Paul Ferguson looks a head to Saturday’s Grand National and gives us his one, two, three, four ahead of the big race. Read his preview and compare odds from 30 bookies
The obvious place to start when looking at Saturday’s Grand National has to be with last year’s third Teaforthree who gets in off a 2lb lower mark (149 in comparison to 151) and carries 5lbs less weight.
Rebecca Curtis’ 10-year-old appeared to relish the unique fences 12 months ago and it is hard to envisage a scenario where he is not involved in the finish, assuming he jumps with such verve once again. However, he will need to conserve his energy a little more this time (guess Nick Scholfield will take the brave man’s route up the inner) to ensure he sees the race out more strongly.
In conclusion, he should be hard to keep out of the frame (especially with some firms offering up to 6 places) if putting in another clear round, but he is priced up accordingly – best price 9-1 at the time of writing – and I would have been keener on his chance had he arrived here fresh, rather than having taken his chance in last month’s Gold Cup.
Of the others prominent in the betting, top-weight Tidal Bay is the most likely to make an impact. The evergreen 13-year-old has been handed a chance by the handicapper, though Sam Twiston-Davies will have to ensure he doesn’t get too far adrift from the leaders on the first circuit.
His stable-mate Rocky Creek is relatively inexperienced in terms of a usual National horse, but is a sound jumper and looks the type to relish an extreme test of stamina. Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old ran a cracker when runner-up in the Hennessy (beaten 2¾ lengths by Triolo D’Alene) and probably found the ground more testing than ideal when second in the Argento Chase last time.
Some of his best form, both over fences and hurdles, came on good or good-to-soft ground and missing the Gold Cup (with ringworm) could be a blessing in disguise. I am expecting a bold show and Rocky Creek is a standout 25-1 with Ladbrokes.
The aforementioned Triolo D’Alene clearly acts well here, having won last year’s Topham, but he is another who I would have preferred to skip the Gold Cup. Both him and Teaforthree failed to run as well as I would have expected behind Lord Windemere at Cheltenham.
The two Festival runners that I do like, however, are Pineau De Re and Big Shu, with the former running a blinder when a close up third behind Fingal Bay in the Pertemps Final.
The 11-year-old, who was once a classy sort when trained in Ireland, had earlier scored impressively over fences at Exeter and seems to be peaking at just the right time. Leighton Aspell’s mount got no further than the eighth when trying his hand at these fences for the first time, in the Becher Chase earlier in the season, but he looks capable of going well – I would have expected him to be a shade bigger than 20-1, however, and he has been popular in the market this week.
A bit more value is BIG SHU and he gets the vote on that score at this stage, with him trading at 40-1 with Ladbrokes on Monday (generally a 33-1 shot).
Last year’s Cross Country winner finished third in the same contest last month, but looked to be moving like the winner for the majority of that contest. The son of Milan jumps well and is a strong stayer, so looks the ideal type for the National.
Given how he travelled last time, I don’t think the nine-year-old will have a problem holding his position if the ground is riding good-to-soft, while any further rain later in the week would probably enhance his claims further.
Peter Maher’s stable-star will be ridden by Peter Buchanan for the first time on Saturday and, with a nice racing weight on his back (10-8), he ticks plenty of boxes.
Fergie’s National 1,2,3,4
1. BIG SHU
3. ROCKY CREEK
4. PINEAU DE RE
Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 2013-14
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New for 2013-14:
Grade 1 winning jockeys Nick Scholfield and Jane Mangan provide readers with their horses to follow
Last years results included:
* Leading Prospects, Arvika Ligeonniere (x3), Boston Bob, Captain Conan (x3), Champagne Fever (x2 inc Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), Glens Melody, Melodic Rendezvous, Simonsig (Arkle) & Un Atout won 13 Grade 1 novice contests between them
* My Tent Or Yours won 4 times including the Betfair Hurdle and the Top Novices’ at Aintree
* Stable Round-Up included Neptune winner The New One, Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Court Minstrel and David Pipe’s Dynaste of whom it read “could follow the Grands Crus path of last year, starting in the Steel Plate And Sections before he is readied for the Feltham” – he won both races and also scored at Aintree in April
* Across The Sea – Mount Benbulben 14/1 winner of the Grade 1 novice chase at the Punchestown Festival
* Under The Hammer – horses featured in this section included Champion Bumper winner Briar Hill (25/1) and The Liquidator, who won the equivalent Grade 1 at Punchestown – this section has been greatly increased for 2013-14