When I start this process, I honestly have no idea which horses will be selected, that’s part of the charm of using commonalities of previous winners and also part of the fear factor with it. What if I don’t like what I have been left with? What if I had a fancy that isnt on the list? What do I do? Well, I can tell you, that from previous experience, I stick to the facts and I believe in the stats.
So I have drawn up a shortlist of 4 horses, that at this moment are the strongest contenders. Later I shall pass comments on other horses and tell you my reasons for passing them over.
First on the list is White Star Line, trained by D. Hughes, a man whose horses have performed well in the race in recent years. Now this horse is a bit of an anomaly in as much as he is in his third season over fences and yet last time ran in a novice chase, I can’t understand that! He has run well in the last 2 Cheltenham festivals, proving his ability to handle the big occasion and won the Kerry National in emphatic style, showing a bucket load of stamina, a smart turn of foot and ample jumping ability. In essence, he seems to have all the required assets for the National. It would seem that his best form is with some give in the ground, but he ran 2nd to First Lieutenant on ggod ground ver hurdles and his Cheltneham 2nd to Hunt Ball was also on good ground, so I am confident he will be ok on anything other than firm.
Sticking with D. Hughes and his other contender Raz De Maree. This horse has an abundance of stamina and won 2 very good races last season, where stamina came into play, both admittedly on heavy ground. However, there was a run earlier in the season that seemed to go un-noticed by people. He ran 2nd on good ground to a horse called Liberty Counsel. The race didn’t seem too important at that stage, but later in the season, Raz had won twice and Liberty went on to win the Irish National. So that proved his ability to handle decent ground. He has patently been campaigned this season with the National in mind, just 2 runs, and 1 more run would bring him right into the picture.
Thirdly, another Irish horse, Prince De Beauchene. 3 seasons ago, he proved his well being and liking for the sun with a win in the 3m hcap chase that precedes the National on the day. Following that win, he transferred to W. Mullins and went on to prove himself a very decent horse winning the Bobbyjo chase. Stamina and accurate jumping are his main assets. In fact 2 season ago, he was favourite for the National at this stage only to miss the race through injury. It has been stated that he has recently lost his form, but I disagree. 2 runs ago he was taking on the best chaser in training, Bobs Worth and a host of stars in the Lexus, and jumping the penultimate fence, he was right there. He got outpaced after, but it was a good run. Last time, he ran over an inadequate trip and again got outpaced by none other than Ireland’s best chaser Last Instalment, amongst others. Again I thought he ran and jumped well and as a prep, I was happy.
Finally, Chance Du Roy. If you had asked me at the start of the season, I would have said that this horse was a non-stayer. But his Becher chase win proved his stamina and left me in no doubt that this horse can win the Grand National. He already has run 2nd in a Topham at the meeting as well as finishing 9th in it. So his ability to jump round these fences is proven. His Becher win was ultimately very brave and tenacious and when it looked like he may be caught on the long run in, he found more to see off the chasers. I think he just idled when hitting the front thinking he had done enough. His trainer believes he is better on soft ground, but his 2nd here was achieved on good, decent ground and I see no problem for him on that. I’m hoping that Tom O’Brien rides him as he gets on really well with the horse and he does jump better for him than R. Johnson.
I’d now like to draw your attention to the 2 horses I believe will be the most picked in the inner circles, if you will, the “Professionals” choice. Burton Port and Cape Tribulation. I must admit I have thought long and hard over Burton Port, who has dropped like a stone in the handicap since an excellent 2nd in the Hennessy 2 seasons ago. It has been stated that he has had a wind operation to help him breathe and that may help him. He has however, beaten only 1 horse home over fences this season and it is possible that he is not the force of old. He has yet to win a Handicap but is entered in 3 this week. If he does win, then yes he will be perfect for the race, but it is a big if. At this stage I would have been looking at prices in the range of 100 to 1 for him, however he is only trading at 33s and 25s and I cannot recommend him at those prices. Secondly Cape Tribulation is likely to feature in many shortlists, but for me, he is just too slow. His best chasing form is on soft/heavy ground and although he can boast a win over hurdles here, I just cannot bring myself to back a horse I backed in last years soft ground Gold Cup.
We now need each horse to have 1 more run before the big day to set us up nicely. I recommend Betfair to place your bets and have listed the current bookies prices and exchange prices for all 4 horses below. It is also worth noting that BetVictor are offering a “Non runner Free Bet” offer to customers at this stage. So if we are unlucky enough to back a horse who doesn’t turn up on the day, we will receive a free bet to the same stake value. Nice!