Ceebee provides his preview of the Grand National and he has four bets on the big racem which are Raz De Maree, The Young Master, Vicente and Blaklion.
I was going to write a full horse by horse guide but 1) I don’t have the time, 2) you probably wouldn’t read it all and 3) loads of these have no chance anyhow. So instead here are the four to concentrate on followed by random scribbles on some other -
Raz de Maree – A dual winner of the Cork National and second in the Welsh National this fella clearly thrives in staying handicap chases. Despite the big age he’s better than ever this year. More rain would suit be he’s capable on good ground and the watering overnight will help. May be a little slow but could easily stay on to run into a place at a big price. Finished the 2015 renewal which is a positive over these fences but I think he’s a better horse now. He is 12yrs old but remember a 13yr old (with Cork National form also) nearly won this last year!
The Young Master - Winner of the Sandown 3m5f Whitbread (they call it something else now) Gold Cup last season and amazingly just 2lbs higher now. This guy is well handicapped and has a touch of class as well as big staying handicap chase success to his name. He’s only 8 but has plenty of staying handicap chase experience. He handles spring ground although possibly better with cut, stay’s at least 3m5f and is available at 25/1 in places. What’s not to like. Oh and Sam is a terrific jockey over these fences. Disappointed me a little at Cheltenham as looked to struggle to hold his place when the pace quickened but overall it was a decent prep run. Big player.
Blaklion - on an appealing enough mark, but small horse not ideal for this test. He ran ok in the Hennessy and again in the Rowland Meyrick before a good run last time at Haydock. There he was 2nd in the Grand National trial. Better ground should suit, he has a touch of class having won (a weak) G1 at Cheltenham last season. If he gets around he’s handicapped better than most, stays 3m very strongly so hopeful of getting 4m. Not much value in his price now though.
Vicente - “I’ve only had one race in mind for him” is interesting to hear from Paul Nicholls and it certainly makes it easier ignore his recent below par efforts. His Scottish National win last spring tells us 4miles on good ground is a perfect test (remember Aurora’s Encore). The poor recent form has resulted in him dropping to a handicap mark almost equal to his Ayr winning one (1lb higher now). Ideal. The reason he’s not higher on my list is that Scottish National doesn’t look too strong now with hindsight. It also worries me that Sam Twiston Davies isn’t riding as he had the choice and picked Saphir du Rheu instead. Big still a likeable profile.
Some random notes on others (some of which I wrote 2mts ago for an ante-post preview):
The Last Samuri – Some good recent winners like Many Clouds, have attempted to comeback 12mts later and each time the additional lbs allocated by the handicapper has stopped them. This guy is 12lbs higher than last year when second, no thanks.
Shantou Flyer - looks to have a fairly horrible mark after his Cheltenham win on New Year ’s Day.
Saphir du Rheu – has had jumping issues in the past, never ideal for this test. Seems like the race was a bit of an afterthought after a decent Gold Cup run. Would rather this was plan-A.
Wounded Warrior – Has been in fairly rancid form this year.
Wonderful Charm – a huge step-up on the Foxhunters which he was beaten in last time. Be amazed if he was in contention here.
Le Mercurey – doesn’t thoroughly get 3miles, the 4m2f trip here must be an issue so.
Cause of Causes - According to many the triple Cheltenham Festival winner (how impressive is that?!!) has been given a chance by the handicapper. I just don’t see it. He’s 8lbs higher than his Kim Muir winning mark and 4lbs higher than when never on terms in the 2015 National. I’m a big fan but don’t see the value in his price now.
Vieux Lion Rouge - Won the 2016 Becher Chase over 3m3f here, but unfortunately that’s about the limits of his stamina. He was beaten 48L into 7th last year when not seeing out the trip and returns 3lbs higher. Ok he’s older and stamina often comes with age but the trip is an issue for me; others preferred.
Definitly Red - At his best with plenty of cut in the ground; not the ideal sort for this weekend. Despite winning at staying trips I’m not sure he’s actually a thorough stayer. I can see a case for him all the same, but I’ll pass.
Ucello Conti - Was on many a shortlist for last year’s renewal after decent Irish efforts but failed to get home (6th beaten 37L). Returning off the same mark of 149 I can see the case for him, but I’d be amazed if something wasn’t too strong for him on the run in. He hasn’t won in 8 starts for Gordon Elliott.
Pleasant Company – fancied by many and with Ruby on board must have a chance. I think he’s a little overrated. The last race he won was a very poor standard and he won it by getting the best ride on the day. A hold up horse he’ll need good luck to avoid trouble. Always prefer prominent racers.
One for Arthur - has risen 21lbs this season; that’s not ideal. Also seems to be a little reliant on soft ground which he’s not really going to get. Perhaps a bit young and inexperienced also.
Ballynagour - has dropped to a mark some 15lbs below his career high. A return to his best obviously leaves him well handicapped but it’s unlikely here. Trip an issue and hold up style not ideal. With recent form figures of PPP he just doesn’t scream National winner. Twice placed in Aintree G1s is eye-catching though.
O’Faolains Boy - Apparently he’s chucked in but at only 8lbs below his career high I don’t see it. He has run to it once in 3yrs. Risky.
Highland Lodge - connections will be delighted to get a run after Phil Smith’s ‘magic’ but they’ve also got the worst handicapped horse in the race. He’ll probably get around and may get involved turning in but won’t be winning
Lord Windermere – former Gold Cup winner looks a shadow of his former self in recent efforts. Be an amazing bounceback.
Measure of my Dreams - stays 4miles and is well handicapped. What’s not to like? Well he’s run only twice this season when pulled up in the Thyestes and never in contention at Cheltenham. A big improvement required but of the outsiders he makes more appeal than most.
Stellar Notion – will not stay even three quarters of this trip.
Rogue Angel – Irish National winner bids to follow up at Aintree the following season. Heard this one before but it’s been done successfully before too. I just don’t think this fella is very good. The Irish National didn’t work out very well, it was a poor renewal. Much more needed Saturday. Prominent racer will give you a run for your money.
La Vaticane – no chance whatsoever
Bless the Wings (First Reserve) – won’t win, never really does but recent 2nd in Cheltenham Cross Country was a fine effort and went very close in last year’s Irish National also so the ability is there.
1.5pts e/w The Young Master at 22/1 with William Hill and Bet365 (1/4 odds 5 places)
1pt win Blaklion at 16/1 with Betfair Sports
1pt win Vicente at 25/1 with Betfred and Coral
1pt e/w Raz de Maree at 40/1 with Bet365 (1/4 odds 5 places)