1. Tidal Bay
A real stalwart over the past few years and the oldest horse in the field. Quirks from early in his career have been ironed out and is now one of the most consistent and admirable performers around. Started the season with a Grade 2 win over hurdles, before not finding Haydock a sufficient enough test of stamina in the Betfair Chase. Ran a cracker for third off 3lb higher in the Welsh National and second in Ireland on his last start. Would have to probably break every trend in the bok but if any horse could do it, it’s him. Better horse now than when he unseated in the race in 2011 and though will need luck, the handicapper has given him a great chance and he’s impossible to ignore.
2. Long Run
Gold Cup winner from 2011 and despite running some very gallant races since then, he’s never quite found that sort of form since. Still in 30 starts so far he’s only been out of the places in three starts but the worry is that all three of those runs have been this season. He wasn’t right on his return though and Haydock didn’t suit him but he was well beat when unseating in the King George, a race that he had won the year before. This has been the aim since then and he did trial well, beating a decent rival and in good fashion. Jockey is always respected round here, been given a chance by the handicapper and in all he’s a fascinating contender.
3. Hunt Ball
Climbed the ranks at an incredible rate in 2011-12, rated 69 originally and finishing the year off 157, a mark which climbed to 162 after winning at Taunton exactly a year ago. Plenty has happened since then, including being in the care of two different trainers, firstly when sold to run in the USA for Jonathan Sheppard. That didn’t work out and he’s now back over here with Nicky Henderson. Showed promise in a Grade 1 at Ascot on his return in ground that would have been far too soft and he backed that up with a solid fourth in the Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival. Gets good ground which is key, is talented and jumps well but stamina is the major worry as he’s unraced over past three miles.
4. Triolo D’Alene
Always well regarded by his top-class trainer but was very frustrating to follow for a while. However it all fell into place this time last year as he won the Topham over the National fences, jumping well and holding on from Walkon in a tight finish. Backed that up with victory at Huntingdon and then proved he stayed further when winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in December from Rocky Creek. Kept away from soft ground in the winter and was seen next in the Cheltenham Gold Cup where he ran a touch disappointingly, but he may come on plenty for it. Trip to prove but shows he handles the fences and has a good chance if seeing out the trip.
5. Rocky Creek
Young and talented horse who looks built to stay this sort of distance. Finished the end of last year in disappointing fashion at this meeting in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase but there were excuses and he had impressed in small field races at Doncaster, Ascot and Warwick before then. Ran really well on his return in the Hennessy which had been his plan for a while, beating all bar Triolo D’Alene. Finished second on Cheltenham Trials day when last seen behind The Giant Bolster but this has been his target for most of the season. Interesting runner but lack of experience could count against him.
6. Quito De La Roque
A good performer on his day, winning six times at Graded level, including two Grade 1’s but majority of those came in 2010-11. Won again back in January 2013 and ran well at Aintree after that (former winner at the meeting) though hard to get too excited about any of his runs this season. Does mean he’s on a slipping mark but hopes pin on finding improvement for the Grand National test and that’s by no means a certainty either.
7. Colbert Station
Well fancied for the race last year after winning the valuable Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown and then his prep run over hurdles too. Was still travelling okay in the race last year when unseating AP McCoy at the chair (15th fence). Seems to have been campaigned with this in mind again and after a good third in the Troytown in November, he has disappointed a touch since. Any rain wouldn’t be a hindrance and trainer won this in 2001 with Papillon but McCoy looks elsewhere this time and it’s probably wise for you to do so as well.
Always had a lot of ability even as a four-year-old over hurdles where he finished runner-up at the Festival and went one better at Aintree. Had his days over fences too with numerous placed efforts in big handicaps, including the Topham over these fences last year. This year hasn’t gone to plan, unseating his rider on his return after not jumping well and then beaten a mile in heavy ground latest at Newbury. Jockey booking a positive and ground fine but stamina a major negative.
9. Balthazar King
Better than ever at the moment and has gained a real love for the Cheltenham cross-country course where his record reads R1211. Has also won two other handicaps at Cheltenham over the normal course and over in France too. Only disappointing efforts came in this race last year, where he probably went too fast up front but despite finishing was never in contention and that hard race took its toll at Sandown after that too. Worth another chance with a more patient ride as he’s well handicapped after winning at the Festival last month; he stays all day, jumps extremely well and gets his ground.
10. Wayward Prince
Another talented horse on his day and twice a winner at this track, including a Grade 1 over hurdles back in 2010. Certainly not had the most straightforward of careers and regularly pitched in at the deep end and hasn’t been up to it. Last win came in December 2012 and only run of note since was in the Charlie Hall when just beat by the smart Harry Topper. Very poor runs since then, races off 150 when he would race off 142 elsewhere and doesn’t strike as a type to relish these fences.
11. Mr Moonshine
Represents last year’s winning connections and also changed ownership to the same as Auroras Encore which suggests that this has been the plan all season. Bold and admirable jumper who was pulled up last year without ever looking a serious threat but he’s been in superb form this season, finishing a great third in the Becher Chase over the National fences and then twice winning on softer ground down in trip. Ran well again at Kelso latest and a fair show would not surprise.
Antepost favourite for the race for a while. Won at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012 and campaigned over similar marathon handicaps throughout last year, finishing an admirable runner-up in the Welsh National and ran really well for third in this too, making a bold move to hit the front before tiring badly late on. Ran okay again in the Welsh National and his trial in the Gold Cup was a fair effort too, in between running Restless Harry very close at Ascot. Ground ideal and race has been his target all season. If ridden more conservatively then he’s definitely the one to beat. Big e/w claims anyway though could again be a touch vulnerable for win purposes.
13. Across The Bay
Admirable performer on his day but needs plenty to go his way and small fields do seem to suit him more as he likes to dominate. Has won two of his last six starts, firstly over hurdles and leading from pillar to post at Haydock and then back at that track over fences this season, staying on really well over 3m2f on heavy ground. Under pressure when unseating his rider again at Haydoc kin February and jumping was his problem again in this race last year, still leading after 26 fences but lost his rhythm when getting tired. Hard to see why that won’t be the case again.
14. Double Seven
Subject to support this week after being chosen by AP McCoy as his choice over Colbert Station. Was only rated 111 back in June but a five timer since then, the highlight being victory in the Munster National, has seen him rise to 145. Lost his unbeaten run last time out though ground wasn’t ideal and he needs more of a stamina test now. Trainer won this in 2006 with Numbersixvalverde and rider in 2010 with Don’t Push It and though very much goes into the unknown here, he’s a fascinating contender.
15. Battle Group
An absolute revelation at this meeting last year when under new trainer Kevin Bishop he thrashed a fair field off 131 (well backed) over hurdles, before coming back two days later and winning by even further over fences. Then backed it up off 15lb higher at Haydock in May but shown absolutely nothing on his three runs since. Pulled up on two of those and refused to race altogether in between that. Very hard to trust on that basis even if back at Aintree and with ground in his favour.
16. Buckers Bridge
Only 12 starts in his career to date making him a lot less experienced than most. Five times a winner including at Grade 2 level but four of those victories came over a year ago and his record since then reads 1/7, unplaced in every other start too. Form of his Bobbyjo run doesn’t look that bad now but he was still well beaten and he doesn’t look up to playing a hand here.
17. Lion Na Bearnai
Another veteran that is still going despite clearly having problems with injuries in the past. Won the Irish Grand National in 2012 but was only seen twice last season, pulled up both times, albeit in good races. Won a modest chase off 137 at Fairyhouse in February but ran poorly in every run bar that and handicapper certainly not given him a chance either. Hard to fancy.
18. Prince De Beauchene
Lightly raced for his age and his talented if not a touch fragile. Won at the Grand National meeting back in 2011 and also has a victory in the Bobbyjo to his name in 2012. Was antepost favourite for the National itself off the back of that but was pulled out due to a hip injury and he got injured when favourite last year too, this time from a minor stress fracture. Finally he has got here and though his form figures don’t inspire, he’s been running okay. It may just be a case of what could have been with this one but any horse from the Willie Mullins stable has to be respected and he’s shortlisted.
19. Monbeg Dude
Let down earlier in his career by his very tardy jumping but has worked on that with Zara Philips and on the basis of his latest shows he has made it a real asset of his. Usually switches off and races in the rear before making ground late on in the race and that style will mean he needs plenty of luck in the National. Won the Welsh National, getting one of the rides of the season by Paul Carberry last year and he is a Grade 3 winner this winter too at Cheltenham. Owned by Rugby players Mike Tindall and James Simpson-Daniel and will definitely have a lot of supporters. Goes on all ground, should stay and if getting the breaks he has a big chance.
20. Big Shu
Come from the cross country route into this, being a relatively unknown horse until he bolted up at the Cheltenham Festival last year. Won the La Touche Cup at Punchestown after that, the big cross-country race at the meeting and he clearly relishes that type of test. Again this season he’s run two big races, firstly when just behind Love Rory and then third at the Festival behind Balthazar King, travelling really well before not picking up as well on lively ground. Any rain a huge positive and this is his first try at Aintee but a lively outsider if handling it.
21. Burton Port
Another who has seen better days in the past and clearly had troubles too but the handicapper has more than given him a chance now. No win since 2010 when taking the Mildmay at this meeting though he has had two high profile seconds since then, firstly in the Hennessy and then in the Aintree Bowl. Moved to Jonjo O’Neill this year but originally showed nothing, albeit twice over hurdles. Promise on his latest runs, notably last time at Newbury where he probably went too fast up front. Connections have tasted success here before and no surprise if he were to run well.
22. Our Father
As hit and miss as they come and clearly not one to trust very much even if he has bags of ability on a going day. Last win came in November 2012 and his performance that day suggested he could reach some real heights. Seems best when fresh and did so again when beaten only 20 lengths in the Hennessy this season but then was beaten 43 and 39 lengths since too, runs off a very poor mark and easy to oppose.
Rarely runs a bad race and has placed in 11 of his 15 starts to date, winning five. All those victories were in modest grade until this season when he took the Welsh National from Hawkes Point and Tidal Bay. Couldn’t back that up for whatever reason when last seen at Ffos Las and a touch to prove especially off this mark. Absolute mudlark who could find the ground way too fast for his liking, unless a lot of rain falls between now and the race.
24. The Rainbow Hunter
Always shown promise but never been able to cut it in the big races until everything fell into place and he won the Skybet Chase at Doncaster on his latest start. Always been prone to the odd mistake or two at his fences but jumped well that day and a wind operation beforehand clearly helped too. New mark workable and a better horse now than what he was last year (unseated at 8th). Has trip to prove though and main worry is definitely getting round anyway.
25. Vintage Star
Just 10 starts over fences to date though has won twice and finished second five times. A couple of big efforts in handicaps this season, winning first time up at Carlisle and then finding Hey Big Spender just too good in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle and Wychwoods Brook in the Peter Marsh at Haydock. Gallant sixth in the Welsh National proved he stays further though could only last five fences at Cheltenham latest where his jumping went to pot (ran terribly there before). That can probably be excused and trainer won this last year. Could learn plenty from this for future Nationals however and others are preferred this time around.
26. Chance Du Roy
Plenty of poor runs in his career of late though his two standout performances both came over the National fences, firstly a gallant second to Always Waining in the Topham in 2012 and then this season when taking the Becher Chase on soft ground. Pulled up after that though back to some sort of form at Ascot latest (Teaforthree two places in front). Good ground always seemed to suit him best and form round the National course always has to be respected. I was surprised to see him stay 3m2f of the Becher and staying another mile is a big question mark. Chance if he does.
27. Hawkes Point
A proper staying chaser who jumps very well and he would probably have been in here with a huge chance if the course was still like what it was a few years ago. Still his traits are certainly no negative round here. Slowly improving this season and did well to finish so close in the Welsh National off 137, just behind Mountainous and ahead of stablemate Tidal Bay. Disappointed a touch since then at Haydock but will be peaked for this. Any rain a major positive but enough may not arrive to make him a selection.
Four times a winner over fences in 12 starts though three of those have come at Kelso and the other on debut at Carlisle. Always come up short when pitched into better company, the latest being a fair fifth in the Skybet Chase but he disappointed again at Kelso latest (Mr Moonshine 11 lengths ahead). One of only a host of seven-year-olds in the field and very hard to make a case for him.
29. Pineau De Re
11-year-old now but arguably in the form of his life. Winner of the Ulster National on his only try so far over 3m2f for Philip Fenton and now with the highly underrated Dr Richard Newland. Had a busy campaign but a good break between his impressive Veterans chase win at Exeter to another eyecatching run at the Festival over hurdles, finishing behind two really good horses in the Pertemps. Fell in the Becher Chase on his only try at the course but connections felt that was down to inexperience and he should be all the better for it. Fine on any ground, fits the profile of a National winner, good jockey on board and enough hope that he can stay; big chance.
30. Golan Way
Good performer for Sheena West over the years and now with Tim Vaughan, winning nine times altogether over different codes, including at Listed level in 2011. Ran on the flat in the summer and not disgraced returned to fences since, a close third in the London National followed by an early unseat in a Hunter chase. Made no mistake in a weak race at Warwick last time but this is totally a different level. Extremely hard to recommend.
31. Twirling Magnet
Progressed nicely over the summer when getting fast ground, which is key to him and stayed on strongly to win a Novice chase at Cheltenham’s showcase meeting in October. Only seen twice since then, firstly in a Grade 3 behind Houblon Des Obeaux and then unseating his amateur rider in the Kim Muir when looking beat. Trainer always respected round here but very much stable second string.
32. Vesper Bell
Placed at Grade 1 level over hurdles in 2012 but staying chases always were going to see him in better light. Not much has gone to plan though with just one win in eight starts despite showing promise. A good second at Punchestown in May when ground down late by Goonyella is still a career best, but he fell at the first here in the Becher, unseated when still going okay in the Classic Chase and could never challenge in the Thyestes Chase. Ground probably too quick for him and jumping still to prove too.
33. The Package
Plenty of injuries in the past but is talented and would probably have a bigger reputation if he’d kept sound. Is best when fresh too though so not necessarily improvement to come from him but he did run a big race from a year off in the Festival Handicap on the opening day, form boosted by the winner Holywell and runner-up Ma Filleule going in again at Aintree. Unseated when well fancied in 2010, plenty to prove and doesn’t really represent much value either even if his run last time looks strong.
34. Raz De Maree
Finished 2012 with impressive wins in the Munster and Cork Grand Nationasl but was off for a year after that and he hasn’t quite been able to build on those performances so far this season, pulling up twice and finishing unplaced on the other two starts. However there was promise in both those runs, notably when still going well at Punchestown in February before a shuddering mistake stopped him in his tracks. Big price and comes with risks attached but connections respected, first time visor intriguing and worth a saver at huge odds.
35. Rose Of The Moon
The least experienced of all of these over fences even though he’s a nine-year-old but that’s an obvious concern for such a gruelling race. Has won three of his six starts thus far, two novice chases and a handicap when last seen at Wetherby. Jumped poorly at the Cheltenham Festival when quietly fancied for the four miler but did better over these fences in the Becher, which he finished without threatening. By no means a forlorn hope but hard to fancy.
Progressed nicely in the 2011-12 season with two smart victories and another good run when second in the Skybet Chase to Calgary Bay. His last run of that season saw him run and go off favourite for the National itself and he held up well for a very long way, stamina probably running out late on but he still finished ninth, beaten 28 lengths. Missed all of last year but returned in a jumpers bumper in January. Shown little in two starts since, firstly over hurdles and latest back at Cheltenham over fences, best to look elsewhere.
Talented though not straightforward and travels strongly in his races. Was reportedly in good form coming into Cheltenham’s Open meeting and he hit the front late on to land that valuable handicap, the race being over the furthest trip he’s ever faced and he relished it. Pulled up when last seen on New Year’s Day but the ground was horrendous that day and his run can be excused. Owners have had success in the race before with State Of Play and Cappa Bleu. Would have preferred to see him have a prep run but definitely one of the livelier outsiders.
38. Last Time D’Albain
Just one win over 13 chase starts so far, that being a lowly Navan handicap chase in December 2011 but finished third in the Paddy Power Chase and Topham last year. Mark clearly being protected this season with two of his three runs being over hurdles, the other being after the weights came out. He didn’t show much at all in any of those starts and the trip also a major negative.
39. One In A Milan
Just six chase starts so far but definitely built for Marathon trips. Winner over three miles on heavy at Ffos Las and ran respectably in the Midlands National last season and then a career best fourth in the Welsh National in December. Run twice at that track since over hurdles but didn’t run that well off a much lesser marks than his chase one. Visor on but clearly loves heavy ground which he won’t get and also can’t see him having the class anyway.
40. Swing Bill
Gets in by the skin of his teeth for the sponsors Crabbies who have won the race before with Amberleigh House in 2004. 13-year-old now but is still in fairly good heart and only once in six starts has he failed to finish the National course, form figures read 5P0464. Only beaten 34 lengths last year for sixth and less than half that in the Becher. Usually settles in rear and does his own thing making it hard to see him contend for a place but he’s got a better chance finishing the course than most.
The Grand National, 40 runners, just under 4 and a half miles and a mammoth 30 fences to jump. The course is now very different amid new safety changes. The fences are smaller and safer and the whole complexity of the race, i.e a classier horse taking part, means it’s hard to discount the top horses on account of weight carried.
TIDAL BAYand Long Run are the exact type of horse being trained for the National which wouldn’t have been so in the past and even off big weights, both certainly aren’t handicapped out of it at all. The old boy Tidal Bay would bring the house down if he could win this and he’s a better horse now than when he failed to finish in 2011. His goes in any conditions and it’s hard to find reasons why he won’t go very close. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls also runs Rocky Creek and Hawkes Point.
The Waley-Cohen horses always need respecting round here and Long Run, who stays all day, will certainly be more suited by how the fences are now. He is probably the best chance for Nicky Henderson to finally gain an elusive first Grand National crown though Triolo D’Alene, last year’s Topham winner, is respected. Hunt Ball and Shakalakaboomboom do have stamina doubts
Teaforthree finished best of those who return from last year. He ran a superb race there for third, hitting the front to try and take the sting out of the rest but in the end it paid for his chances. If ridden more conservatively then he goes in with a great chance again.
Likewise Monbeg Dude has improved his jumping, will be very popular to back and if getting the breaks then he will be involved. Money for Double Seven seems significant and he looks the best chance for JP McManus over Colbert Station who himself was fancied last year.
Cheltenham cross-country form is really starting to be tested in the National and BALTHAZAR KING and Big Shu both come from that sphere. They finished 1st and 3rd respectively in this year’s renewal and both have good e/w chances, the former especially if ridden more conservatively as he’s in such good form of late and the latter if rain arrived.
My main fancy for the race is PINEAU DE RE, who I backed at 100/1 in January. Since then he’s run a cracker over hurdles in the Pertemps and he has a really good profile for the race. He is still my main fancy for the race at his current price with genuine hope that he can handle the fences and stay the trip.
David Pipe has tasted success in this race before though will do well to take it this year with any of The Package, Our Father and Swing Bill while another former winner of the race Jonjo O’Neill runs Burton Port and Twirling Magnet.
Others with chances include Prince De Beauchene for Willie Mullins, antepost favourite for the race in the past two years while if seeing out the trip there could be good runs from Chance Du Roy, who loves the National fences and also Mr Moonshine who has been in great form this season and represents connections of last year’s winner Auroras Encore. They also run Vintage Star
Jumping is the worry for The Rainbow Hunter and there’s not too many that appeal at bigger prices. If significant rain came than Mountainous would have a squeak but that’s unlikely. Alvarado didn’t have a prep which is a bit off-putting but this strong travelling type represents owners who have had State Of Play and Cappa Bleu placed in the past. At a big price RAZ DE MAREE is a Cork and Munster National winner and is overpriced at 66/1.
Already Advised – Pineau De Re @50/1 (100 win Betfair, 18 place)
1. Pineau De Re 2.5pts e/w @28/1 Coral
2. Tidal Bay 1.5pts e/w @18/1 generally
3. Balthazar King 1pt e/w @20/1 generally
4. Raz De Maree 1pt e/w @66/1 generally