Yesterday didn’t go our way, but today’s the big one and you can’t win them all. Let’s not mess about. Rarely in our sport’s history has the build-up to its most famous steeplechase been so dominated by one single story, and one single horse, but few horses have achieved even half as much as Tiger Roll, who has had the most post Aintree success of any previous Grand National winner since Hedgehunter, and it is impossible to disagree with his position at the head of the market following his demolition job at Cheltenham in the Cross Country Chase.
However, it is rally rather easy to swerve a 5/1 shot in the Grand National (5.15) of all races, especially as there are four other places to aim for even if he wins and that seems to be a sound betting strategy for the race.
Anibale Fly (12/1 with starsports.bet) was a flying fourth behind Tiger Roll last year, working his way slowly into the race before the front two left him behind and he eventually faded into fourth. If anything he is now in better form, having finished an excellent second in the Red Mills Chase before filling the same position in the Gold Cup once again. He’s only 5lbs higher this season and is arguably coming here in perhaps better form, and it would be no surprise if he was in the leading group turning for home once again.
Second last year, and by just a head, was Pleasant Company (20/1 with starsports.bet), who would have won over the old distance, and his sole ambition after finishing second in this last year has been to have another crack at this. That was the same route his connections took with the race last year (finished ninth first time) and being just 7lbs higher, he has been reasonably treated by the handicapper.
Gordon Elliott has 12 of the 40 runners here – an astonishing number considering that two of his runners were sold after racing on Thursday – and no matter where you look in the betting for this race – or the weights – he has a number of contenders. Gigginstown won this a couple of years ago with Rule The World, a horse who had plenty of back class including a second in the Irish Grand National, and General Principle looks to have a similar profile.
General Principle (33/1 with starsports.bet) was the winner of last year’s Irish Grand National, a real slog (much like last year’s National) and he’d slowly been working his way back into form after a couple of early season runs with a fifth in the Thyestes and then a third in the Grand National trial at Punchestown. He was tapped for toe a little around the home turns on good to yielding ground but following consistent rain this will be much closer to the conditions of the Irish National last year and that is perfect for a front running and generally sound jumper.
He was going swimmingly in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival until he smashed into the 15th there, a mistake from which he could not recover, but he ought to be fit and well, has no qualms about ground or trip, and is just 5lbs higher than when landing the Irish National last year. If avoiding a major mistake, he could prove difficult to pass and can outrun his price.
Go back to February of last year and Dounikos (33/1 with starsports.bet) was sprinting away from graded opposition in novice chases before then finishing fourth in the Flogas Novice Chase. Ahead of him that day were Monalee, Al Boum Photo, and Invitation Only. For the first time since then, he came back to form when bolting up in the Grand National trial at Punchestown, when he took a front running position and jumped serenely to eventually come home nearly five lengths clear of two other Gigginstown horses, including General Principle. There will be a lot more pace pressure here, but he handles heavy ground, has a huge amount of back class, the ride of Jack Kennedy and the speed to for lay-up with the early pace, usually an advantage in the National.
Last, but never least, we should have one horse from Britain to represent us and who better to have onside than Trevor Hemmings, who has a long and storied history in the race. In the shape of both Vintage Clouds (12/1 with starsports.bet) and Lake View Lad he has wonderful chances. Picking between the two is so difficult, but the extra National experience that Vintage Clouds has, including placed efforts in the Welsh and Scottish Nationals, just gives him the advantage, as the pair reoppose on the same terms here.
The rest of the card:
In the Gaskells Handicap Hurdle (1.45) the way Poker Play bolted up at Uttoxeter the day after Cheltenham suggested that he was well worth his place in a race like this and he jumped out even before the declarations.
Brewin’upastorm’s form took a boost when Champ took the Sefton Hurdle easily yesterday and he makes by far the most appeal in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (2.25) assuming that he the race is run at a decent pace.
Nothing makes appeal to back in an extremely tightly matched Maghull (3.00), but the Liverpool Hurdle (3.40) ought to be a fascinating watch. Apple’s Jade is a worthy favourite if back to her best, whilst Sam Spinner will take some catching if he retains his improved form from the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Roksana pushed Santini extremely close in the Sefton last year, and whilst she was extremely lucky to take the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival thanks to the last flight fall of Benie des Dieux, she was also staying on very stoutly and that was just her second run of the race – and her first real one – which gives her a potential advantage here.
William Henry came with a storming late charge to take the Coral Cup at the Festival and did so in the shadows of the post, suggesting that 3 miles would suit him, especially on a track like this. Rated 156, he isn’t far off competing here but could have more to come still despite being nine years old. They are the two that stand out in the Stayers, and both could outrun their likely odds.
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
5:15 Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase
BACK Vintage Clouds 1 pt each/way at 11/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Anibale Fly 2 pts each/way at 14/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Pleasant Company 1 pt each/way at 20/1with starsports.bet
BACK General Principle 1 pt each/way at 33/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Dounikos 1 pt each/way 25/1 with starsports.bet
1:45 Gaskells Handicap Hurdle
BACK Poker Play 1 pt each/way at 10/1 with starsports.bet
2:25 Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
BACK Brewin’upastorm 5 pts win at 5/2 with starsports.bet
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