Cole set to Harden his reputation in our Grand National day picks

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So here it is, the Grand National is almost upon us, but we are not getting carried away just yet, with another epic card at Aintree precluding the big one.

We’ve perused the contenders for the races shown live on Channel 4 to find three of the best bets of the day, and obviously there’s a pick for the National in there as well.

You can listed to our preview of the 4m3½f showpiece right here, while our preview of the other big contests is below…

If you can spot a winner at 4/1 or bigger, remember you will get rewarded twice with our Free Bet offer, but first up, we are having a go with these three…

It will be a day where luck will play it’s part, but these three certainly look a spot of value…

Court Minstrel – 14:05 (Maghull Novices’ Chase)

Much will depend on overnight rain, but if Merseyside avoids any precipitation, then Evan Williams’ charge must have a massive shout.

He would have hated the soft ground at Sandown two starts ago, so that run will need to be forgiven, and on earlier showings has plenty of class.

The unrelenting pace that Un De Sceaux put up in the Arkle brought out a couple of jumping errors at Cheltenham, but with a steadier gallop here, he is capable of a cleaner round.

Two victories over fences so far, both on good ground look solid, with a facile success over the likes of Thomas Crapper and Chris Pea Green reading well.

He won a big field handicap at this meeting last year, and was fourth behind The New One before that, so clearly goes well at Aintree.

Cole Harden – 14:50 (Liverpool Hurdle)

Warren Greatrex’s charge was a very nice all-the-way winner at the Cheltenham Festival, and he can bag a big meeting double here.

He travelled well, jumped neatly, quickened and stuck to his guns up the Prestbury Park hill to land the World Hurdle.

Although he won’t have the incline to show his stamina here, he has plenty of speed to take advantage.

His handler recently told Ladbrokes News that he has improved since the Festival, and will be even more at home on a flatter track like Aintree.

Much will be made of the blunder three out from market rival Zarkandar last time out, but this writer believes he still wouldn’t have got to Cole Harden that day, so back the six-year-old to confirm the form here.

Unioniste – 16:15 (Grand National)

Paul Nicholls’ looks to have at least two belting chances for a second National with Rocky Creek somewhere near the top of the market, but slight preference at the odds goes to Unioniste.

Many will point to the fact that no seven-year-old has won the prestigious contest since 1940, but this is no ordinary seven-year-old.

A winner of the December Gold Cup at four (the youngest ever), he has had 14 starts over fences, more than 14 of his 39 rivals, and over twice as many as favourite Shutthefrontdoor – he will not be lacking in experience.

His penchant for stamina has been shown the last twice, with a brave staying performance to take a Sandown handicap by 10 lengths, before lacking the turn of foot to go with subsequent Gold Cup winner Coneygree at Newbury, eventually staying on well into fourth.

He jumps well, battles nicely and is a tempting price to fill one of those five places.

Now all he needs is plenty of luck!

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.