With our selections finishing second in the last two renewals of the great race, the Oddsguru is due a change of fortune, so here’s hoping that this year we can highlight that special animal, with the right blend of pace, stamina, and above all courage, to take home Saturday’s great prize.
Our selection last year, The Last Samurai, ran a superb race to finish second, and showed that the fire was still burning brightly, when finishing second to Definitely Red in that good Grand National Trial, The Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster in Febuary, a contest he won in 2016. However, he now carries top weight, leaving him with a burden 16lbs higher than last year, obviously posing a rather serious question. Despite that, his great run last year, remains fresh in the memory, and it will come as no great surprise to see him jumping the last in contention again.
Irish training sensation, Gordon Elliott, who handled the 2007 winner, Silver Birch, runs two likely looking types, Cause of Causes and Ucello Conti. Having now won at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals the former is beginning to acquire mythical status, and it will come as no surprise if this hardy, brave, and amazingly versatile animal gets his head in front on Saturday. Stable companion, Ucello Conti, a half brother to that outstanding chaser, Silviniaco Conti, also has plenty to recommend him. This ex French 9yo has been jumping steeplechase fences since he was three and as a relatively new recruit to the Elliott Academy ran a solid race to finish sixth in last years renewal. Elliott always thought that the son of Martaline was a “natural” for Aintree and having had him for another twelve months could well be proved right.
Having won the Grand National twice, with Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree four years later, Nigel Twiston-Davies certainly knows what is required, and his talented 8yo, Blaklion, has the ability to take his score to three. When, probably needing the race after a break, he put in an eye catching performance finishing second to current market leader, Vieux Lion Rouge in Haydock’s Grand National Trial over 3m4f on stamina sapping ground. He looked like making all until lack of full match fitness told close home, and post race vibes from his excellent trainer strongly suggested that placings would be reversed come the big day in April. Blaklion, as a Grade2 winner over hurdles, and a Grade1 victor over fences has that touch of class, and as one who can race up with the pace, (often the safest place to be at Aintree), has to be on the shortlist.
Lucinda Russell’s 8yo, One For Arthur looked an out and out stayer when winning easily over 26f at Kelso last October, and confirmed his stamina credentials when winning The Warwick Classic,(previously The Warwick National), from nineteen other runners, over 3m5f on holding ground in January. He had previously shown that the big Aintree fences hold no fears for this good jumper, when getting to within 3L of Vieux Lion Rouge in the Betfred Beecher Chase over the course, running on with great resolution. Definitely worth considering, particularly if the ground comes up soft!
The prize has come back to the village of Nicholashayne in Somerset twice previously, courtesy of Minnehoma in 1994, and Comply Or Die nine years ago, and the Pipe yard will be hoping for further celebrations on Saturday night. They certainly have a very progressive looking candidate in current market leader Vieux Lion Rouge. Starting as an unconsidered 66/1 outsider in last years renewal, he outran his odds to finish seventh, a highly commendable effort for a seven year old in the National. Winner of the Beecher Chase over the Aintree fences and the Grand National Trial at Haydock, underlines his progress this term, and with another year under his belt looks a worthy favourite.
Astonishingly, Trevor “Blackpool Tower” Hemings, has won three of the last twelve renewals of the great race, and his recent purchase Vicente, will be attempting to join his three previous winners Hedgehunter(2005), Ballabrigs(2005), and Many Clouds(2015). The Paul Nicholls trained 8yo won last years Scottish National as a novice, and thanks to four subsequent lacklustre efforts, gets into Saturday’s contest on only one pound higher. These poor efforts can be ignored as Vicente is very much a “Spring Horse” who reserves his best for this time of year, and with his nice racing weight of 10st10lbs has to be considered a live outsider, to give Mr Hemings a fourth success, and indeed his trainer a second, (Neptune Collonges 2012).
Brian Ellison’s 8yo, Definitely Red, has been popular in the ante post markets since his impressive win in The Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster, (after the weights for the Grand National were published) and this strong stayer does look well handicapped with 10st12lbs on his back. Worth considering!
Selection : Blaklion
E.W. : Ucello Conti
E.W. : Vicente