Paul Callaghan’s Aintree Grand National Tips

2.25 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) over 2m 4f.

I’m going to side with My Drogo for Dan and Harry Skelton, who is a perfect 3 victories from 3 starts over hurdles.

Two of those three victories came in Grade 2 company at Ascot and Kelso respectively.

He’s a strong traveler, who should be suited by the anticipated strong pace in this contest. Having bypassed the Cheltenham Festival, My Drogo arrives here a fresh horse.

Of the others: Ballyadam followed Appreciate It home at Cheltenham, the obvious question is, how much (if any) of a mark has that left on Ballyadam?

Dreal Deal is interesting as I don’t think we have seen him reach the bottom of the fuel tank yet. He’s still improving, however, he struggled to hold a position early at Punchestown last time out, and unless they go exceptionally fast early on here, if he struggles to keep the leaders in his sights early, he will have his work cut out in the latter stages of the race.

Jay Bee Why is worth a mention. He won a Novices Hurdle at Warwick on February 26th, he will need to improve but represents a top yard in Alan King’s.

Adrimel is a horse I like a lot but he’s had two hard races on both his last two starts

…and I can’t see him bouncing back to take this. If he does, it will be credit to both horse and trainer.

Finally a mention for Striking A Pose, who might just outrun his odds. He was an impressive winner at Exeter on his penultimate start, when being allowed to bold along in front. However, he struggled in Grade 3 company at Sandown last time out, when he was held up towards the rear of the field. He never looked happy and in my opinion, could be discounted from the landing side of the second hurdle. While there is competition for the lead here, I would be shocked if Striking A Pose is not approaching the tape in the front rank.

3.35 Stayers Hurdle (Registered As The Liverpool Hurdle) (Grade 1) over 3m 149y.

Thyme Hill can gain revenge for the defeat he suffered at the hands of Paisley Park when the pair clashed at Ascot last December. Prior to that Thyme Hill did get the better of Paisley Park at Newbury in November but I think Paisley Park will struggle to rein in Thyme Hill, assuming he hits his usual mid race flat spot.

Thyme Hill missed the Cheltenham Festival due to a minor setback, so once again is another who arrives at Aintree a fresh horse.

With 4 places rewarding each way backers, I wouldn’t put anyone off having a small each way wager on the Noel Meade trained Diol Ker. He would prefer softer ground but I don’t think the ground is going to be better than good to soft, which might give him a chance. Diol Ker won a 2m 4f hurdle on heavy ground at Limerick on December 26th and he followed that up with a galant second in The Galmoy at Gowran Park, behind Sams Profile.

4.15 Handicap Chase (Grade 3) over 3m 1f.

Happygolucky has taken well to fences and is 2 victories from 4 starts this season over the larger obstacles. He was a good second behind Vintage Clouds at Cheltenham last month and if he is over those exertions, should take the beating here.

It’s worth mentioning that jockey Aidan Coleman has partnered the Anthony Honeyball trained Sam Brown to victory in the past, while I cannot confirm if Aidan had a choice of rides in this race, it is worth noting that he teams up with the Kaley Woollacott trained Lalor, who is having his first run since January 2020 and also his first start beyond 2m 4f.

5.15 Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) over 4m 2f 74y.

My selection for the 2021 Grand National is Kimberlite Candy for trainer Tom Lacey and jockey Richie McLernon, who agonisingly missed out on Grand National success on Sunnyhillboy in 2012.

Kimberlite Candy has not that dissimilar profile to the 2017 winner, One For Arthur.

He won the Classic Chase at Warwick last season and has only had one run on the racecourse since.

That run was last December in the Becher Chase, over the Grand National course where he finished a well beaten second behind Vieux Lion Rouge, a position he occupied in the same race 12 months earlier behind Walk In The Mill. Both those runs on the National course were on soft ground and I think he will appreciate the better ground here. He ticks a lot of Aintree boxes and has a nice weight of 10st 10lbs.

7 places are up for grabs if you are having an each way bet, so let’s see if we can find a horse at a price who might sneak a place!

Not an each way play, but I have to mention Cloth Cap, who will carry the colours of Trevor Hemmings. Cloth Cap too, ticks a lot of Aintree boxes, but anything below 6 or 7/1 is a little short in a 40 runner handicap.

Magic Of Light would have to have a chance, finishing second in the race in 2019. She had a nice preparation run at Cheltenham last month and is partnered by BoyleSports horse racing ambassador, Robbie Power, who won the race on Silver Birch in 2007.

Mister Malarky would have an each way chance on the form of his win at Ascot in December.

Jett ran well for a long way in the Becher Chase behind Vieux Lion Rouge and Kimberlite Candy, and should give jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who has a great record over these fences, a good spin. I don’t think he will stay but I could see him running well.

Any Second Now has an obvious chance carrying just 10st 9lbs following an impressive victory at Navan last time out. He won the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019 and has a similar profile to 2011 Grand National winner Ballabriggs. This is his first run over these fences and he retains the blinkers, he has had plenty of runs in blinkers. However, and this does depend on the horse as an individual, but in my experience, horses wearing blinkers, having their first run over these fences can find the occasion overwhelming. We have no crowds this year, so that will help, but the horses can sense Aintree is different, there is a lot more hustle and bustle and wearing blinkers, they cannot see what is going on. It will be interesting watching to see how Any Second Now handles the preliminaries. On the plus, he is surrounded by a Grand National winning team!

The very best of luck with your bets and enjoy this very special and unique occasion.