Since its inception in 1839 the Grand National has been subject to many adaptations and changes but perhaps none more fundamental than after the 2012 running when the structure of the famed obstacles where altered. The timber frames of the jumps were changed to a much more forgiving plastic construction. As seen last year this redesign to a much easier fence led to an unbelievable mere two fallers. The lesson from this surely is that outstanding jumping ability is no longer required as born out by last years winner who prior to his victory had a very poor completion rate. What now seem to be required is a well handicapped animal with limitless stamina.
So what of this year’s renewal. Last years third Tea for Three certainly must be considered. He is that type of superb jumper who would have benefitted from the challenge of the old style fences. However, he ran a great race last year when coming a gallant third behind Auroras Encore and Cappa Blue. Perhaps if he had been ridden with a little more restraint he may have got a little bit closer to the winner. Off a mark 2lbs higher than last year he looks very poor value at his current odds. Another factor against him I feel was the hard race he had in the Gold Cup.
Pineau de Re is an interesting runner from the very successful stable of Dr Richard Newland. For an 11yo he is very lightly raced having competed in only 14 chases. He ran a race full of promise at the Cheltenham Festival where was beaten a nse and a neck by the classy Fingal Bay and Southfield Theatre in a 3ml hurdle. He was running on strongly at the end so Aintree’s 4 1/2mls should hold no terrors. One for the short list.
The very likeable Long Run is trying to emulate the only two winners of the Gold Cup and Grand National, the great Golden Miller (5 times winner of the Gold Cup) and L’Escargot (the duel winner in 70/71). This is heady company indeed but with 11st 9lbs the handicapper has given him a chance. His pedigree is all about stamina and his very shrewd trainer N Henderson wisely bypassed Cheltenham with him. He will be well suited by the new fences, has a real Aintree specialist on board and must have a great chance of giving his trainer his first Grand National winner.
David Pipe’s The Package is interesting. A lightly raced 11yo he ran a very promising warm up race for this at the Cheltenham Festival. Having his first run for a year he was a very creditable 3rd behind Holywell in a 3ml chase. His pedigree being by Kayf Tara out of an Ardross mare is full of stamina. So ridden by the in form Tom Scudamore I can see him being involved at the business end.
The Tim Vaughan hunter chaser Golan Way at a huge price is worth a second look. Previously a more than useful hurdler and handicap chaser he looked to be back to his best when hacking up in a hunter chase at Warwick in March. If he is his mark of 142 is very fair indeed. His stamina credentials look sound as he stayed 3m6f on soft ground at Sandown.
The lightly raced 9yo Hawkes Point from the Nichols stable is interesting. A decent hurdler his staying on second to Mountainous in the Welsh Grand National at Christmas was all about stamina where he was beaten by a diminishing head at the post. He looks the type to benefit from the new fences and is another for the short list.
The Johnny Farrelly trained Battle Group looks interesting. Three times a winner at the Aintree Festival he is ridden by the very talented Brendan Powell. Although very disappointing In his last three races his enthusiasm for the game seems to revive in the spring. He has won five times in either April or May. Worth considering.
Selection: Long Run
E.W. Hawkes Point
Pineau de Re