Ceebee previews the Grand National and he has a number of main bets with some outsiders to also consider.
Alright lads the five day declarations are in, that’ll do for me. There might be a few tweaks to the final line-up but we pretty much know the 40 horses who’ll line-up for the 2018 Aintree Grand National next Saturday at 17.15. I’m assuming (dangerous enough) that we’ll have soft ground for the 4m2f feature. You selection will need to handle it but it won’t be that bad either.
Horse by horse preview. Trying to keep it brief enough - there is 40 of them after all!!
Minella Rocco – Class act (2nd in ’17 Gold Cup) who stays (won over 4miles) but is a dodgy jumper so I don’t expect him to get around and others are better handicapped.
Blaklion – Odds are very short considering he had a gruelling prep race at Haydock and is now 9lbs higher than last year’s mark when only 4th (didn’t stay after going for home too early). Could place again but no value in his current odds.
Anibale Fly – 9lbs well-in, coming off a career best effort (3rd in Gold Cup). He has won a valuable big field staying handicap chase (Leopardstown at Xmas) already this season. Plenty to like. He’ll have had just over 4wks since Cheltenham so should be ok although fresher horses may do better as Cheltenham was particularly gruelling this year on soft ground. The Gold Cup run was no fluke, he didn’t just stay on past beaten horses as some flattered placed horses do. He travelled well, gave chase turning in and was a clear 3rd best not far behind Might Bite at the finish.
The Last Samuri – Plenty of good course form but loads of indications he just can’t win off this mark. Could run into a place but doesn’t make my shortlist.
Valseur Lido – Has looked a non-stayer at 3miles so eh, yeah, best of luck with this project.
Total Recall – Had far from the ideal prep falling 3out in the Gold Cup. The time before that he was very free at Leopardstown; he won’t get home over 4m2f if he’s free here.
Alpha des Obeaux – Looks well and truly gone at the game (hopefully not but I fear Mouse could be too). 2016 since he was a graded horse and unfortunately still handicapped like one.
Gold Present – Had far from an ideal prep when pulling up at Cheltenham and for my liking he has also done a little too much winning early this season to remain well handicapped.
Tenor Nivernais – well beaten last year and still badly handicapped.
Perfect Candidate - Has won staying handicap chases off 150 last spring & 152 this winter so he is capable off 154 and will certainly enjoy soft ground. Pulled up in last year’s renewal and disappointing on recent starts so others preferred. If you want to take a stab at a 100/1 shot here he is but you probably shouldn’t bother.
Shantou Flyer - Is in good solid form all season without winning. He was staying on well at Cheltenham last time over 3m1f. That effort suggests he is well handicapped, although James Bowen can’t claim 3lbs here. He is coming here in great shape at least. Pulled up in last year’s renewal but looks to be a better horse now (change of yard a positive). There are enough positives to consider him but I’m passing.
Carlingford Lough – A high-class staying chaser who was crying out for a step up to 4miles. He should’ve tried this years ago when in his prime. Too old and badly out of form now I fear.
Vicente – Is targeting a hat-trick in the Scottish National rather than this. He’ll probably get his favourite good ground there too.
Tiger Roll – Was an impressive winner of the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham so he’s in great form and will stay the trip. Cause of Causes and Balthazar King went close on the back of similar preps as well but I think they were better horses than him. With hindsight I’m not sure the ‘18 Cross Country race was very strong but still has an obvious chance. Keep an eye on how other Cheltenham winners have performed Thurs & Fri at Aintree – it’s difficult to peak twice.
Regal Encore – His most recent win at Ascot (Vieux Lion Rouge 4th) and his 3rd place finish in the Hennessy (9L behind Total Recall but now 9lbs better off) suggests he’s well handicapped and having a fine season in 3m handicap chases. Was 8th here last year, he was held up well back and was never really able to get competitive but getting round and staying the trip (to an extent) are positives to take from it. In better form this year he could go well in what could be a greater test of stamina. Richie McLernon was always going to ride so don’t be too bothered that regular McManus pilots Geraghty or Walsh aren’t up.
Vieux Lion Rouge – Has won a Becher chase around here, was 6th in last year’s National and prior to that he beat Blaklion in a Grand National Trial. He’s not badly handicapped, handles soft ground and ran a decent-ish trial behind Regal Encore last time. That’s a good chunk of positives. The only negative, and it is a big one, is that he looked to run out of steam in the closing two furlongs last year. Some horses just don’t have the stamina to see out the trip and I fear he could be one.
Chase the Spud – Will thrive if it becomes super slow and heavy underfoot, otherwise he just won’t keep up. Recent efforts were very poor so hard to fancy.
Warriors Tale – Solid chaser who has found just one too good the last twice. He travels well, has the pace to win over 2m4f and also handles soft ground. Doubts as to how well handicapped he is or if the extended 4mile trip will suit but I guess you could say that about a few of them. Makes the shortlist.
Seeyouatmidnight – Hasn’t ran to his best since Oct’16, mostly due to injury. Was a class act back then and showed good stamina when 3rd in ’16 Scottish National. One run in the last 12mts leaves him a little under-conditioned for this perhaps. I can see why he’s popular but not for me.
Gas Line Boy – Was 5th last year but off 4lbs higher and now 12yrs old it’s hard to see it getting any better.
The Dutchman – Handled the mud best of all to win the Peter Marsh from Captain Redbeard in January (form worked out ok too) but was poor the following month in the Grand National Trial (burst a blood vessel apparently). An unexposed staying handicap chaser with just enough experience and big race wins without showing too much. He also races prominently which I like in the National. If the rain comes and he turns up at his best there is a lot to like. Obvious issue is his recent bleed but he has had a decent break since.
Pleasant Company – Well fancied when finishing 9th last year. Form not as good this season so hard to see much improvement on 9th.
Ucello Conti – 6th in 2016 and a faller in 2017; will it be 3rd time lucky? Yet to win in 12 starts since coming from France it is hard to imagine it’ll be on the biggest stage. He has been fairly solid though in staying chases (2nd to Anibale Fly at Leopardstown, placed in two Thyestes and a Becher Chase); especially if it comes up soft and he isn’t badly handicapped on his best form.
Saint Are – 2nd in 2015 and 3rd in 2017 so clearly handles this unique test but now 13yrs old and out of form; his chance has gone.
Beeves – Was poor the last twice and his most recent victories at Perth and Fakenham aren’t remotely good enough pieces of form.
Raz de Maree – Has been in great form all season including a big Welsh National victory but it leaves this 13yo needing a career best performance. If the ground deteriorates he comes right into the reckoning as he’ll stay going forever in the mud and being well handicapped won’t matter.
I Just Know – Went up a stone for winning a poor race at Catterick, which is not ideal. He was poor at Aintree last spring also. Good stats fit based on past winners profiles and liked by many others as an improving 8yo.
Virgilio – Has not had a good season so it’d take quite the bounce-back effort to go win the National. Has had a wind-op and has decent Aintree form so there is an angle.
Baie des Iles – Will enjoy the soft ground but needs to find some improvement from somewhere, which looks unlikely to me. His last effort, 3rd at Punchestown, is actually a decent piece of form and he has finished 6th in an Irish National and 5th in the Welsh equivalent so I suppose I could see him plugging on late for a place. A grey 7yo mare with a female jockey up – this one would bust a heap 50yr old stats!!
Maggio – Now 13yrs old and not gone close to winning in the past two years.
Pendra – I fancied him at Cheltenham where he was disappointing so now it’s hard to fancy him off the back of that effort.
Buywise – Won a competitive staying handicap chase at Sandown this season and the form of that race has worked out well since. He was rated 152 at his peak and now races off 145 so he has a chance. In form, not desperately handicapped and skipping Cheltenham and prepping over hurdles (decent enough run too) looks sensible.
Children’s List – Has one piece of form to his name that gives him a chance but you’ve to go to Dec’16 to find it. Lacks experience as well.
Lord Windermere – No. Just no.
Captain Redbeard – Has a likeable profile having won the Tommy Whittle, 3m handicap chase on heavy at Haydock, before then chasing home The Dutchman at Haydock and later winning his prep run over hurdles. Looks to be improving, with a nice low weight and just enough experience without looking exposed. Jockey big race/Aintree experience the obvious worry and slight question-mark over his stamina for 4m2f but still on the shortlist.
Houblon des Obeaux – Well past his best and has been poor at Aintree a few times.
Bless the Wings – Pulled up in the Irish National just last week is not a good preparation. No chance.
Milansbar – Was well handicapped and responded to first time blinkers when winning the Warwick Classic Chase. He faces a very different task off a higher mark here with Bryony unable to claim her allowance.
Final Nudge – Third in the Welsh National but well beaten at Cheltenham on his latest start. Like a few others at the bottom of the weights will be easily outclassed turning for home.
Double Ross – Has jumped around this course before and did run ok at Cheltenham last month but yeah he has no chance. Last in last home.
Road to Riches – No.41 at the time of writing so needs one to drop out. Irrelevant, he hasn’t run well in 2yrs or 8 starts since taking a horrific fall when looking like winning the Punchestown Gold Cup. He’ll be for sale or retired by next Monday.
Thunder And Roses – Go back far enough and he’s won an Irish National but in more recent times he has failed to complete the last three starts. No thanks.
Delusionofgrandeur – No.43 so unlikely to get a run but in case he does – hasn’t been in the best of form and looks to lack a little class in a field of this quality.
Anibale Fly 12/1 with 888Sport
The Dutchman 33/1 with Betbright
Regal Encore 33/1 with BetVictor
The B-Team (extended panel):
Buywise 50/1, Captain Redbeard 33/1, Vieux Lion Rouge 33/1, Ucello Conti 25/1, Warriors Tale 50/1, Baie des Iles 33/1, Shantou Flyer 40/1