• Sat 22 Oct, 2016
  • 04:29 BST
  • 00:29 EST (BST-4)
  • 06:29 CEST (BST+2)

Fergie’s Grand National

Paul Ferguson gives his Grand National 1-2-3-4 verdict whilst picking out two further selections before the big race at Aintree. Preview…

Facing ideal conditions and arriving at Aintree on the back of a splendid victory at Kelso last month Many Clouds is the obvious place to start when looking at this afternoon’s Crabbie’s Grand National.

Last year’s winner races off a 5lb higher mark, but hasn’t done a thing wrong this term and arguably arrives here in better form.  Given how he jumped last year, he has to be on any shortlist and should go very close, assuming he gets the required luck in running.

Whether you want to be taking single-figure odds about a horse in a Grand National is another matter, however.  If you’re a fan of Many Clouds, you have to give a chance to Saint Are who has a 2lb pull for last year’s narrow defeat and Tom George’s charge has since had a wind-op before winning at Doncaster.  He is twice the price of the market leader and closely matched in terms of handicapping, but he would probably prefer slightly drier ground.

The same can be said of Jonjo O’Neill’s enigmatic Holywell who has a cracking record at this meeting, including when winning the Mildmay Novices’ Chase a couple of years ago.  The nine-year-old has his quirks, but is certainly a high-class performer on his day and he ran a cracker when runner-up to Un Temps Pour Tout at the festival.

Just behind him that day was MORNING ASSEMBLY and Pat Fahy’s nine-year-old is given the vote this afternoon, despite not having won since November 2013 – he did beat Don Cossack in a novice chase that day.

He went on to place in Grade 1s as a novice and the son of Shantou has returned from injury this season with a couple of decent seconds en route to Cheltenham.  Only beaten 6¼ lengths in the RSA in 2014, I expect the track to suit here and he jumps as though he will take to the big fences.  At 25-1, he will do for me.

The winner of that RSA two years ago was O’Faolains Boy and he warrants a late inclusion, now that the Rebecca Curtis yard has hit top form.  He has been a bit in-and-out this year, but that is rather indicative of the stable as a whole this season and he looked a potential Grand National horse when slamming Sausalito Sunrise by 15 lengths at Newbury in December (that rival got closer to Many Clouds last time).

Though he was beaten 53 lengths in the Gold Cup last time, he travelled well and was in contention for a long way, running a better race than the bare result might suggest.  That race, of course, came just 22 days ago, which is a slight concern, but he might also be suited by the track here and could easily outrun his odds of 33-1.

Grand National:


Elsewhere, with Yorkhill, Douvan and Thistlecrack all set to go off at prohibitive odds, some of the supporting races on Grand National day are difficult to get excited about from a betting perspective, though we are still left with a trio of tricky handicaps to try and dissect.

Having been really keen on Squouateur (1:45) ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, I have to give Gordon Elliott’s novice another chance in the opener, with the softer ground sure to be more to his liking.

The grey won impressively at Leopardstown and Fariyhouse en route to Cheltenham, before being backed off the boards to land the Martin Pipe.  Only seventh in that contest, he never really seemed to be travelling as kindly as the time before and it could be that the ground was a shade on the quick side.  With Mark Walsh back on board, he is worth backing each-way on this step up to 3m.

The Listed Betfred Handicap Chase is without doubt the biggest test to date for Mystifiable (4:20) but he is a lightly raced staying chaser on a sharp upward curve and he is fancied to complete the hat-trick for Fergal O’Brien.

An impressive winner for this column at Newbury last month, he has gone up another stone and faces a different calibre of horse on this occasion.  But, he has looked a horse to keep onside since winning at Leicester over Christmas and he is another grey to back each-way.

Saturday’s selections:
1:45 Aintree: Squouateur
4:20 Aintree: Mystifiable

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Three of last years Leading Prospects went on to win at Cheltenham:
  • Don Poli
  • Faugheen
  • Vautour
Champion Bumper winner, Moon Racer, and the unbeaten Minella Rocco – both featured in the ‘Under The Hammer’ (sales) section of the book

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