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'He's been laid out for this all year' - four fancies for Grand National meeting

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Adagio
2.20 Aintree, Thursday
1pt win at9-4 generally

Destrier
4.40 Aintree, Thursday
2pts each-way at7-1, with firms paying five places

Huntsman Son
4.05 Aintree, Friday
1pt each-way at 20-1, with firms paying four places

Talkischeap
5.15 Aintree, Saturday
1pt each-way at 66-1, with firms paying five places

The Aintree Grand National festival gets under way on Thursday and I’m looking forward to it nearly as much as the Cheltenham Festival. After having a look through the cards for the three-day meeting I am confident I have found a few value bets.

The early market for the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (2.20) looks all wrong to me. This has long been the plan for the striking Monmiral, but in my opinion he doesn’t deserve to be as short as he is.

He has the potential to be a star, but he still looks very raw and beating Nassalam – who has since finished a well-beaten tenth in the Boodles – probably doesn’t look as good form now as it did at the time.

Adagio: Grade 1 winner deserves to be shorter in the betting

Adagio, who also beat Nassalam earlier in the season, is a horse I have a real soft spot for and the handicapper can’t split him and Monmiral on ratings, yet he is a couple of points bigger.

The David Pipe-trained runner has improved with every outing this season and put in a career-best behind Quilixios in the Triumph. He is a strong stayer at the trip, so the long straight at Aintree should suit.

The second selection on day one comes in the Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase (4.40) and I have a feelinghe has been laid out for this all season.

The horse in question is Destrier, who has been beaten by a total of 71 and a half lengths in his three starts in 2021. As a result he has dropped 15lb since his final run in 2020 and arrives here on a mark of just 136.

He was a good third at this meeting to Ornua in the Maghull in 2019, in which he had Clondaw Castle (now rated 160), the ill-fated Knocknanuss (145) and Lalor (151) behind him. At the start of the following season he was beaten only three lengths in the Haldon Gold Cup off 151, with the 158-rated pair Dolos and Janika ahead.

He has been held up and ridden coolly so far this season, which doesn’t suit, and the return to more aggressive tactics – which his rider employs so well – should bring about a much-improved performance. He has also done most of his winning on a sounder surface, and he is likely to get that here.

The Skeltons are giving the jockeys’ championship everything so you can expect Destrier to be primed for this.

Destrier: looks to have been primed for the Red Rum

Alex Hales has enjoyed one of his best-ever campaigns and, after scooping another decent pot with Bourbon Beauty at the end of last month, he could spring another surprise in the Randox Topham Handicap Chase (4.05).

Livelovelaugh heads the market, but I am more interested in fellow 11-year-old Huntsman Son.

He isn’t your typical old-timer, though, as he has had only 16 starts under rules and has looked better than ever this season.

He beat Two For Gold, who could reoppose, in explosive style by five and a half lengths at Wetherby in October and is only 6lb higher now. Two For Gold has run well all season, including when winning at Warwick in January, yet Huntsman Son is now 1lb better off.

Huntsman Son (right) now 1lb better off with Two For Gold (left) despite beating him by five and a half lengths in October

It was also kind of the handicapper to drop Huntsman Son 2lb for finishing an excellent sixth in thePlate last time, where he was stone-cold last after the standing start but stormed home on the inner to be closest at the finish.

An excellent jumper who travels strongly, this test should be perfect for him. Older horses have a good recent record in this, with three-time winner Always Waining scoring as an 11-year-old in 2012, while Eastlake (2016) and dual winner Ultragold (2018) both succeeded at the age of ten.

In the big one, the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (5.15) on Saturday, I’m siding with Talkischeap.

He isn’t the most well-handicapped horse in the race by any means, but that has seemed less relevant in recent years and it is interesting Alan King is running him given he doesn’t particularly like the race.

The ease with which he won the bet365 Gold Cup in 2019 will stick with me for a long time.

He is more or less proven at the trip, jumps excellently and crucially loves better ground, so I don’t think he deserves to be 66-1, with five places on offer at the time of writing and the likelihood of an extended place market on the day.

He was a big drifter before running at Kempton last time, so it doesn’t bother me that he ran disappointingly there.

For what it’s worth, he also showed up well for a long way in last year’s virtual Grand National, so the statistics seem to think he will take to the unique test as well!


Read more from Maddy Playle:

How racing can learn from Formula One when it comes to showcasing our sport

The horse has already bolted– British racing needs to act now

£250 fine or a ban? Lack of consistency for transgressions is concerning

Racing should be showcasing its wares but it's now in damage control mode

He's among the best in the world – so where is the love for Golden Sixty?


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The return to more aggressive tactics, which his rider employs so well, should bring about a much-improved performance
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