David Cleary picks out the best bets on Grand National day...
"Zarkandar looks way overpriced in his bid to turn the tables on At Fishers Cross in the Liverpool Hurdle at 14:50."
The Grand National is here, which, for many, including me, is their favourite race of the year and the reason they got interested in the sport in the first place. The best punting approach is to put a line through any of the 40 runners that can't win - and there are usually plenty of them - and then back most of those that remain, with some hopefully already backed ante-post.
For those starting at this point, Teaforthree is the most likely winner, having been generously treated by the handicapper, inexplicably dropped 2 b since his fine third in last year's renewal. He's been trained specifically for the race this time round and will take some beating if he runs as well as he did last year. Others have been given lenient treatment too, notably the class horses at the top of the weights, of whom Long Run makes most appeal, despite jumping concerns; and some who'd lost their form prior to the weights coming out - Burton Port and Prince de Beauchene are most interesting of those. The last-named pair have the credentials required and appear to have been campaigned with this one objective in mind, for stables that have won the National in the past. Long-shots worth considering are last year's Topham third Long Time d'Albain and Vintage Star, who could just be the type to take to this, while Rocky Creek and The Package are others to think about, though shortage of experience and a failure here previously are respective negatives.
As for the rest of the card, Zarkandar looks way overpriced in his bid to turn the tables on At Fishers Cross in the Liverpool Hurdle at 14:50. There was two lengths between them in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, with Zarkandar, having his first start at three miles, ridden further off the pace than ideal, given the way the race unfolded. With blinkers back on and the likelihood that, now he's proven his stamina, he will be ridden more prominently, Zarkandar has to be backed on a track where he has such a good record. There's a case to be made for Whisper on form but this is a step up in class and a different type of race from that in which he excelled last time.
The Grade 2 bumper at 17:45 is a wide-open affair, but Ballybolley looks close to the best of these on form and ought to be a fair bit shorter than he is at morning prices. He has conditions which will suit him and hopefully will have a fair bit of use made of him, to bring the stamina he showed when winning under a penalty at Towcester last time fully into play. Puisque Tu Pars could be the main danger.
Both at Aintree
Back Zarkandar @ [4.8] in the 14:50
Back Ballybolley @ [17.0] in the 17:45