The eyes of the world will be on ITV for the Randox Grand National on Saturday. That is the feature race on what is usually a special day in the sporting calendar not just the racing one. For a full preview of that race click here.
There are six other races either side of the big one though and while the action might not be as high in profile, it certainly is no lesser in terms of competitiveness. We’ve scoured the card and like bets in a couple of those races.
Grand National day kicks off with a maximum field of 22 for a good quality handicap hurdle over 3 miles with lots of runners coming here off the back of decent runs at Cheltenham just over 3 weeks ago. Tea Clipper is the favourite having finished 3rd in the Coral Cup whilst the 5th horse home that day, Janika, also runs whilst Pertemps form is also represented with 3rd Come On Teddy & 5th Champagne Platinum in this line up. All 4 hold claims with the last named the most likely as he was a tad keen at Cheltenham & this flatter track might suit him that little bit more.
There are many in with chances but the one I’m on is Whirling Dervish who won his last start when down in class in Thurles. He’s a really tough horse & showed those battling qualities to win that race when looking like he’d have to play second fiddle to Kellyiscool. Rated 92 on the flat, he’s a classy horse & as a 6 year old, surely has more to come over hurdles. The best of his flat form includes a 1 length beating of Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment & a 7th of 34 in the Cesarewitch at the end of last year. This is the only runner for his small Irish yard at the meeting which is quite telling as are the trainer’s comments saying that Thurles run was a welcome surprise as he was gearing his year around a spring/summer campaign. A fast run race over 3 miles on a flat track should be right up his street & with his excellent flat form, he might just have too much pace for this lot if he’s still in contention off the home turn. Add to that his battling qualities & a nice racing weight of 11st (he carried almost 12st last time out), I rate him as a solid bet to get us off to a winning start.
PLACED – Back Whirling Dervish (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 11.00 Skybet BOG (⅕ odds 1-7)
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The Stayers Hurdle (also known as the Liverpool Hurdle) over 3 miles is a good looking Grade 1 where the front 3 in the market look pretty solid. The Thyme Hill / Paisley Park / Roksana rematch is on & it’s hard to pick a winner but all 3 could be vulnerable here. The first named missed Cheltenham with a minor setback whilst the other 2 both had hard races in finishing 3rd in their respective races. Lisnagar Oscar & If The Cap Fits also ran at Cheltenham in the Stayers whilst Third Wind beat Lisnagar Oscar on his last start at Haydock but may need deeper ground.
The first of our 2 bets is Diol Ker, an Irish raider who has to improve but could well do that here. He’s the only horse to lower the colours of Monkfish in 8 starts over obstacles when beating him in a maiden hurdle by 7 lengths at the start of last season. He travelled well that day & landed the spoils in fine style. Since then, he’s been seen 3 times over fences but since reverting to hurdles, he jumped poorly but stayed on well to win over two and a half miles before finishing 2nd last time out in the Grade 2 Galmoy in first time cheekpieces (retained here). He may well have won but for being hampered at the final hurdle & certainly didn’t fail for a lack of stamina. He’s unexposed & there’s definitely more to come so is taken to upset the market leaders.
Our second bet is more speculative in the form of Thomas Darby who finished midfield in the Coral Cup but did have to shoulder top weight. Admittedly, he has to step up but remember he was 2nd in the 2019 Supreme Novices Hurdle & did beat the classy Song For Someone when next seen over hurdles almost a year later. Since then, in 4 runs at around two and a half miles, he’s won well without troubling the judge but on each occasion has been noted as being outpaced at a crucial stage in proceedings. I feel that a step up in trip is what is needed and this ground should bring out the best in him. Add to that an eyecatching jockey booking, I could not leave him out of the final selections.
Back Diol Ker (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 12.00 Skybet BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)
PLACED – Back Thomas Darby (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 23.00 Skybet BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)