AINTREE’S prestigious three-day Grand National meeting gets underway this afternoon and it may be worth finding a TV just after 2pm to watch the remarkable Big Buck’s beat Sir Ken’s (one of the great Champion Hurdlers from the 1950s) unbeaten sequence of 16.
Now, Paul Nicholls’ four-time World Hurdle winner is a best-priced 1/4 with Coral to make it 17 on the trot and cannot possibly be supported at that price. There will be those who will see this as an opportunity to make a 25 per cent investment on their money, but I won’t be one of them. A great gambler once told me that “if you’ve got the four, you don’t need the one”.
Big Buck’s arguably turned in his most impressive ever performance when cantering to victory in this contest 12 months ago and it is very hard to envisage any other result. That said, there has been plenty of rain in the north-west and Robin Dickin’s RESTLESS HARRY looks a very attractive each-way bet at 25/1 with Paddy Power if more rain arrives. He’s never been out of the frame when the going has been ‘soft’ or heavier and his stable is in unbelievable form.
The leading protagonists from last month’s Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham line up for the Matalan Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle (2.30pm) and I’m very sweet on the chances of Alan King’s GRUMETI.
He didn’t have the smoothest of Festival preparations and ran an absolute cracker under the circumstances. That run was all the more impressive considering he’d missed work in the build-up and didn’t jump that well on the day. He quickened up really impressively to lead at the last hurdle and looked all over the winner until being worn down by Countrywide Flame.
Alan King has his stable in great form and I’m sure he would have done plenty of work on Grumeti’s hurdling over the last few weeks. I cannot see Countrywide Flame or Dodging Bullets beating him again with a slicker round of jumping and he is a confident selection.
The feature race of the opening day, the Betfred Bowl (3.05pm), looks wide-open and I make Nicky Henderson’s BURTON PORT a tentative selection at 9/2 with Coral. Not only does the eight-year-old have the assistance of the in-form champion jockey AP McCoy, he is also the only one of the leading contenders guaranteed to stay the three mile and one furlong trip.
The one worry is that he looked very one-paced in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in what was a pretty gruelling encounter. However, he doesn’t have many miles on the clock and today’s trip will take some getting now that the going has turned soft.
His biggest danger looks sure to be stablemate and Ryanair Chase winner Riverside Theatre. In fact, if the Jimmy Nesbitt-owned eight-year-old does stay I think he’ll win easily. I’m just worried about the half-mile step up in distance and that may well catch both him and Alan King’s Medermit out. Keep a close eye on the weather, though, as it looks sure to play a part in the outcome of most races.
RESTLESS HARRY e/w 2.00pm Aintree
GRUMETI 2.30pm Aintree
BURTON PORT 3.05pm Aintree