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Dave Nevison: Willy's set for shoot out at Aintree.

Byline: Dave Nevison

IT'S been another quiet week on the punting front as the Flat season tries to crank itself back into gear after Doncaster.

I have spent two days at the Doncaster sales and if readers think there is a lot of bull talked on the racecourse I can tell you that's nothing compared to the blarney around the sales ring.

The ability to keep a straight face while telling the most enormous porky about a horse you are trying to flog must be the top qualification needed to be a bloodstock agent or vendor - and some of the ruses are pretty hilarious though unfortunately not printable.

They get you in the end, however, and the auctioneer's patter combined with that of the venor makes a pretty heady cocktail.

This usually means you end up buying something for much more than you wanted to spend and my steely resolve obviously didn't hold out too well, as by Wednesday I found myself the proud (temporary) owner of seven horses that all ranged from being a flying machine to a rocket!

It will be interesting to see if they fly on John Best's gallops!

You might have a few quid in your pockets after Fire Up The Band won last Saturday but I will be advising you to hold on to most of it despite this being Grand National Day.

We had some huge results at Cheltenham but things simply worked for us there and I have nothing like the same confidence about this meeting.

The National hasn't been an unlucky race for me in the past, but it's not looking good this time. A friend of mine, who to be fair is an excellent judge, has advised me to get invloved with two horses over the winter.

The first, Gunther McBride, is going for the Scottish equivalent instead which is a bit gutting considering I was on at 40-1 and it was less than half those odds by the time he was pulled out of the big one on Thursday.

The other is 33-1 shot Kingsmark who actually made it to the final stage and then developed a problem and doesn't go.

I saw the good side of ante post betting at Cheltenham but to have two bets and still not get a run is a real pain.

I have been looking at this year's race since Thursday and to be quite honest I am none the wiser. This is the most difficult National I have ever tried to solve.

I was on Ad Hoc last year and was gutted when he was brought down while still going well. I remember writing that we should get on at the 20-1 offered then for today's race and hopefully some of you did.

Unfortunately for me I didn't as I kept worrying that it might end up soft ground and he wouldn't get home.

There is no chance of it turning soft so 20-1 looks good, but on his overall record this season I would be less inclined to take the 7-1 now on offer.

Youlneverwalkalone seems to be a reformed character this year. But he got his backside smacked at Cheltenham in a battle that would finish most horses and I have real doubts about him bouncing back from that.

One thing for sure - with his connections and that name he won't be any value. Chives would be slow enough to win a Grand National most years but he may well be outpaced in this which sounds ridiculous over four and a half miles.

One that will run well is Gingembre but he is a great horse to bet in running on one of the exchanges. He is a seriously good staying chaser but does tend to hit one and get behind early on. But if he is still in touch when they get to Bechers I will be pressing a couple of buttons.

I have ended up going with two horses against the field and will be having a small win bet on each of them.

Shotgun Willy is hard to pick holes in and ran very well at Haydock on his only start this season. The good ground will hold no terrors for him and he has the necessary class to win a modern day National. The only nagging doubt is that he has plenty enough weight to carry.

Iris Bleu is ridden by Tony McCoy and though still a double figure price this morning I am sure the McCoy factor will mean that he is vying for favouritism this afternoon.

Again he is a horse that has done nothing wrong this season and although held by Shotgun Willy on the book he was impressive at Sandown and has the right connections for the top jumping race of the season.

The rest of the card is equally difficult but I do fancy Newhall in the opener. The horse looks like he had been laid out for a go at the Imperial Cup-County Hurdle double which would have yielded a huge bonus if he was successful. Newhall ran an absolute blinder on ground that didn't suit to finish second behind an even better animal, Korelo, who had his perfect ground.

My own horse Mercato ran fifth in the race but finished exhausted and we probably ran him too quickly when going to Fontwell within 10 days.

None of those have run brilliantly since but this takes nothing from the Sandown form - the race simply took an awful out out of the runners.

Connections of Newhall showed real resolve in bypassing the Festival and deserve reward here. With the ground riding much better the seven year old can score for the first time this season.

The card at Lingfield is overshadowed by Aintree but is well worth a look.

Giles Bravery has a good three-year-old in Striking Ambition and though he will not have any chance of winning a classic he may well be able to oblige this afternoon. Membership has won already this season and will be a real danger if he stays the trip.

In the conditions race Frenchmans Creek can score for Roger Charlton. If he does win it will be another confidence booster for my 2000 Guineas fancy Trade Fair I have backed ante post.

After the National we can start properly on the Flat and the first big clue could come on Sunday when Hold That Tiger is set to reappear at the Curragh.

I would have a bit on Trade Fair before this race as I don't think he will get bigger if the O'Brien horse wins. But if it were to get beat his odds could collapse.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 5, 2003
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