Aintree tips: Paul Jacobs’ 5 value plays for the Grand National day card

Our tipster Paul is looking for some value on the Grand National card

Paul Jacobs

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Before I pass on my value plays for this fabulous weekend of racing, I think it is worth looking at the watering policy Aintree have once again initiated.

The majority of tracks around the country will water to keep the ground ‘safe’, but the bigger meetings – because they are much more in the public spotlight – massively over-compensate with their watering policy because of the bad PR it would generate should there be any fatalities.

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In the past two weeks there have been seven race meetings with the word ‘firm’ in their going description, yet they haven’t added extra water on their respective tracks deeming the ground to be safe.

If we do get spring-like, drying weather the Liverpool track should be aiming for good ground, not good-to-soft. When it is good-to-soft on the National track it tends to ride a deal slower, especially down by the Canal Turn section of the track.

That means the genuine good ground horses are at a distinct disadvantage, which is even more pertinent this year as the top two in the betting – Cloth Cap and Burrows Saint – both need genuinely good ground to show their best form.

13.45 – Southfield Harvest (Each-Way)

Several of these ran well in the Pertemps Hurdle Final at the Cheltenham Festival, with The Bosses Oscar (third) and Come On Teddy (fourth) the highest finishers. Both are worthy of consideration again with the fifth home, Champagne Platinum, likely to be better suited to this flatter track as for the second successive festival he failed to get up the hill at Prestbury Park.

I think Paul Nicholls may well have bypassed the festival to give his charge SOUTHFIELD HARVEST more time between races, as he is still a work in progress physically and will have the advantage of arriving here as fresh as a daisy.

He is 3lbs higher than for his third behind Polish at Newbury where he still looked fairly green, despite going through the race smoothly, and so the first time cheek pieces will hopefully just keep his mind on the job at the business end. He has the potential to be a lot better than his current mark of 138, although chasing will ultimately be on his calling card next season.

Of his rivals, Unowhatimeanharry, has a cracking record around here and should run well despite top weight, while Tea Clipper (third out of 26 in the Coral Cup) ran as if he is crying out for this step up in distance.

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14.25 – Pipesmoker (Each-Way)

Ballyadam will be the choice of many as he steps up to 2½m and will have his preferred sound surface to run on, while My Drogo has beaten everything that Dan Skelton has put in front of him and also runs over this distance for the first time in his career. Of the two, I prefer the former, but his hurdling still leaves a bit to be desired while My Drogo hasn’t really beaten anything of any real class or substance.

Because of that I am going to back a selection from left field in the form of the Nicky Henderson entry PIPESMOKER. The Seven Barrows handler rarely runs horses out of their class and I know that he has long held this son of Authorized in high regard. I have also been told that he has not been the easiest to train, hence this will only be his fourth hurdles start on the back of being beaten at 11/8 at Sandown.

However, there were excuses that day, as despite travelling nicely through the race he simply couldn’t pick up on the horrible gluey ground that day. On the bare ratings he has no chance with the top two in the betting, but this much better ground will see him in a much better light and if he is as good as Henderson thinks he is then the selection could well be the springer in the market.

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15.35 – Vinndication (Each-Way)

Old rivals Paisley Park and Thyme Hill lock horns again this season and the track lay out and better ground points in the direction of the younger horse. He will also arrive here as a fresher horse than the former champion stayer and is the rightful favourite.

However, I am quite sweet on the Kim Bailey charge VINNDICATION who bypassed the Cheltenham Gold Cup to run in the Stayers’ Hurdle – and ran really well in the circumstances.

I say in the circumstances because he still had every chance of being placed between the last two flights before the leaders kicked away from him. However, the most pertinent point is that he ballooned literally every one of his hurdles following his return to the smaller obstacles for the first time in three years.

He is sure to have been schooled extensively since then and if he can put in a more efficient round of jumping I suspect he could hit the frame at a big price on the spring ground he is so effective on.

Grand National (17.15) – Acapella Bourgeois, Alpha Des Obeaux, Lord Du Mesnil

Since the modification of the fences and the reduction in distance, the Grand National has arguably become a harder race to win as so many more of the 40 horse entry have a realistic chance of being involved at the sharp end.

I have already backed Cloth Cap at 16/1 ante-post and couldn’t recommend him at his current price. In fact, I will laying him for a place here. The reason for that is that the young horse is very exuberant and free over his fences in the first three quarters of a mile or so and if Tom Scudamore continues the policy of racing him prominently then he wouldn’t be the first fancied horse in the long history of this famous race to over-jump one of fences on the run down to Bechers and take a tumble or unseat his partner.

On form and from a handicapping perspective he is quite obviously the most likely winner, but whatever other pundits suggest this is not just another long-distance staying chase akin to running over park fences. Why? Well how many park chases have 40 runners, race over fences like these (still very different to a regulation fence) and the energy and excitement the jockeys and horses experience is what makes it unique.

Going back to my initial comments, the ground staff will aim for good-to-soft ground, but it is so easy to over-water Aintree – as has been the end product a couple of times in the last few years – so that is another slight factor against the market leader.

As always the Grand National is always finding a bit of value and my three against the field are ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS, ALPHA DES OBEAUX and LORD DU MESNIL.

The first named is the most underrated of the Irish runners, but his profile is worth a close second look. His form is tied in tightly with Burrows Saint, having finished third to him in an Irish Grand National and he then turned that form around in the Bobbyjo Chase last time out. Good-to-soft ground is no problem for him and a mark of 155, although no stand out, is a fair assessment of his ability. Like all the entries, if he can get into a rhythm on the first circuit he should run his race and I have no doubt that he will see the distance out.

That last remark also applies to my other two picks. Alpha Des Obeaux has always looked the perfect National horse since he ran in staying novice hurdles. This big framed horse handled deep ground in those days, but not so much as a chaser. I actually think that he is a much better animal on spring ground and he has performed well around here before, running on strongly to finish third of 18 in the 2019 Becher Chase and before that travelling smoothly when tipping up at The Chair the year before in the National itself. He is a huge price for such a class act.

Lord Du Mesnil has been wrongly categorised by some as merely being a slogger as he has shown the requisite speed in his races to be a presser, he jumps well and his stamina is there for all to see. Unlike last season, he has been given a much lighter campaign by Richard Hobson, given a sighter of these fences – which he jumped well – in the Grand Sefton and then powered to victory at Haydock Park in the Grand National Trial.

He gets the chance to run off the same mark here and his racing weight of 10-6 means he will feel like he is running loose compared to the welter weights he has carried in the past. A clear round will surely see him run a massive race with talented horseman Nick Schofield on board.

Of those I haven’t picked, I have most regard for the seven-year-olds The Long Mile and Minella Times.

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at the time of publication but subject to change

Paul Jacobs’ Aintree value plays – Saturday, April 10

13.45 – Southfield Harvest (Each-Way)
14.25 – Pipesmoker (Each-Way)
15.35 – Vindication (Each-Way)
Grand National (17.15) – Acapella Bourgeois, Alpha Des Obeaux and Lord Du Mesnil

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