Grand National: Horse-By-Horse Guide | 14th April 2018
HORSE RACING boffin Graeme Johnston shares his expert opinion on all of Saturday’s runners in the Grand National from Aintree.
Minella Rocco: Top weight but a classy sort, he missed the Gold Cup due to the testing conditions and comes here a fresh horse. His jumping can let him down, but he stays really well and if he gets into a rhythm he could stay on late on and has place possibilities.
Blaklion: Ran a mighty race last season travelling like the winner for most of the race before tiring close home, he showed his liking for the course when an emphatic winner of the Becher Chase here in December. Likely to be ridden with more restraint this year he holds a huge chance despite his lofty weight.
Anibale Fly: His third in the Gold Cup on his last run is the best piece of individual piece of form on offer for this and this eight year-old appears to be improving still. He won the Paddy Power Chase in December so big field handicaps hold no fears and if over his Cheltenham exertions he has a big chance.
The Last Samuri: Loves these fences and has plenty of course experience, most notably when second in this race in 2016. He ran a good trial in the Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival, however he is 10 now and has a lot of weight to carry here and I think though likely to get round safely others appeal more.
Valseur Lido: A high class horse, he’s a previous Grade 1 winner in his youth however since missing most of 2017 he’s not been the same horse. At his best he is a huge price, on current form he’s a fair price.
Total Recall: A huge improver since joining Willie Mullins, he’s won the Hennessey before falling in the Gold Cup when still travelling okay. He’s been well supported and this has been his target for a while and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was involved in the finish.
Alpha Des Obeaux: A top class hurdler a couple of years ago he’s not quite hit the heights expected of him over fences and has had breathing and bleeding issues in the past. His trainer is one of the best in the business at aiming a horse at a race, however he wouldn’t be my choice here.
Perfect Candidate: A solid staying chaser who handles heavy ground, he is unlikely to win here at the age of 11. He is a huge price but you’re not likely to get rich backing him.
Shantou Flyer: A really consistent horse, he has a run of four seconds to his name and is a very game sort. Pulled up in this race last year, it’s worth considering he’s only eight and could represent some each way value here.
Tenor Nivernais: Represents last year’s winning trainer however it’s highly unlikely he will make it two in a row for her here. On his day he’s a tough stayer, but he’s a three-figure price for a reason.
Carlingford Lough: A former top class chaser, he’s 12 now and this is surely too late in his career. He does have some fantastic Spring form in the book, but he’s passed over here.
Vicente: A dual Scottish National winner, he fell early on in this race last year when fancied. He is a strong stayer, is at his best at this time of year, and if his jumping holds up early on in the race he could go close here.
Tiger Roll: When you look at his achievements it’s hard to believe he’s only eight, but this three times Cheltenham festival winner comes here with a huge chance. An impressive winner of The Cross Country chase last time out he looks an ideal sort for this race.
Regal Encore: Eighth in this last year, he was a good winner of an Ascot handicap last time out and holds realistic claims of getting closer to the places this year. His best form comes on a softer surface so he could take some place money home if the rain continues.
View Lion Rouge: Plenty of experience over these fences he is likely to get round safely but that’s the most I could say for him. His stable has been out of form all season and I don’t expect him to win this.
Chase The Spud: A strong stayer, he will enjoy the distance, however he is far too inconsistent for my liking and he’s not finished either of his last two races and is opposable.
Warriors Tale: Nothing in his form screams National winner however given his connections he is of interest. This has been his target and at huge odds he may run a good race here.
Seeyouatmidnight: Recently purchased to run in this race by connections who have won this before, he has been well backed in recent days. He’s talented, stays and has been kept fresh. He has a huge chance here.
Gas Line Boy: I would love him to win this race however at 12-years of age he is unlikely to make it third time lucky here, but if you want to back a horse who will jump well and be involved until late on but probably not win then he is the one for you.
The Dutchman: A relatively inexperienced chaser, he was an impressive winner of the Peter Marsh two starts ago. His performance last time where he was pulled up raises doubts but he may run a big race here.
Pleasant Company: Ninth in this race last year, he may have been closer but for a bad mistake at Valentines. He has raced twice since where he was poor on both occasions, however this is his target and I feel he offers each way value.
Ucello Conti: He unseated in this last year and was sixth in 2016 and has finished fourth in a Becher Chase so he has plenty of experience of these obstacles. However, I feel his chance has been and gone, and though he may well get round, others hold greater appeal.
Saint Are: A gallant third in this race last season, he’s not finished either race since and at 12 now he’s unlikely to replicate last year’s fine effort.
Beeves: A game veteran he’s managed to win twice this season however at 11 he’s unlikely to win this. This is a huge step up in class and he’s readily passed over.
Raz De Mee: Normally the easiest thing to do is write off a 13 year-old in the National however this 13 year old won the Welsh National in January and is one of the most popular horses in training. He is unlikely to win this but could sneak in to a place.
I just Know: He’s been very popular in the each-way markets recently and it’s easy to see why. A winner over three miles six furlongs he has stamina in abundance and will handle soft ground. He races prominently so is likely to get a good look at his obstacles however he may be there to set the race up for others.
Virgilio: Very lightly raced for his age, he was seen as good enough to take part in the Grade 1 novice Chase at the meeting last season. Available at a huge price there are worse outsiders available to back.
Baie Des Iles: Three starts this season have resulted in three relatively heavy defeats however she has been backed off the boards in recent weeks and is a noticeably short price. On his recent form she doesn’t appeal although the softer the ground the better and given someone has a lot of confidence in her he is one to keep an eye on.
Maggio: Another 13 year-old, he won at this meeting two years ago but has started to look like he is in serious decline now. Looks fairly priced here.
Pendra: Tailed off in this race two years ago, he’s only been seen twice since, most recently when down the field in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival. He has been aimed at this race, but he would be a real surprise winner.
Buywise: He’s ran some fine races in big field handicaps throughout his career but didn’t look a natural over these fences when 12th in this race in 2016. He won a veterans Chase at Sandown in January but that was his first win in three years and he’s not likely to make it two wins in three years here.
Children’s List: Represents hugely powerful connections and his defeat of Edwulf 18 months ago reads well now. However his overall form is not of that standard and he is passed over here.
Lord Windermere: There can’t be many occasions where a former Gold Cup winner has carried 10st 6lbs in a Grand National but Lord Windermere does just that. However, he hasn’t won since then (four years ago) and was well beaten in this race last year so is not of real interest.
Captain Redbeard: An interesting contender. He’s won two of his last three, handles soft ground and shapes although he will stay. He’s got experience over the fences and may run into a place for connections.
Houblon Des Obeaux: 10th in this race last year he is 11 now and unlikely to be improving. However if the rain arrives and he is close to the leaders at halfway he may end up running in to a place here.
Bless The Wings: Yet another 13 year-old, his five races this year have yielded one win and four non completions. He is hit and miss however the smart money is on him missing here.
Milansbar: He’s spent this season racing almost exclusively over extreme distances so stamina is not an issue, however there will be fresher horses in the line up. A good winner of the Betfred Classic Chase in January he could run in to a place here.
Final Nudge: A decent novice hurdler a couple of years ago he hasn’t achieved much over fences yet, however his best form over the larger obstacles have come over staying trips. He probably won’t win, but could offer each way value here.
Double Ross: He’s spent most of his career running in top company however he appears to be on the decline now. At his best he would be favourite running off this low weight but even at his current huge price I’m not interested in him.
Road To Riches: Got in late due to Gold Present withdrawing, he was good enough to finish third in a Ryanair Chase two years ago and has some high class form to his name. However, his form has dipped recently and he looks to face a huge task here despite his low weight
A typically open looking race and there will be plenty of connections believing they will own a Grand National winner.
With the rain arriving, stamina will be at a premium and it may count against the classier horses who have the most weight to carry.
My mind has changed on numerous occasions throughout the week and I plan to back three against the field in what promises to be another spectacular sporting occasion in Liverpool.