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The National preview!

The Grand National - every year you say don't get too excited, it's just another race to bet on, but every year we all get excited about it. Bring out the dartboard for your selections, or take some note of my comments below. Entirely up to you... :)

Just be thankful we've got a full crowd this year, and may every horse return to their stable afterwards safe and sound.

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The Randox Grand National Handicap Chase
£1million, Grade 3, 4m2f74yds
Aintree, Saturday, 1715 local, 1815 CET, 0215 Sunday AEST
Expected going Good-to-Soft.


1. Minella Times - defending champ ridden by the superstar Rachael Blackmore. Now burdened with topweight, carrying 21lbs more than last year. No doubt campaigned quietly as not to be given any additional pounds but two runs this season of fell and pulled up (over much shorter distances) don't inspire. But anything in the last 363 days is irrelevant when it comes to McManus, de Bromhead & Blackmore. Very few horses win this twice in a row, Tiger Roll only went up 6lbs in 18-19, while 23lbs couldn't stop Red Rum doing the 73-74 double. ASSESSED PRICES TO 112% - 25/1  

2. Delta Work - was heavily supported 'shot Bambi's mother' by defeating Tiger Roll at Cheltenham, his best performance for two years. In that regard, it was relatively easy for the stable to compare the two rivals, here there are 33 rivals outside the Elliott camp they need to worry about. Five-time Grade 1 winner who has earned this weight, multiple wins over three miles and beyond, and appears to be the stable top pick, based on jockey bookings. Just the one non-completion in 25 starts over obstacles, must go close. Assessed price 14/1

3. School Boy Hours - number three on the cloth because he replaced Easysland but carries the equal bottom weight of 10st5lbs. Just the one win from 11 chase starts, the rich Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Xmas, ahead of several rivals today. Not so fortunate in the Kim Muir Amateur's Race at Cheltenham, but return to winning jockey Sean Flanagan here. Might be in a bit deep here, up 9lbs for that festive season win. Assessed price 33/1

4. Any Second Now - ran third last year beaten 8.25L by Minella Times who had a 6lb advantage on him. Was also badly hampered by a faller in the first half of the race, costing him a prime position in the field and at least a dozen lengths. Tuned up well for this by winning a small field chase at Fairyhouse six weeks ago, ahead of three rivals here. Carries 13lbs more this year (but only up 7lbs in rating - topweight not rated as highly as 2021), but seems to have been perfectly prepared for this. Assessed price 11/1

5. Run Wild Fred - honest chaser with a formline of 2222122. And there lies the problem. He's had 11 starts over fences for one win and six seconds. Ran second in the Irish National (to Freewheelin Dylan) last season and second in the NH Challenge Cup at Cheltenham last month. Great each-way chance but just doesn't convert his chances. Will still be going at the end. Assessed price 25/1

6. Lostintranslation - ran third in the Gold Cup two years ago but has disappointed since. Won the 1965 Chase at Ascot in November giving some hope of a resurrection but was well beaten in the King George, pulled up in the Ascot Chase and beaten 20L in the Ultima at the Festival. This seems like a random throw at the stumps before he is retired. Not for me. Assessed price 100/1

7. Brahma Bull - has some decent form in good races (third in the Ladbroke Trophy, second in the Kerry National) but then throws in regular jumping errors (pulled up in Thyestes two years in a row, unseated rider in Chelt X-Country) to make life difficult for himself. While these fences are nothing like the 'good old days', they'll still knock the stuffing out of you if they aren't jumped properly. 11yo, probably his career finale, can't see him finishing. Assessed price 150/1

8. Burrows Saint - fourth last year (beaten 27L) giving the winner 10lb and looked to be going in the right direction with a second to Al Boum Photo at Tramore on New Year's Day. But then finished 42L behind Any Second Now and Escara Ten (on better weight terms than today) six weeks ago. Won the Irish National three years ago, close up last year, and in his prime as a 9yo. Reliable jumper, has completed the course in every start. Concerned about last run, not the ideal prep but if Mullins has found the answer and turned him around, he'll be there at the end. Assessed price 25/1

9. Mount Ida - put in one of the worst runs of her career in the Mares' Chase at the Festival but form before that was strong. Won her only start beyond three miles in the Ultima last season, perhaps has just been waiting for a true staying test again (very few opportunities for mares over longer trips). Not the cleanest jumper but has always completed and perhaps he rrhythm improves with a slower tempo. Not the worst longshot. Assessed price 40/1

10. Longhouse Poet - lightly-raced son of Yeats trained by Martin Brassil, who won with Numbersixvalverde back in 2006. Won the Thyestes (3m1f) in January against several of these, keeping on well at the finish. Poor runs either side of that, perhaps we put them down to heavy tracks but he has performed well in those conditions before. Runs up on the pace which is a key attribute in the modern National as speed becomes more important than jumping with the fences being reduced in size. Also 8yos have a much better record in modern times. Can see him in the frame. Assessed price 16/1

11. Fiddlerontheroof - consistent chaser, placed in all ten of his chase starts, for two wins. Second to Fortescue in the Swinley last time, conceding 17lbs to that rival. Meets him 5lbs better off for 1.5L defeat. Before that run, he was a narrow second in the Ladbroke Trophy (3m2f), the highest class handicap chase of the season. Safe jumper, solid stayer, stable back in form. Assessed price 14/1

12. Two For Gold - has always appealed to me as a future stayer but after pulling up in the 3m2f Ladbrokes Trophy of Nov 2020, he hasn't gone beyond three miles again. Has won six of 13 starts over fences, formline of 112 this season but did unseat this time last year in the Topham. Not the worst at 40/1 but the trip is the concern. Due to go up 5lb, can he cash in on that? Assessed price 28/1

13. Santini - former top-class chaser who has now moved onto long distance features. Beaten 31L in the Gold Cup at level weights, not the worst of runs, he was competitive until about four fences out, now drops back a lot in class. Has dropped closed to 20lbs in rating over past two years, perhaps this is about his level now. Can make a case for him at odds. Assessed price 40/1

14. Samcro - shadow of his former self, just retire him O'Leary! Assessed price 500/1

15. Escaria Ten - another Gordon Elliott runner but this time owned by the McNeill family rather than Mr Ryanair. Third (3L) in last year's NH Challenge Cup at the Festival (3m6f) and second (a nose) to Any Second Now six weeks ago in a G3 at Fairyhouse. Pulled up in last year's Irish National, needs to put himself into the race early rather than hide out the back. Assessed price 16/1

16. Good Boy Bobby - disappointing last time in the Coral Trophy, carrying nearly two stone more than the winner. Very consistent before that, albeit in weaker races. Not for me. Assessed price 66/1

17. Romain de Senam - scraped into the field, and wasting everyone's time. Made stable debut in the Midlands National, started 66/1 and was pulled up. Will be double that price here. Assessed price 500/1

18. Coko Beach - handy stayer but unplaced in his last seven runs. Needs it to rain. A lot. Assessed price 200/1

19. De Rasher Counter - beaten 34L in the Denman Chase in Feb but was close in the weights to Grade 1 and Grade 2 winners in Clan Des Obeaux, Royale Pagaille and the winner Eldorado Allen. Won the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury off this mark back in 2019. Pulled up in the Midlands National last year but I'll write that off from the heavy going. Can make a case for him. Assessed price 40/1

20. Kildisart - won over three miles here three years ago (Mildmay fences), ran second in the Ultima in 2020 (would have run in the National a month later but it was cancelled at the start of the pandemic), and seventh in the Ladbrokes Trophy later that year, all over 3m+. Then he had 15 months off before resuming in the Greatwood at Newbury, running a patient fourth when not expected to be wound up and over a trip far too short for him. Ben Pauling mightn't be one of the big name trainers but he is very astute - I doubt he'd be running him if he didn't have the miles in his legs at home. Chance at a price. Assessed price 33/1

21. Discorama - seventh in last year's National running off a 146 day break (big no-no on trends) and was in contention until the last couple of fences. Ran a close second over 3m at Fairyhouse two months ago, where he conveniently ran wide the whole trip and couldn't quite win, just a few days before the official weights came out. Rated three pounds lower than last year, this could be a shrewd bit of training but the concern is he has only won twice from 21 starts (with eight seconds). Definite place chance. Assessed price 33/1

22. Top Ville Ben - ran third in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day then sent over hurdles to avoid ruining his mark. Think that's just trying to be too cute when I doubt he's up to this level. Ran in the Becher here in early December and fell. Not convinced about his jumping, five falls and a couple of pulled ups, big price for a reason. Assessed price 100/1

23. Enjoy D'Allen - recent addition to the JP McManus string, a classy chaser placed at all 10 starts over fences after a hurdling career which yielded just one second from 10 attempts. Ran third in the Irish National last season (beaten 4.5L off similar weights to front two), then third in big Leopardstown chase over Xmas, keeping on well in the straight after being hard ridden on the term, and giving the winner, School Boy Hours, 12lbs. Even his last run over hurdles in early Feb was promising, running on earnestly in the final stages. Pleased that McManus has left this one in the same small stable and kept the regular jockey. Big chance. Assessed price 11/1

24. Anibale Fly - pulled up in this race last year when he clattered the first and was out of contention immediately. Ran third in a Punchestown Festival chase soon after but this season has been poor. Three hurdles run finishing in the back half of the field, and a chase run over far too short on a heavy track, finishing way back as well. Fourth and fifth in this race years ago in years where he has come in off a placing in the Gold Cup. He's now 12 and those glory days are a long time ago. Now 22lbs lower than his 2019 fifth but I doubt that's enough for him to contend. No. Assessed price 200/1

25. Dingo Dollar - runner-up to Mighty Thunder in last year's Scottish National, but after three uninspiring runs this term, returns to that same handicap mark. Trip will not be an issue but not in the form that inspires any support. No. Assessed price 80/1 

26. Freewheelin Dylan - hadn't shown a lot when he won last year's Irish National at 150/1 in a bold front-running display. Has climbed up the weights since then but his two runs in this half of the season are recorded as unseated and pulled up. If they can pull this off, good luck to them but I can't have him. Best runs often come after a break which defies the trends here but whatever he needs to fire up. Assessed price 80/1

27. Class Conti - runs well in lesser races but his record in the five richest races he has competed in lists as 15th beaten 129L (National '21), fell + 18th beaten 106L + pulled up (Leopardstown Xmas Chase 19,20,21) and pulled up in the Guinness Chase at Punchestown. All his other runs are irrelevant, just can't hack it at this level. Assessed price 500/1

28. Noble Yeats - the final ride for Sam Waley-Cohen but unlikely to be successful considering a 7yo hasn't won this race since 1940. Beaten 20L in the Ultima last month, he's a first-season chaser, this is a good prep for next year. Assessed price 100/1

29. Mighty Thunder - was flying last season when he won the Scottish National. This season he resumed with a fourth (beaten 28L) in the Charlie Hall, then has been pulled up twice, in the Welsh National and Edinburgh National (a race he won in 2021) where he reported a respiratory noise and was immediately dispatched for wind surgery. Forgive recent runs on the expectation wind surgery has solved the problem and you can make a case for him, but not every wind surgery solves the issue. Assessed price 50/1 

30. Cloth Cap - started fav last year after winning the Ladbrokes Trophy off bottom weight earlier in the season, but was pulled up late in the race and reported a respiratory issue. Straight off for wind surgery and this season he's had to cope with a much higher rating, carrying 11st8 or more each time. The best of his four runs have been sixth in the 2021 Ladbrokes Trophy and third in the Grimthorpe but he's not gotten closer than 15L in any of those races. He's now back to 4lbs below last year's mark but I'm not convinced he's anywhere near his best form. Assessed price 50/1

31. Snow Leopardess - came in for heavy support early in the week but the momentum seems to be slowing. A mare who has already produced a foal then returned to racing (extremely rare), she's won her last three races, including the Becher here in December, and revels in staying tests. Perhaps a slight concern that her best five performances on Racing Post Ratings (RPRs) have all been on soft tracks, wetter than she will see here. But she has won on good and good-to-soft (likely conditions) earlier in her career. Very competitive but not convinced she should be quite so short in the betting. Assessed price 14/1 

32. Agusta Gold - was handy two years ago, now weighted way too high to be a factor. Showed  glimpse of form last time out, running second at Down Royal, but received 11lbs from the winner who wasn't weighted high enough to get into this field (Roi Mage). Nope. Assessed price 500/1

33. Commodore - would be a very popular bet with the bogans if this race was famous in Australia (Commodore is a very macho Aussie car from the 80s and 90s). Scraped into the field after some late withdrawals, he's had just the one run this season, a 15L win in a G3 handicap chase at Cheltenham in December. So that leaves him 120 days without a run which would defy a lot of winning trends. That win was a career best but also his first run after wind surgery, so in theory there could be more up his sleeve. Fresh last season off nine months off, he was beaten in the final strides by Snow Leopardess at Haydock. Could be the surprise winner, Venetia Williams has done it before...  Assessed price 28/1

34. Deise Aba - fascinating runner at a big price. One win and three close seconds (no more than a neck) and 2x pulled up in his last six starts. His best performances have all occurred at Sandown but he's only lightly raced, there's time to extend that beyond the M25. He ran the best hurdle rating of his career at Aintree in November. Long shot with a hope. Assessed price 40/1

35. Blaklion - 13yo and still going. Ran sixth last year (beaten 37L) and fifth behind Snow Leopardess at level weights in November, before a pair of wins in Class 2 Chases in heavy going at Haydock. Good form yes, but 10lbs below today's mark and surely he can't be the first 13yo to win since 1923.  Assessed price 80/1

36. Poker Party - hasn't finished within 45L of the winner in three starts back after 21 months off. Rough chance on his best, that's a long way away right now.  Assessed price 500/1

37. Death Duty - 11yo, sixth in the Ultima last month, winner of the GN Trial at Punchestown, seventh in the Thyestes behind Longhouse Poet, fifth in the Paddy Power Chase (Leopardstown at Xmas). Thereabouts in decent staying chases, fair chance he'll still be going at the end. The query is how many will be ahead of him. Assessed price 50/1

38. Domaine de L'Isle - beaten a long way in the Eider. Ran fourth (beaten 22L) behind Snow Leopardess in the Becher, giving her 7lbs. Won twice last spring, rating now back into that range but this is a much tougher test. Not hopeless but a win would shock. Assessed price 300/1

39. Eclair Surf - won the Warwick Classic Chase in Jan (ahead of Gericault Roque and Corach Rambler, 1-2 in the Ultima), then ran a close second (1.75L) to Scottish National winner Win My Wings. That's solid staying form, he won't be stopping at the business end. Due to go up in the weights so gets in 4lbs light. Right in this. Assessed price 14/1

40. Fortescue - another runner who got into the field in the last few days. Has run honestly with big weight advantages recently, beating Fiddlerontheroof receiving 17lbs in the Swinley Chase, and ran third to Royale Pagaille in the Marsh Chase in January. Will be ridden by a 5lb claimer who can't use that benefit here but Hugh Nugent has ridden this horse 16 out of 21 times, and he's due to rise 4lbs in his handicap anyway. Worth a look. Assessed price 33/1


SUMMARY

So many chances, so many divergent formlines. I've narrowed it down to a mere dozen!

In order of preference:

Enjoy D'Allen BACK 14/1
Discorama     BACK 33/1
Fortescue     BACK 25/1
Eclair Surf
Longhouse Poet
Two For Gold  BACK 40/1

Any Second Now
Commodore
Deise Aba
Snow Leopardess
Kildisart
Run Wild Fred

Bet them EachWay and get as many places as you can (majority of online firms paying SIX places)

and take plenty of forecasts and exactas to go with it.


GOOD LUCK and remember to take advantage of Bet365's annual offer to refund 50% of all your EW bets (up to £125) before midday Satuday.

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