The Grand National is just days away and the final field of 40 runners was confirmed earlier as one will create their own bit of racing folklore in the world’s greatest steeplechase.
Last year saw One For Arthur triumph for jockey Derek Fox, trainer Lucinda Russell and owners Two Golf Widows.
So, with 30 fences to negotiate over the 4m2½f trip, here’s who to look out for.
People put plenty of emphasis on this but with the weights being more compact we’re seeing a classier type of horse winning the race.
Weight wise, Many Clouds carried 11st 9lbs to victory in 2015 to become just the fourth winner carrying over 11st since 1984, so more often than not the winning horse carries 11st or under.
Usually, it’s also a horse between 9-12 years old that prevails. The last seven-year-old to win the National was Bogskar back in 1940 while the last 13-year-old to return to the winners enclosure was Sergeant Murphy back in 1923.
A more quirky trend is that all of the last 13 winners had raced of one or more of these courses in their previous three outings: Punchestown, Naas, Cheltenham, Kelso, Haydock or Warwick.
Blaklion was fourth in this last year and won the Becher Chase emphatically in December. The nine-year-old will handle the ground given that came on heavy ground, so the persistent rain in recent days shouldn’t inconvenience him too much.
He’s a neat jumper and he has proven form over these fences however the doubts for me are about his race weight at 11st 9lb while he folded tamely last year when Noel Fehily went for home early.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has spoken about changing the tactics this time around, so if son Sam gets them right from the saddle in the hustle bustle of the race then he could be one to get involved once more.
From a betting perspective, the price has gone on Tiger Roll. The Gordon Elliott inmate won the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival last month and that saw his price collapse and understandably so.
This eight-year-old jumps for fun and stays well having won the National Hunt Challenge Cup at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival over 4m. Elliott has previously trained a Grand National winner and in the Gigginstown silks, he’s likely to be well found.
I really like his claims given his profile and he’s on a nice racing weight but I feel I’ve missed the boat in terms of his price.
Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly went off 33/1 in the Gold Cup but managed to come home in third place.
He was one that was doing his best work in the closing stages, so the way he shaped suggested this test would suit him but the weight could prove the problem.
Total Recall fell in the Gold Cup but this has always been his target. The nine-year-old won the Hennessy when just getting the better of Whisper late on when staying on well in the closing stages.
If Willie Mullins’ charge hasn’t been affected by the fall then he could be one to trouble the judge late on but after his Hennessy win his price collapsed.
Gas Line Boy was fifth last year and won over these fences back in December on heavy ground.
Jockey Robbie Dunne is adept at handling the Grand National fences. In five rides over them, he has never finished worth than fifth, including finishing third in 2016 on 100/1 shot Vics Canvas.
Ian Williams has got him to be more relaxed in his racing and has been keen to settle him into races rather than go off in front like he had for previous trainers.
Those tactics saw him get around last year and it yielded success here in December in the Grand Sefton. He ticks plenty of boxes for the trends but does he have the quality to win a Grand National?
Saint Are doesn’t have the most appealing form figures but has a decent record in this race.
He was second to Many Clouds in 2015 and was third last year, so this veteran does have form in this race, which is somewhat important. However, he is getting older and that has reflected in recent performances despite him having a wind operation.
Tom George’s runners aren’t having the best of times either, so with the quietness of the yard that would also be a concern.
Raz De Maree is worth a small mention but age could be the all-important factor here.
This 13-year-old won the Welsh National at Chepstow in January on desperate ground when proving his aging body and legs still have the stamina to stay these marathon trips.
He stays, he jumps and goes on any ground, which are the positives, as is his racing weight of 10st 8lb but the age trend is one that comes into the equation.
Sandy Thomson was desperate to get a run into Seeyouatmidnight and the weather prevented that from happening until three weeks ago when the ten-year-old ran over 2m4f at Newbury, so his preparations haven’t been ideal.
That race was his first in a year, so blew the cobwebs away and got him race fit for this - his target. He was third in last year’s Scottish Grand National when beaten by just three lengths having just been pipped for second, so he stays.
The money was early for this son of Midnight Legend with him being labelled as this year’s National type. After his second at Kelso over 3m2f he had wind surgery, so with that issue sorted, he is expected to run a big race.
A horse that I like is a nice type is The Dutchman. He moved from Sandy Thomson to Colin Tizzard in November and started over hurdles, when second to the smart Sam Spinner, before coming back over these larger obstacles.
He won the Grade 2 Peter Marsh Chase in easy fashion on heavy ground, so has the required stamina and jumps well. The eight-year-old is a fine specimen and I was expected a good run in the Grand National Trial last time however he was quickly pulled up having bled.
As much as I like him, I would have my reservations about what happened last time despite him ticking plenty of boxes.
I have my eye on a couple in the 40 strong field but sadly Vintage Clouds only makes it as a reserve.
But his stablemate I Just Know does get the chance to run and he could well relish this stamina-sapping test.
The eight-year-old has been fairly consistent this season and his win in the North Yorkshire Grand National over 3m6f at Catterick shows he’ll stay this trip well and I liked the way he finished his race that day when galloping through the line despite having the race sewn up.
He’s a strong son of Robin Des Pres, who jumps slickly and that could prove a useful asset over these testing fences, so if Danny Cook steers a clear path then he has to have a good chance.
Tactically, he is one that likes to go from the front and that could be ideal in terms of staying out of trouble but there are a few other pacesetters in the race, so hopefully, they don’t light each other up and go off too quickly.
Sue Smith’s charge had a spin over hurdles at Uttoxeter on bottomless ground last month to keep him razor sharp from a fitness viewpoint.
Don’t quote me on this but I Just Know looks to be racing off a nice weight of 10st 7lb and he looks to fit the Grand National mold.
STAT: Number 27 has finished second four times since 2000 and that number will be the one for I Just Know.
The second pick would be Milansbar, who won the Grade 3 Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick in January in comfortable fashion.
The third from that race was Missed Approach and he’s since finished second in the Edinburgh National before getting his head in front in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham, which suggests that is a strong form line.
He was fifth in the Eider at Newcastle on heavy ground when maybe racing below his best but they seemed to race at a quick gallop considering the conditions that day, so one I’m happy to forgive.
Neil King’s charge won’t mind the ground one bit with the majority of his form coming on soft or heavy and that is proven by his second at Uttoxeter last month in the Midlands National.
The trainer put amateur Jack Andrews on-board, who was able to claim 7lb that day, to alleviate the toil through the mud and that saw him plod home in second.
Bryony Frost is back in the saddle and won on him at Warwick, so knows how to get a tune out of him, like she does with most horses she rides. It’s her first ride in a Grand National and she looks to have a very live chance with this son of Milan.
Baie Des Iles is the one that has been slashed in price in the build-up to Aintree.
Ross O’Sullivan’s seven-year-old has plenty of chase experience and was fifth in last year’s Welsh National. Then that effort was followed up in a Grand National Trial at Punchestown where she dictated from the front under Katie Walsh to win comfortably.
In this year’s renewal of that Punchestown race, she was third having come off similar preparations. Folsom Blue won the race with Isleofhopendreams in second.
That pair finished in fourth and second respectively in the Irish Grand National at the start of the month, so that advertised the form nicely.
She’s a sound jumper who will relish soft ground, so the more rain the better for her chances but she is unlikely to get her own way out in front and then that could be a test of her attitude.
From a trends perspective, there are more crosses than ticks.
- Seven-year-old ✖
- Mare ✖
- Grey ✖
Remember a range of bookmakers will have offers plus various place terms to entice you in. It’s worth checking those out!
I Just Know (25/1)
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