Ante-post preview of the Grand National at Aintree on the 5th of April with free betting tips and advice
Since the first official running of the Grand National in 1839, the race has been held annually over a gruelling four miles three and a half furlongs with horses jumping thirty fences over two circuits. The course is synonymous with the most challenging fences in the world, the likes of Becher's Brook, The Chair and the Canal Turn. Undoubtedly the Grand National represents the ultimate test of horse and rider and, in what is the most competitive race of the calendar, here are my best ante-post tips!
With the latest stage of entires closed, 73 runners have stood their ground. Despite last year’s winner – Auroras Encore, being withdrawn due to a career ending injury, a good number of last year’s participants return, including last year’s third placed finisher and current market favourite – Teaforthree (10/1 Ladbrokes). This horse ran an ideal prep race when finishing eighth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and didn't look to have had too hard a race. His jumping is a massive positive, and if he gets his desired ground (best form on ground on the softer side of good) he should put in another bold show.
Another horse who used the Gold Cup as his prep race was Triolo D’Alene (20/1 Stan James) – this year’s Hennessy winner. However, reports after the race suggested that he may have suffered a breathing problem, which if true, does not bode well for his chances over this marathon trip. To claim victory in the Grand National a horse must be in peak physical condition and any health issues, no matter how minor, are concerning.
The Paul Nicholls’ trained Rocky Creek (25/1 Ladbrokes) was one to bypass the Festival, after he was found to have ringworm, and with Daryl Jacob out injured, Noel Fehily takes the ride. His preparation for the race has obviously been interrupted and the fact that he hasn't been seen since the end of January is a worry. Another point to note is that, although he has consistent form over longer distances, he is untested over more than three miles two and a half furlongs and is also untested over the National fences. These are significant question marks and for me he looks to have a few too many boxes to tick to make an impression.
Nicholls’ main fancy is arguably Tidal Bay (16/1 Betfred) and it was confirmed during the week that Sam Twiston Davies picks up this plum ride. On his day this horse has bundles of class and plenty of ability. He’s the type of horse that will either love or hate the race. If he settles well behind his rivals he’ll be in the frame coming over the last as he seems to have plenty of stamina. However, he has experienced the Grand National three years ago and unseated his rider so he’s not a horse I can put a huge amount of faith in.
The champ AP McCoy, once again faces a tough decision on who to ride in the race. We saw at this year’s Festival that he was on the wrong horse when it came to both the Champion Hurdle and the World Hurdle, and he’ll be looking to get his second National win under his belt. Owner JP McManus could send a handful into the race with Colbert Station, Double Seven and Sunnyhillboy the three the likeliest candidates for McCoy. Sunnyhillboy (20/1 Coral) finished runner-up to Neptune Collonges two year ago, losing by the closest margin ever in the race. We know he stays and we know he jumps, but the record for horses who have previously finished second in the race isn’t great. Colbert Station (25/1 bet365) ran in the race last year, with the champ board, but unseated at The Chair. The horse’s jumping is a worry, having been on the deck and unseating again since last year’s race.
DOUBLE SEVEN (33/1 Betfred), until last time out, was unbeaten in five and he’s done little wrong this season, beating some talented horses in the process. He is however, untested over these fences, has stamina to prove and has never crossed the Irish Sea. Whether this horse will travel well, see out the trip and deal with the fences are all questions that need to be answered but he’s certainly progressive and appeals an as unexposed horse who is worthy of an each-way bet.
Connections of last season’s Welsh National winner – Monbeg Dude (20/1 William Hill) have booked the services of Paul Carberry, in order to maintain the winning partnership. His Welsh National victory on heavy ground on a track that demands a lot of a horse emphasises that stamina is unlikely to be an issue. He handles all types of ground and the booking of Carberry is a massive positive in my mind. There is however, a big negative with this horse and that’s his jumping. He looks to have improved significantly in the jumping department but he is still prone to the odd serious mistake which, if he replicated in the National, will quickly put pay to his chances of victory.
Last year’s Scottish National winner – Godsmejudge (28/1 bet365) will be looking to add another National title to his CV. He looked an improving and promising type last year, even before taking the race at Ayr, but has failed to show that form so far this season. His two starts this season can be somewhat forgiven as his trainer, Alan King, suffered from a virus in his yard. Unfortunately, the horse had a slight set back after pulling up last time out and will have had his preparations for the race interrupted. As such he is still a doubt for the race, but if the issue is rectified, and he does line up, I wouldn’t be surprised if his stamina and jumping ability allowed him to sneak into a place.
Another leading runner representing Nicky Henderson is Long Run (16/1 Coral) a horse who is untested over the fences and the distance, but is a former Gold Cup winner. Connections have finished in the placings for two of the last three years, when Oscar Time finished runner up to Ballabriggs and fourth last year. Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen has masses of experience over these obstacles having ridden in the Foxhunters, Topham and the National in recent years and should instil plenty of confidence into the horse. Long Run has plenty of quality and, until this season, had never finished out of the first three. This season however, he hasn’t shown the same zest that he has done in the past. If the confidence boosting win last time out at Kelso sparks him back to his best he will have a great chance and reports are that he has been doing some fantastic pieces of work at home.
Another outsider in the field that has caught my eye is THE RAINBOW HUNTER (40/1 Stan James). He ran in the race last year, where he unseated at The Canal Turn. His focus has always been a return to this race, and trainer Kim Bailey has done everything in his power to give him the ideal preparation. He seemed to be jumping for fun until he unseated last year, and he has a great weight with only 10st 7lb on his back. Last time out he won a very competitive Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster over three miles, finishing ahead of good quality horses like Unioniste and Roberto Goldback. He will have come on a good amount for that race and has a fantastic chance of bettering last year’s run, if not going on to contest the victory.
DOUBLE SEVEN (EW) (33/1 Betfred)
THE RAINBOW HUNTER (EW) (40/1 Stan James)
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