It’s that time of year when betting shops see an unusual surge in attendance, as the nation gathers to place their yearly bets on the worlds biggest steeplechase.
As 40 runners depart into the Merseyside wilderness, the world holds it’s collective breath as they maraud down to the opening fence, clutching their betting slips with more hope than expectation.
In a 21 year life, I have only ever managed to back the winner of the race twice (Red Marauder and Amberleigh House), yet that never stops me coming back every year, with the mindset that I have finally found ‘the one’.
I get more texts in the days leading up to the Grand National, than I do for the rest of the year combined usually, with my racing knowledge deemed worthy for one race a year.
Hopefully I won’t let you all down!
Anyways, on with the racing, and as there are 40 runners, I won’t bore you with low-downs of each horses strengths and weakness, I will simply highlight what I believe the first four home will be.
FIRST – CAPPA BLEU
Evan Williams’ 11yo was fourth in the race last year, and has been laid out for another crack at the big prize.
He has finished second on his two starts this term, pleasing his trainer with both runs.
Connections know what it takes to run a big race, after State of Play was placed in three nationals with Paul Maloney on board, as-well as Cappa’s fourth place last year.
Cappa Bleu’s run was impeded several times and he looked as though he would struggle to land any sort of blow, before staying on best of all on the flat, eventually knuckling down and staying on for fourth.
He manages to get into the race on a relatively low weight of 10 stone 11lbs, which he should be able to carry comfortably.
His jumping is impeccable, and if he manages to avoid trouble tomorrow, his jumping strength, tied in with his stamina and connections’ nous of making sure their mounts run a big race, the 12/1 on offer looks incredible value.
SECOND – SEABASS
Katie Walsh’s mount finished third last year, and will be hoping to go two better, as he lines up once more.
The Ted Walsh trained 10yo looked the likely winner last year, before fading up the run in.
The 75 yards less to run this year, will definitely play in to his hands, and he looks to have a real chance of allowing Walsh to become the first female jockey to ever land the Grand National.
A close third in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse last time out is solid form, and it would be no surprised to see the gelding go off as favourite come Saturday afternoon.
A solid jumper, a great relationship with his jockey and a slightly shortened trip suggest a big run is expected from Seabass and he can fill up one of the places.
THIRD – ACROSS THE BAY
Owners of the 9yo turned down a six-figure sum for their only horse last month which in itself shows just how much potential they think he has.
He has already beaten leading fancy Cappa Bleu this season, albeit when the latter was in need of the run. However this is solid form, and Donald McCain’s gelding has since had a wind operation which has helped considerably.
The 9yo landed the Grade 2 Rendlesham at Haydock on his only run since the operation, and the manner of his success suggested the step up in trip is likely to suit.
He tends to lead from the front, which is the best place to be in the national, in an attempt to keep away from the carnage that a faller would bring to the middle of the pack.
Trainer Donald McCain knows what it takes to get a horse right for the big race, having done so with Ballabriggs in 2011.
40/1 looks too big to ignore, and is sure to receive some each-way interest before the race begins.
FOURTH – CHICAGO GREY
Gordon Elliot’s charge will be hoping to carry on the success of grey horses in the race, after Neptune Collonges finally got rid of the voodoo last year.
The 10yo never really managed to get into the race last year, as he was brought down at the fifth fence, but will be hoping for a big run come Saturday.
He was last seen landing a Grade 2 at Navan, staying on best of all to beat a high-class trio.
The form of the race has worked out extremely well as the runner-up since come out and landed a Grade 2 himself.
Chicago Grey’s form is rock solid, and with Paul Carberry on board, the stylish jockey is sure to give the grey his best chance of winning.
A low weight of 10 stone 7 lbs, strengthens his case further and it would be no surprise to see the 10yo make the frame.
1st: Cappa Bleu (12/1)
2nd: Seabass (10/1)
3rd: Across the Bay (40/1)
4th: Chicago Grey (14/1)
1 point e.w: Cappa Bleu @ 12/1 (Various)