Overall Thursday was very moderate on the tipping front with Glen Forsa pulled up, Band Of Outlaws very disappointing and Buveur D’air turned over by Supasundae. However, the Betway Bowl went very much to plan with Kemboy’s victory and The Glancing Queen was an impressive winner of the mares’ bumper.

The most notable feature of the day was the ground which was very stamina sapping. It’s been raining constantly since racing finished and I see this as a major factor for the next two days. It makes the short gap from Cheltenham even more relevant.

The second most notable feature of the day happened after racing when Grand National entries, Don Poli (£170k to Philip Kirby/Darren Yates) and Outlander (£165k to Richard Spencer/Gowing’s Eleven), were both sold in auction. Darren Yates had previously paid £300,000 for Blaklion (a faller at the first last year), only for him to be ruled through injury a few days ago. That’s some serious money to be paying just to have an outsider in the big race (both are 100/1)

Friday’s racing is not up to the standard of the opening day and includes several wide open races, so I’ll confine myself to brief selections. I think that Paul Nicholls might have a good day.

13:45 Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 4f – £75,000

Tedham is the right favourite but I prefer both of the Paul Nicholls runners, Brio Conti (13/2), fourth in the Coral Cup, and Mont Des Avaloirs* (12/1), who should benefit from having swerved Cheltenham and represents excellent each way value.

14:20 Top Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1) 2m 100y – £100,000

Favourite Itchy Feet (7/2) was an impressive third in a strong renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Aramon (4/1) was only just beaten by Supreme winner Klassical Dream at the Dublin Racing Festival but could only manage sixth in the Supreme. However, I’m avoiding the Supreme runners and siding with the highly progressive Precious Cargo (4/1) (Henderson/de Boinville) and, just on balance, my selection Rouge Vif *(11/1), a Grade 2 winner chasing a three timer with form on proper soft ground.

14:50 Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m 200y – £100,000

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Although I’m contradicting my advice about Cheltenham Festival runners, I can’t look past hot favourite (4/5) and RSA winner Topofthegame***. This is only his fourth run of the season and he seems to be well ahead of the opposition while remaining open to further improvement.

15:25 JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1) 2m 3f 200y – £250,000

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The feature race of the day has attracted an impressive field. For me, Waiting Patiently, second to the mightily impressive Cyrname in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase is too short at 13/8, having his first run at Aintree. I was really impressed with Politologue’s*** (9/4) second to the best National Hunt horse in training, Altior, by just 1 3/4l in the Champion Chase, a race in which Min was fifth. Politologue won this race last year, just beating Min by a neck. So I’m contradicting my Festival runners’ advice again but I think this horse has improved this season and has the perfect profile.

16:05 Topham Chase (National Course) (Grade 3) 2m 5f – £140,000

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I’m struggling to make a selection for this race so I’m just going to go with a horse that I’ve followed, San Benedeto* (18/1), who seemed to have recovered his form when impressively winning the Grade 3 Greatwood Chase at Newbury on 2 March. This is his first attempt over the National fences but in a 38 race jumps career he’s only unseated once when reaching for a fence at Cheltenham in a novices’ chase. I think he might just have a bit more overall quality than his opponents.

16:40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 149y – £100,000

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This is another open race but I think that there’s a strong case for siding with the unbeaten Emitom** (4/1), chasing a six timer, albeit that this is by some way his toughest assignment yet. He has form on soft and should benefit from a 35 day break. Champ is the most serious opponent, second in the Ballymore. However, he’s not been tried at this distance and that, along with the prevailing ground, deters me.

17:15 Weatherbys Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 209y – £45,000

Even by bumper standards, it’s hard to know what to make of this lot. The last five winners of this race have been returned at 25/1, 33/1, 25/2, 11/2 and 14/1 so it’s one to approach with considerable caution, particularly when adding the ground factor. However it can also throw up a very good winner (Barters Hill in 2015, Bacardys in 2016 and Lalor in 2017). I won’t be having a bet but my selection is Santa Rossa* (currently 100/30 second favourite).

Good luck!

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