• Fri 25 Apr, 2014
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Grand National Runners Guide

Sat 14th Apr: Charlie McCann brings us his guide to the 40 runners for the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree.

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1. Synchronised: The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner,  mount of AP McCoy and bidding to become the first horse since Golden Miller in 1934 to win the Gold Cup and National in the same year although L’Escargot also won the two races though not in the same year. A previous winner of the Midlands & Welsh Nationals and, despite top-weight, is actually the best handicapped horse in the race.

2. Ballabriggs: Last year’s winner and bidding to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win the race in successive years. Trained by Donald McCain whose father Ginger saddled Red Rum to those wins and who sadly passed away last September.

3. Weird Al: Went off the same price as Synchronised (8/1) in the Gold Cup but reported to have bled from the nose and ran no sort of race; also trained by Donald McCain but has a bit to prove now.

4. Neptune Collonges; Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has yet to saddle the winner and no grey has won the race since Nicolaus Silver in 1961; that said this former Grade 1 winner is beginning to look well-handicapped although no 11-year old has won the race since Red Marauder back in 2001.

5. Calgary Bay: won his last couple but only got as far as the fourth in corresponding race last year when sent off 33/1. Five career wins have all come in December or January and stamina to prove, but career best effort at Doncaster last time.

6. Alfa Beat: Fell in last year’s Topham over the National fences and didn’t appear a natural over these unique obstacles; won the Kerry National back in September for a second time but how will he cope back at Aintree?

7. Planet Of Sound: Runner up in the Hennessy and laid out for the National since; needs decent ground and has a touch of class but hasn’t won for a couple of years and another whose stamina has to be taken on trust.

8. Black Apalachi; fell in 2008 but still going well when coming down at Bechers’ in Mon Mome’s year in 2009 and carried my cash bravely when runner up to Don’t Push It 12-months later. Has only had one run in 2 years, and now a teenager, but ran a cracker in the Bobbyjo Chase back in February and Denis O’Regan booked again.

9. Deep Purple; winner over 3m 4f at Sandown in December but needs decent ground if he is going to stay over the additional mile. Others in the yard have better credentials.

10. Junior; bidding to become the first horse to win at Royal Ascot, Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National. Ran a great prep race at Doncaster last month for David Pipe who saddled Comply Or Die to glory in 2008 and whose father Martin also trained the winner when Miinehoma won for Freddie Star in 1994.

11 Chicago Grey; winner over 4m at Cheltenham last year for Irish handler Gordon Elliot who saddled Silver Birch to win the race back in 2007. Another grey who has to buck a 50-year trend but looks to have been given a typical “Irish” preparation for the race and a lively contender.

12. Tatenen; winner of the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase at Ascot back in January but stamina must be an issue as he has not won beyond 2m 6f. Not for me.

13. Seabass: trained in Ireland by Ted Walsh who saddled Papillon to victory when ridden by his son Ruby back in 2000; unbeaten in his last seven starts from two to three miles and would attract further support if leading jockey Ruby Walsh was confirmed as the jockey.

14.Shakalakaboomboom; needs good or faster ground to be seen at his best. Trainer Nicky Henderson was the toast of Cheltenham with seven winners at the Festival but the Seven Barrows trainer has never saddled the National winner. It would top a magnificent season for the Lambourn trainer and he has every chance.

15. West End Rocker; Laid out for the race since landing the Becher Chase over these obstacles back in early December on heavy ground; only got as far as Bechers’ last year when brought down and any significant rain would help.

16. According To Pete; winner of two of his last three starts and in the form of his life for a trainer who had two winners at the recent Cheltenham Festival.

17. On His Own: Formerly trained in North Yorkshire by Howard Johnson and impressive winner of the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park back in January. Not considered first strong for connections before the recent injury to Prince De Beauchene and may need another year.

18. Always Right; has had a minor operation on his breathing since he pulled up as if something was amiss on desperate ground at Haydock last time. Much to like about his effort when 3rd in the Scottish National last April and he has carried my cash from the announcement of the weights back in February.

19. Cappa Bleu; former winner of the Foxhunters’ at Cheltenham and the second horse burdened with my money from the day the weights came out in February. Remains lightly-raced for one of his years and his third in the Welsh National earlier in the season on ground softer than ideal was an excellent effort.

20. Rare Bob; I don’t think he would get four-and-a-half miles in a horsebox but trainer Dessie Hughes obviously thinks otherwise. Plenty to find with Seabass from earlier in the season and likely to be one of the front-runners for the first three miles but will his stamina last?

21. Organisedconfusion; winner of last year’s Irish National and connections are undecided at the time of writing whether he will go to Fairyhouse for a repeat bid on Easter Monday or wait for Aintree six days later.

22. Treacle; likes plenty of cut in the ground but handles good ground and a thorough stayer. Long considered an ideal type for the race and put up a career best in the Irish Hennessy last time.

23. The Midnight Club; finished 6th in the race in 2010 when favourite and suggestion that was his best chance of National glory. Finished tailed off in the Gold Cup last time and hard to see him reversing the places with Synchronised on the revised terms.

24. Mon Mome: hasn’t won a race since winning the Big One here three years ago at 100/1! Has hinted at a return to form but he wouldn’t be for me; that said I didn’t fancy him in 2009!

25. Arbor Supreme; formerly with Willie Mullins and one of the more interesting outsiders for Jonjo O’Neill who saddled Don’t Push It in 2010 despite the fact he has failed to complete in the last couple of years. Likely to be overlooked by McCoy but no forlorn hope.

26; Sunnyhillboy; Festival winner who was a market drifter earlier in the week, but connections were quick to quell rumours that everything was not right with the horse. Very well handicapped on his win in the Kim Muir having flattered to deceive previously; would attract significant support if Synchronised missed race and McCoy jumped ship.

27. Killyglen; won a big novice chase here when trained by Howard Johnson and bounced back to his best at Down Royal last time when reported to have had a palate operation since his previous start. Was in the process of running a cracker when coming down four out in the race last year at 66/1 and certainly wont be anything like those odds this time; major player.

28. Quiscover Fontaine; fourth in the Irish National last year and another still engaged in the Irish equivalent on Monday. Unlikely to take up both engagements and makes little appeal at this time.

29. Tharawaat; another horse who is also entered in the Irish National and, at this stage, looks likely to take up that option; must be major stamina reservations if he crosses the Irish Sea and trainer Gordon Elliot considers Chicago Grey his first-choice.

30. Becauseicouldntsee; only got as far as the second in last year’s race but ran a cracker behind Sunnyhillboy in the Kim Muir last month. Deserves to win a big prize and likely to be in the front rank throughout but others preferred.

31. State Of Play: Three of his last four runs have been in the National and this wonderful Aintree campaigner has finished 4th, 3rd and 4th in the last three years. Although reaching the veteran stage once again he has been prepared all year with this one race in mind. Cappa Bleu is considered stable first string but he has jumped 90 fences at Aintree without mishap although likely to find a couple too speedy.

32. Swing Bill; another grey but a doubtful stayer and is being leased out for the race by leading owner David Johnson. Likely to be prominent on the first circuit but unlikely to stay the marathon trip.

33. Postmaster; also entered in the Fox Hunters Chase on Thursday and that looks a more realistic target for this recent dual winner in points.

34. Giles Cross; Finished runner up in the Welsh National before landing the Haydock Park National Trial and another who can’t have the ground soft enough. Has similar credentials to Le Beau Bai and would be half his current price if the rain arrived.

35. Midnight Haze; finished sixth in the X-Country at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, all wins over jumps have come on right-handed tracks and still entered at Fairyhouse. Let’s hope connections enjoy the day out; trainer Kim Bailey saddled the winner back in 1981 with Mr Frisk.

36. Vic Venturi: has won over these fences but has failed to complete the course in last couple of Nationals; hard to make a case for at this stage in his career although very well handicapped on his best form.

37. In Compliance: beaten out of sight by Killyglen at Down Royal last time and beaten the best part of 100 lengths in last year’s race. Hard to see where the required improvement is going to come from at the age of 12.

38. Viking Blond: Still a novice and yard like to run unexposed types in handicaps; beaten favourite in the Welsh equivalant over Xmas and no forlorn hope.

39. Hello Bud: Very much in the veteran stage although this 14-y-old did finish fifth in the race back in 2010. It would be a massive shock if there weren’t a number of younger improvers who take this teenager off his feet.

40. Neptune Equester: Highly regarded by shrewd yard but hasn’t built on excellent win at Haydock back in November; one of the more likely outsiders

R1. Any Currency; Reserve who has until 9.30 Friday to see if he gets into the race; 6lb out of the handicap and largely disappointing this season

R2. Our Island: All wins on soft ground and beaten 20+ lengths in the 4m amateur riders’ race at Festival when he may have ground a shade too quick

R3.Abbeybraney; No notes

R4. Smoking Aces; No notes

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Be lucky

Charlie McCann

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