Aintree Grand National Festival Betting Tips – 12th, 13th & 14th April 2018

As popular as the Cheltenham Festival, the Derby Meeting and Royal Ascot are, there is one event on the horse racing calendar which puts them all in the shade when it comes to being engraved into the British psyche. The Aintree Grand National is not only the biggest horse race of the year, it is one of the most significant events across any sport. Now deeply rooted in British culture, the chances are that you, your Gran, her cat and indeed almost everyone you know will be having a flutter on this one.

It really is no wonder that this race has attracted so much attention, as it, more than any other, is a contest built for drama. The marathon trip of 4m2 ½f is the stage upon which the action takes place, with the unique fences being as much a part of the cast of characters as the horses themselves.

From the tricky drop landing of Becher’s Brook, to the sharp left switch after Canal Turn and the imposing Chair, these obstacles have become ingrained in British racing folklore, and whilst they have been made a little easier over the years, they still present a jumping challenge unlike any other.

For most though, the enduring memories of the race do concern the horses themselves. We have, of course, the legendary three time winner Red Rum. Then there is the story of Aldaniti and Bob Champion that was so heart-warming they made a movie out of it. Who can forget the implosion of Royal horse Devon Loch in 1956? And then we also have the story of AP McCoy finally, finally landing the big one aboard Don’t Push It.

Everyone has their favourite memory of the race, and no doubt there are plenty of incredible tales still to be told, starting this year. Here we take a look at the big race and three of the other feature contests across this marvellous Merseyside meeting.

Grand National Steeple Chase

  • Time & date – 5:15pm, Saturday 14th April
  • Grade & distance – Grade 3, 4m 2½f
  • Betting tip – Anibale Fly each way (12/1 at Coral)

Historically horses burdened with more than 11st 6lbs have tended to struggle in this war of attrition. Even anything over 11st tends to be too much but there have of course been exceptions. Bidding to defy the stats this year is top weight Minella Rocco. Runner up in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, he undoubtedly possesses the class to take a hand. We can also be confident he stays the trip well having beaten no less a horse than Native River in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in 2016. His current form is however a question mark, having yet to get anywhere near his peak this season. Having skipped the Gold Cup this year he will be a relatively fresh horse though and any drying of the ground will be in his favour.

We do have Gold Cup form from this season coming to the table though in the shape of Anibale Fly who was an impressive third in the big one in March. Going in the same JP McManus colours as Minella Rocco, the manner in which this one finished his race off that day certainly bodes well for this step up in trip.

He did get left behind early by the relentless pace set by Native River and Might Bite, but it is stamina which wins the day here more often than not and this one was making up ground on the first two all the way to the line. Indeed, in another furlong or so he may well have been in front. With the weights for the National having been announced before that run, this one is well in on the handicap to the tune of 9lbs and that could be crucial.

Man of the moment Gordon Elliott has five entered at present, but the two to concentrate on appear to be Ucello Conti and Tiger Roll. Ucello Conti has the advantage of course experience having run in two Nationals and also finished a good fourth in a Becher Chase. Sixth in the 2016 renewal, he looked all set to do at least as well 12 months ago until unfortunately stumbling and unseating at Becher’s second time around. 2lbs lower this year he looks solid to run a good race.

Tiger Roll will be having his first crack at these obstacles, but has proven so versatile in his career to date that it would be no surprise should he take to them. A Cheltenham winner from 2m to 4m, he has class and stamina on his side. One of the horses who might go off favourite on the day, we suspect the odds may just be a shade short though.

One horse who ticks the course form box perhaps more than any other is the Nigel Twiston-Davies representative, Blaklion. It certainly wasn’t the fences that beat him in this race 12 months ago, as he looked to be cantering approaching the run in having jumped like a dream throughout. The petrol tank quickly emptied that day though as he faded into fourth.

Connections remain adamant that he simply went for home too soon that day, and will fare better if held on to for longer. It’s hard to be too confident about that as there’s no real hiding place at the end of 4m+ around here, but he did at least rubberstamp his liking for these fences when running right away with the Becher Chase here in December.

We haven’t had a female winning jockey as yet in the Grand National, but it wouldn’t be a huge shock were that to change in 2018. Bryony Frost takes the ride aboard Milansbar for Neil King, and if she is able to squeeze out a similar display as the pair’s front running romp in the Betfred Classic at Warwick, then this one must boast sound claims. A solid second in the Midlands National last time with Jack Andrews in the saddle, Bryony gets the leg up again for the big one and looks to be in for a good spin around at least.

Whilst we are yet to have a female winning rider, we have had plenty of female trainers take this. The name of Sue Smith may be added to that list this year as in I Just Know she looks to have an ideal sort on her hands. Stepped up to 3m6f for the first time at Catterick two starts back, this eight year old responded with a 15 length pillar to post demolition job, looking better the further he went. The subsequent hike in the ratings he received was enough to ensure his mark would get him in here, and Smith seems to have gone out of her way to protect that rating having given him just the one outing over hurdles since. Eight year olds have won two of the last three Nationals too, so don’t let his relatively tender years put you off.

Ultimately there are any number in with chances here, with the old boy Saint Are another not to be forgotten about having finished second and third here in the past. It’s Anibale Fly for us here though. This is a handicap after all and a 9lb advantage at the weights is not to be sniffed at. High class and looking likely to see this out, he looks a solid each way option at a decent price, especially with many bookies paying enhanced each way places.

Other Major Races at the Festival

Outside of the big race, there’s three days of top jumps action across the festival. Below are our picks of the supporting races.

Aintree Hurdle

  • Time & date – 3:25pm, Thursday 12th April
  • Grade & distance – Grade 1, 2m 4f
  • Betting tip – My Tent Or Yours each way (9/2 at Bet365)

Its not all about the big fences at Aintree and one of the highlights on the opening day takes place over the smaller obstacles in this classy Grade 1 affair.

Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae heads the betting following his second in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. This one has certainly given it a good go over three miles, with his three runs at that trip resulting in three seconds at Grade 1 level. He drops back in distance here though, in an effort to get back into the winning groove. A winner at Grade 1 level when beating Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle this season, it is difficult to know what he actually achieved that day with “The Machine” barely a shadow of his former self these days.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ The New One bombed out in the Stayers’ Hurdle last time, when appearing not to stay. Having won this very race back in 2014 though, we do know that he stays this far. That run in the Stayers’ was the 10 year old’s only real poor run of the season and having finished third in this 12 months ago, he can be expected to go well.

Whilst The New One would be a hugely popular winner, so too would the Nicky Henderson runner, My Tent Or Yours. Now 11 years old, he has finished second in the past two editions of this, but won’t have an Annie Power or a Buveur d’Air to contend with this time around. Fresher than his two main market rivals having skipped Cheltenham, and having already mastered The New One once this season, he looks the each way bet in the race.

Melling Steeple Chase

  • Time & date – 3:25pm, Friday 13th April
  • Grade & distance – Grade 1, 2m 4f
  • Betting tip – Balko Des Flos to win (2/1 at Coral)

Willie Mullins’, Min, was too good for everything in the Champion Chase last time out, everything bar the ridiculously good Altior that is. Nicky Henderson’s monster was seven lengths ahead that day, but with 11 lengths back to the third, Min still ran a mighty race in second. That of course came over half a mile shorter than this, but having hacked up by 36 lengths – albeit in a far weaker race than this – on his only previous effort over 2m4f, the evidence would suggest that Min will stay.

Having lowered the colours of Un De Sceaux in a 2m5f soft ground Ryanair Chase, the Henry De Bromhead runner Balko Des Flos certainly does stay this far. This one had hinted that he was an improved performer this term when second to Road To Respect in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown, but it was nevertheless a shock to see how well he did it at Cheltenham, travelling supremely well throughout before putting the race to bed in no uncertain terms.

Paul Nicholls’ Politologue looks to be the best of the rest, but having begun the season well, with three consecutive wins, including at Grade 1 level, his form seems to have taken a slight dip of late. On the plus side he has won at around this trip, and twice over further, so should see it out well enough.

Min probably has the best form in the race, and with no Altior to contend with, ought to go well. However, we just prefer Balko Des Flos who is more proven at this sort of distance and was seriously impressive at Cheltenham last time.

Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle

  • Time & date – 4:20pm, Saturday 14th April
  • Grade & distance – Grade 3, 3m ½f
  • Betting tip – Sam Spinner to win (6/4 at Ladbrokes)

If you offered jockey Joe Colliver the chance to ride this season’s Stayers’ Hurdle again, aboard Sam Spinner, no doubt you wouldn’t have to ask him twice. Setting a pedestrian pace aboard what was likely one of the strongest stayers in the field was never likely to work out well and so it proved as he was outpaced by four of his rivals on the run in. Having previously smashed The Dutchman by 17 lengths and L’Ami Serge by 2 ¾l in a Grade 1, if Colliver is able to judge this better then this one looks a worthy favourite.

Having looked a stayer of immense potential last term, Tom George’s, The Worlds End, has undoubtedly been something of a disappointment this season. Travelling like a good thing only to come down in last season’s Albert Bartlett, he made amends when landing the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle over this course and distance. Whilst only seventh in the Stayer’s Hurdle last time out, that was still by some way his best effort of the current campaign and if able to progress again he may well go close at a track he likes.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Wholestone is another for the shortlist having run a solid race in third in the Stayers’ Hurdle where he just about repeated his effort when again behind Penhill in the 2017 Albert Bartlett. He’s pretty consistent but yet to prove up to winning one of these.

Overall we like the favourite here and will be siding with Sam Spinner to get back to winning ways under a more forceful ride. The odds may appear short but he has the class to justify them and we have no concerns backing him at 6/4.