Grand National: Our Rundown of the Field

Ahead of this year’s Grand National we have prepared a full run-down of all the potential runners in this year’s race.  With the field yet to be declared and over a week until we have final declarations, we have gone down as far as number 49 in the current list, any further down look unlikely to make the cut, so there will be some potential non-runners lurking in there.

As you may expect with an article of this nature, we’ve not gone too in-depth on the analysis and have just given a rough indication of how we see the chance of each contender, with the current average price also included for indication.

The field for the 2017 Grand National:

CARLINGFORD LOUGH: A dual Irish Gold Cup winner he is clearly classy on his day as a multiple Grade One performer.  Looks to have been campaigned with a crack at the National top of mind but still ran well enough in defeat behind Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup to suggest there’s some ability left in the tank.  He is a tough stayer so there are no real concerns over the trip but as top-weight and a hold-up horse he can probably only hope for a place at best.  (33/1)

THE LAST SAMURI: Second in the National last year when leading over the last, he seems to really enjoy the Aintree experience having also been placed in the Becher off top-weight this year.  He could be stronger now as a nine-year-old and has run impressively in defeat this year behind some of the leading contenders.  He is rated 12lbs higher than last year and, though he’ll probably give you a good run for your money, I fear there will be at least one or two better treated.  (16/1)

ALELCHI INOIS: The Willie Mullins contender has been disappointing in cross country races this year, being campaigned in that specialist discipline in the search of some better ground.  His best efforts to date have come in the Galway Plate, suggesting he appreciates big fields on good ground, but he hasn’t shown anything like enough to suggest he’ll have the class to contend with this test.  (66/1)

MORE OF THAT: A former Stayers’ Hurdle winner when upsetting Annie Power to bag the crown, he clearly has lots of class on his day but those days have been few and far between recently.  Looked to have been showing some kind of revival when unseating when in with a chance in the Irish Gold Cup and then stayed-on to finish six in the Cheltenham Gold Cup after earlier being outpaced.  Could have the class to run a big race here but could also easily run a stinker, so his chances really do depend on which version shows up.  (20/1)

SHANTOU FLYER: Purchased by connections with the National in mind, he’d previously shown some decent form in Ireland before immediately repaying the purchase by winning at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.  Looks ground and tactically versatile so could be capable of running well, however, he just looks too high in the weights for me and seven-year-olds just don’t win this.  (66/1)

PERFECT CANDIDATE: Trainer Fergal O’Brien knows what it takes to run well in the National having placed Alvarado twice and this contender looks to be a thorough stayer who has been campaigned with this in mind.  He has shown steady improvement through his career, looks to be versatile tactically and isn’t ground dependent, so has a lots in his favour and looks a decent each way play.   (50/1)

SAPHIR DU RHEU: Looked to be the next big thing out of the Paul Nicholls yard when winning the novice chase at this meeting in 2015, but things went downhill after being beaten in the Hennessey later that year.  Looks to have got back on track this year with some decent performances in handicaps and a good fifth place finish in this year’s Gold Cup.  He still has a lot of potential and if he can put everything together he could be a real contender here.  (20/1)

ROI DES FRANCS: Has shown bits and pieces of form at a decent level for both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott but has typically been at his best on proper soft ground and in smaller fields, so likely conditions here could be a concern.  There’s little in his profile to suggest he’ll be good enough to contend here.  (50/1)

FOXROCK: All recent comments from connections have seemed to suggest he won’t run here.  He has been campaigned in hunter chases this winter, having previously shown some fair form in top Irish chases, appreciating the drop in class to notch a sequence of victories.  He just seemed to get outpaced in better races and that would be the danger here should he turn up.  (20/1)

WOUNDED WARRIOR: Another of the Gigginstown contenders, he failed to push on from the potential shown as a novice when placing in the RSA behind Don Poli.  His form of late wouldn’t be good enough to be a contender here but I just feel he could be one flying under the radar, who if conditions fall right could spring a surprise on his day, much like Rule The World for connections last year.  Risks are attached but I’m tempted at the prices.  (66/1)

WONDERFUL CHARM: Reverts to rules after a season of hunter chasing that culminated in a second place finish in the Cheltenham Foxhunters.  I’m not usually a fan of horses switching between rules and hunter chases but as a nine-year-old this one has a different profile than most.  Had a crack at the National when pulled-up last year, but the rain on the day was massively against him and connections have suggested the race will suit.  I could see him running well without having quite enough to win.  (40/1)

TENOR NIVERANAIS: Has performed consistently well over the past couple of seasons for Venetia Williams and has plenty of experience over fences.  His best form has generally been on soft ground so he could hit the frame if the rain comes, but we’ve yet to see him run over a real trip so I think he’ll struggle to be involved come the finish.  (33/1)

BLACKLION: Winner of the RSA last year, he has performed well this year without getting his head in front.  Second last time out to the current favourite, connections decided to skip the Gold Cup to head straight here, which I would take as a big positive as he’d not have been without a chance of hitting the places there.  He is only a small horse so there could be concerns over jumping these fences, but they aren’t as daunting as they were and we might see some improvement with better ground.  Has a good chance.  (14/1)

DROP OUT JOE: His current odds accurately reflect his chances of triumphing here.  A winner of the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter when last seen in June, he’s done his best work on good ground over staying trips, but hasn’t shown anywhere near like the level of class to figure in this. (100/1)

LE MERCUREY: Another of the Paul Nicholls contenders, he gave Native River a good run for his money at Newbury earlier this season but that was a three runner affair and his proximity to the winner may have slightly flattered him.  Has shown bits of class over fences but most of his racing has been in small fields and he is a seven-year-old, suggesting he won’t have what it takes to contend here.  (33/1)

MAGGIO: A really impressive winner at Aintree on National day last year, the National has been his aim ever since so it may pay to ignore all form this season.  He previously had a go over the Aintree fences when finishing mid-field in the Topham, but he made a mistake at the first that day so perhaps don’t read too much into that and his best piece of form is that victory at the course last year.  As a 12-year-old he might be too old to win but should run a good race.  (50/1)

THE YOUNG MASTER: Looks to have been the aim all season and peaked in April last year to land the Whitbread (or whatever it’s called these days) at Sandown.  Taken the same route as he did to that triumph again this year, finishing a decent enough sixth in what looked a red-hot running of the Ultima at Cheltenham and, although he fell on his only try over the fences, he could really take to this test.  (20/1)

CAUSE OF CAUSES: A record breaker at Cheltenham when winning his third different chase at the Festival this year, he really seems to come alive in the springtime.  He has previously had a stab at the National, finishing a never nearer eighth in 2015 when nursed around in typical Paul Carberry style, but he will be much stronger this time around.  The hold-up tactics usually deployed could be a concern but if he manages to stay close enough to the pace early-on he has the class and could just stay on to figure at the finish.  (12/1)

REGAL ENCORE: Has always looked like a handicap plot waiting to happen and finally tasted victory when landing a decent pot at big odds at Ascot before Christmas.  Has shown bits of potential class in his time but is far too inconsistent and won’t be good enough to figure here.  Likely to go for the Irish National instead of this.  (50/1)

VIEUX LION ROUGE: The current favourite deservedly sits at the head of the market with some real solid form in the book.  He ran well for a long time when finishing seventh as a novice last year and has since gone onto triumph in the Becher and the Haydock National trial.  Another year older and stronger he looks to have a good mark to run off and should be thereabouts at the finish.  He might be a bit short in the betting for me but don’t let that put you off.  (10/1)

DEFINITLY RED: Has shown significant improvement this year in bagging a number of staying prizes, including the Rowland Meyrick and Grimthorpe to come into contention here.  The last of those victories was after the weights were announced meaning he is potentially well in at the weights here with further improvement not out of the question.  He must have a chance, my only concern would be a lack of experience in big fields and record of falling when competing against more runners.  (14/1)

UCELLO CONTI: Put in a great performance when running sixth in this last year, when perhaps not quite getting home on the softened ground, and has shown solid form this year placing in the Becher and the Thyestes.  Connections have said this years’ National was the target when they bought him and last year was just a bonus, runs off the same mark as last year, ticks a lot of the boxes and must have strong chance of figuring.  (18/1)

DOUBLE SHUFFLE: Finishing runner-up in the Racing Post Chase (or whatever the new name is) last time out, he has shown some real improvement when stepped-up to three miles in his last two starts at Kempton.  Seemingly at his best on good ground and a flat track, I can see him running near the head of affairs for the first circuit but with unproven stamina is likely to fade from contention as they hit the final mile.  (40/1)

HOUBLON DES OBEAUX: Has some really solid form in strong handicaps over the years, finishing sixth and second in a Hennessey and most recently placing in both Welsh and Midlands Nationals, he has consistently run to a high standard in competitive races, perhaps not bagging more prizes due to being too high in the handicap and not quite good enough for graded races.  Could be a good each-way choice off a decent enough mark.  (40/1)

PLEASANT COMPANY: The second of the Mullins contenders, this one has come in for some recent support.  Connections skipped various entries at Cheltenham to come here and whilst he doesn’t have the greatest amount of experience, having only six chase starts, his most recent form does look good; winning the Bobbyjo and finishing fourth in the Thyestes.  The lack of experience does make him difficult to gauge, there could still be masses of improvement in him but he’s just a bit too short in the betting for me given his inexperience.  (18/1)

ONE FOR ARTHUR: Solid form over staying trips this season, winning the Classic Chase at Warwick and running an eye-catching trial in the Becher over the National fences.  He looks like being one of the toughest stayers in the line-up and we’ve maybe not seen the best of him yet, however, his best form has been on softer ground and when held-up so he may get a little outpaced on better ground.  If the rain comes ahead of the race he’ll have a solid each way chance.  (14/1)

BALLYNAGOUR: Looked potentially smart a few seasons back when winning the Plate at the Festival as comfortably as you like, but hasn’t shown a massive amount since, being pulled-up in his last three starts.  He was in mid-division when unseating in this last year making it hard to definitively assess.  Potentially had the class to figure at his best but couldn’t support with any confidence given recent form.  (66/1)

O’FAOLAINS BOY: A former winner of the RSA he looked smart as a novice but has been plagued with problems since, including when withdrawn from the National after final declarations last year.  Hasn’t shown anything in the three years since victory in the RSA to suggest he’ll be good enough to compete here.  (40/1)

HIGHLAND LODGE: Offers some of the most solid course form on offer having won and been placed in a Becher.  He’ll likely race prominently and has plenty of stamina, so he wouldn’t be without a chance of figuring.  He’s a solid each way proposition but I think he’ll find them going just that little bit too quick for his liking and could get outpaced before staying on late in the day.  (33/1)

BISHOPS ROAD: A solid stayer, this has been the aim all season after just missing the cut last season.  His form doesn’t look quite as strong as last year, having bagged the Haydock trial in 2016, but it hasn’t needed to be with this being the aim and pretty much being guaranteed a starting spot.  He fell at the first on his only previous visit to Aintree, when favourite in last year’s Topham, and is better served by soft going, so I think he’ll struggle to challenge on the likely better going.  (50/1)

LORD WINDERMERE: Formerly top-class, there won’t have been many Gold Cup winners running from so far down the handicap in the Grand National.  The Gold Cup he won may have been on the weaker side, but he still showed class to win that and was decent on his day.  However, he has shown little in recent years and his previous attempt at the National was poor when pulled-up (when running off a mark 14lbs higher).  The handicapper has given him a chance but would need a massive revival to figure here.  (50/1)

ZIGA BOY: Back-to-back wins in the SkyBet Chase highlight his ability over staying trips.  He seems to save his best for handicaps at Doncaster winning three times in double figure fields, suggesting he’ll appreciate this left-handed track and running amongst horses, however, he unseated at the first on his only previous attempt over the National fences, which wouldn’t fill one with confidence.  Looks short of the level required.  (50/1)

SAINT ARE: Second to Many Clouds in 2015, he continued the trend of placed horses failing to come back and contend for victory when pulled-up last year.  He has a mixed record over the fences, placing over the fences twice but disappointing in his last two appearances when pulled-up and falling.  This will be his fourth attempt at the National and I find it hard to believe it will be fourth time lucky.  (40/1)

VICENTE: Winner of the Scottish National last year off just 1lb lower, he has been aimed at this all season and has been running over unsuitable conditions, perhaps with a view of lowering his mark.  Connections’ have sounded quite bullish about his chances and he ticks a lot of the boxes here, with his Scottish National win and fifth place finish in last year’s National Hunt Chase looking very strong.  Looks a solid each way contender.  (25/1)

JUST A PAR: Another of the confirmed Nicholls contenders, he has some strong staying form in the book having won and finished second in a Whitbread at Sandown.  He can be forgiven his fifteenth place finish in this last year as the soft ground went against him and given he has convincingly won off this mark at Newbury since the weights were announced, he wouldn’t be without an each-way chance.  (40/1)

MEASUREOFMYDREAMS: Looked a potentially smart stayer when with Willie Mullins last season, finishing third in what now reads as a red-hot renewal of the National Hunt Chase and going off as joint favourite for the Scottish National when falling early on.  Whether that fall or the change of stables has had an effect or not, he has failed to recapture form this year, although he was hampered last time out.  If he could recapture that potential he wouldn’t be without hope but he comes with big risks.  (50/1)

RAZ DA MAREE: A staying on second in the Welsh National earlier this year, there has been some really positive talk around this contender.  He recently warmed up with a good second over hurdles and looks tailor made for an extreme staying test.  However, his best form has been on very soft ground, he has previously run poorly in Irish and Scottish Nationals and just doesn’t look to have the class to contend in this for me.  (33/1)

STELLAR NOTION: Now with Henry De Bromhead having previously been trained in England by Tom George and Paul Nicholls, this contender has had a bit of a revival since his move across the Irish Sea, placing in a series of competitive handicaps.  The form of his last three starts has been franked since, with all those who beat him going on to perform to a higher level (Tiger Roll, Noble Endeavour and A Toi Phil), so he could potentially be ‘well-in’ but there would are big question marks over stamina for this test.  (66/1)

PENDRA: We’ve only seen him once this season when finishing a good second under Derek O’Connor in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham when looking like the winner jumping the last.  Jockeys play a big role in that particular race so I’m not sure we can completely take that form at face value.  He finished 13th in the National last year when soft ground went against him and has some decent pieces of form in good handicaps over the past few seasons.  If the ground stays good he could run well but a top-ten finish is probably the best he could hope for.  (50/1)

ROGUE ANGEL: Winner of the Irish National last year for Mouse Morris, this looks to have been the aim for him all season.  His form this year hasn’t been great, finishing mid-field in the Becher Chase and his best piece of form being a fifth place finish in the Thyestes, but his target trainer will have been building everything towards this race.  He has showed good form in staying handicaps on varying ground, so has some versatility and should be up to handling this test.  He looks a cracking each-way bet.  (33/1)

COCKTAILS AT DAWN: With more letters than numbers next to his name this season and a crashing fall at Kempton in February, it would be a big surprise if this one could get involved.  He fell on his only previous attempt at the National fences and although he has shown bits of form in the past, he won’t be up to figuring here.  (80/1)

THE ROMFORD PELE: Three P’s next to his name on his most recent starts doesn’t exactly instil confidence in this contender.  He has been exclusively campaigned over hurdles since unseating in this last year and fell on his chase start prior to that, which again doesn’t look great.  He is capable on his day, with some decent form on good ground over hurdles and fences, but that form over fences is going back some and it’d be a surprise if he could get involved.  (66/1)

THUNDER AND ROSES: Winner of the Irish National in 2015 when Rule The World was runner-up, this contender is a thorough stayer who can be very capable on his day.  He ticks some of the boxes, particularly with his Irish National win and has shown improvement since transferring to Mouse Morris, finishing second in a number of handicaps.  Will probably want ground on the softer side but wouldn’t be the worst each-way bet.  (33/1)

GAS LINE BOY: A faller at the first when lining up for the National in 2015, he has recaptured some form since moving to Ian Williams’ stable last year, with some decent finishes in staying handicaps.  His stable has been in good form of late but I’d be amazed if he could get involved here if making the cut.  (100/1)

GOODTOKNOW: Runner-up to One For Arthur in the Classic Chase at Warwick earlier in the season he is now 3lbs better off with that 16/1 contender, but he was beaten quite convincingly (six lengths) that day and would need to improve to close.  His trainer is a great source of stayers, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he enjoyed the test but he’d want deep ground, with even good-to-soft probably being too quick.  If it came up like a bog on the day I could see him finishing near to the places.  (66/1)

LA VATICANE: The only mare in the potential line-up, she has jumped around Aintree twice finishing fifth in the Grand Sefton and eighth in the Topham, so is capable of getting around the course.  However, she has shown nowhere near the level required to get involved and we may as well give up if she won.  (100/1)

DOCTOR HARPER: Another contender for the David Pipe yard, who would need a few to drop out to have any chance of making the line-up, he has shown some ability on his day and even won a handicap hurdle at the meeting a few years back.  He hasn’t shown enough to suggest he’d be capable of contending here though.  (66/1)

BLESS THE WINGS: This contender seems to have been around forever, first for Alan King and now Gordon Elliott.  He was most recently second in the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival and prior to that has shown some consistent form over staying trips, including when second in the Irish National last year.  It’d be a surprise if this 12-year-old could win, but he’d have better place claims than some of those above him if he could make the final cut.  (66/1)

VERDICT:

Picking the winner of the National is probably the toughest task of the National Hunt season, and with that there is generally pretty poor value on offer as the bookies look to take advantage of the once a year punters, who’ll smugly tell you they picked the 100/1 winner based on their pet gerbils birthday whilst the horse you backed after months of plotting fell before they’d reached Becher’s first time.

As with every year, or so it seems since the changes have been made to the race, there are plenty who are in with a chance of success and it could go a number of ways depending on ground and the run of the race.

It’s always worth noting anything that has previously performed well in other National’s, which would bring Vicente, Thunder And Roses and Rogue Angel into the mix, all of whom have winning form in a National and look to have nice racing weights.  Other contenders who have performed well without winning in those races and other staying handicaps, who would have to have a chance in this are Perfect Candidate, Houblon Des Obeaux and Vieux Lion Rouge, the latter of whom is a worthy favourite but could just be a bit too short in the market to get behind.  Class will always get you a long-way in top staying handicap races, although some are just beaten before it begins with the burden of a massive weight, so those that have a bit of class and are potentially well treated must be noted.  There would be concerns of some sort over all of Saphir Du Rheu, Blacklion and Cause Of Causes, but all are a cut above most of the field on their day and could win.  Something that fits all of the above criteria, ran a cracker in the race last year to finish sixth, looks well-treated and was always being aimed at this year’s race is UCELLO CONTI.  He looks to have everything in his favour, ticks most of the relevant boxes and is our selection for victory.  Something a bit more left-field who doesn’t really fit the necessary requirements but could be up to running a big race is Wounded Warrior.

SELECTIONS:

UCELLO CONTI – @ 18/1 (NAP)

ROGUE ANGEL – @ 33/1 (E/W)

WOUNDED WARROR – @ 66/1 (E/W)

PERFECT CANDIDATE – @ 50/1 (E/W)

1-2-3-4

  1. UCELLO CONTI
  2. ROGUE ANGEL
  3. VIEUX LION ROUGE
  4. PERFECT CANDIDATE
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