Grand National Festival (Aintree) Day Three Betting Tips – Saturday 14th April 2018

For those who still have room for more top class jumping action following the bonanza of the first two days, Aintree is the gift that keeps on giving with a further three Grade 1 affairs on the final day. Grade 1s they may be, but to many, they are no more than backing singers to the real star of the show. That star, megastar, is, of course, the Grand National, the richest NH contest on the entire continent.

The National is the one race which hits the headlines on both the front and back pages with regularity, and the race which gives its name to this whole meeting. The waiting is over as the 2018 Grand National is upon us at last. Read on for our tips for that showstopper and for each of the six other races on Saturday’s cracking card.

1.45 - Gaskells Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3), 3m ½f

Dream Berry each way at 8/1 with Betfair

The handicappers kick off the action on Grand National day in a race which has been won by a runner aged between six and eight years old in each of the past seven years. With each of the past nine winners having been saddled with 10st9lbs or more, this doesn’t tend to go to one sneaking in at the foot off the handicap.

Tim Vaughan’s Debece is interesting on some of last season’s form, but may need this on the back of a 372 day absence from the track. Preference is for the Jonjo O’Neill runner Dream Berry. This one will be tackling the longest distance of his career to date, but has more often than not been doing his best work at the end of his races and may be able to improve on his current mark of 143 with the additional distance here.

2.25 - Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1), 2m 4f

Black Op to win at 6/4 with Coral

This has been a good race for the market leader in recent years, with seven of the last nine favourites coming home in front, including each of the last four. This also tends to go to a runner to have taken part at the Cheltenham Festival, with the race now known as the Ballymore Novices Hurdle the most common route into the race for the winner.

All of these stats point to this year’s Ballymore runner up, and current market leader, Black Op. Tom George’s charge beat all bar Samcro in that Cheltenham contest, and unless Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side turns out to be a superstar, the opposition doesn’t look quite so tough here.

3.00 - Maghull Novices’ Steeple Chase (Grade 1), 2m

Petit Mouchoir to win at 1/2 with Ladbrokes

This race has cut up considerably and now looks to be at the mercy of the Henry De Bromhead runner, Petit Mouchoir. 9lbs clear of his nearest rival on official ratings, he should really only need to turn up and run somewhere near his ability to take this. He ruined all chances when going off at a million miles an hour in the Arkle last time, but a repeat of his previous effort when only five lengths adrift of Footpad in the Irish Arkle, would give everything else in this line-up a major problem.

Tom Gretton’s Kauto Riko has started his career over fences in encouraging fashion and would be three from three headed into this but for being disqualified last time. He makes the most appeal from an each way perspective, but with only two places to play for we will be keeping it simple and backing the favourite here. Odds of 1/2 may put some off but even at such a short price the value is there and this is a nice addition to an Aintree acca at least.

3.40 - Betway Handicap Steeple Chase (Listed), 3m 1f

Katachenko each way at 12/1 with Betfair

Eight of the past nine winners of this have been aged between eight and 11, suggesting both the oldest and the youngest contenders in this year’s field may be up against it. This has also favoured those lower down in the weights with seven of the past nine winners being saddled with less than 11st.

One who fits the bill is the Donald McCain runner Katacheko. McCain likes nothing more than a winner at this meeting and this one has enough in his favour to merit support at a nice each way price. With soft ground form figures of 31124126, the current going at the track should suit ideally, whilst a win and a second placed finish from four previous visits to this track also offers encouragement.

4.20 - Liverpool Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1), 3m ½f

Wholestone to win at 10/3 with Bet365

Either Sam Spinner ruined all chance by setting way too slow a pace in the Stayers’ Hurdle last time, or he had his bubble well and truly burst at the top level. We would be inclined to side with the former explanation, but aren’t so confident that we will be wading in to back him at a short price here.

That Cheltenham event has proven to be the key trial for this though. In six of the nine most recent editions the winner of the Cheltenham contest has followed up by scoring here. The winner and the second from this year’s Stayers Hurdle don’t go to post this year, but the third placed finisher does, and he may well be the one to be on. At his best on soft ground, with each of his three career Grade 2 triumphs coming on such a surface, we see this Nigel Twiston-Davies runner, Wholestone, coming home in front in what doesn’t look a vintage renewal.

5.15 - Grand National Steeple Chase (Grade 3), 4m 2½f

Captain Redbeard each way at 25/1 with Bet365

And so, to the big one. The closest thing we have to a race that stops the nation. The single greatest spectacle of the National Hunt season and the most popular betting contest by a distance.

In such a mammoth field, it always helps if we have a couple of trends to help us narrow down the list of runners. With 19 of the past 20 renewals being won by a runner aged between 8 and 11, the eight runners aged 12 or over and one seven year old in this year’s field are the first for the scrap heap.

80% of the winners over this period have carried 11st or less on the day. Getting rid of all those burdened with more than 11st allows us to discard another nine contenders. This approach is far from perfect, of course, but with so many horses to consider it gives us something solid to start with.

Our final criteria is that our selection must be making their debut in the Grand National. Each of the past eight winners were running in the race for the first time. From an initial list of 40, we are now left with just 13 contenders.

Whilst a previous unsuccessful crack at the National counts as a negative, we still like to have a horse who has shown they can jump these fences. Step forward Captain Redbeard. This one was ticking along very nicely in the Grand Sefton here back in December, only to have his race effectively ended due to being hampered through no fault of his own. A winner of two of his three starts since that day, a recent spin over hurdles should have him spot on for this and he’s the one for us.

Odds of 25/1 also fit recent trends nicely and they’ll certainly provide a handsome return on a win. Even a place will do nicely for us and we think this nine year old can deliver that at the very least.

6.20 - Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle (Class 2), 2m ½f

Chesterfield each way at 8/1 with Betfair

Chesterfield won this in effortless style for Seamus Mullins last year, winning by a heavily eased down five lengths off a mark of132. Bumped up to 143 on the back of that he scored again at Ayr and eventually reached a peak rating of 148. He’s back down to 141 ahead of this and has shown enough in his two starts in 2018 to suggest he may be up to defending his title. First time out he landed an all-weather bumper in good style, whilst his fourth in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham was also a rock-solid effort. Back at a track he likes, he can go close.