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To a bookie, spring means only one thing. Aintree: From The Dragon’s Mouth #10

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

The Liverpool meeting is big. It’s not Cheltenham big, but it’s the next best thing and already the big hitters have been out in force.

 The Grand National itself 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.

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.

Although, at the time of writing, day one hasn’t stuck to that tradition.

Our DragonBoosts were really popular and we took a bit of a hiding!

Banbridge was a bad start and Zenta was a disaster of a follow-up. We took one bet of £4,000 at 13/10 and a couple of grands around the same price.

We’ve had a love-hate affair with Shiskin all season and he saved the third boosts in a row – Ahoy Senor – from really putting us behind the eight ball.

Although, It wasn’t exactly time to celebrate as the same punter who had the Zenta bet also had £5,000 on the Henderson horse.

That wiped out all potential profit (and some more) but at least it was the lesser of two evils.

I’m hoping day two reverts to the usual bookie bonus, but I’m guessing you might not.

You’ll have to wait until next week to find out how it went for us!

On to the big one and the race itself is impossible to call. It’s 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, is at the bottom of the weights, 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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