Its Grand National day and Alan Thompson has two selections from the Aintree meeting as well as his shortlist for the main event itself...
"I suspect Finian’s Oscar is a top class horse who deserves his place at the head of the market and will be one to follow for many years"
The Mersey Hurdle has certainly been a favourites race recently, four of the last five renewals of this race have gone to the market leader. Willie Mullins has won the last two years with 3/1 fabourite Nichols Canyon and last year the 3/10 favourite Yorkhill. However, the Mullins team don't have a runner this season and it is Colin Tizzard's Finians Oscar who is the current market favourite. The five-year-old will be looking to keep up his 100% record after hurdles victories at Hereford, Sandown, and Exeter, as well as point to points success, all of which were achieved with what looked like plenty in hand.
Unfortunately we didn't see Finians Oscar take his place at the Cheltenham Festival in March after bruising a foot at home, but it was always hoped that he would be back fit in time for this. I am sure the Tizzard wouldn't be running the horse unless they were 100% certain he had fully recovered from that injury as I suspect Finian's Oscar is a top class horse who deserves his place at the head of the market and will be one to follow for many years. The stable often perform well at Aintree and have a 39% strike rate at the course over the last 12 months and had a treble up here yesterday.
So Celebre takes his place in this very competitive finale to the festival, he is a fast improving four-year-old who won well against decent opposition at Ascot last weekend, he is looking to make it a hat-trick of wins and although he has received a 5lb penalty for his latest effort, I am not sure that is enough to stop the 130 rated selection in this company. He is in receipt of a handy weight for age allowance and his jumping was impeccable last week as he was driven out to beat the 132 rated Dolos over two lengths. He looks sure to get a strong pace today which will suit his running style perfectly and also has the advantage of David Noonan in the plate, this is a conditional jockeys race and David Noonan is the only rider in the race that has ridden out his claim.
The danger in the race could be John Constable, he has been dropping down the weights and is now 8lbs lower than when he ran second in a decent race at Newbury in November. He is capable of putting in a decent performance off this mark and this better ground will be to his advantage. I would hate to see John constable go in unbacked here so I will have to have a little saver on him at 10/1.
On one of he biggest betting days of the year, I couldn't not give my selections for the Grand National and I believe I have managed to get the race down to a shortlist of five runners.
Pleasant Company @ 12/1 - Won over three miles one furlong at Punchestown at the end of last season and then returned to finish fourth in a decent handicap at Gowran Park then won at Fairyhouse beating seasoned stayer Thunder And Roses (also makes the shortlist), making him interesting for this. He ran on well that day and gave the impression that he will stay further.
More Of That @ 14/1 - Won the 2014 World Hurdle and has good form over fences and wasn't disgraced when sixth in the Lexus Chase in December. He ran well in the Irish Gold Cup before unseating his companion. I thought his sixth in the Gold Cup, was a decent effort, staying on at the end but never able to threaten so does look very interesting at this distance.
Ucello Conti @ 18/1 - Finished sixth in last year's running and has been running better than perhaps his form figures suggest this season, he was only a couple of lengths down when finishing four in the Class 1 Becher Chase over these fences and his second in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park was another decent effort. He has proven that stamina should not be an issue and he could well have a say if he is still around in the latter stages of the race.
Vicente @ 20/1 - Winner of the Scottish Grand National and is currently on the same mark as he was for that win, although it has to be said he is still off the same mark due to his poor performances this season. He was tailed off and never better than midfield when beaten in the Grand National Trial at Haydock but his mark today makes him a potential threat and the trip shouldn't be an issue.
Thunder and Roses @ 40/1 - As mentioned above this horse is an out and out seasoned stayer who finished a valiant second in a three mile five furlong chase at Fairyhouse in December then backed that up when second to my other selection above (Pleasant Company) at the same venue in February. He will have to do more today if he is to turn around that form, but he will appreciate the step up in distance. and if things fall right and he gets a clear run he could easily fill a place.
ow to stake them isn't easy but for ease of tracking the columns profit and loss, I will just go with half a point each way making it a five point race...
2017 Overall (prior to this week): +3.06 pts
This week so far...
Staked: 2 pts
Returned: 0 pts