1. Imperial Commander
2010 Gold Cup winner who has been on the sidelines over the past few years, since pulling-up in the same race a year after. Made a great reappearance though when second in the Argento Chase, jumping pretty well but only just getting outstayed by Cape Tribulation, on tiring ground. Off 160 here after that run and that showed he has ability still but he’s certainly not the force of old. He should run well though and a place is not out of the question but it would be some effort to win
2. What A Friend
High-class on his day and one of two part owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Fourth in the 2011 Gold Cup but again was injured after that and not seen until pulling-up in the same race in 2012. Ran a bit better at Aintree after that but still showed signs that he wasn’t the same force and his reappearance run at Kempton further added to his woes. Off a workable mark if taking to the fences and bouncing back it looks unlikely
3. Weird Al
Extremely fragile horse who is good fresh and very talented on his day. The last time he won though was all the way back in October 2011 and he’s only finished in one race since then. That included in this race last year when struggling and falling four out and though he ran well first time back this season when fourth in the Betfair Chase, he’s been pulled-up twice since then. So much to prove now and hard to fancy.
4. Quel Esprit
Won his fair share of races but always found out at the top grade but always disappointing in that he has never fulfilled the promise we all hoped we would once upon a time. Has been running fairly well of recent though, notably when third at Punchestown in April, but he couldn’t back that up in France a month later. Finished a moderate fourth behind Sir Des Champs after that (Joncol one place ahead of him) and though he will be fit and ready for this, he’s not one that screams confidence coming into it
5. Big Fella Thanks
A real stalwart of the race with three runs in it for different trainers though he’s arguably in as good a form as ever at the moment, running a career best last time Wincanton when beating Consigliere. Jumps really well too over the fences but has looked a blatant non stayer every year and it’s impossible to see the same not happening
Highly versatile gelding and one of two strong runners for the Walsh team. Didn’t look a National type coming into last year but he duly relished it and he ran a cracker leading at such a strong pace for most of the way, to finish third. Katy Walsh is a fine jockey and though his chances are lessened by a 5lb rise in the weights, he had a good prep in the Bobbyjo, a great trial for this and another good run is likely.
7. Roberto Goldback
Bought with this race in mind from Ireland and duly hacked up on his first start for the all-conquering Nicky Henderson stable at Ascot earlier in the year. He went miles up in the weights for that facile success but he’s now only 2lb higher coming into this meaning he can go well off 152. His form coming into it is nothing special but the plan has always been the National for this sound jumper who could well love the test and adores fast ground. If staying then he is a very lively outsider for a yard amazingly still chasing their first success in the race.
Kim Muir winner of 2012 at the Cheltenham Festival and duly backed it up round here last year when going down by the narrowest of margins to Neptune Collonges. Been aimed with this in mind all season but has shown little in two runs this season (2nd run very poor) albeit over hurdles. Was due to prep in the Gold Cup but was withdrawn late and the lack of that run may not suit while he is 10lb meaning that it will take some effort to win it. Place claims though.
National winner from two years ago but that slog of a race has seemed to have taken its toll on him and he’s shown little since. Sixth last year was his best run though and the National fences do light him up. That saying he is still 2lb higher than when he won it and in no way is he in the same form coming into it, opposable.
A bold front-running jumper that looks a perfect type for the race. His win in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in 2012 showed all his class and some huge runs since then, notably runner-up twice in the Welsh National on heavy, have shown all his class. But to call him a mudlark would be untrue and for me he is better on this sort of ground. The fences will light him up and if getting into a rhythm then little will stay better than him. A must for the shortlist.
11. Across The Bay
Gives his all in his races either over hurdles or fences and jumps pretty well but he has a real tendency to run in snatches and will be real hard work to get going. Talented though and the fences could be right up his street but he’s 15lb higher than his last handicap win and preference is to leave him, especially with all his wins being on soft.
12. Join Together
Looked a novice of real potential last year especially when taking a couple of novice events at Cheltenham. Lost his way a bit after that albeit a few races in the highest grade though he didn’t show much when well behind Roberto Goldback at Ascot either. The first try at the National fences in the Becher though suited him down to the ground and he only just went down to Hello Bud on heavy ground when staying on like a train. He did get badly outpaced which is a real worry though and he probably would have preferred a bit of rain. Will have his supporters in representing last year’s winning connections but I’d rather look elsewhere
13. Colbert Station
One of the least exposed in the field and a rarity for the race in that he’s only run five times over fences. He has shown to be very good though especially when winning at Leopardstown over Christmas in a 28-runner handicap. Up 15lb for that but probably deserved to and he’s won over hurdles since. His inexperience could cost him on his first try over the National fences though AP McCoy has chosen him and he will have his backers.
Formerly high-class chaser over two miles, as shown when he won the Arkle but nothing like the force of old and form has been nothing over further. Went on a strong run of seconds but finally got his head in front again in a minor chase back in November. That’s a street away from the National and he has everything to prove coming into this.
15. On His Own
A strong favourite for the race for the past couple of months but shortened further when winning a good Grade 2 hurdle in a race that was meant to be his prep. All was tanking along last year until falling at the second Bechers and interesting to see if that’s left a mark on him. Very talented horse for top connections and he fully deserves to be strongly respected even with just seven chasing runs in his career.
Good Irish chaser on his day who has won twice at Grade 1 level, including the Irish Hennessy but he’s ten now and his years are seemingly coming back to him. Not been running too well since albeit last time in the very highest of grade and though he’s well treated on old form, he’s not one that looks built for the National
17. Balthazar King
A bold jumper who loves the fast ground and stays all day. Relished the Cheltenham cross-country course when winning at the Festival in 2012 and showed his love for Prestbury Park when taking a strong handicap over the regulation fences in October this year. Again couldn’t complain with his second to Uncle Junior when last seen in November over the cross-country fences and though the slight worry is a lack of a run (was due to run at Cheltenham but pulled out due to ground), he goes best when fresh. The National has always been a race that looks right for him he could go very well.
18. Cappa Bleu
Won the Foxhunters at Cheltenham a few years back and though his rules career over fences really didn’t start well at all, a return to his old stable revived him and he’s been a top chaser for the Evan Williams yard since. That included a very good fourth in it last year when he was just about never on terms. Has been campaigned away from heavy ground all season and ran okay behind Across The Bay on his return but his last run at Ascot where he had a number of these in behind, was very promising. 2lb lower than last year and the ground should be fine. His jumping is better than ever and though he’s getting on, this could be the year for him.
19. Oscar Time
Ran a huge race when second to Ballabriggs in this in 2011 but plenty has happened since then, notably missing all of last season through injury. Been well beaten on all his starts this season and though the National course will be more his bag, he is really getting on now and it wold be very surprising to see him win.
20 . Always Waining
Loves these fences and has won the last three Topham chases over 2m5f over the National course. Now tries the big one and though he comes into it in average form, he has done so virtually every time he’s won here meaning that’s no worry. The main negative is his stamina though with no win over three miles and though he should get round, others are very likely to see it out better
A good horse on his day for Richard Rowe but is more of a conventional handicapper than a National horse. His last win came in January 2012 at Ascot, a track he has a great record at while he unseated in this last year at the first Canal Turn. Not badly handicapped on his old form but will do well to get round and certainly won’t stay well enough.
Fairly well fancied to go well last year but was always behind and fell at the 10th. Didn’t make a great return to action when behind Quiscover Fontaine at Fairyhouse but he;s since shown he’s in decent knick with a win over hurdles but that was a very average race. Is 12 coming into this and he’s hard to fancy.
23. Lost Glory
Gone under the radar slightly for this by winning lesser races but four wins from five have seen him go up from 114 to 142. Impressed particularly at Sedgefield on his penultimate start and did well to win a better race after that at Chepstow. Needs to improve again and this certainly requires more but the ground has dried out for him, he’s in good hands and he may surprise a few.
24. Swing Bill
Has his days in the sun but both have come in the amateur handicap at Cheltenham in November and not round here. Has been well tried over the National fences and though he has completed the last twice, including when tenth in it last year, neither did he threaten to win. Did run okay at Doncaster on his penultimate start but poor at Cheltenham latest. Usually is held up but can run in snatches and though he can get round, he’s not one that will be placed in the race to go and win it.
25. Saint Are
Comes to life In the spring and at Aintree where he has won in consecutive years, notably in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle in 2011. That and his handicap win on Grand National day last year are his latest two wins. Becoming well handicapped due to running on poor ground while his scratchy jumping has improved a bundle this year. But it’s still probably not good enough to handle to ruthless National fences and though he has the potential to surprise, to safe call is to leave.
26. Chicago Grey
Quietly fancied for this and has shown he stays all day already when he won a decent National Hunt Chase renewal at the Festival back in 2011. Went off the boil after that with no win in two years and quite a few poor efforts but he looked back to his best when causing a surprise in his prep run in a Grade 2. Usually held up and Paul Carberry being fit to ride is a boost for that, but he will do very well to avoid trouble with his style or racing and jumping. If he does though and he’s still going well in the latter stages of the race then he will most probably win.
27. Quiscover Fontaine
Done a lot of his racing over shorter trips than this but has surprised when running over these marathon trips as shown when fourth in the Irish National and then when in the process of running well last year until falling at the 17th. Not been in great form this season but this of course has been the aim and though he isn’t the stable first string, he is decent odds to finish and a place is possible.
28. Rare Bob
Has run here a few times and seemed to love the fences without success. Faded on poor ground into fifth in the 2011 Becher and was unlucky last year when brought down at the fifth. The handicapper has definitely given him a chance though and there should be a decent bit of stamina reserves in him on this ground (Leinster National third). Not the worst of the outsiders.
29. The Rainbow Hunter
Good winner at Ascot earlier in the season showed that he is a talented horse but pulled up and had a breathing problem after that at Chepstow and ran okay behind Cappa Bleu last time but early exertions and poor jumping cost him. Has the potential to run well but his lack of fluency over regulations fences is a worry and he may struggle in this.
A good horse on his day, the pick being a close second last year in the Kim Muir to Sunnyhillboy and also ran a big race in the Cheltenham four miler a couple of years back. That suggests he has the stamina for this but he has fallen in both his Grand Nationals to date, at the 2nd and the 8th and again a lot is taken on trust.
31. Harry The Viking
The second horse in the race owned by Sir Alex Ferguson. Only 10 runs to his name and seven over fences but won his first two over fences (form strong) and then a very good second to Teaforthree in the National Hunt Chase last year. Disappointed though in the Scottish National when favourite though there was a little bit more promise at Cheltenham last time when he travelled quite nicely with this race in mind. He may come on a load for the experience this year though he’s not one to totally dismiss.
32. Mr Moonshine
A very talented and bold jumper who started his chasing career in very impressive style, winning a couple of decent novice events in facile. He lost his way stepped up to better grade though and has since found his level. Not won since November 2011 and this is his first try over the fences while he also has stamina to prove. Passed over.
33. Mumbles Head
Progressed well over the past year from a mark of 106 to 140 including a hat-trick of wins but then came a bit unstuck back on fast ground. Fell at the first on his first try over the National fences back in December at the Becher and pulled-up at Haydock since. Getting on now and would be a surprise winner even for a trainer that does very well here.
34. Nintieth Minute
Form is best around 2m5f or so but all runs on soft ground meaning this may not really be his bag. His last run on better ground was in the Irish National where he went off at just 10-1 but fell at the 15th. Does jump well and ran a respectable trial behind Treacle meaning finishing is possible but hard to fancy for win purposes
35. Auroras Encore
Highly inconsistent but talented individual but regularly finds his form in the spring and stays well. Runner-up in the 2012 Scottish National in similar conditions though has run poorly in every start since meaning he is very risky if you’re supporting. Not one you can totally dismiss with his tendencies but will pass him over.
Irish raider representing the 2007 winners who he joined not long ago and he’s done pretty well since rising a good 30lb since November, the best coming on his penultimate start when second in the Thyestes chase. All runs on soft/heavy ground and has enough question marks to leave.
37. Any Currency
Tends to run in snatches but does stay well. I fancied him to run well in the cross country at Cheltenham where apparently he had schooled well but he never seemed comfortable with it and was well beaten in the end. That doesn’t bode well for handling the Aintree fences either but did jump well here last year until falling at the canal turn. Place squeak.
38. Major Malarkey
Inconsistent but decent on his day and loves these stamina tests, the best of his talents shown when a close second in the Midland’s National in 2012. Run on soft ground since then and return to fast may well suit him while his stamina means he has a good chance of finishing. Has a tendency to jump one or two poor but if right then he can go okay.
Jumper superbly last time at Sandown from the front and stayed on very well. That was a performance he had promised to give as his Hennessy run (runners from that do well here) was very promising and you can certainly excuse his Welsh National run on terrible ground. Brought down in the NH Chase at Cheltenham when with Willie Mullins so stamina still to prove but he brings an unexposed profile to a race that has a few this year and he’s the likeliest winner of all at the bottom of the weights.
40. Viking Blond
Again gets in to the race at the bottom of the weights though he fell at the first last year which is an instant worry for this time. Has run two good seconds at Cheltenham and Sandown this year while his Welsh National runs can be forgotten. He can complete though if getting into a rhythm but he lacks the class to go any closer.
40 runners and again a lottery. The trends are going out of the window when it comes to the National and I couldn’t rule anything out solely on them. The classier horses are taking their chances now and they can never be dismissed because they know how to take care at these fences. On Your Own is one of the favourites and was going well last year to suggest he has it in him to go close this time. The money is coming again for Seabass who should give Katy Walsh a great spin again but off 5lb higher others a preferred to win it. Chicago Grey will need a lot of luck with his style of running and Colbert Station may get a bit of a reality check on just his sixth chasing start. CAPPA BLEU has been a fancy of mine for this since his fourth last year and with him being 2lb lower too, with the year on his back, I ‘d be disappointed if he didn’t go very well. He looks better than ever but will need to be at his age as this is probably the last chance saloon. Bold front runners are something I love in this and TEAFORTHREE and BALTHAZAR KING fit that category this time. The former is better for me on good ground even though he has run very well on heavy and it’s easy to forgive his last run. He stays all day and that should see him go close. The latter hasn’t been seen since November but loved the cross country course at Cheltenham and this could light him up as well. He goes best fresh and the ground has turned in his favour meaning for me he is arguably my strongest fancy. I don’t think Imperial Commander is up for this off top weight while horses who have run well in it before, Ballabriggs, Oscar Time and Sunnyhillboy all have tough tasks for different reasons. Join Together jumped well here in the Becher but got badly outpaced on poor ground and that is a worry while Rare Bob is not without hope. But my last place on the team youngracegoer bench goes to ROBERTO GOLDBACK. Nicky Henderson has not won this race before but he’s not one I want to dismiss with this being his aim all season. He was very impressive at Ascot on good ground earlier in the season and is now just 2lb higher meaning he’s well treated. I can see him jumping well and if he does then there is a horse here that will stay well, jumps well and will love the ground. I can’t ignore him at the price. Always Waining won’t stay for me while there is plenty that can run well but are hard to see winning. They include Quiscover Fontaine, Treacle, Major Malarkey and Harry The Viking while the unexposed types of Soll and Colbert Station will have their supporters but need to prove they can slog it out against battle-hardened handicappers and I think they may not be up to the task yet. Across The Bay runs in snatches as too does Any Currency and that is not what you want here. Saint Are and Auroras Encore are the potential surprise packages at really big odds while so many have doubts about staying well enough, namely Forpadydeplasterer, Joncol and also Big Fella Thanks who has failed to see it out in the past three years. Quel Esprit, Weird Al and What A Friend are talented but regressive horses who are hard to fancy while Becauseicouldntsee has failed to get past the eighth fence in the past two years. The rest would be shock winners.
Already advised – 1pt e/w’s Balthazar King @33/1 Cappa Bleu @25/1 Teaforthree @20/1
Advice – 1. Balthazar King 2pts e/w @20/1 generally
2. Cappa Bleu 1.5pt e/w @12/1 generally
3. Roberto Goldback 1.5pts e/w @25/1 generally
4. Teaforthree 1pt e/w @16/1 generally