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Dublin: 6°C Saturday 16 January 2021

3 expert tips for the opening day of the Aintree Festival

Heed Your Hunch is back as Thom Malone takes us through Thursday’s big races.

Barry Geraghty on board Buveur D'Air at Cheltenham.
Barry Geraghty on board Buveur D'Air at Cheltenham.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE AINTREE GRAND National Festival gets underway on Thursday and Betway’s Heed Your Hunch will provide tips for the first race televised on ITV, the feature and one other

Liverpudlians can rarely be accused of doing things by halves and the way they kick off the Grand National meeting is no different — with four consecutive Grade Ones to get us started.

The Doom Bar Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle (2.20) sees the winners of the two key Cheltenham juvenile races go head-to-head. Pentland Hills’ win was overshadowed by the loss of Sir Erec at Cheltenham and he will again have to contend with a Joseph O’Brien runner in the shape of Band of Outlaws.

The handicapper has penalised O’Brien’s four-year-old ten pounds for that success so upping him in grade is the only option for connections. That revised mark puts Band of Outlaws (6/4) right up there in terms of top recent juveniles.

There is a suspicion he could have been a contender in the Triumph. Band of Outlaws was much more impressive than Pentland Hills on the flat, and he can get the better of him — and the rest — at Aintree.

Leopardstown Christmas Festival - Day Three - Leopardstown Racecourse Kemboy and David Mullins. Source: Niall Carson

The Betway Bowl Chase (2.50) on Thursday is a retrieval mission for many of the Gold Cup also-rans, or in the case of Kemboy (11/4), hardly-got-a-run. While his stablemate won the Gold Cup, Kemboy was cantering around riderless without a care in the world, having unseated David Mullins early on.

Connections immediately identified this race as his next target. Given what happened at Cheltenham, he will arrive fresh and the flatter track should suit him.

There are lakes envious of the depth on show in The Betway Aintree Hurdle (3.25), but Buveur D’Air — a festival faller in March — will be looking to bounce back. 

Buveur D’Air (4/5) has fewer questions to answer than most as he is still only eight and a dual Champion Hurdle winner with two previous victories in this one. His error at Cheltenham is just a risk that top-class two-mile hurdlers take — they are not careful, they are brave.

Buveur D’Air’s jumping is not a major concern. He is still an under-appreciated champion, who can make amends here.

Get your money back as a free bet if your horse loses on the first ITV race each day of the Grand National Festival with Betway’s Money Back Special. You can also win a prize of £25k each day of the festival on Betway’s Insider Blog with 4 To Win, a free-to-play prediction game. Offer as above. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more, see

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