My Early Thoughts On The Grand National

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The Grand National, Aintree                          📸Irish Jockeys Association Website

By Samantha

The past week in the racing world hasn’t been the best to put it lightly due to the whole sport being on lockdown because of Equine Influenza. Things are looking up now though- racing is back and the Grand National weights were revealed on Tuesday afternoon.

Top weight for the toughest steeplechase on earth has been handed to Bristol De Mai (No1 11st10lbs). Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey, who won the Betfair Chase, is set to carry 11st10lbs. That is 4lbs more than the horse set to carry the saddle cloth with the number two on, Anibale Fly (No2 11st6lbs). In my opinion, I really think he will struggle to win off that weight. This will be his first try at a trip further than 3m2f and, for me, he would be better suited to one of the Grade Ones at the meeting as he was second in the Betway Bowl last year.

Similarly, I don’t think Black Corton (No17 10st11lbs) won’t be suited to the Grand National and he too would be better off in a race like the Betway Bowl. Also, I think stamina will be an issue as he is yet to run over a trip further than 3m1f when pulled up in the Ladbrokes Trophy.

Rathvinden (No24 10st10lbs) and Minella Rocco (No19 10st11lbs) shouldn’t have any trouble with the trip. The former won the 2018 four miler at Cheltenham really convincingly so should stay. I think he has a very good chance as he is a good jumper. The latter won that race in 2016, beating future Gold Cup winner Native River but hasn’t been the easiest to get right over the past few years. He was meant to run in this race last year but was pulled out at the last minute.

Blaklion (No13 10st12) is very experienced over these fences and has the smallest weight to carry this year of his two tries in this race so far. He was well beaten in the Becher Chase on his penultimate start so that is a bit of a worry. He was brought down in last year’s renewal of this race at the first when Tiger Roll (No 8 11st1lbs) went on to win. He carries 2lbs more than last year and there is no reason why he couldn’t go in again. Connections will be using the Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham as a prep for him.

Pleasant Company (No20 10st11) was a really good second in last year’s race and was staying on when the others were giving up to only be denied by a nose. He is 7lbs higher than last year and getting on in the weights a bit but I really think he could go close again, especially if David Mullins is back on the horse as he’ll know how to ride the horse better now.

Auvergnat (No31 10st8lbs) is a very similar horse to Tiger Roll in that he comes from a Cross Country racing background. He won a big field race over the weird and wonderful Cross Country fences at Punchestown so he will be right at home with the National fences. He too could run in the Cross Country Chase before Aintree and will stay this trip.

Elegant Escape (No4 11st 4lbs) was a good novice chaser and won the Welsh Grand National over 3m5f in December and he stayed on well in doing so. He is currently joint 20/1 favourite with Tiger Roll. It is interesting to see that his stablemate Sizing Tennessee, who won the Ladbrokes Trophy, isn’t entered in the race.

I’ve always thought Yala Enki (No15 10st12) is a National horse. He stayed 3m5f really well in the Welsh National and he is from a yard who has won the race before with a big priced horse. His trainer Venitia Williams won this in 2009 with 100/1 winner Mon Mome. He jumps quite well and goes on most grounds.

Vintage Clouds (No65 10st) is one of the horses who are near the front of the market but he needs twenty five horses to come out for him to make the top forty. He was a good third at the backend of last year in the Scottish National over just short of four miles so will stay and won over 3m1f on his seasonal reappearance. He carries the colours worn to victory by the late Many Clouds in 2015. Owner Trevor Hemmings also has Lake View Lad (No18 10st11) and Warriors Tale (No30 10st9lbs).

Abolitionist (No59 10st1) finished third in the Irish National when in training with Ellmarie Holden and has since moved to Dr Richard Newland. He is yet to tackle a trip like this but is close to the forefront of the market. One For Arthur (No23 10st10) deserves a mention but he has unseated on both runs this season so that is worrying for his chances.

Two of my favourite horses in training have entries in this race- Edwulf (No7 11st1lbs) and Ms Parfois (No52 10st2). Edwulf has one of the best stories I’ve ever heard! He almost died at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago and was nursed back to health by the team at Joseph O’Brien and in early February 2018 he won the Irish Gold Cup. I would cry my eyes out if he won this but I’m not sure if he’ll stay. Ms Parfois, on the other hand, was an excellent second behind Rathvinden (No24 10st10) in the four miler at Cheltenham in 2018 so will stay. I’ve always thought this would be a good target for her as she is electric to watch jump and I know, if she gets in, she’s sure to run her heart out but she isn’t that old so may be more of a horse for next year.

Walk In The Mill (No66 10st) won the Becher Chase and really took to the fences. I hope he gets in and I think- if he does- he has a very good chance. Missed Approach (No61 10st1) ran a blinder in the Becher after losing lengths at the start but then tanked to the lead. He couldn’t keep up when push came to shove but he was second in an Edinburgh National so will stay and jumped the fences well.

At this stage, predicting who will win the most prestigious steeplechase of them all looks virtually impossible but that doesn’t dull the excitement of the next few months which are jam-packed with top racing action!

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