Unmissable dos and don'ts for betting at Aintree's Grand National meeting
Dave Orton gives his advice for successful betting this week
Do remember there’s an extra week between the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree this year, due to an earlier Easter. At Fairyhouse’s Irish National meeting last weekend the Cheltenham horses performed well in the main. Getabird was a shining example, despite having run himself into the ground last month in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, while Al Boum Photo just touched off JLT winner Shattered Love, despite having fallen in the RSA.
Don’t just back the Cheltenham form blind this week, however. For example, Thursday's Betway Bowl has been a graveyard for Gold Cup horses. In the past decade of the 13 horses that came here after completing in the big one at Cheltenham, only Silviniaco Conti managed to win in 2014. Some names that flopped include Kauto Star at 4-7, and the mighty Denman twice got turned over at skinny odds. As we know it’s a gruelling race, so just how much did it take out of this year’s odds-on favourite Might Bite?
Do prioritise replays of past performances available on the Racing Post website. Aintree is a different ball game to Cheltenham and it’s not hard to gauge from looking at finishes from last month to work out which runners will relish this flat circuit. Any amount of information is available from studying the form or glancing at racecards, although there’s nothing quite like seeing it with your own eyes.
Don’t be afraid of a big price. Since 2013 just nine of the 31 individual handicap winners went in at single-figure odds, and the shortest-priced among them was Battle Group at 7-2 five years ago. Stick to your guns and always back your own opinion.
Do take stock of the fact this is a last chance for bookmakers to take aim at UK jump fans this season. Punters were loving life by the time they crossed the line in the Champion Bumper last month. However, layers came back with a vengeance on the final two days at Cheltenham and will be offering all sorts of attractive offers to stay ahead of the competition. Again, on-course markets are shaped ten minutes before the off, but they open the night before and different odds compilers still puff their chest out.
Don’t forget that trainers are creatures of habit and past records make for fascinating reading. Take Colin Tizzard for instance. Since 2013 the Gold Cup-winning trainer has sent up 31 runners from his Dorset base, and ten of them have won, resulting in a staggering £113.99 profit to level stakes. His Ultragold loves the National fences and is 5lb higher for a defence of the Topham Chase on Friday, with odds around 20-1 on offer.
On the other hand former champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a strike-rate of just 5.8 percent (7-121 runners). Nicholls has sent out plenty of winners in the past week or so, although this venue hasn’t been a happy hunting ground of late. His two former apprentices, Dan Skelton and Harry Fry are interestingly still waiting for a winner at this meeting too having saddled 22 and 15 runners respectively.
Do also look into individual jockey stats. Leading amateur Sam Waley-Cohen has shone on the National course. He’s 4-15 since 2005, with four placed runners to boot, and his mount Theatre Territory will have layers running scared if getting into the Topham. The consistent mare only needs four to come out, so that seems likely.
Davy Russell enjoyed another outstanding Cheltenham but he’s just 1-20 over National fences (one placed), while Gold Cup-winning jockey Richard Johnson is only 1-34 (three placed). Sam Twiston-Davies has managed just three fifth-place finishes – one to note for all the Blaklion fans.
Don’t be afraid of having a decent bet in the big one itself on Saturday. Despite recent modifications to the fences National winners still have to tick certain boxes. A quick look at the ten-year trends shows that nine of the last ten winners have been officially rated between 137 and 157, while seven carried no more than 11st. That knocks out the top ten in the weights this year, with some leading candidates among them.
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