STRUGGLING to settle on a
horse for the 2013 John Smith’s
Grand National? In a special Pinstickers’ Guide, Charlie McCann, PR supremo at BetVictor, provides an insight into all the runners in the world’s greatest horse race, which takes place next Saturday.
1. Imperial Commander
Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who is bidding to become the first horse to do the Gold Cup/National double since L’Escargot back in 1975; trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has saddled the winner of the race twice previously and, while no top weight has won the race since Red Rum, the last three winners have carried 11 stone or more to victory.
2. What A Friend
Part-owned by Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson but pulled up in the corresponding race in 2011. He only got as far as the 2nd last year; might get round but in his own time.
3. Weird Al
More letters next to his name than numbers of late and behind when coming down in the race last year; has talent but rarely shows it these days.
4. Prince De Beauchene
Trainer states will miss the race
5. Quel Esprit
Another Willie Mullins Irish raider and not yet confirmed as a runner; looked a potential star earlier in his career but hasn’t quite fulfilled that promise and doesn’t look in the stable’s A team for the race.
6. Big Fella Thanks
Has finished placed in the race in the past but doesn’t quite stay the marathon trip; looked an ideal type for the Topham Trophy 24 hours earlier but connections have confirmed in recent days he will run in the National unless the ground is very soft.
7. Roberto Goldback
Trainer Nicky Henderson looks like he will be crowned champion trainer but he has yet to saddle the winner of the National and looks unlikely to in 2013 with this 11-year-old who looks a doubtful stayer.
Finished third in the race last year when he travelled like the best horse for much of the race, but his stamina gave way halfway up the run-in; set to carry at least another 8lbs this year and suggestion his chance has been and gone.
Winner of the race in 2011, sixth last year and showed he was no back number at Kelso last time; handicapper has given him a chance but now a 12-year-old and would be surprised if there weren’t at least a couple better handicapped.
Went down by a nose to Neptune Collonges in the race last year and although 10lb higher will have his supporters and rightly so; reported to have scoped badly on the morning of the Gold Cup where his absence allowed jockey AP McCoy to ride Sir Des Champs. The Champion jockey, who rode the winner in 2010, is likely to be back on board as he bids to go one better.
Runner-up in the Welsh National back in January and must have a leading chance of giving Wales their first winner of the race since Kirkland in 1905; a former Cheltenham Festival winner who must go close if adapting to Aintree’s unique test.
12. Across The Bay
Owned in partnership by the local Aintree dentist and was a game winner over hurdles last time; well beaten at Chepstow in the Welsh National previously but connections convinced he was not right on that occasion. Trained by Donald McCain whose family will be forever associated with the race.
13. Join Together
Trainer Paul Nicholls broke his National duck in 2012 and this has been laid out for the race since finishing second in the Becher Chase back in December; disappointed last time but best to put a line through the form and it may be folly to dismiss his chances.
14. Bob Lingo
Loves soft ground but there must be stamina concerns for a horse who has yet to win at 3m let alone nearly four-and-a-half. Not for me.
15. Colbert Station
Improved at a rate of knots on soft ground this winter in Ireland but this represents another step up in class and stamina a concern; wouldn’t want the ground to dry out too much and others preferred.
16. Tofino Bay
Trainer states he will not run.
Has been a wonderful servant for connections and won his first race since the 2009 Arkle when winning an ordinary event at Thurles over 3m back in November; another who also holds an entry in the Irish National on Easter Monday and stamina to prove.
18. On His Own
Was still tanking along when coming down at Becher’s on the second circuit last year and has only been sighted once so far this term when winning a Grade 2 Hurdle at Navan back in February; likely mount of Ruby Walsh but was it too far out to suggest he was sure to play a part in the finish last year?
Irish challenger who has never quite fulfilled the promise he showed earlier in his career but is well handicapped on his best form but that was a couple of seasons ago now; soft ground clearly suits and wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the history of the race if Aintree galvanised him.
20. Lion Na Bernai
Last year’s Irish National winner who hasn’t been seen since disappointing in the Hennessy at the beginning of December; despite that big race success I would be surprised if this Lion roared to victory.
21: Balthazar King
Needs good or faster ground to be seen at his best and trainer Philip Hobbs will be hoping for a dry spell in the lead up to the race; if he got good ground he would have to enter calculations as a former winner of the X-Country race at the Cheltenham Festival
22. Bostons Angel
Finished fourth at Cheltenham over the unique X-Country course but over two years since he managed to get his head in front and hard to imagine Aintree bringing out a return to his very best form.
23. Cappa Bleu
Fourth in the race last year when never closer than at the finish; has a touch of class, his season has been geared with one race in mind, stays the trip and granted a bit of luck you always need in the race a must for any short-list.
24. Oscar Time
Finished runner up to Ballabriggs back in 2011, when trying to give amateur jockey cum professional dentist Sam Waley-Cohen a famous Gold Cup/National double following the Cheltenham success of Long Run earlier in the year. Has finished last in his two prep races and will need a comeback of Lazarus proportions to take a hand; but didn’t we say the same thing about Mon Mome in 2009?
25. Always Waining
Wonderful old stick who loves it at Aintree and has won the Topham Trophy over the National fences for the last three years; that said wouldn’t stay nearly four-and-a-half miles in a horsebox and I’m not convinced he is going for the right race.
Satisfactory comeback from a long absence but best form going right-handed and readily overlooked.
Unless he can join the rest of the field on the second circuit his stamina must be taken on trust and only got as far as the eight in the race last year when a 100/1 shot.
Keep your money in your pocket; non runner
Went through the tacky ground sweet enough at Down Royal last time; bidding to become the first 12-y-old to win the race since Amberleigh House in 2004 but only got as far as the tenth last year when coming to a sticky end in 2012.
30. Lost Glory
Hasn’t been seen since winning a decent race at Chepstow back in the autumn but represents powerful connections who won the race in 2010 with Don’t Push It and finished runner-up with Sunnyhillboy twelve months ago; no forlorn hope.
31. Saint Are
Would not want the word soft to appear in the going description as all his best form on good ground; if the ground dries out would enter calculations and two of his three career wins have come at Aintree although not over the National fences.
32. Swing Bill
Nearly old enough to vote, doesn’t stay extreme distances and unlikely to make it back-to-back winning greys following the success of Neptune Collonges in 2012.
33. Wyck Hill
Trainer states will not run.
34. Chicago Grey
Bounced back to his best at Navan last time on ground (heavy) softer than ideal; only got as far as the fifth when brought down last year but trainer Gordon Elliot has already saddled a winner of the race with Silver Birch in 2007 and connections are confident of a big run although too much rain would be a concern.
Appears more likely to be aimed at the Irish National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.
36. Quiscover Fontaine
Trainer states likely to be aimed at the Irish National
Has failed to complete the course in the last two Nationals, doesn’t stay extreme distances and little to recommend.
38. Harry The Viking
Another Paul Nicholls-trained horse owned in partnership by Sir Alex Ferguson and yet another who wants the ground to dry out ahead of the race; has bits of form that give him an each way chance but more rain very much a concern.
39. Rare Bob
Has a touch of class and has attracted each way support in recent days after a smashing prep race over an inadequate trip last time; I would be surprised if there weren’t at least a couple better handicapped but certainly has each way claims.
40. The Rainbow Hunter
Trainer Kim Bailey saddled the winner of the race back in 1990 when Mr Frisk broke the track record; that winning time stands to this day and the Rainbow Hunter is unlikely to be troubling the judge or the timekeeper this year.
41. Mr Moonshine
I thought he might be a potential star when winning at Carlisle as a novice but hasn’t quite fulfilled that initial promise; best watched.
42. Mumbles Head
Was in great form last summer but only got as far as the first in the Becher Chase over these unique fences back in December; if there is to be a first Welsh winner of the race in over 100 years this is unlikely to be the one.
Last win came in January 2011 at Hereford and hardly the ideal National profile; hard to fancy
44. Auroras Encore
Has been beaten an aggregate of 99 lengths in his two completed starts in 2013 and hard to make a case for although he did finish second in the Scottish National 12 months ago.
45. Ninetieth Minute
Beaten by stablemate Treacle last time and has only won once since March 2009; might need at least a couple of added minutes to trouble the judge.
A thorough stayer who has improved since joining Gordon Elliott in Ireland but needs the ground almost unraceable to have any chance in this class.
47. Any Currency
All wins going right-handed but was going well enough when coming down at the Chair back in December; finishing fourth in the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick does not usually translate to Grand National winner but there is a first for everything I suppose.
48. Major Malarkey
It would be a Major shock if this slow old boat were good enough although he is a thorough stayer whose stamina is guaranteed.
49. Poker De Sivola
Few miles on the clock for one of his age and his jockey played his cards close to his chest when pouncing late on in a valuable chase at Sandown nearly two years ago; hard to say how much ability he retains as he has only been seen out twice since and another who would like conditions to dry out.
Well beaten in the corresponding race in 2011 when strongly fancied; not at his best when pulled up at Cheltenham and another who would be inconvenienced by further rain.
Formerly trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins and returned to form for new connections when scoring at Sandown on soft ground; shapes like a thorough stayer and no forlorn hope.
Finished third at Cheltenham last time and represents powerful connections but needs significant improvement to take a hand.
53. Viking Blond
Thorough stayer who will need soft or heavy ground to be seen at his best; has bits of form that suggest granted a thorough test he could sneak a place at a big price.
54. Cloudy Lane
Not the force of old and, if making the line-up, would be running in the race for the fourth time. Went off favourite for the race in 2008 but could only finish sixth behind Comply Or Die.
Trainer Venetia Williams saddled Mon Mome to win at 100/1 four years ago; can lightning strike twice? I think not.
56. Gullible Gordon
It would be naive to think this one was the best of the Peter Bowen-trained runners and he needs the ground to dry up to have any chance.
57. Mortimers Cross
Now very much in the in the veteran stage but stays forever and a sound jumper; unlikely to be doing anything quickly, however, and hard to see him as a serious player in this class of race.
On His Own was my original selection for the race when the weights were announced but the price has gone and he looks likely to go off about 5/1 the same price that both Hedgehunter and Clan Royal were when they finished 2nd and 3rd to the well-backed Numbersixvalverde back in 2006. It has been a wonderful year for Welsh sport, however, and Teaforthree must go close but my own particular pin has come down on Cappa Bleu
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