Grand National Tips 2014: Row in with 20/1 Creek

Paul NichollsIf anyone tells you that a horse can’t win the Grand National then ignore them. The task of selecting Grand National tips as part of a big-race preview is harder than 20 years ago because the race is more open.

Then you could rule out half the field at the bottom of the handicap because they were all “out of the weights”, which means they were carrying more weight than the official handicapper had actually allotted them.

Those days are gone. The 66-1 winner Aurora’s Encore last year and 100/1 shot Mon Mome (2009 victor) were carrying their correct allotted weight. So this is now a race where the outsiders have a much bigger chance than they used to.

Other alterations include a marked softening of the fences. It is now much easier to jump round. It is not the fences but the traffic problems that are likely to cause issues. This helps the classier horses and it is the reason that better horses are being risked in the race nowadays.

So if we put the two apparently contradictory facts of the last two paragraphs together then the conclusion is it would be folly to write off the chance of any horse.

The 2014 Grand National betting is headed by last year’s gallant third Teaforthree.  This is very much a course specialist’s race and this one gets a big tick on that score. He is actually running off a few pounds lower mark than last year and has to be involved in proceedings granted a clear run. His apparently ‘pretty’ trainer, the Wales-based Rebecca Curtis (pictured) will surely be the darling of the mainstream press if this one wins.

Teaforthree has been lightly raced since last year, ran quite well in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham last time and might yet have a bit of improvement in him. Curtis has aimed solely at this day and the only negative is that at single-figure odds the price is a bit short. It is unlikely to be Teaforthree but rather champagne for everyone, bar the bookies, if this one wins.

Old man Tidal Bay has a huge fan club and is bound the be the subject of quite a few pundits’ Grand National tips. He has a reputation for being quirky, but that is because he has spent most of his career carrying an injury or two. Fortunately he has moved from a desperate trainer in the banned Howard Johnson to one of the best in Paul Nicholls. That change of scene has elicited a boost in his form, despite the gelding being a geriatric 13 years old.

If it absolutely pours with rain then watch Tidal Bay’s odds plummet from the current 16/1. Even though he is actually really well handicapped off topweight I fear the old boy may be outpaced by speedier types unless his preferred soft ground materialises. If you have backed him and he looks tailed off with half the race to go, don’t chuck the ticket away. Tidal Bay stays all day and often finishes with a flourish from impossible positions. I would love to see it, but barring a monsoon I would be surprised if he did better than a minor placing.

The dual King George Chase victor Long Run has to be of interest for any Grand National preview. The 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner certainly has the best ‘back form’ in the race and if he runs to 90% of his best will win. Unfortunately he has been below par for some time now. However if he did win it would seem oh so obvious in hindsight. Do not listen to the doubters about his excellent jockey Sam Waley-Cohen. He may be an amateur, but he is better than most professionals and was on board for all the championship race wins. Waley-Cohen has also won around these fences. I would not put you off an each-way wager on Long Run.

Triolo D’Alene won the Hennessy Gold Cup in November and was ante-post favourite for this Grand National for some time after that. You could argue he was a bit disappointing in the Gold Cup last time but he had no right to get involved in that race at the weights, despite the mug money coming for him. This Aintree handicap it is a different matter entirely and he would have a major shout on form. He can not be ignored.

Outsiders to consider

Before coming to my tip for the race, I just want to mention some outsiders to consider if you are looking for a big price to bet on each-way.

One In A Milan (66/1) is over-priced for trainer Evan Williams, who has a great place record with his runners in this race as our trainer trends article highlighted.

Another trainer with a Grand National pedigree is Donald McCain (son of the late Ginger). His longshot Kruzhlinin is too big at 66/1. He only won a couple of minor handicaps this season, so is well handicapped and looks made for this marathon trip.

The Rainbow Hunter (33/1) is one on the upgrade and surely has to run a solid race. However the best unfancied horse of the lot may be Walkon (50/1) who can be forgiven his last two runs and would have a massive chance on the pick of last year’s form. His trainer Alan King is no mug and the odds look all wrong to me.

Grand National Tips & Preview Conclusion

I have mulled over several Grand National tips for this preview, but for my selection I am going to go with a horse that was beaten by Triolo D’Alene into second in the Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury last November and that is ROCKY CREEK (around the 20/1 mark).

This horse has been raced just twice this season, aimed at this race specifically and hails from the mighty yard of Paul Nicholls. He may have had a poor Cheltenham but I expect Nicholls to have a better Aintree and I believe the trainer can land his second Grand National win following Neptune Collonges’ success two years ago.

Expect Walkon to defy his big odds with a place and Long Run could also get involved in the finish. However for the tip I go with ROCKY CREEK, who can improve past the respected Triolo D’Alene and he has good form on all ground conditions. He looks a sure-fire stayer and represents a bit of each-way value at 20/1.

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