The Grand National meeting begins on Thursday at Aintree with some star-studded contests and the Racing Post's Gary Savage has a few fancies on the opening day.
Saint Roi @ 7/2
Ahoy Senor @ 11/2
Douglas Talking @ 7/2
With nine beaten favourites in a row and Paul Nicholls having a historically bad record in the Manifesto Novices' Chase (1.45), Turners winner Stage Star surely has to be taken on.
Many eyes will be drawn to Banbridge, who has been running in quality races all year and skipped Cheltenham when the ground softened.
The ground here will not be as testing, but there will be plenty of cut in it and his dismal run as favourite here last year is hard to forgive.
That leaves SAINT ROI as the obvious alternative and for once a Willie Mullins inmate represents value. A solid run in the Arkle last time puts him right up with Banbridge on ratings, while the softish conditions will hold no fears.
He has been campaigned almost exclusively at around 2m but there are plenty of stayers in his pedigree so thistrip may even bring about some improvement.
Zenta looks the best horse in the Juvenile Hurdle even before her fillies' allowance is taken into account and may even represent a bit of value, but I will look elsewhere though.
The Betway Bowl (2.55) has an interesting look to it, with the race historically favouring those who haven't had too hard a race at Cheltenham.
Connections of A Plus Tard seemed to think he still had a fair chance when badly hampered by the fall of AHOY SENOR, but he never seemed to be travelling or jumping with much zest to me and I prefer the claims of the faller.
Ahoy Senor also beat the likes of Bravemansgame, who is no longer running in the race, when hosing up in the course-and-distance Manifesto last year, and beat the same opponent by seven lengths in the Sefton Novices in 2021 - he must be the bet at 11/2.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be on superstar Constitution Hill in the Aintree Hurdle (3.30) and Sharjah looks interesting in the 'betting without' market.
He put up a tremendous weight-carrying performance when fourth in the County Hurdle at the festival, his run only 1lb inferior to Zanahiyr's Champion Hurdle third on Racing Post Ratings, with the proximity of Pied Piper indicating there should be very little between the pair.
The first race over the big fences at Aintree is always exciting and it is often familiar faces into the veteran stage who show up well in the Foxhunters (4.05).
One who looks likely to go well is 2021 winner COUSIN PASCAL, who was fifth last year after running poorly at the Cheltenham Festival.
He missed Cheltenham this year, as he had the year he won, and if putting a poor run last time behind him he looks a decent price.
The Irish have a good record in this race in recent years with plenty of winners and placed horses from not a huge representation and the contender who looks overpriced is former Willie Mullins inmate DENTO DES OBEAUX.
He has returned from an absence in rude health and his free-going bold-jumping style should be seen to good effect round here.
The Red Rum Handicap Chase (4.40) is the equivalent of the Grand Annual at the Festival and like that race has come to be dominated by novices.
Those towards the bottom of the weights have tended to do best in recent years and one who has the right running style is DOUGLAS TALKING, who can make it a double on the day for Russell.