Grand National 2021: Pinstickers Guide

In recent years the Grand National has undergone a makeover. The distance of the race has been reduced from 4m 4f to 4m 2.5f, but more significantly the fences have been made easier to jump, and largely as a result of this change, better quality horses are now taking part.

In the 2012 renewal, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Synchronised, was one of two horses to lose their life in a race where 21 of the 40 horses either fell, unseated their rider, refused or were brought down. Things had to change, and with it the whole complexion of the race changed too.

As well as improving the quality of entrants, the easing of the fences has made a real difference to the pace of the race. The days of horses “hunting round” for a circuit are a distant memory. Now the pace is on from flagfall. There is no let up and no opportunity for horses with suspect stamina to get the chance to fill their lungs.

Despite the race now being over a slightly shorter distance, the need for stamina is paramount. There are no hiding places.

From 2013 the race has been dominated by horses that have proven their worth in Welsh Nationals, Scottish Nationals, previous Grand Nationals, 3m 6f cross country chases and big handicaps over 3m2f plus.

So, unsurprisingly, the first thing we are looking for in our selections is proven stamina over at least 3m 2f.

Next is a horse’s ability to handle the hurly burly of a 40 runner race. So solid form in races with 20 or more runners is a big positive. The races listed above tend to attract large fields so good form in those races will usually satisfy this criterion too. We do however need to be wary of horses that have run well over 3m 2f plus…. but have only done so in small fields – these horses haven’t yet proven their ability to cope with the demands of racing amongst many other rivals.

The final big piece of the selection jigsaw is to look at how well a horse is handicapped. Weight counts for a lot over this extreme distance and being a few pounds well in is generally worth more here than it is for any other race in the calendar.

There are many other factors that can also be considered such as going preferences, jockey, trainer form, age etc. but stamina, big field experience and handicap mark are the three, that the recent history of the race tells us, that we should focus most of our attention on.

Previous form over the Grand National fences used to be highly relevant but since the fences have been made less difficult to negotiate this is far less important than it used to be. In the latest renewal, in 2019, only 6 horses came a cropper at the fences, and well past halfway 38 of the 40 starters were still going strong. Clearly the specialist ability to jump round Aintree isn’t worth what it was before 2013!

Horse-by-horse guide

Cloth Cap ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
A staying on third in the 2019 Scottish National first highlighted Cloth Cap’s ability to see out extreme distances, but comfortable wins in Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy and a listed chase at Kelso this season have really showcased the horse’s improvement since then. As a result of the National weights being framed before the Kelso race, Cloth Cap is 14lbs ahead of the handicap for this race. Looks bombproof unless the heavens open, as he much prefers decent ground. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Any Second Now ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Fell the only time he tackled a distance in excess of the 3m 2f Kim Muir Chase success at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. However, it’s worth noting that the trainer’s previous Grand National winner Papillon, and 2012 third placed finisher Seabass, both boasted Naas’s 2 miles Grade 2 Chase (run each February) as their most recent win. Any Second Now comes into the race with exactly the same notch on his belt. Handles big fields well and has been laid out for the race by his shrewd connections. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Burrows Saint ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Winning the 2019 renewal of the Irish Grand National proved that Burrows Saint is well suited to extreme distances and can handle himself in big fields. Not obviously well handicapped but the forecast decent ground will be a big help and there is a suspicion that we have yet to see the best of this improving 8yo. Trainer, Willie Mullins, has earmarked this horse as his major National hope all season. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Kimberlite Candy ⭐⭐⭐
A win in Warwick’s Classic Chase over 3m5f in testing conditions suggested this horse had stamina to spare but he also faded tamely at the end of a 4m chase on better ground the season before. It could just be that Kimberlite Candy relishes testing conditions and his form certainly suggests that to be the case. One to note if the rains arrives but otherwise could struggle to keep up. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Minella Times ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Stamina is very much the big unknown. Two runs over a bare 3 miles are the furthest he has tried, finishing 2nd in a 6 runner novice chase and more recently 2nd of 22 in a slowly run renewal of the ultra-competitive Paddy Power Chase, when keeping on well at the finish. He does, however, thrive in big field chases such as this and his breeding suggests he can see out the distance. Trained by Henry De Bromhead, likely to be ridden by rising star Rachael Blackmore and carrying just 10st 3lbs it’s easy to see the money coming for this one on the day of the race. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Secret Reprieve ⭐⭐⭐
A comfortable winner of this season’s Welsh Grand National in testing conditions, he shouldn’t fail through lack of stamina. He also beat 17 rivals home that day so showed he can mix it in big fields. However, his hold-up style of racing isn’t usually ideally suited to the Grand National, although One for Arthur successfully pulled it off in 2017. A handicap mark of 144 looks on the high side and the horse has a clear preference for testing conditions which he is unlikely to get on the day, but could be a player if coping with the ground. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Magic of Light ⭐⭐⭐
A gallant runner-up in the 2019 edition of this race, this tough mare surprised many with her hitherto unseen reserves of stamina. In her 8 runs since, she has yet to even tackle as far as 3 miles, but there was no fluke about her 2019 effort. Up 5lbs this time she will struggle to win but could easily run into a place again. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Anibale Fly ⭐⭐
Two top 5 efforts in previous Grand Nationals give a resounding endorsement of this one’s ability to see out the extreme distance and thrive in the cut and thrust of such a large field. However, the horse appears to have regressed significantly since the 2019 renewal, finishing stone last in all 4 chases since then. As a result, he runs off a 9lbs lower mark than when finishing 5th behind Tiger Roll in the race. Connections of this horse have pulled off Lazarus like feats before but winning this would probably top them all. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Discorama ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Numerous good performances in big fields, including a second place finish in the National Hunt Challenge Cup at Cheltenham over nearly 4 miles in 2019, bodes well for the demands of the Grand National. His shrewd trainer has an excellent record when bringing his horses over from Ireland and they always merit the utmost respect. Only an 8yo it’s possible that we have yet to see the best of this horse as a staying chaser. Strong chance.(Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Potters Corner ⭐⭐
Having won renewals of both the Welsh and Midlands Nationals, Potters Corner looks to be sufficiently streetwise and have the necessary stamina for this test. However, he’s handicapped to the hilt based on his win in the Welsh National and regular pilot, Jack Tudor, will not be able to claim the 7lbs that was available in that race. Badly out of form since then, although he did “win” last year’s Virtual Grand National! The likely decent ground will be no help to this mudlark. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Bristol de Mai ⭐⭐⭐
Has never been tried over further than the 3m2.5f of the Cheltenham Gold Cup trip. Has always shaped as if he can go further but it’s hard to be sure that he will last out the Grand National trip. Campaigned in smaller field graded races so far and this race is likely to be a shock to the system. Cut a little slack by the handicapper when the weights were compressed, but another that would need a Gold Cup winning performance to win. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW) 

Acapella Bourgeois ⭐⭐⭐
A third place finish in the 2019 Irish Grand National suggests he should have the necessary stamina and street smarts for this assignment. A handicap mark of 155 is a fair enough, but as an exposed 11yo it’s difficult to see him defying that mark, especially as his best performances have tended to come when the going is deep. A prominent racer, it is possible that he will stay on for a place, but on the likely decent ground it’s not hard to see him being outpaced at some stage of the race. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Lord de Mesnil ⭐⭐
This dual winner of Haydock’s Tommy Whittle Chase over 3m 4.5f won’t fail for stamina, however his best performances have come in small fields in deep ground. He is 5lbs “well in” here as the weights were framed before his Tommy Whittle success, but he was ridden by Paul O’Brien on that occasion who was allowed a 3lbs allowance in the race – something that won’t be possible here. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Milan Native ⭐⭐⭐
Weakened tamely on his only attempt beyond 3m2f, but did manage to win a big race at that distance when successful in last year’s Kim Muir Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, so there is some doubt over his stamina credentials. Has been successful in big field chases however, and a mark of 149 looks about right, especially if the increase in distance unlocks some improvement. Ignore his recent mid division finish at Cheltenham as his whole season has been geared towards the Grand National. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Mister Malarky ⭐⭐⭐
Both stamina and big field experience are inconclusive so plenty to take on trust. From a stable that has only very recently started to show signs of recovery this horse has a few questions to answer. Fairly handicapped on what we have seen so far but it’s worth pointing out that his best efforts have been when racing on right- handed tracks which won’t be the case here. On the plus side the trainer is confident that a lack of stamina won’t be an issue and he clearly enjoys the likely decent ground. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

OK Corral ⭐
Only twice raced at 3m2f and well beaten both times so an obvious stamina doubt. Very much blows hot and cold, but even if putting his best foot forward this 11yo still has to race off a mark 4lbs higher than his last winning mark which was achieved in a 4 runner race. Missed a year through injury before returning in the Ultima Chase at the Cheltenham Festival where he was pulled up. Derek O’Connor is set to ride and that’s a good booking, but the horse is likely to need more than that to figure here. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Farclas ⭐⭐⭐
Never raced beyond 3 miles so there has to be a significant stamina doubt. Indeed, he may well be rerouted to the previous day’s Topham Chase over a more suitable looking 2m 5f. However, this is a young horse on an upward trajectory, who relishes the hustle and bustle of these big handicaps. The handicapper would be adding more weight too, if he could take account of his fine 2nd at the recent Cheltenham Festival. If lining up in this race and staying the distance Farclas should be in amongst the places. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Yala Enki ⭐⭐
Three consecutive third place finishes in the Welsh National highlight Yala Enki’s stamina reserves and ability to fight its corner in big competitive fields. A likeable genuine horse who has no secrets from the handicapper. Best when the mud is flying, it is unlikely that this 11yo can find the necessary improvement to do any more than press for a place. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Takingrisks ⭐⭐⭐
Winning the 2019 Scottish National, showed this 12yo’s suitability to the task in hand. As a result of winning Doncaster’s Skybet Chase last time out he has to race off a career high mark here and that’s some task for a veteran. It’s likely that recent wind surgery has been the catalyst for the improvement in form. The Skybet form has since been boosted, and Takingrisks could easily make the frame at a nice price. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Class Conti ⭐⭐
Yet to race beyond 3m1f so plenty to prove in the stamina department. Class Conti does at least boast good form in big handicap chases, having been placed in the two most recent renewals of Gowran Park’s Thyestes Chase. But it’s possible that those two runs only serve to highlight the horse’s preference for testing conditions and a right-handed track. He will get neither here and is readily passed over. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Hogan’s Height ⭐
Stamina has to be the major concern with zero worthwhile form at even 3 miles. The entry would appear to be based on his success in the 2m 5f Grand Sefton Chase over these fences in 2019. And whilst it’s certainly no disadvantage to be proven over these fences it’s a stretch to suggest he can repeat the feat in a much larger field over an extra mile and a half plus. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Some Neck ⭐⭐
Boasts a win and a place over the 3m6f of Cheltenham’s Cross Country course – a route that has been a successful springboard to Aintree glory in the past. However, those races can be slowly run affairs contested by moderate horses. Away from this sphere, he has not been shaping as if he wants such a thorough test of stamina. Before becoming a Cross Country Chase specialist Some Neck was not the best of jumpers and there has to be a concern that returning to these stiffer fences at a fast pace will cause jumping frailties to resurface. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Lake View Lad ⭐
Pulled up in the 2019 Grand National and otherwise kept to races around the 3 miles mark so plenty to prove. Owner Trevor Hemmings loves to have runners in the race, and he’s won it 3 times too. A handicap mark of 157 is plenty high enough. Indeed, the handicapper has dropped him to 155 for future races after the National. He was hit with a hike in the weights for finishing ahead of the likes of Santini and Native River in a muddling 5 runner chase in December but has only beaten one horse home in his two subsequent races. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Alpha Des Obeaux ⭐
This veteran appears to have regressed quite significantly since the days of finishing runner-up in a Stayers Hurdle and hitting the frame in some big handicap chases, but his handicap mark has only dropped 7lbs so far and that doesn’t look nearly enough based on recent efforts. Never seemed to be the most resolute of battlers even in his heyday and there has to be a major doubt that this test will rekindle the fires. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Minellacelebration ⭐⭐
Interesting contender who has a fantastic record over Aintree’s Mildmay course with three victories. Less successful in two attempts over the National fences (8th and pulled up) he does at least boast some recent classy form when taking apart a Veterans Chase by 14 lengths in December. Stamina and ability to handle the big field have to be taken on trust but not without a squeak of running a good race. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Definitly Red ⭐⭐
Well into the veteran stage now, his trainer has always thought of him as the sort to win a Grand National but you have to think that he had his chance in 2017 when badly hampered at Becher’s as a 10/1 shot. Some flashes of very good form, but usually achieved in small fields and his chance has surely gone now. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Canelo ⭐⭐
Improved since the application of cheekpieces and stepping up in trip this season. The pick of those efforts was probably a third place finish in Doncaster’s 3m 2f Grimthorpe Chase last time out. This was the furthest distance the horse has tried and despite running well he weakened in the closing stages and that apparent lack of stamina is too much to ignore here. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Talkischeap ⭐⭐
An impressive winner of Sandown’s Bet365 Gold Cup in 2019, showing he has plenty of stamina and a liking for good ground. Totally out of form since then, despite having a wind op, so backers are banking on a return to that level of form which will be needed given the 10lbs higher mark he has to shoulder here. Prefer to look elsewhere. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Chris’s Dream ⭐
One from the red-hot yard of Henry De Bromhead. Three miles has appeared to be the limit of his stamina. Indeed, three of his last five runs have been over two and a half miles. Weighted to the hilt too, and comes here on the back of two disappointing runs. Easily dismissed. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Vieux Lion Rouge ⭐⭐
A veteran in age as a 12yo and most definitely a veteran over the Grand National fences too. This lovable horse has a Grand National record of 7th, 6th, 9th and 15th and a Becher Chase record (over the shorter 3m2f trip) of 1st, 7th, 2nd, 9th and 1st. These results show where the problem lies as far as the Grand National is concerned…..stamina. A cracking bet to get round but also a great bet to not fully see out the distance. Place chance if many of his rivals come to grief or underperform but a win would be a miracle. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Sub Lieutenant ⭐
Very little to recommend this 12yo. Did well to finish second in the 2019 Topham Chase over these fences but that was over 2m5f and that looks a much more suitable trip. Left leading trainer Henry De Bromhead’s yard in November and has done nothing in two subsequent starts to suggest he is up to this test. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Blaklion ⭐
Won the Grade 1 RSA Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, finished 4th in a Grand National and won a Becher Chase, but since the end of 2017 the wheels have some off in spectacular fashion. Since the weights for this race were framed the handicapper has seen fit to drop him a further 7lbs which gives you some idea of the task facing him here. Would have gone off favourite in the 2018 Grand National off this mark but his fall from grace has been sad to see over the last three years. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Shattered Love ⭐
Nothing in her form suggests that this marathon trip is what she needs. Classy over shorter trips on her day (Cheltenham Festival winner as a novice over 2m 4f) but better in small fields against her own sex. Seems to prefer softer ground too so readily left out of calculations here. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Jett ⭐
Feasibly weighted on his best form but that was achieved in small field graded races and has always struggled in big field handicaps. Woeful form in five races this season. Readily passed over. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Balko Des Flos ⭐
Looks like another highly speculative dart from the Gigginstown operation who aren’t averse to running as many as they can in this race. This one has some back class, not least when finishing 3rd in the Bowl here in 2019 but clearly lacks the necessary stamina for this race and has been largely out of form since. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

The Long Mile ⭐
Has never shown any inkling of needing to step up to 3 miles, let alone this trip, until last time out when 3rd of 5 behind Acapella Bourgeois over 3m 1.5f at Fairyhouse. A repeat of that level of performance in a fast paced 4m 2f against 39 rivals seems highly unlikely. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Ami Desbois ⭐⭐
Has been staying on well in 3 mile chases but is yet to prove his mettle over marathon trips. Into the veteran stage of his career, he would need an all time best to win this. Not completely without a chance of sneaking into the frame but others are readily preferred. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Ballyoptic ⭐⭐
Being entered in the recent Goffs Online March Sale smacks of connections trying to cash in on the guaranteed place of a runner in the Grand National, and why not? A couple of horses fetched good money in the same sale before the 2019 renewal……before doing nothing in the race itself. Expect the same story here. Although there have been glimmers of good form in the recent past these have tended to come when the mud is flying. Not a complete no hoper but would still be a fair surprise to see a prominent finish. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Give Me A Copper ⭐⭐
Likely to be leading trainer Paul Nicholls’ only runner, he boasts some useful form on the decent ground he is likely to face here. Having done most of his winning on right-handed tracks over shorter distances and prone to the occasional jumping lapse, he doesn’t stand out as one likely to appreciate this unique test. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Cabaret Queen ⭐
Folded tamely whenever tried beyond three miles and handicapped to the hilt, this out of form exposed mare is readily passed over, despite hailing from the Willie Mullins camp. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Tout Est Permi ⭐
Badly out of form and with a preference for testing conditions it would be a major surprise should he break a run of fifteen straight defeats in a race such as this one. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Double Shuffle ⭐
Still capable of a decent level of form but his handicap mark has not fallen enough since his best days to make him competitive here. There is also a big question mark against his ability to see out this sort of distance. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Fagan ⭐⭐
Runner up in the 2017 Albert Bartlett Hurdle, the future looked bright. Indeed, he went off favourite for the Scottish Grand National two years later (pulled up) but has never hit the heights as a chaser that his hurdling career promised. A win last time out at Newbury was more like it but it was only a Class 3 race, run on heavy ground and the handicapper has probably overreacted with a 10lbs hike for that effort. (Latest Star Price  ? Click to BET NOW)

Recommendations

NAP: Cloth Cap
Next Best: Any Second Now
Lively Outsiders: Takingrisks


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