Grand National Meeting Tips: A bumper crop of big-priced bets for the big day
Here are eight horses for your consideration on the biggest day in UK racing, all trading at chunky prices, and carefully selected by value punting guru Tony Calvin...
"This game is so simple sometimes, so just back Burton Port at odds of [20.0] on Betfair and wait just over nine minutes for the horse to stay steady on his feet - overcoming the Aintree fences and avoiding the bars - and come home in front, then go and collect."
The Grand National
"Gone for a Burton" (my old man's phrase for fallen horses) and "Gone for a Port" (the most-seen sign on racecourse stewards' doors...) are two commonly-heard remarks in horseracing, so combine the two and you get my idea of the likeliest Grand National winner on Saturday afternoon.
This game is so simple sometimes, so just back Burton Port at odds of [20.0] on Betfair and wait just over nine minutes for the horse to stay steady on his feet - overcoming the Aintree fences and avoiding the bars - and come home in front, then go and collect.
Both trainer Jonjo O'Neill (Don't Push It) and owner Trevor Hemmings (Ballabriggs and Hedgehunter) have recent experience of winning this race, and in Burton Port they have another outstanding candidate.
I'll be honest. I wasn't totally enamoured by the fact that Tony McCoy appeared to give the horse a very hard, overly-aggressive, race in bad ground at Newbury last time.
But at least that showed that the horse still has a bit of fire in the old belly, and it was heartening to read such a positive stable update on his well-being, so hopefully that run hasn't left its mark.
If it hasn't, then he is an exceptionally well-handicapped horse on his form of two seasons ago, which included a second in a Betfred Bowl here and a Gold Cup fourth, and a breathing operation over the winter appeared to do its' job at Newbury, too.
Now, you don't have to tell me that this race has any number of horses that could win - and favourite Teaforthree looks the most solid if you want to go safety-first, and a pretty fair bet at around 10-1 - but for my other selection in the race I am siding with Alvarado at [50.0].
He disappointed in bad ground at Cheltenham last time, but he is a far more effective horse on this better ground, as he showed when earlier winning a very competitive 3m3f110yd handicap at the same track in November, with Monbeg Dude back in fourth.
He isn't the best handicapped horse in the race but he comes here fresh, and is a stayer who really travels in his races, and I expect him to out-run his odds.
The Liverpool Hurdle, 14:50 - Salubrious
I was going to give the Liverpool Hurdle at 14:50 a swerve until I saw that Salubrious was available at [17.0] on Betfair. He rates an interest at that price.
It initially looked hard to forgive what went wrong in the World Hurdle last time, as he ran no sort of race.
But the fact that connections have reached for a first-time hood here is the clue to why, as it transpires that they believe the horse lost all his chance by getting too revved up by the crowd and the occasion at Cheltenham, sweating up and running too free as a result.
If the hood does the trick - and that's a fair if, as Aintree is a fair more livelier place than Cheltenham, as I can testify to - then he is bang in the mix here.
Because I think that he would have beaten Reve De Sivola in the Long Walk had he not done the splits two out at Ascot, and the form of his earlier second to More Of That in the Relkeel, where he wouldn't have been suited by making the pace in a tactical four-runner race, is obviously high-class form.
I am always willing to forgive one poor run, especially when it means that I am getting an overly-inflated price as a result, and Salubrious looks well another chance on his favoured good ground. Harry Derham can't claim his 3lb in this race, but at least he knows the horse well.
13:30 - Un Ace
Un Ace didn't reward our support at a massive price in the Supreme but I also have to give him more chance in the 13:30 at odds of [12.0] or better.
He looked very good when winning at Doncaster first time up, where a hallmark of the win was a high cruising speed, and that was in evidence again before the pace quickened at Cheltenham, at which point he initially struggled to lie up.
But he stayed on well once he finally found his feet going to the last, and was only 11 lengths adrift of the winner at the line, and I think the combination of a flatter track and longer trip could be ideal for him.
14:05 - Next Sensation
I, and about a million others, watched in disbelief as Richard Johnson went further and further clear on Next Sensation in the Grand Annual, clearly setting a suicidal pace even to an untrained eye such as mine, and it is to the horse's credit that he was actually beaten less than two lengths. With a more reserved ride, he would probably have won with his head in his chest.
The problem with that ride was that it was so poor - and to be fair Johnson generally rode brilliantly at Cheltenham - that it generated so much coverage and comment that I thought it was pretty much inevitable that Next Sensation was going to be under-the-odds next time, even if stepped up to Grade 1 company, as he is here.
Or so I thought...
I am quite surprised to see him trading around the 9-2 mark and that will do for me in a very winnable Grade 1. He may be the lowest-rated horse going into the race, but I think you can make a strong case for him as having the most potential and regular pilot Tom Scudamore is back on board this superb jumper.
Back him at odds of [5.5] or better in the 14:05.
15:25 - Minella For Vlaue
I gave Minella For Value an outside chance in the Grand National but he didn't quite make the cut, and am happy to side with him in his consolation race, the 15:25, at odds of [15.0] or better.
To be honest, I don't know why this horse hasn't raced since finishing fourth in a novice chase at Cheltenham in November on his first start for the controversial trainer John Butler, hopefully because he had so much in hand of his National mark that they didn't want to ruin it.
But we know that Butler can ready one after a lay-off - sorry, I couldn't resist it - and presumably the horse is plenty straight enough for this. He made hay in Ireland on good ground last autumn, his latest success over this trip at Gowran in October seeing him beat a horse who won a good race at Galway next time up. His regular pilot in Ireland, Davy Russell, is back up.
17:10 - Court Minstrel and Twoways
Bumpers aren't my bag, so for my final bet of the day I am going to side with Court Minstrel and Twoways in the 17:10. Back them at [17.0] and [34.0] or bigger respectively.
There is nothing sexy about Twoways, it is just that I think this he has been crying out for a fast-run, big field handicap over 2m on good ground, and he gets it today after slogging around in the mud and over longer trips of late.
Court Minstrel is a flashier type, as he is a traveller with a profile, who also relishes the same conditions.
There were some decent judges who were putting him up as a lively Champion Hurdle outsider at the start of the season, but his trainer Evan Williams was not one, who was moaning about his handicap mark of 149.
He hasn't troubled the judge in three starts this season, but there has been promise in all of those runs, and he has at least come down 2lb in the weights. He has his conditions here, and he is set to run a big race. But my advice is to put in an in-running lay at around [3.0] to cover your stake if you do back him.
Be lucky. And try not to go for a burton if you are on the port tonight...
Back Burton Port and Alvarado @ [20.0] and [50.0] in the Grand National
Back Un Ace @ [15.0] or better in the 13:30
Back Next Sensation @ [7.0] or better in the 14:05
Back Salubrious @ [17.0] in the 14:50
Back Minella For Value @ [21.0] or better in the 15:25
Back Court Minstrel and Twoways @ [21.0] and [34.0] in the 17:10