I had good intentions to write a detailed race preview here covering my inner-most thoughts on all forty runners. But sadly time, kids, work and a requirement for at least 5 hours sleep have collectively gotten the better of me so I’m afraid it’ll be the usual curtailed piece. Maybe next year…
First, a word from my sponsor! If you’re going to have a bet today please feel free to click on this link and give Skybet a go – they’re paying 5 places and had some stand out prices this morning.
Second, my general betting tips for you non-punters out there is to either find a bookie paying 5 or more places (see Skybet for details!), or if you’re feeling confident go with one like Betfair who will only pay 4 but at a generally better price. And get your bet on early as possible! The bookies will have milked every last ounce of value by mid-afternoon!
OK, so before I begin with the short list of twelve horses identified last night, a word on a few notable contenders that are making me sweat a bit.
This looks like a highly competitive Grand National and there’s a great mix of classy chasers at the top of the handicap along with contenders with major stamina in the mid-to-low end of the handicap, so it would be no surprise if a horse that’s rejected on on the odd spurious trend was to win.
The trends have also contrived to omit three horses who look to me like dangerous contenders at the bottom end of the handicap who could otherwise fit the bill of a typical winner. Vicente (25/1) and Rogue Angel (20/1) won the Scottish and Irish Nationals respectively last year, and both have been pitched at this race ever since but a failure to pay an each-way return this season along with no Aintree form meant they didn’t make the cut. Similar fears apply for 2015 Irish National winner Thunder and Roses (33/1) – excluded for having 8 runs this season.
I may be regretting being so pedantic by 5.30pm but I’m going to live and die by the trends once again!
So to recap, last night I short listed the following twelve horses based on what I call my ‘red line’ trends – namely criteria that best fits the profile of a Grand National winner.
- The Last Samuri
- Saphir Du Rheu
- Cause Of Causes
- Vieux Lion Rouge
- Ucello Conti
- Houblon Des Obeaux
- Lord Windermere
- Saint Are
- Just A Par
- Raz De Maree
- Gas Line Boy
Time to reduce this list to a more manageable size.
First to go is The Last Samuri (16/1). Runner-up in 2016, in good form again this season but will be 12 lbs up in the weights today compared to last years’ National so it’s a massive ask to think he’ll go one better. No top weight has won the National since Red Rum back in 1977. That said, he could give you a decent run for your money because he loves Aintree and he will surely give his all.
I won’t be backing Lord Windermere (50/1) – a former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who’s made the shortlist off his past glories. If he rekindles his spark he could be a major player but hasn’t shown that sort of form for years and was pulled up here two years ago which is a stat working against him.
Houblon Des Obeaux (50/1) – his chances are almost being mocked by a few pundits but I think he deserves a bit more respect. He’s placed in a Hennessey Chase and a Welsh National so has bags of experience in key trials – possibly too much given he’s now over the 27 starts threshold where no horse who exceeded it has placed since 2009. The ground might also be a bit too quick for him but don’t be surprised if he trundles home not too long after the horses paying out.
Gas Line Boy (66/1) intrigues me, a long shot who loves to run at the front is not the worst recipe for picking a National horse. Fell at the first two years ago but seems to be in better form and jumping with more confidence nowadays. If he gets into a rhythm he might give you a great run for your money at a huge price.
I could lump the credentials of Blaklion (14/1), Cause Of Causes (16/1) and Ucello Conti (20/1) into one summary comment – I wouldn’t put you off betting on any of them I just think others offer better value.
Blaklion is very close to having my money on him, 2nd in the Becher Chase and Haydock trial this season – he ticks all the boxes.
Cause Of Causes is a 3-time Cheltenham Festival winner, my only doubt is a suspicion he produces his best there and isn’t quite the same at Aintree, although he was 8th in the National two years ago.
Last to go is Ucello Conti – another contender who has impressed at Aintree in the past. Again the trends say back him but I just feel there’s a few who offer more value here.
For my first tip I’ll take a chance with one towards the top of the weights and go for SAPHIR DU RHEU (22/1). Paul Nicholls has previous in training a classy chaser to National glory just five years ago with Neptunes Collonges. He stayed on well to finish 5th in the Gold Cup last month running a conservative line around the outside so may just have the stamina and touch of class to be another winner in that mould.
Secondly, it would be difficult to compile a list that didn’t contain VIEUX LION ROUGE (12/1). His preparation this season has been almost too perfect – two wins from two. Has impeccable course form, winning this season’s Becher Chase and finishing 7th in last years’ National. He’s also trained by David Pipe and is arguably his best chance since Comply Or Die paid for my holiday to Florida back in 2008!
My last three tips fit the mould of proven stayers at the bottom end of the handicap, where 3 of the last 4 winners could be found. Plus all of them know their way around Aintree.
First up is SAINT ARE (33/1) – runner up two years ago to the legendary Many Clouds. He tailed off badly last year when the soft ground didn’t suit, and fell at the first in December’s Becher Chase, but is now off a much better weight, looks in decent form of late and the drier ground will suit him this year. He’s been tipped in the Racing Post’s Pricewise section this morning so his value may already be gone.
Another dryer ground specialist who looks tempting at a big price is JUST A PAR (50/1). A former winner of the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, he completed in 15th last year on ground that won’t have suited. Just got auctioned to new owners on Thursday and will be ridden by a talented young jockey Harry Cobden who won the Topham Chase yesterday in his first start over the Aintree fences. He doesn’t tend to be a front runner but may be charging by the end if he’s on his game.
For my final tip, let’s recap on the ‘softer’ trends I hadn’t applied in constructing the shortlist but noted last night:
- Positive – 0-5 lbs from the bottom of the handicap
- Positive – Finished the National before
- Positive – Run less than 27 starts
- Positive – Top half of the betting
Just one horse ticks all of the above trends, and that’s RAZ DE MAREE – (33/1). I’m personally not put off by him being 12 as the stats suggest comparable success in proportion to the number of runners at this age. Plus he’s a two time winner of the Cork National and placed 3rd in the Welsh National back in December. Another out and out stayer who has a bit of previous in the National, having finished 8th in his previous attempt three years ago. Has improved since then, he might find the ground a bit fast but if he gets around don’t be surprised if he’s passing a slew of horses towards the end.
So there you go! A few big priced runners in there for you this year. Whoever you’re backing today, best of luck and enjoy the race!