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Nic Ladds 3rd Apr 2009 - 23:00

Weatherbys preview: The Grand National meeting

The Grand National at Aintree, one of the highlight's of the National Hunt season is nearly upon us and here at William Hill we want to give you the best experience possible.

That's why we have expert knowledge from Paul Jones our Weatherbys expert tipster, who brings you his thoughts on all the big races from Aintree, including the Grand National at 4:15 live on BBC1.

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Horses stepping up in trip to 2m4f for the first time under Rules here so I have respect for the chances of the
Supreme Novices' Hurdle flop Micheal Flips, especially as he has won an Irish point-to-point over three miles so I feel this raise in distance will certainly suit him and give him a decent claim.

Copper Bleu ran far better than him in that 2m novice race at Cheltenham finishing fourth and I reckon he is also now ready for a step up in trip.

He did try it earlier in the season but he is a better horse now and Philip Hobbs has a very decent record in novice hurdles at this meeting down the years.

Ainama is another stepping up in trip but he looks to have been a bit over-rated on the evidence of his last two runs.

Cape Tribulation, on the other hand, is stepping back in distance following a fair run when fifth in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival over three miles and that should not be a problem to him. He has pace, and connections have some top handicaps on the Flat on his agenda this year.

He will probably also enjoy returning back to a flat track having bolted up in a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Doncaster in January.

Four-year-olds with their weight allowance should also be respected and Saticon ran very well when third in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham off a big weight and running wide throughout so is another to conjure with.

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A run in the Arkle Trophy has been critically important as the last 13 runnings of that race have thrown up the winner of this so just concentrate on horses that ran in that contest.

I much prefer to look at horses that ran well in that contest given this is just three weeks later and Kalahari King will be tough to beat providing the forecast rain is not too heavy as he is a top-of-the-ground performer.

He was very unlucky not to win the Arkle as made niggly errors at the wrong time and was overconfidently ridden in my opinion too far out of his ground, and as a result, met a wall of horses rounding the home bend.

He lost valuable ground as a result, and the race with it in my opinion and he was just edged out of it finishing second.

His trainer has won this race with Ballinclay King and being the highest-placed finisher in the Arkle in the line up which has been so critical in finding the winner here, he has a superb chance providing the ground is no worse than good to soft as heavy rain is forecast.

If the rains do arrive that would tilt matters towards Tatenen as he has a roundy action that pounds the turf very hard and he would definitely prefer a cut in the ground as he showed when a brilliant winner at Cheltenham back in November.

Paul Nicholls has a superb record in this race and especially with five-year-olds and two of his four winners fell in the Arkle (Le Roi Miguel and Twist Magic) so I wouldn't be put off by the fact he took an early tumble at Cheltenham.

This pair look a cut above the opposition to my mind and I will be surprised if one of them does not collect and I will let the ground determine which way to go.

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I would want to field against the favourite Celestial Halo as he had an unbelievably hard race in the Champion Hurdle and would have to be made out of iron to have fully recovered from that run in such a short space of time.

He takes on three much fresher Irish horses in Al Eile, Catch Me and Fiveforthree who bypassed Cheltenham for this and the Irish have an outstanding record in the race.

The best value is Fiveforthree who had the class to win the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at last season's Cheltenham Festival but has been restricted to just one run this season and won that small race easily just over a couple of weeks ago.

This looks like his ideal trip and his freshness can count for plenty. Catch Me is also a 2m4f specialist who is unbeaten in four starts this season and his trainer also deliberately bypassed Cheltenham with his other winner of this race six years ago.

He is a big player and a different horse to last season when he was never really right.

Al Eile will bid to emulate Morley Street who won this race four times but I think this is the best Aintree Hurdle we have seen for a while and think he may have to put up a career-best effort to win this race for a fourth time at the age of nine.

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Three Mirrors was second in this race last season pulling miles clear of the third and has the look of a spring horse so he is very much a big player.

He put in an eye-catching run in the Festival Plate at Cheltenham last time and the last two winners of this race contested that prize at the Festival.

He has been running well in top handicaps without winning one and this may well be his day.

Pretty Star also ran well at Cheltenham finishing second in the Kim Muir and Venetia Williams has a good record in the race so he is another worth considering, but Jonjo O'Neill has an even better record with three recent winners in this contest.

As a result, we have to be looking very closely at Don't Push It who is undeniably well handicapped on his best form and the stable are highly adept at winning handicaps at the big spring meetings.

They did it again at Cheltenham, and the opening day of this meeting. Don't Push It is frustrating but I feel this flat track will suit him better than the Cheltenham hill that struggles to get up.

Peter Pole should not be underestimated. representing the up-and-coming Tim Vaughan yard, his jumping was brilliant when winning last time out and a good jumper is like gold dust over this track.

Star De Mohaison exited at the first fence on Thursday but top weights have a good record in this race down the years and his chance will be enhanced if the rain keeps away.

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