Here’s your BetVictor pin-stickers guide to Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National.
The Randox Health Grand National might not exactly trip off the tongue but the race remains the highlight of my sporting year. It is a unique test of both horse and jockey run over an extended four-and-a-quarter miles and 30 demanding fences.
The pin-stickers guide comes with the BetVictor prices in brackets. Note: BetVictor went each way ¼ odds the first six places in the great race for the seventh successive year.
The Last Samuri (14/1)
Finished runner up in the corresponding race 12 months ago when the persistent rain on the day (ground turned soft) is likely to have been the difference between winning and losing.
Is much higher in the weights this year for trainer Kim Bailey, who saddled Mr Frisk to win the race back in 1990, but this has been the plan for twelve months and good ground would suit. No top-weight has won the race since Red Rum in 1974 but the ill-fated Many Clouds carried just 1lb less two years ago.
More Of That (12/1 from 14/1)
Trainer Jonjo O’Neill has described this former World Hurdle winner as the best horse he has ever trained. A solid but unspectacular effort in the Gold Cup and has a bit to find with Saphir Du Rheu on Cheltenham running. Has a touch of class and was running on up the hill in the Gold Cup to suggest this marathon trip may see him in an even better light.
Barry Geraghty who rode the winner of the race back in 2003 with Monty’s Pass is believed to be favouring this JP McManus representative over Cause Of Causes – is that a tip in itself?
Shantou Flyer (66/1)
No match for Cue Card in a Grade 1 at Ascot last time over 2m 4f but could improve for the step up in distance. Had not been asked a serious question when falling in midfield in the NH Chase last season and has since switched yards to Rebecca Curtis.
Perfect Candidate (50/1)
Made all to win a Veterans’ Chase at Exeter last time and a fast, fluent jumper although he looks more exposed than many of his rivals and others preferred.
Saphir Du Rheu (16 from 20/1)
Returned to winning ways at Kelso on his penultimate start and another who would carry more weight if handicapper Phil Smith could reframe the weights given his running on fifth in the Gold Cup. Looked a potential star when winning a Grade 1 Novice Chase at this meeting two years ago. Never struck me as an out-and-out stayer, although his run in the Gold Cup suggests he is not without a chance.
Roi Des Francs (50/1)
Went under the radar somewhat when winning at Down Royal in first-time blinkers on Gold Cup day. Runs in the same Gigginstown Stud colours of last year’s winner Rule The World and chances would be improved if the ground came up soft although he has bits of form that suggest he is not ground dependent.
Wounded Warrior (50/1)
Another of the Gigginstown-owned entries but another who has been badly out of sorts of late having jumped poorly in first-time blinkers at Fairyhouse last time. I thought at the beginning of the season that there might be a big race in the gelding this term but he is hard to make a case for at present.
Wonderful Charm (33/1 from 50/1)
Finished runner up in the Cheltenham Foxhunter but was pulled up in the National last year and others preferred given he might take in the Aintree (Foxhunter) equivalent although he did not shape as if he would appreciate a drop in distance last time.
Tenor Nivernais (33/1)
Trained by Venetia Williams who landed this famous prize with 100/1 shot Mon Mome in 2009 and this 10-year-old was a revelation when making all at Ascot over three miles last time. The handicapper would give the horse an additional 10lbs if he could frame the weights again but he jumped violently out to the right at Kelso last time, which would obviously be a major concern if repeating those antics at Aintree.
Blaklion (11/1from 14/1)
Not the biggest horse in the field but has the heart of a lion and won the 2016 RSA Chase for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies who has saddled the winner twice previously courtesy of Earth Summit 1998 and Bindaree in 2002. Made a bad early mistake at Haydock in their National Trial but ran a blinder in the circumstances to finish runner up and a leading contender. Will be ridden by Noel Fehily with regular pilot Sam Twiston-Davies claimed to ride Saphir Du Rheu.
Drop Out Joe (40/1 from 100/1)
Not seen the track since winning the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter back in June and can go well fresh. The drying ground will suit and he has been one of the best-backed horses with BetVictor in the early part of race week.
Le Mercurey (33/1)
Has a touch of class and not beaten far by both Gold Cup third Native River and the ill-fated former National winner Many Clouds so far this season. Another whose stamina is not guaranteed and there may be other years for this seven-year-old.
The Young Master (16/1 from 20/1)
Underfoot conditions are key to the chances of Neil Mulholland’s eight-year-old, as he must have decent ground. Ran an excellent trial when staying on into sixth at Cheltenham and looks to be coming to the boil nicely although he did come down two out in the Becher Chase, albeit on soft ground, back in December.
Cause Of Causes (12/1)
Has won at the Festival for the last three years including when running out a fluent winner of the X-Country Chase earlier in the month under the irrepressible Jamie Codd. Has decent form already over the National fences, having finished eighth two years ago, and has to be on any shortlist.
Regal Encore (40/1)
Caused a 20/1 shock when scoring at Ascot in December but recent form figures of PPP2PP1P suggest he is not the most consistent of animals.
Vieux Lion Rouge (10/1jt fav)
Won the Becher Chase over the National fences here in December before landing the Haydock National Trial after the weights for the race were announced. Would be 9lbs higher in the weights if handicapper Phil Smith could have his say again and a leading contender to give the Pipe family a third win in the race following Minnehoma (1994 for Martin) and Comply Or Die (2008) for David.
Definitly Red (10 joint fav)
Winner of four of his last six starts and Aintree odds tumbled after giving last year’s National runner up The Last Samuri a 14-length thrashing at Doncaster in the Grimthorpe Chase last time. Clearly improving at a rate of knots and the handicapper would give him at least another 10lbs if he could reframe the weights – a leading contender.
Ucello Conti (16/1 from 20/1)
Made significant mistakes when finishing sixth behind Rule The World 12-months ago but that experience will not be lost on him. Is weighted to reverse Becher Chase form with Vieux Lion Rouge and his last time out second in the Thyestes Chase was a cracking effort.
Double Shuffle (40/1)
Had been plying his trade over 2m 4f before, seemingly, improving for the step up to 3m at Kempton in recent starts. Trainer Tom George states he will go straight to Aintree and a leading contender if he improves again for the step up in distance to beyond three miles for the first time.
Houblon Des Obeaux (50/1)
Finished runner up in the Hennessy behind Many Clouds in 2014 and showed he was as good as ever when third in the Welsh National back in December and fourth under top-weight in the Midlands National last time. Would appreciate soft ground.
Pleasant Company (14/1 from 20/1)
Booked his place for Aintree when landing the Bobbyjo Chase, named after the 1999 National winner, at Fairyhouse last time in the manner of an improving horse. Trainer Willie Mullins saddled Hedgehunter to win the great race back in 2005 and this 9-y-old is a leading player.
One For Arthur (11/1 from 14/1)
Took time to warm to his task over the National fences when a staying on fifth in the Becher Chase back in December before landing the Warwick National Trial in January when nearly brought down at the first. Has a bit to find with winner Vieux Lion Rouge on the bare form but clearly improving and a leading contender.
Pulled up in all three starts so far this season and makes no appeal at present.
O’Faolains Boy (33/1)
Never threatened to get competitive when pulled up behind Tenor Nivernais on his belated seasonal reappearance at Ascot in February. Has gone well fresh in the past so that run was disappointing although the Rebecca Curtis yard have had a number of horses run below par of late.
Highland Lodge (25/1 from 33s)
Former Becher Chase winner and ran another terrific race over the National fences when runner up behind Vieux Lion Rouge back in December. This has obviously been the plan since and he looks sure to run his race although I would be surprised if at least a couple were not more progressive.
Bishops Road (66/1)
Only got as far as the first in the Topham last year having just missed the cut for the National itself 12 months ago. Looks sure to get a run this year but not quite in the same form of late although hard to dismiss anything out-of-hand trained by the excellent Kerry Lee.
Lord Windermere (50/1)
Former Gold Cup winner but lightly raced since winning at Cheltenham in March 2014. Pulled up in Many Clouds’ National of 2015 but is beginning to look very well handicapped on his best form - good ground is the key.
Saint Are (40/1)
Finished runner up behind Many Clouds two years ago and the ground had gone against him last year. Bounced back to something like his best when second at Doncaster in a decent Veterans’ Chase last time and another for whom the faster the ground the better. Will be ridden by the excellent Davy Russell with stable jockey Adrian Heskin preferring the chances of Double Shuffle.
Vicente (16/1 from 25s)
Scottish National winner at Ayr back in April and this has been the plan ever since. Recently acquired by Trevor Hemmings’ whose silks have been carried to glory previously by Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and the ill-fated Many Clouds and this Paul Nicholls trained runner must have every chance off what seems an ideal and low-key preparation.
Just A Par (40/1 from 50/1)
Tailed off behind Rule The World last year but bounced back to form when winning the Veterans’ Chase at Newbury at the beginning of March. One of five likely runners for champion trainer Paul Nicholls who may need to win the National if he is to retain his title.
Measureofmydreams (50s from 40/1)
Finished third behind Minella Rocco in the NH Chase at Cheltenham last year and that piece of form gives him a decent chance. Only got as far as the third in the Scottish National behind Vicente at Ayr when sent off the 8/1 market leader but remains unexposed and no forlorn hope.
Raz De Maree (33/1)
Finished runner up in the Welsh National at Chepstow over Christmas but no confirmed mud-lark given he won the Cork National on good ground back in November. Amberleigh House was the last 12-year-old to win the race back in 2004 and this veteran has National experience having finished eighth behind Pineau De Re back in 2014.
Stellar Notion (40/1 from 66/1)
Stays three miles but yet to win beyond two-and-a-half – likely to give his rider a good spin round for a circuit but petrol likely to empty on the run to Bechers’ second time.
Rogue Angel (25s from 33/1)
Last year’s Irish National winner who jumps and stays very well and hinted at a return to something like his best form when fifth in the Thyestes at Gowran Park last month. All wins with plenty of cut in the ground and likely to find things happening too quick for him unless the word soft appears in the official going description.
Cocktails At Dawn (80/1)
Took a heavy fall at Kempton last time and yet to win beyond 2m 4f – overall profile hardly screams Grand National winner for the yard of Nicky Henderson who is yet to have a Grand National winner on his impressive CV.
Thunder And Roses (40/1)
Didn’t look a natural over the Aintree fences when pulled up behind Highland Lodge in the 2015 Becher Chase but in good form of late for new handler Mouse Morris who saddled Rule The World to land the National 12 months ago.
Gas Line Boy (50/1)
Only got as far as the first in the corresponding race in 2015 but ran a decent race when fourth in Haydock’s National Trial last time although he has a bit to find with Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion on that form.
Was in good form prior to a poor effort at Haydock last time when his jumping lacked its usual fluency. Soft ground clearly suits and you can easily forgive one bad run – no forlorn hope especially if conditions testing.
La Vaticane (100/1)
Bidding to become the first mare since Nickel Coin to win the National back in 1951 but others preferred with stamina not guaranteed despite winning over three miles at Doncaster back in December.
Doctor Harper (66/1)
Often well backed and a talented horse but last win came over the minimum trip and hard to make a case for with stamina a concern.
Bless The Wings (50/1 from 100/1)
Thorough stayer who finished nine lengths behind Cause Of Causes at the Festival. Represents the excellent Irish handler Gordon Elliot who saddled the winner back in 2007 courtesy of Silver Birch.
Knock House (66/1)
Disappointed on his first start for Donald McCain at Doncaster in December but was a decent staying chaser for Mick Channon on decent ground and would be a lively outsider if getting a run.
Finished runner up in a competitive Trial at Punchestown over 3m 4f back in February but difficult to make a case for unless conditions came up very testing.
Viva Steve (66/1)
Beaten a long way by One For Arthur on his penultimate start but looked good when scoring on his first start for Fergal O’Brien at Ayr back in November and one of the more likely outsiders if getting a run.
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