Grand National Festival 2022: Day 3 Spot Plays
Aintree Day 3: Grand National Festival
Day 3 of the Grand National Festival at Aintree is dominated by the big race itself. At £1 million ($1.3 million), it is the richest jumps race in Britain; only five or so British flat races hit the million-pound mark as well. It’s also the biggest betting race in Britain, attracting the once-a-year punters in the way the Kentucky Derby does in the U.S and the Melbourne Cup in Australia.
With 44 horses paid up for the race (four of which are alternate entries — the maximum field size is 40), it’s a tough one for players. However, as TwinSpires’ mutuel system is set up for a maximum of 24 runners, horses #24-#44 are all treated as one entry, like the “all others” option in the Kentucky Derby future wager. The saddlecloth numbering system in Britain is done by weight in descending order, so the lightweights carry the #24-#44 saddlecloths. This option on TwinSpires includes several well-fancied runners, so it is likely to be the shortest-priced option on TwinSpires.
The day is more than just the Grand National, however, and the rest of the seven-race card includes three Grade 1 races, a Grade 2, and two Grade 3s.
Only the Grand National is held over the 2 1/4-mile National course, which features 16 iconic and challenging fences. The other two steeplechases are on the 1 3/8-mile Mildmay Course, while the hurdle races have their own 1 3/8-mile circuit.
Here are some spot plays for the seven races on Day 3.
Race 1: EFT Construction Handicap Hurdle (G3), 3 1/16 miles, open hurdlers
A competitive 22-horse staying hurdle handicap, with a number of horses backing up from Cheltenham. That includes many runners from the three-mile Pertemps Final (G3) at Cheltenham, including the winner #2 Third Wind and fourth-place finisher #8 Winter Fog, who may appreciate not having to deal with the Cheltenham hill. However, it may be a non-Cheltenham runner that proves best here in #16 Serious Charges. He’s unbeaten over hurdles and was very impressive at Uttoxeter last start.
- $10 win/$30 place: #16 Serious Charges
Race 2: Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (G1), 2 1/2 miles, novice hurdlers
With Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (G1) winner Sir Gerhard bypassing this, the way could well be clear for runner-up #10 Three Stripe Life to feature here. However, he had a tough run on heavy ground at Cheltenham that day and may have to play second fiddle to #3 Good Risk At All. He just missed the cut for the Coral Cup (G3) and should be fresh enough to figure strongly here. Also worth a look is #11 Walking On Air, a highly impressive winner on debut for leading trainer Nicky Henderson at Newbury Jan. 19.
- $10 win/$30 show: #3 Good Risk At All
- $1 trifecta: 3, 10 with 2, 3, 10, 11 with 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11
Race 3: Maghull Novices’ Chase (G1), 2 miles, novice steeplechasers
A nice enough field of two-mile novice chasers, but it’s hard to see Arkle Chase (G1) winner #2 Edwardstone being beaten. He was highly impressive at Cheltenham despite having to sidestep a faller after the fourth fence. Irish visitor #5 Gentleman De Mee is clearly the biggest danger, but he has a bit to make up on the form and probably needs Edwardstone to be below his best if he is to win.
- $20 win: #2 Edwardstone
- $2 trifecta: 2 with 5, 7 with all
Race 4: Liverpool Hurdle (G1), 3 1/8 miles, open hurdlers
Four horses from the Stayers’ Hurdle (G1) at Cheltenham return here, including the winner #3 Flooring Porter, runner-up #8 Thyme Hill, and fourth placegetter #2 Champ; also backing up from Cheltenham are #1 Ashdale Bob, third in the Coral Cup, and #6 Sire Du Berlais, unplaced in the Pertemps Final. Flooring Porter got away with a cheap lead at Cheltenham and much will depend if the same happens here, but the sharper Aintree course suits Thyme Hill, who won this last year.
- $10 win/$30 place: #8 Thyme Hill
- $1 trifecta: 3, 8 with 2, 3, 8 with all
Race 5: Betway Handicap Chase (G3), 3 1/8 miles, open steeplechasers
An intriguing race. #2 Shan Blue put up a decent effort for sixth in the Ryanair (G1) at Cheltenham and should appreciate the drop in class, but it’s debatable if he’s running as well as he can. #9 Oscar Elite and #6 Tea Clipper both ran well in the Ultima Chase (G3) at Cheltenham, but it could be the gray #8 Commodore that proves the one to beat; he put up a dashing front-running performance to win at Cheltenham Dec. 10 and should appreciate Aintree. That is, if he starts; he’s also first emergency for the Grand National.
- $10 win/$30 place: #8 Commodore (if he runs)
- $10 win/$30 place: #6 Tea Clipper (if Commodore does not run)
Race 6: Grand National Steeplechase (G3), 4 1/4 miles, open steeplechasers
The big one. If you are sure you know which of the 40 starters will win, good on you. Most people don’t. However, there are a few useful ways to play this race.
Firstly, you would be pretty silly not to include “horse” #24, i.e. the mutuel option, in some way. Given that it will cover at least 17 runners, it’s highly likely to figure in some way. Last year’s winner was part of that option, and it paid $5.60 for a $2 bet — not bad for 17 horses. The $2.20 place return was a little lighter, but it was still a return. This year, the mutuel option includes current U.K. bookies’ 7-1 favorite #31 Snow Leopardess and the 14-1 equal seventh favorite #39 Eclair Surf.
Last year’s winner #1 Minella Times returns, but he’s up 15 pounds in the ratings, and topweights don’t have a great record. The one to watch from last year’s event is #4 Any Second Now. He finished third despite being badly interfered with at one point, and he has since won an important trial, the Bobbyjo Chase (G3) Feb. 26. He won that by a nose from #15 Escaria Ten, who reopposes him here; both look excellent hopes.
Of the others, #2 Delta Work impressed when beating Tiger Roll in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. He has the class to feature, but it was very testing going that day, and he will have done well to have fully recovered. #10 Longhouse Poet won two starts back and is from a stable that knows how to win this race, while the form is strong for #11 Fiddlerontheroof. As always, there are many chances, but I’m happy to go with Any Second Now and Escaria Ten.
- $5 win/$5 place: #4 Any Second Now
- $5 win/$5 place: #15 Escaria Ten
- $10 win: #24 (mutuel field)
Race 7: Weatherbys National Hunt Flat (G2), 2 1/8 miles, National Hunt flat horses
The golden rule in prestige National Hunt Flat races is “when in doubt, back the Irish, especially Willie Mullins.” That means it’s hard to go against #14 Rath Gaul Boy; even though he’s got a bit to make up in pure ratings terms, he won his only National Hunt Flat race in Ireland by six lengths, and that’s potentially a good guide. British runners #7 Ernest Gray, #8 Henri The Second, and #11 Leave Of Absence look to be decent chances, but I’m happy to stick to Mullins.
- $10 win/$30 place: #14 Rath Gaul Boy