I have been burning the midnight oil down at Triple G Towers for a few days now considering which horses are in with a chance of winning the Grade Three Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase to give it its full title.
Run over a distance of four-miles-two-furlongs and 74 yards with the small matter of 30 obstacles to negotiate, two laps of 16 fences, the first 14 of which are jumped twice, we have a total of forty runners to choose from. The going is soft, heavy in places on the National course as of Friday evening with the weather likely to be overcast and breezy Saturday.
Please do remember to shop around when placing a bet and check the each-way terms Bookmakers are offering. Paddy Power are paying the first six each-way at a 1/5 whilst Ladbrokes are offering 1/4 the odds each-way but on the first five and Betway are 1/4 the odds each-way but on the first our only!
And so to the race: Blaklion has been at the top of the Bookmakers lists for a while and has form having finished fourth last year. He won the 3m2f Becher Chase over these fences back in December but the nagging doubt is does he truly get this marathon trip as he looked the winner two from home last year only to fade out of it late-on. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has won the race twice, said recently "He'll be ridden with a little bit more restraint. He was only beaten eight lengths last year. I know he has gone up 8lb but with a bit more restraint, hopefully he'll be there."
Kim Bailey will saddle The Last Samuri again who was second in the race in 2016 losing out in the last 150 yards and returned in 2017 when he went well for a long way before fading out of contention. He was 2nd in the Becher chase to Blaklion in December and then went well at Cheltenham in the Cross Country race last month. "I'm very happy with his preparation and I thought he ran a fantastic race in the Cross Country," Bailey told At The Races recently "He's as good as he was two years ago, but unfortunately he's carrying nearly a stone more than he was then, which makes it difficult."
There has been money for a couple in the build-up to the race who will be coming across the Irish sea in the shape of Total Recall from the yard of Willie Mullins who fell in the G.1 Gold Cup last time and Tiger Roll trained by Gordon Elliott the later having won the Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Speaking in the build-up Elliott, who won the National with Silver Birch in 2007, told Betfair: "We're running three but I suppose you'd have to say Tiger Roll is the main one. I think he's got a great profile going into the race. Davy Russell rides him and he's got 10st 12lb on his back, which is a lovely weight.”
The raiding party from the Emerald Isle is pretty strong this year with Ucello Conti also travelling from the Elliott yard and Tony Martin sending Anibale Fly from his base in Summerhill Co. Meath, the eight-year-old was third in the Gold Cup last time and has been steadily shortening in the market since that run and is now the Favourite. Martin told At The Races on Wednesday "We think he's fresh and well and I think he's come out of Cheltenham good. All being well, we'll send him on Thursday. Fingers crossed he'll run a good one and get a bit of luck.”
For those of you looking for one at a slighter larger price to consider Seeyouatmidnight is available at around 16-1, he will run in the colours of Cheveley Park Stud's David and Patricia Thompson after a last-minute sale just a few days ago. The ten-year-old won’t mind one bit that the British spring weather has continued to be wet with most of his wins coming on soft or heavy ground. He had a nice little run over two-and-a-half miles at Newbury as a prep race in March and could run a big race.
There will be three female jockeys getting the leg-up for the race. Baie Des Iles, the mount of Katie Walsh, has been a major mover for the Randox Health Grand National all week having been available at 50-1 on Monday her odds tumbled to no bigger than 16-1 by the 48-hour declaration stage on Thursday. "Baie Des Iles could end up being our worst result," said William Hil's Rupert Adams. "She will love the soft ground, is a grey and most importantly has Katie Walsh on board – a possible perfect storm." That said she would need to bust a major stat of the race as a seven-year-old in that no seven-year-old has so much as placed in the first four since 1971 and the last of that age to win was Bogskar in 1940. Bryony Frost will ride in the National for the first time when she is reunited with Milansbar, on whom she won the Classic Chase at Warwick in January. Rachael Blackmore will also ride over the Aintree fences for the first time as she has been recruited by Mouse Morris to partner Alpha Des Obeaux. Ladbrokes are offering 10-1 for a female jockey to win the race.
As for the horse set to carry the burden of the Triple G cash it will be Shantou Flyer who is another that won’t mind it wet under hoof and has put together a string of placed efforts recently. The gelding nearly caught Coo Star Sivola in the G.3 Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month and appears to be in rude health at the moment. Pulled-up last year four jumps from home having already been hampered by a loose horse at the eighteenth, at 33-1 the eight-year-old is one that should give you a run for your money at a fair price especially as the showers have continued at Aintree on and off all week. He gets to run here off a handicap mark 4lb lighter than he’ll have to carry in the future and has less weight than he had in 2017, which is another plus and he is my each-way punt.
Here’s to a great race and all horses and jockeys coming home safe and sound.