The Grand National isn’t run until the first Saturday in April, but the weights for the big race were revealed this week. No more than 40 of the 85 horses entered will actually run in the race, so some of the contenders must be over-priced – which means that now is a good time to give you the winner!
It used to be easy to narrow down the field by selecting only nine and ten year olds carrying 11 stone or less. However, in recent years the BHA’s Senior Handicapper, Phil Smith, has been enticing the best horses to run in the race by allocating them slightly lower weights than their lofty ratings would normally dictate, resulting in wins for Neptune Collonges and Don’t Push It with 11st 6lb and 11st 5lb respectively.
This year the top-rated horse, Tidal Bay, will have a 9lb advantage over his rivals compared to a normal handicap chase. His trainer Paul Nicholls was responsible for last year’s winner – so what’s not to like about his chances at 16/1?
...Well, he unseated his rider on the first circuit in 2010 and I don’t think he jumps quite well enough. Not that falling in a previous edition of the race is a barrier to victory: West Tip and Hedgehunter both followed unlucky departures with a popular win.
On His Own (12/1) looked unfortunate when coming down at Bechers last year, while Quiscover Fontaine (50/1) was also going well when pitching on landing two fences before that. Both are trained by Willie Mullins who holds a strong hand in the 2013 renewal including Prince De Beauchene (12/1) and Quel Esprit (40/1). So am I tempted to take the 6/1 about Mullins winning with any of his seven entries?
Urm... no. Perhaps I am greedy, but I prefer longer odds than that.
Interestingly, horses that have been placed in the national before have a poor record of winning the race, but often manage to get placed again. This bodes (quite) well for supporters of Sunnyhillboy (20/1), Seabass (14/1) and Cappa Bleu (25/1) who filled the second, third and fourth spots last year. But for me, the one to back now is the sixth placed Ballabriggs at 33/1.
Despite my prediction that he would run over hurdles last weekend, Donald McCain’s 2011 winner actually appeared in a chase at Warwick, albeit over the inadequate trip of 2½ miles. Finishing stone-last, his spirited effort (he was prominent for a long way) demonstrated that he still has plenty of speed at the age of 12, while handily protecting his handicap mark.
Allotted just 11st, he will carry 9lbs less than last year and is trained by Donald McCain, whose father Ginger was responsible for the greatest multiple Grand National winner of all time – Red Rum, as well as fellow 12-year-old winner Amberleigh House. He is weighted to reverse placings with all three placed horses and will be difficult to beat.
And this weekend's racing? I'm sticking with Captain Chris at Ascot.