The Grand National – the race of the year, the race where everyone wants to be holding a lucky ticket, and a race where the public love to see a fairy tale ending. So what could be that ending? AP bowing out as the 2015 Grand National winning jockey? And then going on to win Sports Personality of the Year and becoming Sir Anthony Peter McCoy. Or could it be that Nina Carberry will become the first female winner of the race, on board First Lieutenant. Whatever the result, one owner, jockey and trainer will go home with the perfect fairy tale ending.
First up is Shutthefrontdoor – the current favourite who is likely to go off at one of the shortest prices on record. Connections have made no secrect of the fact that he’s been aimed for this year from the start. He has stamina in abundance, and although he’s won an Irish National, has a nice weight on his back. He’s only had six runs over fences, but the easier modern fences will help his cause. A winning combination here, would be the greatest story ever to be told.
Paul Nicholls sends four to the race, and Rocky Creek is the fancy of stable jockey Sam Twiston Davies. Any other year, and he’d probably be favourite. He howed his hand with a runaway success in what should have been a competitive race at Kempton in February, and crucially, that came after the weights to be carried in the Grand National had been decided. He was fifth in it last year, and has a wind operation since. With the success of the Nicholls Twiston-Davies team, he can’t be ignored.
Balthazar King needs to introduction, and is a nations favourite. He has won six of his last eight races, and one of those defeats was when he was runner up in this race last year. He has been kept for this race since November, and has even given up his season of lapping up in the cross country races, to take a fair chance in this race. The drying ground is a definite plus, his record as a fresh horse is pretty tasty too. Wouldn’t we all love to see Dicky Johnson get up in front. There’s no more of a deserved winner.
Aidan Coleman has come in for a very plum ride on The Druids Nephew, in Barry Geraghty and Davy Russell’s absence. He put a career best last time out at the Festival, cruising through his rivals and seemed to beat his 23 rivals with plenty in hand. He looks a stayer and a better jumper these days, is the rising star in these ranks.
Another JP McManus runner is Cause of Causes, who has come in for a bit of money since Paul Carberry was booked for the ride. Carberry’s riding style is sure to suit, and although he is still only seven years old, his win in the 4 mile National Hunt Chase, under a masterful ride from Jamie Codd, has to put him in the frame here.
Jockey Paul Maloney has a remarkable record in this race, having been placed in six renewals, with none of them anywhere near their finishing positions jumping the last. But does that mean that Maloney has bad timing when it comes to riding the race? Just like last year, he’ll be on Alvarado. He’s been kept for this race, and there’s no doubt he’s a dour stayer. He’s off a low weight, but he might just be caught for pace on the drying ground.
Since moving to David Pipe’s, Soll looks like a different horse. Although he’s much leaner, he’s still a big powerful sort and to me, has always looked a National type. His two starts for Pipe have been career best runs, and at the age of 10 he’s in peak condition. The drying ground won’t be ideal for him, but he’s on a lovely weight, and he’s been around here before, which is a definite plus.
One that can cope with a test of stamina is Alan Kings Godsmejudge, who has won and become runner up in the Scottish National. His form over the winter hasn’t been great, but conditions haven’t suited. The drying ground is a positive, and he’s probably been primed for this all season.
Jim Culloty sends two into the race. Spring Heeled and Lord Windermere. Culloty’s stable form is nothing to boast about at the moment which is a worry. Spring Heeled has been aimed at this race for a long time, so I wouldn’t be too worried about his form so far this season. Nick Schofield has picked up a real tasty ride here …as long as he rides to instructions! He looks a thorough stayer, and his win at last years festival is a great bit of form. Lord Windermere looks to have been chucked into this race, after disappointing in the Gold Cup, where he was pulled up by Davy Russell. Russell lost the ride on this horse because of that, something that Culloty should be ashamed of .He’s top weight, and has been in no form.
The only woman jockey in the race is Nina Carberry, and she rides First Lieutenant. He’s the form horse of the race, having been placed in a huge amount of Grade One’s. He’ll appreciate the drier ground, touch wood jumps well, and is fairly weighted. His trainer Mouse Morris is coming into fair form, having trained the runner up and the fourth in the Irish National. He’s just the type to take to the race and enjoy something different.
The Grand National is down to the art of patience, a nack for timing and a heck of a lot of luck. One of the 40 jockeys lining up will master all of that. Here’s to a successful renewal where all horses and jockeys come back to fight another day.
Individual Team Selections (Star Ratings):
Chris Connolly – Balthazar King (5 Star), Rocky Creek (4 Star), Soll (3 Star), Chance Du Roy (2 Star), Across The Bay (1 Star)
Chris Roke – Monbeg Dude (5 Star), Royale Knight (4 Star), Balthazar King (3 Star), Oscar Time (2 Star), The Rainbow Hunter (1 Star)
David Weldon – Cause Of Causes (5 Star), Oscar Time (4 Star), Saint Are (3 Star), Soll (2 Star), The Rainbow Hunter (1 Star)
Dean Kilbryde – Balthazar King (5 Star), The Druids Nephew (4 Star), Saint Are (3 Star), Chance Du Roy (2 Star), Gas Line Boy (1 Star)
Maria Evans – First Leuitenant (5 Star), Soll (4 Star), Cause Of Causes (3 Star), Night In Milan (2 Star), The Rainbow Hunter (1 Star)
Rory Paddock – Balthazar King (5 Star), Soll (4 Star), Chance Du Roy (3 Star), Alvarado (2 Star), Rebel Rebellion (1 Star)
(Selections added together along with their star rating to calculate our best five selections. A tie between Saint Are and Oscar Time was decided through a separate vote between those pundits that did not pick either horse)
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Are you running a Grand National Sweepstake? Why not use this fantastic sweepstakes kit right here: SWEEPSTAKES KIT
Have you never placed a bet before? Why not use read our handy betting guide below:
1. On entering your local bookmakers, pick up a blank betting slip (some bookmakers may have special Grand National betting slips), normally located in holders or dispensers around the walls of the shop.
2. Decide whether you want to bet to win (meaning the horse has to finish first) or each-way (meaning the horse must finish in first four, in the case of the Grand National). An each-way bet is twice the cost, as the stake goes on the horse both to win, and to be placed.
NB: Some bookmakers will pay five or even six places each way in the Grand National. Check before you put your money down.
3. On to the slip, write down the name of your big-race selection(s), the time of the race and the course. e.g. £5 win Shutthefrontdoor 4.15 Aintree, or, £5 each-way Shutthefrontdoor 4.15 Aintree (with the total stake for the latter coming to £10).
Most bookmakers will accept it if you simply put, for example, £5 win Shutthefrontdoor, Grand National.
4. Next you should go to the counter to pay for your bet. The odds you get will be the official starting price, declared after the race. However, if you wish, you can choose to back the horse at the price currently offered by the bookmaker in the shop, by telling the assistant you wish to “take the price”.
Doing so guarantees you the specific odds that are on offer at the time, so even if the horse’s price drops later on, you will still collect at the larger price.
5. The assistant will hand you back a copy of the betting slip which you should retain, to allow you to collect your winnings.
6. Head home, sit back with friends and have a good tipple to hand – allowing you to enjoy a moment of sporting history.
7. Should you be lucky enough to back the winner, or for your each-way bet to be placed, you will need to return to your bookmaker (or another shop under the same ownership) and present your betting slip before being rewarded with a generous sum of money.
Should you lose, simply tear up your ticket – and remember that there is always next year!
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