andy Richmond - and the Proform Professional software he uses - has also dragged me into the 21st Century and supplied me with some Actual Over Expected numbers (the higher the better) for the trainers. I have included some of the most pertinent figures below.

Right, let's crack on. I'll take in all of the seven Aintree races.

Aintree 13:45 - No bet

Despite the aforementioned small fields and some high-profile withdrawals, we still don't lack for Grade 1 quality all over the card, and the Arkle form crosses swords with that of the Turners in the opener over 2m4f at 13:45.

The market conclusively favours the Turners form of Grey Dawning, who made it 2-1 in his tussles with Betfair ambassador Paul Nicholls' Ginny's Destiny at Cheltenham, and it would have probably been 3-0 but for a bad mistake two out at that track in December.

You could easily argue the runner-up, who could well get an uncontested lead here, is the pick at the current prices - Grey Dawning is a shortening 5/61.84, and Ginny's Destiny is 10/34.33 - and both of those over Arkle third, Il Etait Temps, who could struggle to get home in the ground.

I'll be leaving this race alone, but I may be tempted to chuck a few quid at Blow Your Wad, despite being slightly worried about the ground for him, without the favourite, who is of course the most likely winner.

He underperformed badly in the valuable handicap won by Ginny's Destiny at Cheltenham in January (could have been the track), but either side of that he won in a good time at Kempton off 135 on Boxing Day. He travelled really well in first-time cheekpieces when winning at the same track in a Grade 2 last time, again impressing on the clock.

Sure, that bare form leaves him with 13lb to find with Grey Dawning on official figures but that run could be upgraded - he mastered Pembroke easily enough and then had to dig deep to see off the renewed challenge of Tahmuras on the run-in - and of course, unlike his four rivals, he missed the Festival and comes here a fresher horse as a result, with his stable continuing in very good nick.

His Betfair Exchange price of 11.010/1 looks fair, but the betting market without could be the cuter play if you want an interest as you have to fear the favourite.

The 13/27.50 and 6/17.00 knocking about in the marketplace on Tuesday afternoon unfortunately didn't last long though, and I'd be looking for at least 9/25.50 when the Sportsbook go up with their line. So a holding brief for now (the markets may well be up by the time you read this).

Aintree 14:20 - No bet

Talking of missing Cheltenham, one of the big talking points of the week will be the form of the Nicky Henderson yard.

And, to put it succinctly, literally no-one will know how they will perform - including the stable - until they experience the exertions of race conditions.

So, for all the potential and brilliance of Sir Gino, do you really want to be going in on him at the Sportsbook's 8/111.73 in the Grade 1 Juvenile at 14:20?

My answer has to be a resounding no, even if the Exchange price is over 10/111.91 - the stable angle doesn't look to have been factored into that price at all - for all I am a huge fan of the horse.

Aintre stand course runners 1280.jpg

It's a wide-open race beneath him, and heavy ground winner Nurburgring is on a retrieval mission after finishing a disinterested fourth in the Triumph Hurdle when he didn't jump or travel at all early doors.

Disinterested until making notable late gains, that is.

He was fancied by many to run a big race there after finishing a close third at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, just a nose behind Triumph Hurdle runner-up Kargese, and surely he is better than he showed at Cheltenham.

I must be going mad/madder in my old age as I swore he was declared in cheekpieces when I looked at this race on Tuesday - I even checked the trainer's record with them and found out that a sibling had won in them, so certain I was that he was declared in the headgear, so I am a total loss what happened there - but he clearly isn't.

Bizarre, but apologies.

Either way, the current 12.011/1 about him on the Exchange is very fair, but maybe the betting without Sir Gino will be the angle in here. Again, I have taken a pause here as the line isn't up yet (it may well be when you read this), but look for 4/15.00 or bigger, 7/24.50 at a push, but definitely no no lower.

Aintree 14:55 - No bet

With the stable form doubt about 11/43.75 second favourite Shishkin, and ground concerns for a few others, I think the Exchange price of 2.546/4 for Gerri Colombe is pretty much justified in the Aintree Bowl at 14:55.

He clearly handles deep ground exceptionally well, has never been out of the first two in his life, won at the meeting last year via Cheltenham, and comes here on the back of a career-best in the Gold Cup.

The only one slight negative against him is the indifferent form of his stable - and maybe that hard race last month - but I'd rather be with him than against at the current price of around 6/42.50.

Check out the first-time cheekpieces for Paul Nicholls below. They are certainly not a negative for Bravemansgame, though the conditions may well be.

Aintree 15:30 - No bet

Bob Olinger is another shortie I quite like the look of in the Aintree hurdle at 15:30, though I can happily let 11/82.38 pokes win unbacked every day of the week.

In fact, that price is probably a little disrespectful to the opposition - and he is a little bigger on the Exchange at 2.427/5 - as the second in, 7/42.75 chance Impaire Et Passe, is a lot better than he looked when seemingly resenting the forcing tactics last time (when Bob Olinger finished five lengths ahead of him in that Irish Champion Hurdle).

However, Bob Olinger was so good on deep ground in the Relkeel that I am not inclined to bet against him outright - though, no way would I lay him - though Nemean Lion could be the each way play at double figures if the dead-eight holds, and of interest in the without markets, too (he is as big as 9s in the latter if you shop around).

I'll probably let the race pass without a bet, though; I tend to when I fancy the short-priced favourite.

Aintree 16:05 - No bet

I wouldn't pretend to have a betting opinion in the Foxhunters' at 16:05 - a race where one of the ante-post favourites, last year's winner Famous Clermont, was a no-show at the overnight stage - but I know a couple of people that do, and both bagged the Cheltenham winner Sine Nomine at 16s.

Betting.Betfair colleague Rhys Williams put up three ante-post for this race at double-figure prices and he has still got Time Leader and Bennys King running for him.

And another expert in the field, Darran Pearce, agrees with Time Leader, and he has also put up Spyglass Hill and Gaboriot.

Make of that what you will. There are some interesting stable form stats on this race below.

Aintree 16:40 - Back Saint Roi

I suspect heavy ground could claim one or two non-runners in the Red Rum at 16:40 - maybe among them last year's winner Dancing On My Own - but conditions could be ideal (well, nearly) for Saint Roi to gain his first success since he landed a Grade 1 at Leopardstown on Boxing Day 2022.

The ground may not be perfect for him but he did finish a neck runner-up in a Morgiana on heavy and his proven stamina over further will come in handy here.

Indeed, he finished a 1 ½ length second in the Grade 1 Manifesto over 2m4f at this meeting last year.

He was campaigned in Graded company for his first four starts this season before the trigger was finally pulled in the Grand Annual last time and, although the target was well and truly missed, it wasn't entirely without promise and he was dropped another 2lb for it.

He was travelling sweetly before a bad mistake four out saw him fall back through the field - that was the crucial error - before briefly looking like getting back into it on the inner rounding the final bend.

His run soon flattened out, not helped by another error at the last, but if he can eliminate the mistakes here then I think the 9yo still has one big pay day in him off a mark of 150.

Now, to the price.

His generally available odds of 8s disappeared on Thursday, as did the Sportsbook's 15/28.50. The 15/28.50 became 13/27.50 on Tuesday afternoon, and the 13/27.50 became 11/26.50 on Wednesday morning.

That is fair enough, as I flagged him on the Racing Post podcast on Tuesday and that show deserves some time to breathe, so I will switch from each-way, fixed-odds, and go win-only now at 7.06/1 or bigger on the Betfair Exchange. There is plenty of 6s out there.

Back Saint Roi @ 7.06/1 Betfair Exchange

Bet here

Aintree 16:40 - Back Irish Blaze

I am going to have a win-only saver on Irish Blaze at 17.016/1 or bigger. He is also 16s with the Sportsbook if you want to back him there.

He has actually been a non-runner three times on soft and heavy ground, but his record suggests it shouldn't be a problem at all.

Trainer Cian Collins is in good form (see below) - this is his first runner at Aintree - and the horse and his 7lb claimer have been in similarly fine nick this year, with three deep-ground efforts that suggest a mark of 135 could be exploitable, even if he is rated 4lb lower in Ireland.

His 6 ½ length Gowran Park success in January has worked out particularly well, with subsequent wins for the second and third, and the 15 ¼ length fourth was only beaten a neck off a mark of 122 last time.

On that run, he is a bigger player in this ground (notwithstanding those no-shows) than 16s suggests. His third to subsequent Grade 3 winner Mister Policeman on heavy at Punchestown last time was a perfectly good effort, and probably at least a match for the Gowran win, in fact.

Back Irish Blaze @ 17.016/1 Betfair Exchange

Bet here

Aintree 17:15 - No bet

Bumpers rarely float my boat, but I was surprised that the Prescott horse Solid Silver was as big as 33s in the wider marketplace for the 17:15, and I imagine she will be that kind of price when the exchange market beefs up.

She has achieved a fair level of form in three starts and the Baronet has a good record with first-time cheekpieces on the Flat, being 24 from 112 with this initial headgear since 2016, which he puts on the mare here.

Go well.

Aintree Thursday betting information

Going - Soft, heavy in places

Going stick readings as at 7.45am Wednesday - Chase: 2.8; Hurdles: 3.1

Forecast - 5.8mm rain forecast through Wednesday, from 10am onwards; 3.1mm due Thursday.

Pace angles

1.45pm: Ginny's Destiny

2.20pm: Intellotto, Kalif Du Berlais

2.55pm: Ahoy Senor (prominent), Bravemansgame (prom), Gentlemansgame (prom)

3.30pm: Beacon Edge, Mahons Glory, Luccia

4.05pm: Bennys King, Cap Du Mathan?, Captain Tommy, Drop Flight?, Espoir De Guye, Focus Point, It's On The Line (prominent), Lieutenant Rocco, Rebel Dawn Rising, Reikers Island (prom), Tea Clipper (prom), Windsor Avenue (prom)

4.40pm: Dancing On My Own, Unexpected Party, Irish Blaze, Whiskeywealth, Gut, Sans Bruit (prominent)

5.15pm (very little evidence and running styles likely to change): Diva Luna, Solid Silver

Balloted out (ante-post punters entitled to money back): None

First-time headgear stats

Paul Nicholls - cheekpieces 21-74 (2016)

Sir Mark Prescott - cheekpieces 24-112 (2016)

Karl Burke - visor 9-168 (2009)

Note: Tea Clipper (4.05pm) is running in a combination of a tongue-tie and cheekpieces for the first time, having worn both before.

Notable form of trainers

Good: Tom Lacey, Olly Murphy, Jamie Snowden, Henry de Bromhead, Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero, Cian Collins (very small sample), Fergal O'Brien, Hannah Roach (3 from 7 in Hunter Chases this season, with only one unplaced), David Kemp (six from 15 in points), Ben Pauling

Fair: Paul Nicholls, Willie Mullins, Joseph O'Brien, Gavin Cromwell, Terence O'Brien (very little evidence to go on, but 2/4 in last two months), Nigel Twiston-Davies, James Owen

Moderate: Dan Skelton, Lucinda Russell, Emmet Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Mouse Morris (though very few runners all season), Kerry Lee (very few runners since February, though), Joe Tizzard (despite two recent winners), Gary Moore, Chris Honour, Ben Case, Peter Bowen, Anthony Honeyball.

NOTE: Warren Greatrex was going to be in here until he had a double at Hereford yesterday.

Undecided: Nicky Henderson (though easy to say very poor), Donald McCain, Ross O'Sullivan, Mark Walford, Noel Williams, Stuart Crawford, Sir Mark Prescott (only nine runners Flat and Jumps this year), Karl Burke, Patrick Neville (very few runners but an 8/1 winner with last runner; see below), Syd Hosie;

Actual Over Expected wins (higher the better; last 14 days)

Best: 5.56 Patrick Neville, 5.23 C Collins - those two are very small samples though, so indicative rather than statistically sound - 2.8 Tom Lacey, 2.33 Greenall/Guerriero, 1.66 De Bromhead, Murphy, 1.64 Snowden, 1.59 Cromwell. 1.36 Pauling

Worst (used a month sample to be as representative as possible): Moore (0.41), Tizzard 0.48, Honeyball (0.52), Winnerless: Morris, Lee, Honour, Noel Williams, Bowen

Listen to Racing...Only Bettor Aintree Day 1 preview

Now read Aintree Grand National 2024: Daryl Carter's runner-by-runner guide and 1,2,3,4,5 prediction for the big one

Recommended bets

Profit and loss

Nov 1 onwards; 2023-24 NH season:


RETURN: 135.8

P/L: +26.8

April 16-Oct 31; 2023 Flat season


RETURNS: 168.9

P AND L: -33.1

March 26 2022 -April 15 2023

Staked: 436

Returns: 643.6

P/L: +207.6

April 14 2021 to March 25 2022: P/L: + 183.1


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