Jack Milner of BetVictor.com previews Thursday’s card
The weights for the 2017 Randox Health Grand National were announced at Victorian Albert Museum Tuesday evening and, after being given a weight of 11’7, BetVictor make Don Poli the 14/1 favourite to give connections Gigginstown House Stud back-to-back success at Aintree in the spring. The 8yo is a dual G1 winner over fences and has looked back to his best since joining current handler Gordon Elliott; second in the Lexus over Christmas and narrowly beaten in the Irish Gold Cup last week.
Don Poli is one of eleven in the race for Elliott, bidding to claim a second Grand National after Silver Birch’s success in 2007, and BetVictor are top price on a trio of his other intended runners; Empire of Dirt (20/1) Ucello Conti (25/1), and Cause of Causes (40/1). The Last Samuri carried 10’7 when second at Aintree 12 months ago but must carry a 12lb higher mark if he is to go one better in this year’s renewal.
2017 Grand National prices from BetVictor
Don Poli 14/1
Last Samuri 16/1
One for Arthur 20/1
Empire of Dirt 20/1
The Young Master 20/1
Kim Bailey will send his stable star to Doncaster for the Grimthorpe before going to Aintree and he looks to have a terrific chance of going one better in the world’s greatest steeplechase on Merseyside in April. Bailey’s runners remain in good nick and I expect Texas Forever (2.35) to go close in the Novices’ Handicap Chase over the minimum trip. The selection has been second in similar races over two miles on soft ground at Hereford and Southwell and despite a 5lb rise at the weights should give another solid account.
I’m excited to see Domesday Book (3.10) make his debut for the Stuart Edmunds yard after leaving former handler Henry De Bromhead. This free-going sort was third behind Douvan (admittedly beaten 38l) in the Irish Arkle 12 months ago and could potentially prove ahead of the handicapper from a mark of 138. The 7yo wears first-time head-gear and can hopefully give weight and a beating to his six rivals under Brendan Powell.
It’s Morebattle Hurdle day at Kelso where evergreen Knockara Beau makes his 12th start at the track, having won five times at the track over both hurdles and fences previously. The 14yo should set the race up for the pair of Born Survivor and Cyrus Darius (2.25) with marginal preference for the latter under Brian Hughes. The selection is one of nineteen entered in the Champion Hurdle with less than four weeks to go until the Cheltenham Festival and is 66/1 with BetVictor for the Championship race on the opening day of next month’s festival.
The Ivan Straker Memorial Chase has been won by some smart horses in the past; with former Cheltenham Festival winners Long Run and Holywell both winning recent renewals. Another with festival aspirations is Paul Nicholls’ Saphir du Rheu (3.00) who is entered in both the Ryanair and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, whilst similarly a 33/1 chance with BetVictor for the Grand National at Aintree. He looks a class apart from his three rivals and, in receipt of upwards of 4lb, should take all the beating under regular partner Sam Twiston-Davies.
Just four go to post for the 2m 6f Novices’ Handicap Chase, where Nicholls’ Vicenzo Mio should go close for the Champion Trainer however, preference lies instead with Takingrisks (1.55) under 5lb conditional Ryan Day. Nicky Richards’ gelding remains a maiden over the larger obstacles but put in his best round of jumping thus far when chasing home Starchitect in a Novices’ Chase last time out at Ayr and should improve for this afternoon’s step up in trip.
Richards must go close in the opening 2m Novices’ Hurdle with Reivers Lad (1.25) who didn’t look to stay two and a half miles last time out and is a confident selection dropping back in trip. The son of Alflora disappointed at odds-on up at Ayr but should make amends in receipt of 5lb from James Ewart’s Lycidas.
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