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Grand National Day horse racing tips: Jake Russell previews Saturday's races at Aintree


It's Grand National Day and racing expertJake Russell has been busy looking for the best bets in the Aintree showpiece and other big races on Saturday's card.

By @ Jake Russell

1.55pm - Grade 1 Turners Mersey Novices Hurdle

A tricky but quality contest to kick start Grand National day at Aintree on Saturday, with all eyes being on the main two at the top of the market, as Brighterdaysahead will do battle with former stablemate Caldwell Potter, who was recently purchased by the Ferguson, Hales, Mason and Done partnership, as a potential Gold Cup horse in the making. 

Gordon Elliott's mare receives the all-important 7lb mares’ allowance here, and was probably a shade unlucky not to win the Mares’ Novices Hurdle at the Festival last time. Gordon's horses have shown that there is no lasting effect on them since Cheltenham (Gerri Colombe winning the Bowl is a prime example of that) so she has to be taken very seriously indeed. 

However, with Caldwell Potter having a first crack at this slightly further trip of 2m4f, he is the one I will be siding with here. As mentioned he was previously trained by Gordon Elliott over in Ireland, but his previous owners sold all their horses and were seemingly removing themselves from the game, so the all-conquering Ferguson, Hales, Mason and Done partnership snapped him up for a whopping 740,000 euros, and the thinking is he could become a Gold Cup horse in time. 

It is somewhat of a shame that Elliott had to lose this horse, as he did work wonders with him, coming 2nd on hurdle debut before going on to win with aplomb at Navan on his maiden victory, and then taking a huge step up in class to test his skills in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novices Hurdle at Leopardstown over the Christmas period, beating Predators Gold by a little under 7 lengths. 

That was an impressive performance and really put him on the map in what was a very game effort. He looked to have really relished the ground conditions, and looked like a step up in trip will suit, and I believe this race has been the plan for him since the new yard got their hands on him. 

There might be a few question marks on whether Aintree is a track that will suit his strengths, but one thing for sure is that the step up in trip will suit him come Saturday. I hope this horse can take the transition in yards well, and overcome the 108-day break heading into this. 

3.05pm - Grade 1 JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle 

This is a real minefield of a contest, and it is a real shame that we don't get to see recent Stayers’ Hurdle winner Teahupoo out once again. With that very much in mind, I feel this could be the day we get to see Flooring Porter back to his best and back to winning ways. 

The 2021 & 2022 Stayers’ Hurdle conqueror looked back to near his best last time out when going down by 3¼ lengths to Teahupoo thai year’s edition, when he ran a cracker and was a real credit to connections. 

He has placed in this race previously, coming 2nd only beaten 1¼ lengths two years ago, before coming 3rd in the contest last season, where he was well beaten by around 10 lengths, albeit still running with credit despite going through a little rough patch in terms of his form etc.

Connections have mixed up hurdling with chasing this season, and to me (although he won a novice chase at Cheltenham in October) he doesn't really look to be as good of a chaser as he is a hurdler, especially over the staying trips. The stayers’ division has lacked a little spark for some time now, so it is no surprise that one of the "old guard" should come through and land this, as there are quite a few runners in this with vert mixed profiles. 

As mentioned, he did look back to something near his best last time out at the Festival, and if he was to run up to that standard again here, then he will take all the beating in a pretty modest Grade 1 contest. 

He can be a real handful at times, so he might miss the presence of Danny Mullins on board (Danny won the Stayers’ Hurdle on him twice), although Keith Donoghue is more than capable to take over and get this horse's head in front. One thing to note is Keith has also ridden him in his last four races, so knows enough about him now.   

4.00pm - Randox Grand National Handicap Chase 

Here it is, the big one... the race that we wait for all season long to try and find the winner, and although it has been pretty easy for me the past few seasons with picking the winner, this year looks to be a little different with the new parameters in the race, as well as it being a very open field.

I feel Corach Rambler winning would be great for the sport so I just can't go against him. It would also mean Lucinda Russell has won the Grand National three times, all in the last 10 years, which is a phenomenal return for a yard that is a little smaller than most. 

His Gold Cup run last time was probably a career-best for him, plugging on nicely to claim 3rd spot in the end, running on very well up the Hill. 

He is 13lbs higher than when he won it last time (was rated 146 then, now he is rated 159), so has that huge burden to deal with, but I feel Lucinda will get him more than ready for this come Saturday and ultimately he is probably a better horse now. 

Although I am going to side with the Corach on Saturday (how could you not) I also have another each-way shout for another horse, who is trained by one the shrewdest trainers in the game, and that horse is Panda Boy for Martin Brassil. 

The yard won this with Numbersixvalverde back in 2006, and Panda Boy arrives in a similar vein of form to the yard’s winner some 18 years ago (both placed in their prep races, never looked like winning but still ran well - Numbersixvalverde’s last four runs figures wise were B443). 

Panda Boy will really relish everything about the Grand National, and as he has previously shown, the monster trip will pose no issues to him. He ran very well in last season’s Irish Grand National, and although this is a different kettle of fish, he clearly gallops, gallops and then gallops again at the same pace all the time, which is the sort of horse you want for this testing race. 

He has been running pretty well this season already, with two 4th-placed efforts in Grade 3 company to start the season, both of which were clearly over inadequate trips (he even went against Dinoblue over 2 miles) - so was arguably clear to see they were using those races as pipe openers for the season ahead, with the Grand National firmly in connections’ minds. 

He has since pitched a decent 2nd behind Meetingofthewaters in a very competitive handicap chase at Leopardstown, always plugging on well to the line. Meetingofthewaters might have had a little too much pace for him that day, but there is one thing that Panda Boy knows, and that is how to stay on well. 

As mentioned I think the Grand National looks to be tailor-made for Martin Brassil's horse, and I feel they have campaigned him perfectly ready for Saturday’s race. He ended his Grand National preparations with a run in a hurdle contest last time out, where although the leaders had a little too much pace for him, he still did what he does best and plugged on nicely, only beaten by 3 lengths or so in the end. 

That should have put him more than right for this, and if he can take to the National fences (let's put it this way, if Martin Brassil didn't think he would, then he wouldn’t be running) then I think he can repeat what Numbersixvalverde did back in 2006, and land the feature steeplechase of the season. 

I am never usually confident when it comes to the Grand National, but I am pretty confident this horse can run very well here, with a pretty low weight on his back. This is a huge ride for JJ Slevin, who is having a pretty good season as all things go.

5.00pm - Grade 1 My Pension Expert Maghull Novices Chase 

This contest seems pretty cut and dried as Found A Fifty will just be too good for these, as most of them come from either novice company, handicaps or lower graded races. The form of Found A Fifty's run in the Arkle might not be much in behind (from 3rd place onwards), but he was beaten by what seemingly is freak of a horse in Gaelic Warrior, and although he was well put in his place by the Willie Mullins horse, he still ran with plenty of credit to claim 3rd spot, finishing a further 4 lengths or so in front of Il Etait Temps. 

The first three that finished in the Arkle could be very good horses, and if Found A Fifty were to come out and land this Grade 1 contest at Aintree on Saturday, the Arkle form for Gaelic Warrior might be the best piece of novice form on offer this season. 

Il Etait Temps has boosted the Arkle form nicely by landing the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices Chase in the first race of the Aintree meeting. Willie Mullins' horse beat Grey Dawning, another Grade 1 winner in behind that day, so the form of the Arkle looks to be really good going forward. 

Found A Fifty is already a Grade 1 chase winner, and has placed multiple times in Graded company, therefore I feel he will just be too good for the rest of these, as he looks to be the real Grade 1 horse in this field. 

 All prices are from Planet Sport Bet and are subject to change

 All previews and tips provided by @ Jake Russell

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