1:45 – Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Jenkins has always been a horse expected to go places but he’s had two poor runs latest and isn’t one to be trusted. Similar can be said of Ivanovich Gorbatov who won the Triumph Hurdle back in 2016. Court Minstrel looks past his best whilst Jester Jet is extremely consistent – a likeable trait for a big field handicapper. It’s interesting to note that at the time of writing (11pm Thursday night), Project Bluebook’s price is beginning to shorten. It was 40s this afternoon but is into 28/1. A McManus handicap plot? With Skybet paying 6 places, SPIRITOFTHEGAMES is a cracking each way play but at 10/1, it’s a win only bet for me. He never runs a bad race and, although he’s creeping up the weights, this step up in trip looks certain to suit. Dual-purpose horse, Who Dares Wins ran a fantastic race in the Pertemps last time after a break and must go close. Wilde Blue Yonder has had just four runs since a brilliant fifth in the 2014 Supreme. If anywhere near that form, he would surely win this doing cartwheels off just 10st 8lb.

2:20 - Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
A rematch from the Dovecote here where Global Citizen beat SCARLET DRAGON. The former dominated the field off the front before kicking clear decisively as they swung for home. The early move caught jumps debutant Scarlet Dragon unawares and he can reverse the form here. The longer straight and possibility of him settling better makes him a huge runner and 10/1 looks massive. He was a classy flat performer afterall. Vision Des Flos was beaten into sixth in the Ballymore behind the brilliant Samcro and, despite being a Grade 1 as well, this race will be far easier. Style De Garde travelled like a good horse in the Fred Winter but this is a massive ask for him to win this as a four year old. Like yesterday, Betway are refunding all losers as a free bet up to a tenner here.

2:50 - Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
Despite being the Aintree version of the RSA, the battle could be between JLT second Terrefort and the four miler runner up MS PARFOIS. The former found only Shattered Love too good and has developed into both a consistent and a classy type. The latter will relish this track and the possibility of galloping her rivals into submission from the front. She was beaten by an in-form Black Corton at Ascot previously but he looks like his long campaign could be about to catch up with him and the mare can reverse that form. Mia’s Storm has jumping frailties to overcome and in a race that will have a guaranteed high tempo, it may not help her jumping. Elegant Escape was beaten by two fantastic horses in that RSA and looks a danger.

3:25 – JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1)
Min found only the brilliant Altior too good in the Champion Chase and it’s somewhat of a surprise to see him running here – stepped up in trip too. He has never seemed like an extra half mile is needed but it could prove up his street. Politologue was behind Min in that Champion Chase but was a Tingle Creek winner previously and has a chance on a going day. BALKO DES FLOS (NAP) was magnificent when beating Un De Sceaux easily in the Ryanair. He won the Galway Plate previously and is a horse I have already had a speculative antepost punt for next year’s Gold Cup. Over this trip, 9/4 is a tasty price to topple Min and add another Grade 1 to his name. The other three would need to massively improve to threaten.

4:05 - Topham Handicap Chase (Grade 3 – National Course)
One of the highlights of the week now as 30 horses tackle the National fences. Vibrato Valtat has been in top company at his best but has lost his way. This unique test could suit and spark him back to his best which makes him an interesting each way bet at 40/1. Though I’ve passed over him for a more consistent type in TOP GAMBLE at 14/1. Kerry Lee’s horse has 3lb off from the claim of jockey James Bowen and will enjoy the step up in trip from his latest third in the Grand Annual. Ultragold won this last year and comes alive over these obstacles so should cause a threat but my second dart is for the admirable HIGHLAND LODGE who likes this course. The step back in trip could make this a sharper race for him but the soft ground may balance that out against a field where many are attempting this unique challenge for the first time.

4:40 – Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Santini was sent off as favourite for the Albert Bartlett at the Festival last time but could only manage third behind Ok Corral. The latter stormed up the hill and looked as though he may even want further. Santini didn’t really have any excuses but both may feel the effects of that gruelling test here. CHEF DES OBEAUX was fancied by many that day (myself included) but was beaten a long way out and so was given an easy time in the straight. Assuming that run was too bad to be true, his previous form makes him a big player and 10/1 is enticing. Sam’s Gunner looks to be the best of the rest in one of the most intriguing races of the week.

5:15 – Weatherbys Racing Bank Standard Open NH Flat Race (Grace 2)
Pym has been one of the hype horses of the season and showed promise in his run this season after looking good on his debut a year ago. His run this season had him second behind another well touted type in DANNY KIRWAN. I don’t follow the bumper scene in great depth but everybody I have spoken to on the exciting types from this category has mentioned this horse. He did receive 7lb when beaten Pym that day but he also looked like he was brimming with talent. Mercy Mercy Me was a horse each way at a big price in the Champion Bumper and he wasn’t disgraced but he looked like a staying type to me – probably an Albert Bartlett type for next year. Mister Fisher won comfortably on debut with a handy turn of foot on similar ground as today but is a four year old which the stats suggest is a big negative for this. Realistically, there are 10 with a chance who have untapped potential in an open finale on day 2.

Bets:
1:45 – SPIRITOFTHEGAMES @ 10/1
2:20 – SCARLET DRAGON @ 9/1
2:50 – MS PARFOIS @ 6/1
3:25 – BALKO DES FLOS (NAP) @ 9/4
4:05 – TOP GAMBLE @ 14/1 & HIGHLAND LODGE @ 16/1
4:40 – CHEF DES OBEUAX @ 9/1
5:15 – DANNY KIRWAN @ 13/8