It's an early lead for Mike Norman in this year's Aintree Betting Battle, with Cheltenham conqueror Tony Calvin just edging second. Here's who the guys fancy on day two of the Grand National meeting...
Day One Standings
1. MN + £78.00
2. TC - £20.00
3. DB - £30.00
3. PK - £30.00
3. PR - £30.00
3. SR - £30.00
Thursday Summary and Standings
It was a relatively poor day for our Betting Battlers with only Mike Norman having any success courtesy of [5.4] Place selection Clarcam and [5.4] Win selection Warne, thanks to a superb ride by Sam Waley-Cohen over the National fences.
It all means that Mike has a £98.00 lead over Tony Calvin in second, but with two days to go and plenty of big price winners to be had this year's Aintree Betting Battle is still all to player for.
1. Mike Norman + £78.00
2. Tony Calvin - £20.00
3. Dan Barber - £30.00
3. Paul Krishnamurty - £30.00
3. Paul Robinson - £30.00
3. Steve Rawlings - £30.00
Tony Calvin (horse racing tipster)
For Tony's reasons for today's selections and other tips on Friday's Aintree card have a read of his in-depth daily tipping column here.
Mike Norman (betting.betfair editor)
I simply love the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham. Year-after-year it throws up future stars, but not just those who win the race, also those who finish in the places. This year's renewal looks like being another top class affair with impressive winner Vautour potentially being one of Willie Mullins' best ever hurdlers - or at least that's what the trainer himself thinks and who are we to argue. Josses Hill finished just six lengths behind Vautour at Cheltenham and that form alone is easily good enough to land this opening contest.
15:40 - Ma Filleule @ [4.8] (Place)
The step back in trip doesn't initially look like suiting Ma Filleule, especially given her much improved form of late has been over 3m+, but rarely is the Topham run at anything less than a decent clip and I don't see the trip being an issue for Nicky Henderson's six-year-old. Her form is rock solid (and will look even better if Holywell does the business in the 14:30) and there are few jockeys riding today with a better record than Barry Geraghty over these National fences. She won't mind any rain either.
It's only right to go for a few mares on Ladies Day and Pass The Time appeals as an excellent each-way wager. She put up a career best performance at Doncaster, another left-handed flat track, and was far from disgraced when beaten just seven lengths by the brilliant Quevega in the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham. She just scrapes into this race at the bottom of the handicap, and with jockey Conor Shoemark taking off another 5lbs I'm expecting a bold showing off her feather weight.
Dan Barber (Timeform)
Many Clouds was an early casualty in the RSA, but the winner that day, O'Faolains Boy, still provided Oliver Sherwood's novice with a timely form boost when going on to land that prize, there having been little between the pair when they met at Ascot the time before. The fact Many Clouds didn't get far enough to endure a hard race is another positive, and he can confirm himself a top-level novice by upsetting his old rival, plus other key players Holywell and Wonderful Charm.
15:40 - Big Fella Thanks @ [5.2] (Place)
Big Fella Thanks has failed to complete the National course only once in six previous attempts, almost invariably acquitting himself with credit despite not lasting home over longer distances. He isn't one for the faint hearted, given his tendency to flatter to deceive, but a crack at the Topham is long overdue and the significance of his experience cannot be understated. He'll surely be bang there entering the straight again.
The opening Top Novices' Hurdles features a fair few no-hopers, not to mention a very solid favourite in Josses Hill, but the value for each-way purposes looks to lie with the fast-improving Baltimore Rock, who took another step forward when landing the Imperial Cup at Sandown. Even more is required, but he's thriving at present and can make his presence felt at the very least.
Paul Krishnamurty (golf, snooker and politics contributor)
With all due respect to several promising opponents, they may need every ounce of improvement to stop Seeyouatmidnight completing a five-timer. Sandy Thomson's Rendlesham Hurdle winner has outstanding form in the book, proven stamina and I suspect he'd be shorter odds if representing a bigger stable.
15:05 - Days Hotel @ [5.0] (Place)
There is little to choose between the field in a far from vintage Melling Chase renewal, and this consistent Irish raider looks sure to give his running. He won last time, arrives fresh having bypassed Cheltenham and could well find some improvement stepping up in trip.
Both Timeform and Donald McCain believe Clondaw Kaempfer wasn't seen to best effect at Cheltenham and, with the trainer reporting he's come out of the race well, this improving handicapper is worth another chance to land a big prize. As a course and distance winner, the conditions of this race should be more suitable.
Paul Robinson (football tipster)
The Phillips Hobbs trained 11yr old looks to have an excellent chance in a below par renewal of the Melling Chase. Second in this in 2012, he ran a cracker to win at Cheltenham back in January and while he finished fifth of 11 at the Festival, it was in the Queen Mother. The extra distance will suit and in a race that looks devoid of solid options, Wishfull Thinking has to be the value selection.
15:40 - Big Fella Thanks @ [5.2] (Place)
Another older horse now as Big Fella Thanks gets yet another crack at the National fences. He ran with credit in defeat in the big race in 2009, 10 and 11 without ever looking like a stayer so this 21 furlong trip today should suit. I appreciate that he's getting on a bit in years but we've seen plenty of veterans run well time and time again at this course in recent times - most notably Hello Bud and Tartan Snow.
Call me a gluten for punishment but I've backed this horse in every single one of his British races and I'm currently zero for six. It all started so promisingly with a close second to Olofi at Cheltenham's Open Meeting in 2012 but his next four runs got progressively worse. The Nicky Henderson recruit did run much better at the Festival last month though and given he's held in such high regard by his trainer, I have to follow him in again given that he's down another 3lbs in the weights.
Steve 'The Punter' Rawlings (golf contributor)
Having won the 2009 edition with 8/1 shot, Irish Rapter, Nigel Twiston Davies knows what it takes to win the Topham Trophy and in Double Ross he has a superb candidate for this year's renewal. His third placed finish in the JLT was boosted yesterday when runner-up Uxizandre, who'd finished just a length and ¼ ahead of Double Ross, won the Manifesto Novices' Chase. Being up with the pace is the place to be in the Topham and that's just where you can expect Twiston Davies' charge to be.
Toner D'Oudairies has a bit to find on official figures in the Melling Chase but he's ultra consistent and he won't want for assistance in the saddle with Gold Cup winning jockey Davy Russell onboard. It looks a very open renewal this year and I can easily see Gordon Elliot's gelding finding the frame once more at a decent price
When the well-backed County Hurdle favourite, Cheltenian, was pulled up before the final flight, I did wonder if we'd ever see him again. Philip Hobbs' charge was off the course for nearly two years after he won the 2011 Champion Bumper and when he stopped so quickly I thought he might be injured again but mercifully not. He'd raced far too freely early on at Cheltenham and had merely run out of gas but he remains potentially well handicapped and he can gain compensation here if he settles slightly better.
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