A double handed attack on the opener
It's another tough day trying to eke out bets at Aintree on Friday, and I am not going to force it just because it's a big meeting and live on ITV.
But I was lucky enough to fluke the 33/1 winner of the opener at 13:40 last year - I watched the race in Dublin airport and that got the stag-do off to a fiery start - and I am going in two-handed this year.
First up is Hawk High, who I put up for the Coral Cup at the Festival. He disappointed me a bit there in only finishing in midfield but he ran better than that suggests, as he only really dropped away between the last two.
The handicapper has dropped him 2lb and connections have replaced the cheekpieces with blinkers so I will give him one last try at this 2m4f trip - he was racing over 2m5f for the first time at Cheltenham - and he is two from three at this course, albeit over 2m1f, and decent ground is ideal for him.
He is on a decent mark and rates a fair bet at 19.018/1 or bigger.
Runswick Royal comes here in much better form than him but he has been doing his recent winning on rather different ground as to what he will encounter here, as it was hock-deep at Ayr and Kelso.
He has gone up 9lb for those two victories but he does have plenty of form on better ground.
One word of caution is that connections initially said this meeting will come too soon for him after his Kelso win 12 days ago - and the horse has an issue with a kissing spine, too and has had leg problems in the past, hence his long break after June 2015 - but all things considered I think he is worth a bet at 30.029/1 or bigger. A bit of watering tonight (Thursday) wouldn't go amiss for him.
Sub Lieutenant can march on in the Melling
A couple of days ago the 13/2 and 6/1 about Sub Lieutenant was staring me in the face on Oddschecker but I was unable to access it.
In these circumstances you just pray that other punters come along to take the price quickly to put you out of your misery - it's soul-destroying seeing an advertised price, especially a wrong one, you can't get your hands on - and it is no surprise to see the horse now trading at 4.216/5 on the exchange in the Melling Chase at 15:25.
The official ratings may say different - they have Fox Norton and God's Own 4lb and 3lb superior respectively - but I am in little doubt that Sub Lieutenant's second to the brilliant Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair last time is the best recent form coming into this race and I think he will go off a strong favourite.
You obviously have to respect those coming from the Champion Chase - and, given the general form of the Colin Tizzard yard at Cheltenham, you probably have to mark up Fox Norton's second to Special Tiara - and God's Own won this race last season, but I think the Irish horse will take all the beating.
The question is whether the juice has been squeezed out of the price at 4.216/5. I do think he could shorten up a bit further, and he would be my bet if forced, but I am inclined to sulk and leave the race alone now.
I suspect they won't see which way the uber-talented, but undoubtedly quirky, Might Bite goes in the Mildmay at 14:50 if he behaves himself - and I am told the entrance to the course is after the last at Aintree, which helps! - but a price of around 8/13 tells you that, so I will move on. However, I will say that I wouldn't be surprised if Marinero was the one to chase him home.
The Grade 1 hurdle at 14:20 is a cracking little race but I couldn't see past two of the first three in the betting, and none of the outsiders lured me in.
I wouldn't be in a rush to back Moon Racer after he was pulled up in the Champion Hurdle last time but I find it hard to split Supreme third River Wylde and Mount Mews.
Slight preference is for Mount Mews, who Malcolm Jefferson said "could be the one of the best he has had" - and he isn't prone to exaggeration - but he is "only" a 3/1 chance and I can let him run and win.
Take the West Approach - with a twist
The Sefton at 16:40 features the two unlucky horses from the Albert Bartlett in The Worlds End and Constantine Bay. The former fell when still in every chance two out and in the process badly hampered and put paid to the latter's chance.
Of course, they occupy the first two spots in the betting here - my preference of the pair would be for Constantine Bay, which finished off his race very well in the circumstances - but I am going to ignore the dodgy stable form and a pulled-up effort in the Stayers' Hurdle last time and recommend a win bet on West Approach at 6.05/1 with a twist.
The twist is to stick in an in-running lay at 2.186/5, that price being my odds of choice for a keep bet. (For more on laying, check out our how-to videos).
I think this horse has been pretty badly campaigned to be honest, and for him not to have recorded a win this season is a pretty poor state of affairs.
To be fair, he has had some bad luck, as well as some weak finishes admittedly, and has been aimed very high out of novice company on his last three starts. And why they went down the Stayers' Hurdle route and not the Albert Bartlett at the Festival - and, yes, I was on him at 16s for the novice - remains a mystery to me.
But I am convinced he is the most talented horse in here judged on his third in the Cleeve Hurdle and on that form he probably deserves to be favourite here.
Yes, stable form is a worry, as was his run petering out tamely last time, but it is interesting that connections have put on a first-time tongue-tie, which could hint at the reason why he hasn't been finishing off his races as well as he might.
I am happy to back this strong traveller at around 5/1 though, with the safety net of that in-running lay. In fact, I wouldn't put you off backing him each-way at 5/1 with the Sportsbook.
My only other bet on the card was going to be small-stakes bet on Henryille at in the Topham at 16:05.
He is 1lb lower than when third to As De Mee in the Grand Sefton here in December, will love the ground and things didn't go his way at Cheltenham last time.
But I think he is a horse who excels when fresh, so the Cheltenham run isn't ideal, and a price around the 12/1 mark wasn't enough to tempt me in. Pass.
The bumper at 17:15 looks impossible to me, as ever - I bow to anyone who makes money in these races, as they are always full of lightly-raced and unexposed winners with any amount of improvement in them - and I genuinely don't have an opinion, sorry.
Back on Friday with my tips for Grand National day.
Back Hawk High at 19.018/1 or bigger and Runswick Royal at 30.029/1 or bigger in the 13:40
Back West Approach at 6.05/1 and put in an in-running lay at 2.186/5 in the 16:40
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