THERE are 73 entries in the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National and I’ve whittled my short-list down to, erm, 72. And that’s because Goulanes definitely doesn’t run! The harsh fact is that the Grand National is an easier race to win these days and, thus, an even harder race to find the winner. I’m convinced that Teaforthree would have won last year’s race if it had been 20 years ago, when the National was the National. Anyway, it’s pointless moaning about the race being a shadow of its former self. The Grand National is what it is…
I rarely back ante-post in the National. Until we know what ground conditions are going to be like, there’s absolutely no point. The ground can change quickly at Aintree as we saw in the Nationals won by mud-lovers Red Marauder and Earth Summit, where the jockeys looked like they had been dragged head-first through a sewer at the finish. However BetVictor is paying SIX PLACES on the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National so an ante-post flutter is suddenly a no brainer.
The ground on the National course is currently good, good to soft in places. There are a few showers forecast before the Aintree meeting kicks off next Thursday but then rain is due on all days of the three-day meeting. The evidence is that the ground is likely to ride no worse than good to soft but, even so, I’ll be placing my bets on the morning of the race. Personally, I’d love to see testing ground as the race will become more of a spectacle. Here are 10 of the leading contenders…
BALTHAZAR KING: He disappointed in the race last season and that is the worry. He ran ok but lacked his usual zip and maybe this was down to the Philip Hobbs horses generally not being 100%. The yard’s horses are flying and this little star was brilliant in winning the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last month. Richard Johnson told me with a chuckle a few weeks ago that Balthazar is a “very brave horse” so Aintree should hold no fears. He will get my vote if the ground is good or quicker. If it’s soft, he won’t run.
WALKON: It is very difficult for an Evertonian to back a horse named after the song of Satan! Nevertheless, I may have to swallow my pride and have a few quid each-way. The ground is irrelevant to this likeable grey: this fellow has some class and will handle any ground. He is 50/1 and that is far too big when you analyse his excellent second to Triolo D’Alene in last year’s Topham. He is 21lb better off with Triolo and, in my opinion, a repeat of that run would be good enough to win this year’s race. Will he stay? Mmm, well he did run in the Scottish National a couple of years ago, so the trainer probably thinks so.
TIDAL BAY: Would be the most popular winner but it is asking a huge amount for a teenager to win the National off top weight. Rain would help but I would LOVE to see him crown a mercurial and majestic career with victory under the engaging and very talented Sam Twiston-Davies.
TEAFORTHREE: Reminds me of West Tip but I worry that his run in the Gold Cup may have taken the edge off him. He would prefer bigger fences and a stiffer test. Although he looks cast-iron each-way value, I can’t find any reason for him to improve on last year’s run.
LONG RUN: Fascinating runner. Sam Waley-Cohen has a great record around Aintree and this former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner oozes class. The changes to the fences mean that horses prone to clout the odd one could win this race these days. Long Run can miss the odd one but he will stay and will relish good ground.
ROCKY CREEK: Paul Nicholls thinks Rocky would have run a huge race in the Gold Cup if he had run but it could be a blessing that he missed the race. If he takes to the fences, and that’s always a big if, he could go very, very close.
BIG SHU: The money is already coming for this Irish raider. He ran well in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham but he would appreciate any rain. A live contender, especially if the rain arrives.
COLBERT STATION: Was travelling ominously well when getting rid of AP McCoy at the Chair last season. His season has been built around this race although he has hit the deck twice in his last two runs. Not the ideal preparation but the money will be down if McCoy rides again. Would also appreciate some rain.
VINTAGE STAR: He struck me as an Aintree horse when winning at Carlisle in November. He has been consistent all season and his early fall at Cheltenham means he should be fresh for this. Versatile with regards the ground, he is trained by Sue and Harvey Smith, and owned by Trevor Hemmings. The perfect National credentials.
MONBEG DUDE: Another big story waiting to happen as he is part-owned by Mike Tindall and has been schooled by Zara Phillips. If he enjoys the fences, he could definitely provide young trainer Michael Scudamore with a red-letter day.
1. Balthazar King (only if the ground is good)
4. Vintage Star
So, to repeat, BetVictor is paying each-way on the first SIX PLACES in the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National. If your horse is a non runner, they will also refund your stake as a free bet. For the latest Grand National betting with BetVictor click here
Who do you fancy in the National? Comments welcome below…