The Grand National Festival 2023

The Grand National Festival 2023

Spring Is In The Air . . . And The Grand National Is Around The Corner

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DragonBet on-course bookmaker James Lovell gives the inside track on Welsh sport – what’s hot, what’s not, and who’s the talk of the betting ring.

To a bookie, spring means only one thing. Aintree.

The Liverpool meeting on April 15 is big. It’s not Cheltenham big, but it’s the next best thing.

And for historical reasons, The Grand National is the sport’s shop window and a race to celebrate.

So many people have memories of watching the race with their families and grandparents.

It’s part of the very fabric of British culture. In a lonely world of computer screens, smart phones and social media, shared experiences are getting fewer and further between.

During a time when people are turning against gambling, it’s a reminder of how the sport – and sometimes betting – can bring people together.

All of us have memories of nans getting excited because the Grand National weekend was when they enjoyed their annual flutter.

Or sisters or brothers coming home from work with a smile on their face because they had drawn the race favourite in the office sweepstake.

Then, the whole family would sit around the TV on the Saturday afternoon – betting slips or sweep lists in hand – maybe for the only time of the year apart from a Six Nations match or FA Cup final.

Far from being all about the big race itself though, there are a few races I personally can’t wait to get stuck into.

It’s traditionally a profitable meeting for us bookmakers as well. The Cheltenham form doesn’t always hold up with it being the end of the season.

It’s often a secondary target for the horses with the battle scars of March not having had full time to recover.

Ground conditions can be vastly different to all the previous form and the list of hotpots that have been beaten over the years have paid for a good few bookie holidays over the years.

I’ll be renewing my season long battle with Shiskin on the Thursday. He’s currently 5/2 favourite for the Aintree Bowl.

Here’s my reasoning. It’s a step up in trip which is an unknown, he jumped like a bag of spuds last time out, and he hasn’t had long to recover from a grueling race at the festival.

One horse I won’t want to be laying on the same day is the Bradley Gibbs-trained Fier Jaguen in the Foxhunters.

You may have guessed from previous articles that I’m a fan of Brad, but that’s not the reason for my fancy.

This is a horse that has been murdering his opposition in the point-to-point fields, winning his last three races by a combined distance of 155 lengths.

I know the stable really like their chances and if they can do it in the Cheltenham equivalent on a horse at 100/1, there’s no reason they can’t do it here with a much more in-form horse.

The big race itself is impossible and one I like to watch, rather than bet on.

You can make a case for so many of the runners. Personally, I’ll be cheering on Eva’s Oskar for our sponsored duo of Tim Vaughan and Alan Johns.

He’s sure to have lots of supporters, with all the families that have an Eva or an Oscar, added to the fact he’s a grey.

I can see a bit of a public gamble taking place, so if you are backing him make sure you take a price rather than the likely shorter SP.

He’s been schooled on specifically-built Aintree fences to sharpen up his jumping, will be near enough bottom weight, and should see out the trip comfortably having run well over four miles last time out.

There are worse bets to be had.

I’ll be watching the race on the big screens from Chepstow, where we are sponsoring the race day they have there.

It’s set to be a cracker with live music from the Stereosonics and a giant sweepstake taking place with giveaways totaling £10,000.

See you there and if not, enjoy making the memories.

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