The Jonjo O’Neill trained and JP McManus owned Shutthefrontdoor (7/1) is the ante-post favourite for the Grand National at Aintree (4.15pm Saturday).
This nine-time winner is seriously improving. His latest victory on his seasonal debut at Carlisle was very impressive. He jumps and stays well and is being specifically aimed at this year’s race. They have preserved the horse’s handicap mark by not running him until the big-race weights are announced. He has the class, talent and ability to be a major player this year for what will be Tony McCoy’s final ride in the Aintree showpiece. The major worry is that he is now a pretty short price in the Grand National betting odds and he lacks experience.
Unioniste (33/1) shot towards the front of the market after an easy 10-length victory in a decent handicap chase at Sandown in January. He was then a decent third behind subsequent Gold Cup winner Coneygree. Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old is getting better but he seems to have been forgotten about by punters and now looks seriously interesting at a best price of 33/1.
Another that is to the fore in the betting this year is Unioniste’s better-fancied stablemate Rocky Creek (10/1), who ran such a blinder when winning last time out at Sandown. Trainer Paul Nicholls won this race with Neptune Collonges, so knows what it takes. Rocky Creek still seems on the upgrade and his previous excellent race form has to be respected. There is still every reason to believe it is onwards and upwards for this exciting staying chaser.
The 2014 winner Pineau De Re is improving with age, like the good wine he is named after. He will be a 12-year-old this time around and that is getting into the veteran stage. However his shrewd trainer Dr Richard Newland is plotting back-to-back wins in this ultimate horse race and Pineau De Re’s entire season has revolved around a repeat bid.
The horse won off an official rating of 143 last year and is only up 8lb to 151 for this race, which is pretty lenient. The trainer has kept his horse to hurdles to gradually get him to peak fitness. There is no doubt that Aintree brings out his best and he can be expected to put in another bold performance granted luck in running.
Peter Hobbs’ Balthazar King (10/1) was an admirable runner-up off a mark of 150 in 2014. He is a bit of a specialist in cross-country style races and so it was little surprise he acted so well around the unique test of this showpiece event. As an 11-year-old this time around, he may still have a big shout and the money has come for him.
Neil Mulholland’s The Druids Nephew (14/1) absolutely hacked up at Cheltenham and looks well handicapped on that form. His trainer has been telling anyone who will listen that his horse has a huge chance. We believe he is one of the major players.
If you are looking for an outsider to back each-way then champion trainer Paul Nicholls saddles Mon Parrain, ridden by champion conditional jockey elect Sean Bowen. This combination has been banging in the winners lately and they look overpriced in the Grand National betting at odds of 50/1.
Irish-trained Cause Of Causes (20/1) was another that won his race with ease at Cheltenham and trainer Gordon Elliott has already won the Grand National with Silver Birch. Cause Of Causes has never fallen over fences and is improving. In addition he carries no extra weight for his latest win, which came after the weights for the Grand National were announced. Everything looks right for this seven-year-old to run a very big race.
- Our Grand National betting tips verdict is to back CAUSE OF CAUSES each-way at best odds 20/1.