MORE than 500 million people around the world will tune in to watch the Grand National on Saturday and it should prove to be another thrilling event. A £1million prize purse makes it Europe’s richest race and it always attracts an extremely broad field that is stacked with intrigue. For that reason, long shots have had plenty of joy in the National over the years and that has certainly been the case of late. Auroras Encore defied odds of 66/1 to win in 2013, Pineau de Re went off at 25/1 in 2014, Many Clouds came in at 25/1 in 2015, Rule The World was 33/1 in 2016 and One For Arthur was a slightly more modest 14/1 last year. Punters will be seeking high-priced options ahead of Saturday’s race, so here are five to look out for:
I Just Know
Sue Smith’s eight-year-old is hovering around the 25/1 mark and that is a good price on a horse that has either won or placed in eight of his last 10 races. He showed he has plenty in the tank by winning the 3 mile 5 furlong North Yorkshire Grand National Handicap Chase at Catterick, and then he finished second last time out in a Novices’ Hurdle at Uttoxeter over a shorter distance. He seems to relish longer trips and he should not be daunted by the Grand National trip.
Vieux Lion Rouge
The nine-year-old is a Grand National veteran now, having finished seventh in 2016 and then going one better to end up sixth last year. In a treacherous and epic race that sees so many fallers, finishing twice on the bounce is an achievement in itself. If Vieux Lion Rouge continues on his upward curve, he should be good for a place or even better at this year’s renewal. Nine-year-olds have a strong record in the Grand National and this could be the red lion’s time. He has not won a race since February 2017, but he is a wily chaser and he has great staying power. If you take a look at the Sporting Index lines you will find him way down the list, and many people are likely to buy rather than sell Vieux Lion Rouge due to his strong record in this race.
The 10-year-old hit headlines this week when David and Patricia Thompson of Cheveley Park Stud bought him from Quona Thomson, ensuring he will run in their colours at Aintree. He is an intriguing prospect for the race as he finished third in the Scottish Grand National a couple of years ago. He is on a workable rating following an injury-hit couple of years, and he has a strong chance in this race. Brian Hughes rides him and the Thompsons clearly believe they are onto a good thing.
Trainer Stuart Coltherd thought this horse would be well suited to trips of around 2 miles and 5 furlongs on good ground, but poor weather this winter meant there were few races for him. Instead, Coltherd took a punt on sending him into battle over 3 miles and 1 furlong on heavy ground in the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock Park and he won it comfortably. He went up in the handicap and ran a strong race over three and a quarter miles back at Haydock in the Peter Marsh Chase, so Coltherd decided to go for the National. Captain Redbeard is not a fashionable choice, because he comes from a small stable, but he is on a sharp upward curve and this progressive stayer could be ahead of the handicapper.
Dan Skelton’s nine-year-old is the right age, his 10st 7lbs handicap mark closely resembles a typical Grand National winner and he has a great record at Aintree. He won the 3 mile 210 yard Neil Sutherland Memorial Chase there in May last year and finished third behind superstar Might Bite over a similar trip the previous month. Virgilio also won two handicap hurdles at Aintree in 2015 and – while none of them were on the National course – he clearly relishes a flat track and feels comfortable in the surroundings there. He has a strong record after a break and he has been kept fresh for this race, so he could put in a strong showing. At odds of 100/1, he is likely to have a few backers.