Twiston-Davies charge can go a couple better at Aintree this time

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Aintree isn’t all about one race so it pays to pay attention to other events on Merseyside in the coming days, even if you’re just trying to earn some more ammo for the Grand National.

Thursday’s card features no fewer than four Grade 1 contests, with all shapes and sizes on show from juvenile hurdlers to veteran chasers.

But here at Ladbrokes News, all we care about are winners.

We got together to discuss a quartet of the opening day’s races in Liverpool in our latest podcast…

Hopefully some of those selections will trigger our free bet offer on a bumper week of racing, but here are our three best bets on Thursday…

Hargam – 14:15 – Anniversary 4-year-old Juvenile Hurdle

For this writer, the Triumph Hurdle third could be the bet of the meeting. He saw off all but his two classy stable-mates at the Festival, in a race that was supposed to have gone against him.

The rain that came on the Friday morning was reported to have turned the ground unfavourably soft for the JP McManus-owned grey, but he still put in a very good performance.

A return to a flatter track on better ground will undoubtedly see AP McCoy’s mount in an even better light.

Frankly there doesn’t look to be much in this field to worry about. Second favourite Devilment was 10l back at Cheltenham, while others were beaten in the weaker Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle, he looks a rock solid favourite.

Big Fella Thanks – 16:05 – Foxhunters Chase

A veteran of the Grand National fences, Tom George’s charge is still capable of shining on the biggest stage.

It will be a competitive race but with six completions from seven runs at the course, with two places to show for his efforts, he clearly knows how to jump the unusual fences.

The Foxhunters will be competitive, but the fact of the matter is that many of those near the top of the markets are more suited to a bigger stamina test, while this horse has coped with a drop back in trip fantastically of late.

A win at Wincanton would have warmed him up for the race, and with top amateur Derek O’Connor on board can follow fellow Grand National stalwart Cloudy Lane to victory in this race.

Astracad – 16:40 – Red Rum Handicap Chase

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse has placed twice in this race from three runs, falling when going well in 2013, so clearly peaks at this meeting.

He has been dropped a further 8lbs down to a mark of 132 since then, and now looks weighted to reverse the form with the two reopposing horses that finished in front of him that day.

His form this season has been in and out, but a repeat of his second at Cheltenham in December will see him go close.

A return to better ground will undoubtedly add to his chances of finally taking the spoils in the contest.

The last two winners have been priced at 16/1 and 20/1, so it is worth taking a chance on this one each-way in a race that can through up surprises.

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.