Thankfully the Grand National Handicap Chase returns to its rightful place amongst the years sporting events having of course been cancelled last year. Forty thoroughbreds will line-up at 5.15pm Saturday afternoon to face the four-mile, 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.
Sadly, for some, and happily perhaps for others, there will be no annual visit to the Betting Shop this year as they can’t open until Monday, if you want to have a bet this year you will need to have or open yourself an account online. If you are opening a new account, take a look at all the sites if you can as many have ‘new customer offers’ and you may be able to get yourself a ‘free bet’ or two. Also, remember to shop around for the best odds, and take those odds in the morning as they nearly all shrink as we get closer to the off and if you’re betting each-way always check the each-way terms the Bookmaker is offering; whether they are paying on four, five or six places.
Best bets for the Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase 2021
One thing to remember is the weights for the Grand National are announced in February so do not take into account any improvement a horse may make between then and the race in April. A great example is Cloth Cap who has headed the market in the build-up the nine-year-old having won his last two races quite impressively. He gets in with a relatively light weight of 10-5 having been allocated that weight based on his old Official Rating of 148 back in February; he is now rated 162 so fully 14lb better in theory. He is the obvious place to start but is a very short price for a race such as the Grand National at 4-1. Owner Trevor Hemmings will be hoping he can add to his collection of Grand National trophies having won it three times with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015). I backed Lake View Lad, also owned by Trevor Hemmings, back in 2019 when he was pulled-up. He is now two-years older and on a handicap mark 2lb higher and I just can’t see him winning this year. Lord Du Mesnil is one who should stay the extreme distance with little trouble; he won the G.3 Grand National Trial Handicap Chase over three-and-a-half miles at Haydock last month as a nice prep for this, in fact all his wins have been over three-miles of further. The yard of trainer Richard Hobson has been in decent form of late which is a bonus and Grade One winning jockey Nick Schofield in the saddle is no bad thing. He suffered a lengthy spell on the side-lines with a broken leg over the winter months but is back riding well now. The gelding gets in off an official mark of 149 so is 5lb well-in in the handicap as his new mark is 154. At 33-1 he is a nice each-way price but I can’t help but think he would have needed softer ground to be in with his best chance. Anibale Fly was fourth in 2018 and fifth in 2019 so has form. Returned to action after a year off the track finishing last in the 3m1½f BobbyJo Chase at Fairyhouse in February. Is the eleven-year-old flying under the bookie’s radar? Burrows Saint was second in that race at Fairyhouse and won the Irish Grand National back in 2019. Appears he has been aimed at this but surprisingly trainer Willie Mullins has only trained one winner of this race so that is a stat against his chances. Canelo has an outsider's chance bearing in mind the eight-year-old has never fallen, pulled up or unseated his jockey, you need one that can jump in this race. That said, the extreme distance is a question and he needs to prove his stamina. Magic Of Light nearly spoiled the party for Tiger Roll in 2019 and Jessica Harrington’s mare has to be considered off that piece of form. That said, she is higher in the weights this year and didn’t look at her best at Cheltenham last month so is not for me. Kimberlite Candy is one some will be sweet on (sorry). Stamina should be fine and he has finished second in the Becher Chase the last two years so he can handle the big Aintree fences but was beaten twenty-four lengths in the Becher this year by the winner; more on him below.
I have actually backed two horses in the race this year, unusual for me, but both have reasonable chances of playing a part in the finish. Vieux Lion Rouge has four runs to his name in the Grand National and he successfully jumped round in each of them though never made the places. The twelve-year-old chestnut gelding has also run in and completed the Becher Chase on five occasions, winning it in 2016 and 2020, so these fences hold no fears for the old boy. He has a better chance than most lining-up of finishing and you never know he just might finally run into a place. I have a bit of the 50-1 each-way with Paddy Power who are paying 1/5 the odds six places and I am hoping that the old boy will be staying-on when others are crying enough! A favourite of mine Bristol De Mai has the top-weight to carry which will take some doing but he is a class act. The grey likes to be toward to front in his race which I always feel is no bad thing in this race and even though everyone says his best form is at Haydock, which it is, Haydock is similar to Aintree in that they are both left-handed and relatively flat courses so he should like the track; a little more rain would probably have helped his chances but good-soft underfoot is not a problem. If he gets into a good rhythm up the front of the field the 25-1 odds might look huge suddenly and I have had to back him each-way.
Here’s hoping for a great race and that all horses and jockeys return un-hurt.
Best bets for the rest of the card at Aintree
Shishkin would be able win the G.1 Doom Bar Maghull Novices' Chase at 3.00 with me riding I reckon and is priced accordingly at long odds-on and as such unbackable. Luckily for the horse I will not be riding as I was just unable to get down to the 11-4 weight required, by a pound or seventy!
There is one other on the card you can, and should back. I tipped Happygolucky for the Ultima Handicap at Cheltenham and he finished second behind a rejuvenated Vintage Clouds - how did the old boy pull that run out of the bag! Anyway, compensation awaits for the seven-year-old trained by Kim Bailey in the 3m1f Betway Handicap Chase at 4.15. I have 7-2 that I took back on Thursday evening.