STAR PREVIEW Sat: Grand National

The Randox Grand National 2021
Aintree, Liverpool
Live on ITV 1 HD & ITV Hub from 2.00pm
Live on Racing TV from 11.00am with Mark Your Card

Yesterday’s review: Another frustrating day, with two of our three Topham runners left behind at the start – and the other fading into third, after being backed win only – whilst Bravemansgame found one too good, Fiddlerontheroof looked exhausted, and Politologue bled. Onwards to the biggest one of them all!

Randox Grand National Preview – (off time 5.15)

The Grand National, a race that has been a staple of British sporting and cultural life for over a century, has been held in many extraordinary circumstances, but thankfully we are all able to enjoy the world’s greatest steeplechase this year thanks to the hard work of so many, and we’ve got a great renewal to look forward to.

It is impossible to get away from the claims of favourite Cloth Cap, who was explosive when winning the Ladbrokes Trophy and almost as impressive when taking the Premier Chase. A powerfully travelling front runner who was third in the 2019 Scottish National, he’s 14lbs well in, won’t have to deal with soft ground (the surface is good to soft, but he will cope with that fine) his preparation looks to have gone smoothly and if anything, Aintree promises to suit him as much, if not more than any horse in the field. The issue? Every observer knows this, and at the time of writing he’s 9/2 – probably just about the right price, but no obvious value.

The strategy employed for the great race is to take three against the field, especially in light of Star’s fantastic All Over The Place offer, where you get your place money back as a FREE BET on each-way bets if your horse completes the course and listed as an official finisher but finishes outside the top five.

There are no prizes for putting up strongly fancied Burrows Saint, but Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old looks as tailor made a contender for this race as any. Two years ago he moved through the Irish National as well as any winner in its recent history going upto the last, before then finding plenty to repel the late charge of stablemate Isleofhopendreams, becoming only the second six-year-old winner since 1985.

Afterwards last year’s National was the target, but the race was sadly abandoned – something which might be a blessing in disguise, as he arrives another year older and stronger (no 7yo has won this race since 1940) which should help his chances of coping with the 12lbs rise he’s had for winning the Irish National in such style.

His only appearance over fences this season was an excellent second to Acapella Bourgeois at Fairyhouse six weeks ago in the Bobbyjo Chase, where he hung right in the closing stages on testing ground and blew up late on, and he ought to be at a fever pitch now. A smooth traveller who has won over 2m3½f over hurdles, he should have enough pace to lay up with the early pace, and there are no qualms about the ability of Patrick Mullins – who led the field a merry dance in the Topham yesterday on Livelovelaugh – as a stand in for Paul Townend.

If he takes to the fences – not something which has been an issue for Willie Mullins’ National horses in the past – then he’s every chance. The cherry on the cake is a racing weight of 10-13, thanks to the quality of the horses at the top of the weights.

Magic Of Light defied odds of 66/1 when second to Tiger Roll two years ago despite talking through The Chair, and she’s maintained her form over the two years since, suggesting that she’s very well treated off just a 5lbs higher mark here. The Mares Chase at Cheltenham was too quick for her but she’d shaped nicely over the winter before then and the form of the 2019 National reads very well, with National Hunt and Bobbbyjo Chase winner Rathvinden third and dual Becher Chase winner Walk In The Mill fourth – a repeat of that form should not see her far away.

The final horse in the staking plan is Mister Malarky. Colin Tizzard’s charge was highly promising as a six-year-old, winning the Renynoldstown, finishing fourth in the RSA and then coming third in the Grade 3 Chase over 3m that traditionally precedes this contest in 2019. He had been in and out for a few months afterwards, but relished good ground to win a Grade 3 handicap at Kempton last year and then refund his best form when taking the Silver Cup at Ascot, an excellent effort when he beat the high class and consistent The Conditional.

He bombed out in the Sky Bet Chase when plainly not giving his running, but a wind operation appeared to bring him back to form when third in the same Kempton Grade 3 handicap that he’d won the year before, with the winner proving to be a graded horse in a handicap and strong yardsticks behind him in fourth and fifth, and if going with the same zest (was one of four horses to force the pace early) could take to Aintree once again.

His stamina is untested past 3m2f, butt his granddam is the 1995 Grand National fourth Dubacilla, the modern national tends to reward pace and he hasn’t been beaten for stamina before, whilst the surface will be perfect for him at this trip – long story short, there’s a strong case to be made for him.

It always makes sense to back what you’d call a ‘rank outsider’ in this race – Magic Of Light was second at 66/1 in 2019, Bless The Wings was third at 40/1 in 2018, Gas Line Boy was fifth at 40/1 in 2017, Vics Canvas was third at 100/1 in 2016 (when Rule The World won at 33/1), Many Clouds, Saint Are and Monbeg Dude were the 1-2-3 at 25/1, 25/1 and 40/1 in 2015, and in 2014 Pineau De Re won at 25/1 when Alvarado was fourth at 33/1 – nor forgetting Aurouras Encore’s wide margin win at 66/1 in 2013.

Of the proper outsiders three made the most appeal – Class Conti, Sub Lieutenant, and Alpha Des Obeaux – with the vote going to the last of the three, in part thanks to a price of 66/1.

He fell at The Chair in the 2018 renewal but showed no ill effects when third in the 2019 Becher Chase, rallying well behind Walk In The Mill and Kimberlite Candy, staying into third after a solid round of jumping. He’d been a bit wayward since for whatever reason – he’da

Ante-Post: Regular readers of these previews (and thank you for doing so) will have been advised to back Welsh National winner Potters Corner (14th November, 25/1) and Kimberlite Candy (6th December, 33/1).

Both have made it to the race, and personal preference is for our position on Kimberlite Candy out of the pair, with Tom Lacey’s charge having shaped beautifully when second in the Becher Chase before fitness told against course specialist Vieux Lion Rouge. The worry for him is that he gets left behind by the early tempo on a more lively surface, but the watering and possible ran have come at just the right time and he’s got to have a chance.

Potters Corner will also love any ease and he’ll surely stay, but he may want more of a slog and his latest runs over hurdles have been disappointing and there have to be worries about how he’ll take to the test early.

Grand National 1-2-3-4-5:
Burrows Saint
Magic Of Light
Mister Malarky
Alpha Des Obeaux
Sub Lieutenant

If you want a view on every horse, do read the pinstickers’ guide. Good luck!

Ground: At the time of writing, the Mildmay was good to soft, good in places and the National course good to soft. 6mm of water is going to be applied overnight, but the ground should be broadly the same as it was for the two previous days especially without any rain and there’d be no excuses for the vast majority of runners.

Rest of the card:

1.45 – EFT Systems Handicap Hurdle (3m)

An easy race to start National day (what else would you expect?) and one where Festival form lines a plenty clash with Come On Teddy (third) and Champagne Platinum (fifth) coming from the Pertemps whilst Tea Clipper (third) and Janika (fifth) step up in trip from the Coral Cup.

Not much should separate either of those two pairings, with Tea Clipper looking the rightful favourite round this track and trip, although Champagne Platinum could see out his race better over this track than he did at Cheltenham and would be the pick of the Festival contenders at the prices, but it would be unwise to forget about Newbury first and third Polish and Southfield Harvest, the pair of whom were impressive in what looked to be a strong handicap.

Throw in impressive Kempton winner Hometown Boy and Irish raider Whirling Dervish, and it’s clear this is right upto standard and other races are preferred.

2.25 – Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (2m4f)

It’s been a hard old winter for English novice hurdlers, but My Drogo has looked to be right up amongst the best of them and he can land this for the Skeltons. A big, raw prospect, he found plenty in the Kennel Gate Novices Hurdle at Ascot when beating a small but select field (Llandinabo Lad second under 5lbs penalty, subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory third) and he looked like a much-improved horse when slamming Do Your Job, second in yesterday’s Top Novice Hurdle, by nine lengths at Kelso, marking himself down as an elite prospect.

Connections resisted the temptation to go to Cheltenham with him and that could give him the edge over Ballyadam, who is the chief threat on ratings. He’s run with credit all season and 2m4f around this track should be fine – it may even improve him – but he’s made bad jumping errors the last twice and was possibly flattered to second in the Supreme given the fall of Blue Lord. Nevertheless, he’s respected.

Dreal Deal’s progress over obstacles and on the level has been remarkable this season – and he’s another horse for whom 2m4f at this track looks the right trip – but the form of the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle has been let down twice since by the second and third, and it’s hard to believe that Echoes In Rain gave her running that day too. Nevertheless, he’s on the shortlist along with Listed winner Minella Drama and Admirel.

Pipesmoker’s maiden hurdle form last season behind Chantry House and Sporting John reads very well, and he ought to improve for his Sandown reappearance, making him and interesting outsider here – the worry is that he’s not jumped as well as he could last year.

3.00 – Maghull Novices’ Chase (2m)

Nothing to remotely trouble Shishkin, although the race for second is interesting. Gumball, if able to get loose on the lead, might be the one but the market’s taken this into account so the advice is to enjoy a stunning chaser.

3.35 – Ryanair Stayers Hurdle (3m)

This has provided some great contests in the past and that could be the case again, with plenty entitled to be seriously involved on their best form. Not much separates Thyme Hill, Paisley Park, and Roskana on their best form but it might be that Thyme Hill is best suited to Aintree and he gets the vote in what’s a well upto scratch renewal. He pulled a muscle behind the saddle, which forced him to miss the Stayers Hurdle, but he showed a wonderful blend of speed and stamina to take the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury back in November and if he’s at his best, he can beat his old rival and Roksana.

Lisnagar Oscar fell in the Stayers before he’d got seriously racing but had given a fantastic trial at Haydock and is a serious player if at his best, with none other than Rachel Blackmore booked. Diol Kier has quickly shown his best back over hurdles after an aborted stint chasing and has to be taken seriously if he handles the better ground here after his excellent Galmoy Hurdle second.

Vinndication and If The Cap Fits (who won this in 2019) were well beaten in the Stayers Hurdle, Third Wind is a smashing horse but one who’s now 6lbs worse off with Lisnagar Oscar for a narrow defeat at Haydock last time, albeit one where he idled, On The Blind Side has been wonderful over hurdles this season but is held on many formlines, and a revival is needed from Emitom to get involved here.

4.15 – Betway Handicap Chase (3m)

Happygolucky is sure to be popular after his excellent run in the Ultima at Cheltenham and if he’s bounced back from that then he’ll take the beating. There are plenty with interesting profiles in this at bigger prices however, including Sam Brown (third to Imperial Aura in the Colin Parker in November, not seen since) and Lalor (former Grade 1 winner at this meeting who ran very well over 2m4f at Cheltenham in January 2020).

Both are interesting, but Sam Brown is unproven on anything quicker than soft or heavy ground and Lalor blew up on his seasonal return in the Haldon Gold Cup on when last season, so others are preferred.

Snow Leopardess, fourth in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham behind three horses rated 152, 153 and 147, is the most interesting of the field but that run could have left a mark and in the end the race is best left, with ammunition saved for the national.

Cloudy Glen ran well in the Kim Muir but could find this a bit short whilst Spiritofthegames was an eyecatcher in the Pertemps who now switches to fences but was behind Snow Leopardess in the Rowland Meyrick at Christmas.

5.15 – Grand National (4m2½f)

See head of article. For horse by horse guide, please go to:

6.20 – Open National Hunt Flat Race (2m)

Lots of fascinating future profiles, although the market looks to have the right favourite in Balco Costal, who finished only 5l off the very smart Gentlemansgame (runner-up in a Grade 1 hurdle this season) in an Irish maiden point at Curraghmore before being bought for £100,000 and beating a next time out winner by 17 lengths on the all-weather at Kempton.

The Gossiper made a stylish debut under rules at Wexford, and whilst the form’s nothing to shout home about, it’s notable that Emmet Mullins has decided to send him over the water. Knappers Hill won a weak sprint at Chepstow at the beginning of the season but showed real resolution to get the better of the reopposing stablemate Stage Star and both shouldn’t be far away, with Knappers Hill also proven on a sound surface.

The form horse here could be Super Six, who won his first two starts – the second of them by eight lengths at Chepstow – before running a fine fifth in the Champion Bumper, failing to settle early but then coming home for a very creditable fifth after being outpaced. That was a very creditable effort – and third Elle Est Belle was a good second on Thursday – so if he can either settle better or take front rank, he’d be an interesting player, for all the track is a slight question mark.

Charlie’s Glance had winners in behind when asserting decisively in the last stages of his bumper win at Newbury, and looks another horse here that’s full of promise.

Sure Touch, a half-sister to Long Run, is the mount of Sam Whaley-Cohen and beat a subsequent winner at Wincanton on debut (heavy), whilst World Of Dreams has shown a high cruising speed and a smart turn of foot in minor bumpers at Fontwell (good to soft) and Hereford (soft) – all in all, a race for the future.

  • If you’ve made it this far, a huge thanks for reading this week – hopefully things turn our way in the big one – and to Joe Citrone and David Stewart for editing all week. Here’s to a great race!

BACK My Drogo 2 pts win in Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (2.25 Aintree) at 13/8 with
BACK Thyme Hill 1 pt win in Liverpool Hurdle (3.35 Aintree) at 9/4 with
BACK Burrows Saint 2 pts each/way in Grand National (5.15 Aintree) at 15/2 with
BACK Magic Of Light 1 pt each/way in Grand National (5.15 Aintree) at 14/1 with
BACK Mister Malarky 1 pt each/way in Grand National (5.15 Aintree) at 20/1 with
BACK Alpha Des Obeaux 1 pt each/way in Grand National (5.15 Aintree) at 66/1 with

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