RECENTLY, I was chatting to a bloke down in the local about the Aintree Grand National meeting and the advice he gave me, as he tilted his pint of stout at a precarious angle, was to avoid backing a horse at Aintree if it ran well in the preceding Cheltenham Festival.
After a hard day at the office, I was in no mood to argue, so I nodded away and let him make his case. But it made me wonder how such myths can be perpetuated every year when the results simply don't back them up.
In fact, the advice should be turned completely on its head and I'd go as far as to say that any horse which came first or second at the Cheltenham Festival should be at the top of your shortlist if the trainer sends him on to Aintree.
There is a commonly held belief that horses can only be in tip-top shape for a certain amount of time and it's true to say that most trainers will have their good horses finely tuned with Cheltenham in mind.
Coupled with the fact that a tough battle up the Cheltenham hill can take a lot out of a horse, it might seem sensible to avoid such horses when racing again in the space of a few weeks at Aintree.
But training methods and fitness have changed drastically in recent decades and it's now possible for a horse to maintain a high level of form over a number of big meetings. I'm not saying that the horses in years gone by were not as good as today – I'm simply making the point that times have changed and the amount of punishment a top horse can take has changed too.
Here's some food for thought: since 2003, some 204 horses that came first or second at the Cheltenham Festival went on to Aintree and 49 of them won (24pc). Had you stuck a tenner on each, you'd show a profit of €297.
Admittedly, some years such as 2004 (two winners) proved difficult, but the results have been quite positive overall.
Last year, there were eight winners from 20 bets and among the obvious ones such as Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and Big Buck's, there were a number of decent-priced winners including Cape Tribulation and Attaglance, both priced 14/1.
I'm not saying you should blindly back all horses that qualify, but I certainly wouldn't let a good race at Cheltenham last time put you off and the above stats are worth keeping in mind throughout next week.
But back to today, where punters are spoiled for choice with seven meetings following a short break in the calendar for Good Friday.
Last week, I tipped up Swiftly Done in the Lincoln that was postponed at Doncaster, but I'm sticking to my guns and backing him in today's rescheduled fixture (3.05).
As mentioned, he should go well on the soft and his apparent poor form in his latest race when 18th of 33 runners in the Betfred Cambridgeshire Handicap can be disregarded as he couldn't get into a good position when the pace increased.
At 20/1, it's worth taking out some insurance and backing him each-way. The favourite, Captain Bertie, is opposable at 6/1 as he's now 9lbs higher than his last win at Newbury.
In Ireland, Switcher could be the one to back in the Listed Cork Stakes (3.10). She was runner-up twice at this level in 2012 and has since been sold from Tom Dascombe's yard, but the four-year-old is said to have wintered well and should be in the thick of it today, priced around 4/1.
Extraterrestrial hasn't won a race since May 2011, but he's been holding his own in some decent handicaps since. He's no superstar, but the assessor gives him a chance in the William Hill Spring Mile (1.55 Doncaster) and it wouldn't be a total shock to see him finish in the money, priced around 20/1.
1.55 Doncaster: Extraterrestrial (e/w)
2.20 Kempton: Robin Hoods Bay
2.30 Doncaster: Hitchens
3.05 Doncaster: Swiftly Done (e/w)
3.10 Cork: Switcher