Paul Darville previews the Aintree Festival and give his top tips for the Grand National

Richmond and Twickenham Times: The Grand National is on Saturday The Grand National is on Saturday

As the National Hunt season comes to an end, the Aintree Grand National Festival begins on Thursday 3rd April with an exciting day of racing, with Ladies Day following on the Friday and the Grand National itself on the Saturday.

The Grand National is a race that divides opinion, but also attracts the casual fans of racing and those that fancy a casual punt on the horses.

Bookmakers expect to take £350m on the race itself, and it is rare that they make a loss on the big race.

The last 2 years, there have been 33/1 and 66/1 winners respectively with Neptune Collonges and Auroras Encore taking the title.

Since 1970, only 7 favourites have won the race, and Teaforthree will be the likely favourite this year, aiming to win a first National for Rebecca Curtis The Aintree fences are a cause for debate as the course itself is a cause for the death of horses and injuries to the horses.

The usual debate from animal rights campaigners is that the fences are so big that it causes the horse to fall and come down from a greater height.

However, the opinion from within the racing world is that the smaller the fence becomes, the faster a horse approaches the fence and the more likely they are to fall.

The April weather normally ensures a firmer ground which also increases the speed that the horses are going throughout the race.

The Aintree Festival is often hard to pinpoint the right horses to gamble on as some of the horses may have ran in hard races at the Cheltenham Festival 3 weeks ago, which makes it a hard decision for the trainers whether to run them over the Aintree fences or not.

A lot of the time, they won’t know if it was the right decision until they approach the final fence as only then will they discover how much stamina the horse has left.

Last Week’s tips were a mixture of good and not so good. Dank took 3rd out in Dubai, BenBens won a controversial race at Stratford after a Stewards Enquiry, Tullius was also a runner up in the Lincoln.

Dance and Dance was only 10th, Hillstar (as well as Ruler of the World) didn’t handle the Tapeta surface at Meydan and they trailed in a long way back in the field.

My 5 Grand National tips:

Balthazar King (advised last week)

Tidal Bay

Shakalakaboomboom

Hawkes Point

The Rainbow Hunter

4 tips for Thursday:

2.00 Calipto –He really should have won at Cheltenham, but the stirrup breaking meant Daryl Jacob couldn’t get him home. Sam Twiston-Davies is riding for Paul Nicholls after Jacob’s freak injury at Cheltenham

2.30 Silviniaco Conti – With his trainer clueless as to why he finished 4th in the Cheltenham Gold Cup after jumping the last in 1st place, I’m willing to give him another chance at Aintree.

3.05 The New One will win this as despite his tough race at Cheltenham, form-wise, it is obviously a much easier race than the Champion Hurdle, and it would take a huge performance for any of the opposition to pose a threat to the Twiston-Davies team. I would look at Diakali for the place money.

3.40 Mossey Joe – My banker of the Aintree festival. I think it would have gone close if it had run in the Grand National, and I can’t see him being out of the places in the easier Foxhunters chase.

Thursday’s other races: 4.15 Anay Turge e/w; 4.50 Dodging Bullets; 5.25 Riverside Theatre e/w

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