Fresh from picking the 23/1 winner of the Lincoln last weekend, Tony Calvin returns to talk us through the card for Day 1 of the Grand National Meeting at Aintree, where three runners have caught his eye at double figure prices...
"If you go back and look at the whole race, then the more you watch it the more you have to think Romain de Senam would have won given a more aggressive ride - he was travelling beautifully all the way, too, and crucially lost ground and his position when steadied into three out - and I can't have him as a 20/1+ shot here. Back him at 21.020/1 in win and at 4.57/2 or bigger in place; he looks the bet on the card to me."
Hard to oppose Cue Card
Four Grade 1s kick off a quality-packed three-day Grand National meeting on Thursday - thanks mainly to Willie Mullins bringing a battalion of fit and able horses to Aintree for once in pursuit of that trainers' title - but unfortunately top-class racing does not always make for good betting opportunities, especially when the favourites all look solid and justified.
And that looks to be the case in the Betfred Bowl at 14:50, in which Cue Card trades at around 2.3211/8 to gain a level of compensation for his fall in the Gold Cup.
Actually, I don't think Paddy Brennan will view it as anything such even if he wins this by a street, but the horse clearly has an excellent chance if none the worse for crashing out at the third last at Cheltenham.
For me, he still had plenty of questions to answer there. Well, that's not true. It was basically the one that he had to prove going into the race, and that was his stamina.
So while he was tanking along there, no-one can really have a strong opinion on whether he would have won or not - well, they can, but I haven't - especially given that Don Cossack's finishing effort would have meant his ability to last out an extended 3m2f+ will have been tested to the full.
Today's shorter trip and lesser company - and his King George win over Vautour would be good enough to win this - means he is clearly a very strong favourite. And he has backed up well from Cheltenham before in his second to Sprinter Sacre in the Melling Chase here in 2013.
But do you want to be taking around 11/8 about him after that fall? It's a fair price, don't get me wrong, but my gut feeling is no. It is only 20 days since that fall.
I certainly don't want to be laying him though, as you don't have a lot running for you at 8/11. Okay, Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam has only 6lb to find on official figures, and you have to think that Bryan Cooper will attempt to get Don Poli rolling earlier here, but that isn't a great deal to have on your side against a top-notcher.
If you are not a fan of the top three in the betting, then this race will clearly have an attractive betting shape to you.
I went round and round in circles trying to make a plausible case for one at the prices - Irish Cavalier in first-time blinkers and from a stable in form, and Houblon Des Obeaux with his cheekpieces and given a sight of his fences from the front, were closest - but I have to sit this one out.
Annie will be OK
The Aintree Hurdle at 15:25 features an even shorter-priced favourite in Annie Power at 1.68/13.
She surprised me when a very impressive four-and-a-half length winner of the Champion Hurdle, with My Tent Or Yours and Nichols Canyon split by a head in second and third, The New One a further four lengths away in fourth and Camping Ground never able to get into the race.
And, as we know that she stays every yard of this 2m4f trip and plenty more besides, it is pretty hard to make a case against her.
If you were forcing it, you could argue that this is the first time she has been turned out again so quickly in proper Grade 1 company, and that even seemingly easy victories in the top flight often take more out of horses than it first appears.
But other than that you are struggling.
Camping Ground would have a chance on his Relkeel win and he will find this longer trip far more to his liking after being run off his feet in the Champion; Court Minstrel is at least a fresh horse and doesn't have that much to find with these on official figures; if My Tent Of Yours stays, then maybe he can bridge the gap with that run under his belt; how much closer will Nichols Canyon get with an error-free round and up in trip; and is The New One, winner of this race in 2014, better around Aintree?
So many questions, and only one answer. And as that is probably Annie Power that rules me out of getting involved. However, if you want to take her on, then stablemate Nichols Canyon is probably the most solid.
Bet of the day in the Juvenile
The Juvenile Hurdle at 14:15 features yet another shortie in the shape of Ivanovich Gorbatov who proved his long-range backers spot on when winning the Triumph in good style from Apple's Jade, with Footpad six lengths away.
However, he probably doesn't deserve to be as short as 2.245/4 on that evidence alone. And I'm not entirely sure that we will confirm the Cheltenham form with the one-and-a-quarter length runner-up Apple's Jade, who traded at 1.444/9 in the run, and the third Footpad, who was clearly given far too much to do from off the pace. They are obvious win and place plays against the favourite.
Paul Nicholls' Fred Winter 1-2 are also of each-way interest.
Winner, and plot horse, Diego Du Charmil tanked through the race like the more talented of that pair and is probably value for more than the head that he beat Romain de Senam. But against that the runner-up was given a mystifyingly quiet ride for much of the race before flying home, and he was also giving his stablemate 3lb, too.
If you go back and look at the whole race, then the more you watch it the more you have to think Romain de Senam would have won given a more aggressive ride - he was travelling beautifully all the way, too, and crucially lost ground and his position when steadied into three out - and I can't have him as a 20/1+ shot here.
Back him at 22.021/1 in win and at 4.57/2 or bigger in place; he looks the bet on the card to me.
The 2m4f novice chase at 13:40 is incredibly tricky but Sizing John will be thinking it is Christmas come early when he looks across at the start and sees that Douvan, who he is 0 from 5 against, isn't there this time.
I toyed with Arzal at this first attempt at this trip (in this country at least, as he finished second over 2m4f in the French provinces on his second start) at around 8.07/1, but I struggled to make a convincing case for him in a race where you can fancy all eight at the prices.
Regular readers know that I don't go anywhere near hunter chases but I am sure many will want to side with Pacha Du Polder at 7/2+ in the Fox Hunters' at 16:05.
He was obviously ridden for a clear passage and to get the trip when given a tremendous ride by Victoria Pendleton at Cheltenham, finishing fewer than three lengths behind On The Fringe, and you would expect more aggressive tactics to be adopted over this shorter trip.
But these races just aren't for me, sorry, and neither is the bumper at 17:15. National Hunt Flat races are just guessing games to my eye, as they are packed full of lightly-raced winners with no end of potential.
A two-handed attack on the Red Rum
The world and his wife saw the promise of Fayette County's second at Ludlow last time - he should have won easily and the winner followed up in good style on Tuesday - and his stable have finally hit a bit of form of late, too.
So I couldn't put anyone off him at around 7.06/1 in the Red Rum at 16:40 as this clearly looks to have been the plan. That's a fair price, as he clearly has the ability to be winning races off 130.
He very nearly got the nod - I thought he'd be a point or so shorter - but I am going to take two against the field in the shape of Surf And Turf and Pearls Legend, first and third in this race last season.
Surf And Turf wouldn't want the ground to get any more testing than good to soft, but he is now only 6lb higher than when winning this race in 2015 and his Aintree form figures read 1-2-1-8. And his stable had their first winner since December when Shamlan won at Wolverhampton on Sunday.
It is a leap of faith but at 32.031/1 and bigger he is worth chancing.
Pearls Legend is far more solid at around the 14.013/1 mark. He has been dropped 1lb for his Grand Annual fifth last time and perhaps the softer ground at Aintree will see him to even better effect here.
With the big race just a couple of days away, the good folk at Timeform have put together a comprehensive guide to the Aintree Grand National Runners to help with any Grand National picks and you can read my Aintree Grand National Festival Day 2 Tips behind the link.
Back Romain De Senam at 22.021/1 to win and 4.57/2 or bigger to place in 14:15 at Aintree
Back Surf And Turf at 32.031/1 and Pearls Legend at 14.013/1 in the 16:40 at Aintree
Get a free bet with every winner you back at 3/1 or greater on any live Channel 4 race
1) Place a single Sportsbook bet on any Live Channel 4 race on Thursday (April 7)
2) If your horse wins at SP odds of 3/1 or greater, you will receive a free bet token to the same value of your stake, up to £25
Aintree 14:15, 14:50, 15:25, 16:05, 16:40