The Grand National at Aintree is always a challenge for punters and now that only decent horses make the cut, most of the field have claims (5.15pm Saturday, live on ITV). We have found a nice 66/1 each-way betting tip to bet on, but first we will preview the race and look at the chances of the main contenders.
The 11/1 joint favourite Vieux Lion Rouge seems plenty short enough for a horse who was beaten nearly 50 lengths here last year after weakening on the soft ground.
Vieux Lion Rouge started at 66/1 as there were question marks over his stamina, at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival he got tired in the four mile National Hunt Chase for amateurs too. Now an eight-year-old, his stamina reserves may have increased and David Pipe has campaigned him more carefully. He has won both his starts this season, taking the Becher in December, beating Highland Lodge a head. Vieux Lion Rouge stayed on well in the three and a half mile Grand National Trial at Haydock in February beating Blaklion three lengths and has been kept at home since. Vieux Lion Rouge acquired cheekpieces here last year and has worn them ever since. Pipe won this race with the blinkered Comply Or Die but this is one handicap where headgear is generally a negative, the horses have to want to win.
Another eight-year-old, Definitly Red is equally fancied. He is certainly well treated and comes into this on the back of a win in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster in early March where he beat The Last Samuri 14 lengths. That was over a three and a quarter miles and his jockey Danny Cook thinks that he can be a player at Aintree if he copes with the fences. Cook has ridden this horse five times and always finished in the first two, winning his three most recent starts. His trainer Brian Ellison has sensibly built a replica Aintree fence at home because Definitly Red’s jumping can be slightly random, he fell at Cheltenham last year and recently unseated Henry Brooke.
The Last Samuri (14/) was the runner-up here last year for Kim Bailey and showed that he was in good order in the Grimthorpe. Now a nine-year-old, he is not the biggest individual and is lumbered with topweight, carrying over a stone more than last time. This likeable horse is all heart but he has to be vulnerable to better treated rivals.
The same sentiment applies to Highland Lodge (25/1) who has been bought by the owners of Party Politics. Trained by James Moffatt, this 11-year-old has a great record over these fences but he is another horse who looks to have been clobbered by the handicapper.
Venetia Williams (pictured) has one National victory to her name and Tenor Nivernais (66/1) is not without hope of giving her and jockey Liam Treadwell another at a big price. This ten-year-old is one of the best handicapped runners starting off a mark much lower than his current rating. His stamina beyond three miles is unproven but he usually finishes his races strongly. In February he won a three mile handicap at Ascot in fine style by 30 lengths. His latest run a month ago was less promising, he started as the odds-on favourite but was second, beaten 20 lengths at Kelso off his new, higher rating. He also jumped markedly to the right as if carrying some damage at the time which would not be surprising as it was only a fortnight after his win but has mitigating circumstance as he lost a shoe.
Tenor Nivernais’ form suggests that he needs soft ground but, as the ill-fated Many Clouds proved, over this distance good to soft should suffice. Tenor Nivernais has never fallen or tried these fences but, while his stamina is unproven he is well-treated and this Grand National preview believes that his price makes him an extremely attractive each-way prospect and he comes into consideration as a possible betting tip.
In contrast Wonderful Charm (40/1) was impressive when last seen finishing second in the Foxhunters’ over three and a quarter miles at Cheltenham, beaten a neck when staying on well under Katie Walsh for Paul Nicholls. His only other two runs this season were facile wins in hunter chases.
Wonderful Charm pulled up here after the 20th fence last year and also pulled up when tried over three miles five furlongs at Sandown on decent ground in 2015. Walsh partners this nine-year-old for the second time here and clearly gets on with him. If he has managed to recover fully from his Cheltenham effort and copes with the extra trip Wonderful Charm could put in a good performance – but that is quite a big ‘if’.
Willie Mullins’ Pleasant Company (16/1) is partnered by Katie’s brother Ruby, this nine-year-old has only six chase starts to his name and has won three of them. He was last seen scoring in the Bobbyjo Chase over three miles one furlong on heavy at Fairyhouse in February, beating Thunder And Roses half a length.
Pleasant Company acquired a hood after being tried in the four miler for amateurs at the Cheltenham Festival last year where he was pulled up two out. It was a pretty big ask on only his third start over fences and this is another given his lack of experience but fortunately Walsh has plenty. As a son of Presenting, Pleasant Company ought to enjoy decent ground but his hood is a concern. If he is a nerve bucket he might find the hubbub around the National hard to handle but the Mullins/Walsh factor is compelling.
Another veteran jockey worth following is Noel Fehily. Unlike Walsh he has never won this race but his racing brain and similarly sympathetic riding style have to be a positive, he rides Blaklion (14/1) for the first time for Nigel Twiston-Davies. Blaklion was last seen in February, in the Haydock National Trial getting beaten three lengths by Vieux Lion Rouge under Nigel’s son Willie, giving him 6lb. Blaklion gives him 3lb less here.
Blaklion has not won since he took the RSA Chase last year when the two market leaders underperformed but he always runs well and should benefit from Fehily’s assistance. This eight-year-old is not very big but he gives everything. Fehily says he would not give up the ride for anything, expect a decent performance if Blaklion copes with the National fences.
Jockey Derek Fox is delighted to be back from injury to partner the promising One For Arthur (14/1) for Lucinda Russell, who thinks he has to be an Aintree horse. He will be one of the freshest in the line-up as he has not raced since winning a Grade 3 handicap chase at Warwick in January over three miles five furlongs. He was a 14/1 shot and presumably benefited from the use of a tongue tie for the first time, beating Kerry Lee’s Goodtoknow (66/1) six lengths.
Unlike many here this eight-year-old son of Milan has encountered the National fences before, he finished fifth, three lengths behind Vieux Lion Rouge in the Becher in December, looking to need further. Fox thinks he jumps really well and that he is made for National. If he is right his owners, the ‘golf widows’ can be expected to party for the rest of the weekend.
Barry Geraghty is another jockey returning from injury and, having had the pick of JP McManus’ three runners, he chose More Of That (12/1) because he has class, an essential attribute to win here now. Geraghty said he believes that the handicapper has rated the diminutive Cause Of Causes (14/1) plenty high enough. Geraghty is being diplomatic as JP’s jockey, he knows that Cause of Causes is carefully trained for the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival by Gordon Elliott, which he won again this year. If his subsequent runs in previous seasons are any indicator, Cause Of Causes is not a horse that can be at his best again so soon afterwards.
The nine-year-old More Of That looks ungenerously priced for a horse that bled in the RSA last year and started as favourite on his debut this season and was pulled up. More Of That was last seen getting beaten ten lengths in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and may need more time to recover fully too.
McManus’ other runner Regal Encore (50/1) is talented but extremely unreliable. Trained by Anthony Honeyball, this nine-year-old has pulled up in three of his four runs this time, including last time out in January at Cheltenham. He won his previous start in the valuable Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot in December, sent off at 20/1 he took the lead close to home to beat the favourite, Minella Daddy by nearly two lengths.
Anything is possible with this horse but he has pulled up on both his starts this season beyond three miles and has never encountered these obstacles. He cannot be followed with any confidence, even with the master horseman Robbie Power on board for the first time.
Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary withdrew a number of his high class horses when the weights were announced but still has five going to post. Rogue Angel (25/1), the 2016 Irish Grand National winner is the pick of his stable jockey, Bryan Cooper but Cooper got it wrong last year. Rogue Angel failed to impress when tackling these fences for the first time in the Becher in December finishing tenth, beaten 60 lengths. Mouse Morris, trainer of last year’s winner merits respect but this nine-year-old does not have strong claims on his recent form.
O’Leary also has Roi Des Francs (50/1) who won his latest start in mid March in first time blinkers for the in-form Gordon Elliott but will the blinkers work as well second time? Young Jack Kennedy will find out pretty soon. Wounded Warrior (50/1) is another Gigginstown horse who, unlike Thunder And Roses (33/1), looks likely to enjoy decent ground but his form so far this season is not encouraging. Wounded Warrior was last seen pulling up tried in blinkers for the first time.
Neil Mulholland is a trainer to look out for in valuable handicaps and he saddles The Young Master (20/1) who won a big handicap over three miles five furlongs at Sandown last year. That run puts him in with a chance but his form this season has been poor. He did not enjoy his first experience of these fences, falling in the Becher when partnered by the amateur National course specialist, Mr Sam Waley-Cohen.
Gordon Elliott’s Ucello Conti (16/1) is fancied by some to run well under Daryl Jacob for his wealthy owners. He finished a creditable fourth in the Becher Chase, beaten two and a half lengths, but was beaten nearly 40 lengths by Rule The World here last year. He may enjoy trying again on better ground but has an additional 4lb to shoulder this time.
Our Grand National Preview’s Each-Way Betting Tip
In a race as open as this this preview has to look beyond the eight-year-old market leaders, especially as slightly older horses have a better record here. Pleasant Company (16/1) is interesting with his superb connections but we have to go for a more generously priced horse with decent claims.
- TENOR NIVERNAIS is well-treated by the handicapper, a sound jumper and ridden by a jockey who knows how to ride this course. Back him each-way at current best betting odds of 66/1 with Bet365, who are paying 1/4 the odds on the first five places. You also get ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’, which means if the odds drift out to a larger SP than 66/1 then you do get the biggest price.
- Check latest Grand National 2017 odds here.