The Grand National meeting kicks off at Aintree with a cracking card on Thursday, including four Grade 1s.

Here are our man Nick Luck’s thoughts on all of the action.


ELDORADO ALLEN is the pick to get us off to a winning start in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase (1.45pm) at Aintree this year. These are a closely matched group on what we know already, but the selection should take another step forward for the step up in trip having faced the impossible behind Shishkin the last twice. Despite the stable having an iffy season, he has improved every time he’s run, and I think he has more to offer on the likely spring ground. I like that he has been in deep over two miles – he’ll find this much more comfortable at 6/1.

PAROS can upset the applecart at 14/1 for Nicky Henderson in the Anniversary Hurdle (2.20pm). I don’t really want to back Monmiral at short odds, as his form isn’t much to get excited about, while Adagio is admirable, but there must be a question over the depth of the Triumph Hurdle. I prefer a fresh angle here and, after a couple of shockers, Paros at Musselburgh last time looked much more like the prospect he’d suggested he was when thumping two subsequent 130s horses in France last year.

CLONDAW CASTLE is the clear pick in the Bowl (2.50pm) at 8/1, despite the presence of some much bigger names. With due respect to all of them, none is on the up like this horse, who showed he could run pretty fast on a sound surface at Kempton last time and is completely unexposed at this distance. His trainer is absolutely fizzing with winners at the moment and this one looks to have had the perfect preparation.

BREWIN’UPASTORM gets a very narrow vote at 11/2 in an almost impossible race for the Aintree hurdle (3.25pm). What is apparent, though, is that there is quite a bit of pace on here and a strong possibility that one or two of those pace pushers could be vulnerable at this trip. With that in mind, I’m looking for a strong travelling hold-up horse, and feel more inclined than some to give the selection more face-value credit for his Fontwell defeat of McFabulous than the market suggests.

LATENIGHTPASS looks a perfectly feasible winner of the Foxhunters’ (4.05pm), and is a pretty decent price, too at 9/1. For a horse having only his third start under rules, his run in the Cheltenham equivalent was strikingly good, particularly in the way he tanked through the race close to a searching gallop. He should travel comfortably here, is a very sound jumper, is open to improve and should appreciate the drop back in trip. Add that his excellent amateur rider has returned to pointing in good form and you have a bet.

SULLY D’OC is worth an each-way dart at 14/1 in the Red Rum (4.40pm). I am chancing my arm that he’ll cope with a drop in trip, but he’s generally a pretty strong traveller and this will be run like the wind, which should suit. I thought he was primed to run nicely at Cheltenham, but he got chopped for a bit of room, got a bad position, then clouted the second last when just getting back into it. He is still well handicapped. Obviously, I’ll be saving on my old friend ON THE SLOPES at 8/1, who still has something to offer off this mark after his good Festival run.

MISS LAMB must be the each-way play at 14/1 in the mares’ bumper (5.15pm). Second to Eileendover at Market Rasen when quietly backed at odds, she missed the Sandown race on account of the ground and can get much closer to Pam Sly’s filly on this sounder surface. I won’t say she’ll beat her, but that was excellent form and she’s about 20 times the price.

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