Grand National Handicap Chase
Anibale Fly: Undoubtedly the class horse in the field having stayed on strongly to finish third and second in the last two Gold Cups. He was also fourth in this race last season proving he can handle these fences. He has an extra 5lbs on his back today, but if he is over his Cheltenham exertions he will surely be in the mix again and he would probably be favourite if this was an ordinary handicap.
Valtor: This French recruit has had only two runs for Nicky Henderson, winning the first in some style, but then pulling up disappointingly in the second. The handicapper reacted badly to the Ascot success and it is hard to argue he is well treated. His jumping hasn’t always been convincing either.
Tiger Roll: Last year’s winner has a major chance of being the first horse since Red Rum to win back to back renewals of this great race. He idled in front when winning last year otherwise the margin of victory would surely have been greater and he has been in even better form this season. His win in the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last time out couldn’t have been more impressive.
Outlander: Sold out of Gordon Elliott’s yard on Thursday, this horse has lost his way in the last year or so, although he has bounced back to win after poor runs in the past. He is a dual grade one winner and the change of scene may revitalise him in time, but for now he is hard to fancy and remains weighted to the hilt.
Don Poli: Like his old stablemate Outlander, Don Poli was sold earlier in the week and he also has in common with that horse the fact that he has been out of form for a while. He looked a future Gold Cup winner in his younger days and actually finished third in that race in 2016. He has always had plenty of stamina, which is a big plus, but he can also get behind in his races, which you simply can’t afford to do here.
Go Conquer: This bold jumping front runner should give Sam Twiston-Davies a real thrill over these fences, but a six pound rise for his win at Doncaster last time out will make life hard for him and he hasn’t been screaming out for this longer trip either on recent starts. He has definitely improved for a change of stable / wind operation.
Mala Beach: The ground may be going against this proven mud lark who has always been thought of as a stayer by his top class trainer. He was second to stablemate Jury Duty last time out, but disappointed in the Irish National on his only try at a marathon trip.
Minella Rocco: Like many of these, Minella Rocco has some classy form in the past and some less inspiring recent efforts, with connections hoping this unique test can inspire a revival. Stamina is his forte and he nearly got up close home to win the 2017 Gold Cup. He also loves good ground, so the improving conditions are in his favour. His jumping can let him down on occasions, but Jonjo O’Neill is an expert in turning around a horse’s fortunes and getting them ready for a big day.
Lake View Lad: In contrast to many of his rivals at the head of the handicap, this horse is bang in form and has taken his performances to a new level this season. Another career best effort saw him finish third in the Ultima last time out, but he is creeping up the weights as a result of his recent performances. He jumps and stays well, and a solid run can be expected.
Pleasant Company: It has been all about one day for last year’s runner up who has had his whole campaign geared around this race. He almost caught Tiger Roll close home last season and he also got around in 2017 when ninth. His jumping is his strength and he has the man of the moment, Paul Townend, in the saddle, but he does have to carry 7lbs more this time around and so will have to find some further improvement. On the plus side, previous form over these fences is often a major positive.
Ballyoptic: Stamina is this horse’s forte, but he has been badly out of form since finishing runner up to Joe Farrell in the Scottish National. He failed to complete this course in December and is hard to recommend based on recent efforts.
Dounikos: This horse had form figures of PPP07F before bouncing back to form to win a valuable staying race at Punchestown last time out. It is hard to know if that win was a one off or the start of a long term revival, but he has gone up 7lbs in the weights as a result and there must be safer options elsewhere.
Rathvinden: Last year’s National Hunt Chase winner has had this as his target all season and looked as good as ever when winning a grade three at Fairyhouse on his comeback. He has a few pounds in hand based on that effort and is also the choice of Ruby Walsh. He has form on decent ground, which is not surprising given the influence of Presenting in his pedigree, and has to be on the shortlist as he ticks so many boxes.
One For Arthur: The 2017 winner is trying to get his career back on track after a tendon injury saw him miss all of last season. He has unseated his rider in his two comeback races this season, which is a big worry. He would also probably prefer much softer ground, but he really did take to these fences in the past.
Rock The Kasbah: Richard Johnson has a terrible record in the race, but this horse is the best ride he has had in the National for a few years. The ground has come in his favour and his yard is in very good form. He chased home Step Back in the big end of season staying chase at Sandown last April and has put up a series of good efforts this campaign. He usually jumps well, but will he see out the trip?
Warriors Tale: Stamina is definitely an issue for Warriors Tale. He won here over 2m 5f in December, but pulled up behind Tiger Roll in the National last year. The drying ground is in his favour and he could run well for a long way before fading at the business end.
Regal Encore: This quirky sort was 8th here two years ago and looks the type to raise his game when faced with this unique challenge. The ground should suit him and he has been in good form so far this campaign. If he is ridden a bit closer to the pace this year he could surprise a few people and his jockey, Mark Walsh, is having his best year ever.
Magic Light: The only mare in the race, Magic Of Light has been a model of consistency for connections, but is unproven at this trip. She also seemed to come up short when pitched in with the boys in the Ultima last time out. She doesn’t scream out as being well in here.
A Toi Phil: Yet to race over this sort of trip over fences, A Toi Phil has at least shown signs of a return to form over longer trips over hurdles recently including at the Cheltenham Festival last time out. He is reportedly training well at home and could outrun his odds this afternoon as he looks to have a nice weight.
Jury Duty: Another Gordon Elliott runner, Jury Duty won the Grand National in America over hurdles two starts ago. Since then he has also beaten Mala Beach and Don Poli at Down Royal, and is rarely out of the first three. However, the one blot on his formbook was when he unseated when favourite for last year’s National Hunt Chase over four miles. The worry is that his stamina had seemed to have given way at the time. He’s another that could at least go well for a long way.
Noble Endeavour: This is another horse who contested the Ultima and that was his second race after a long injury layoff. Prior to that he was a close 6th in the 2017 Irish National and had looked a staying chaser on the up. He’d also finished third in that season’s Ultima, just behind Singlefarmpayment and ahead of Go Conquer (Vintage Clouds was a faller). He is very well treated on that form if now back to his best after his recent warm up efforts. He jumped around here in December when surely in need of the run.
Monberg Notorius: Talented but inconsistent, this horse definitely stays well and if he is in the mood he has the talent to get involved. That is a big if, and there is a lot to take on trust, but he did show signs of a return to form last time out, and it is worth remembering that he beat Rathvinden and Jury Duty (off of level weights) when runner up in a grade one novices’ chase at the Punchestown Festival last season. He gets weight from those rivals here.
Ramses De Teillee: Runner up in both the Welsh National and the National Trial at Haydock, this horse clearly stays very well. Both he and his yard come here in very good form, and he could still be ahead of the handicapper. He needs to be respected and is one for the shortlist.
Tea For Two: Winner of the grade one Bowl here in 2017, this horse also had the class to finish third in that season’s King George. He has lost his way since, but has also tumbled down the weights as a result and looks dangerously well treated if taking to the test. He seemed to be running well when stumbling and losing his partner in the Cross Country at Cheltenham. He could be overpriced.
Just A Par: The last horse to make the cut, Just A Par won the big end of season handicap at Sandown in 2015 and nearly did so again in 2016. He seems to be at his best in the spring and may find a new lease of life for his new yard. He had been off for nearly two years when running well over these fences in December and there have been plenty of worse 150-1 shots in the race’s history. His trainer, Jimmy Moffatt, revitalised a similar type in Highland Lodge.
Step Back: Winner of the Sandown handicap this year, Step Back is an exuberant jumper who also loves to front run. That’s a combination that could take him deep into the race here and he also has the excellent Nico de Boinville on board. His form has been less impressive this season, although he has probably been laid out for this.
Ultragold: The best jumper of these fences in the field, this horse has already won the Topham twice and been third in the Becher Chase. However, those efforts were over much shorter trips and he looked short of stamina in the big staying chase at Warwick recently. A poor performance in the Cross Country Chase last time out is also a concern.
Blow By Blow: Winner of over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival last season, Blow By Blow is yet to find that level of form over fences and novices have a poor record in the race. A recent wind operation would have to have had a major impact for him to get involved today.
Up For Review: Seemingly cruising in the Ultima last time out, a mistake three out ended this horse’s chances. The way he weakened is a concern, but his jockey may have been looking after him with this race in mind and he did win a grade two hurdle over 3m on heavy ground. His master trainer seems to quietly fancy him and the better the ground the better his chance. His owner is due a change of luck.
Singlefarmpayment: Consistent but frustrating, he has still only won one of fourteen races over fences despite being placed in plenty of big handicaps. His finishing effort has been questioned before, but these fences could bring out the best in him. The ground should suit him better than the soft conditions in the Ultima last time where he was a disappointing 13th.
Vieux Lion Rouge: Has completed all six times he has faced these fences, but he seems to struggle over this longer trip and is more suited by the Becher Chase. He has been pulled up on his last two starts as well, which is a worry.
Valseur Lido: Once thought of as a possible Gold Cup winner, Valseur Lido has become largely disappointing, although the one exception was a good effort when 8th here last season. He didn’t seem to stay the trip that day, so the better ground is a plus, but he is hard to recommend on recent form.
Vintage Clouds: Second in the Ultima, the wind operation he had after a flop in the Welsh National may have done the trick. Prior to his effort at Chepstow he had been a model of consistency and stamina seems to be his strength. The only negative is that he can clout the odd fence. His yard has won this before, as has his owner.
General Principle: Last year’s Irish National winner also ran well at Cheltenham last month (before a bad mistake ruined his chances) and behind Dounikos in February. Oddly, though, this may not be enough of a test of stamina and he would probably have preferred more rain. He could be vulnerable to something with a bit more class / a better turn of foot.
Livelovelaugh: Much better over shorter trips, it is hard to see this Mullins runner troubling the judge. He looks the least likely of the stables’ four runners.
Walk In The Mill: Another soft ground specialist, Walk In The Mill was an excellent winner of the Becher Chase in December. He has had two spins over hurdles since to keep him fresh for this. He’ll need to improve again for a further hike in trip following a 7lbs rise in the weights, but is respected provided he can handle the ground.
Folsom Blue: No trip is too far for this out and out stayer. Has run well in three Irish Nationals, but it is hard to see him winning this with the ground drying out.
Captain Redbeard: Fell in this race last year, but has developed into a decent handicapper for his connections. He has completed over these obstacles twice before, but another clear round is probably the best he can hope for today.
Bless The Wings: The veteran of the field, last year’s third tackles the race again off of the same mark as last year. However, at 14 years old he is unlikely to be getting any better and his form hasn’t been great so far this campaign.
Joe Farrell: Last but by no means least is the Scottish National winner who should be spot on for this after a really good run at Newbury last time out. The ground is in his favour and it is hard to see him being out of the frame with a clear round. He is apparently a hard horse to get fit at home so there is every reason to believe he can show further improvement this afternoon on this his third start of the season.
TIGER ROLL has a massive chance of emulating Red Rum here and the only negative is his price, which represents very little value given the size of the field and of this unique challenge. That is the main thing putting us off him.
In addition, he will have to go some to give weight to some apparently well handicapped horses, chief amongst them being JOE FARRELL.
The likes of MINELLA ROCCO and Tea For Two could bounce back to form and are very well treated if doing so, whilst Ravthvinden and UP FOR REVIEW look the pick of the Mullins runners, and NOBLE ENDEAVOUR and Monbeg Notorius are of interest at bigger prices from the Gordon Elliott battalions.
The classy ANIBALE FLY should also be in the mix again and deserves a big prize, whilst Regal Encore and Just A Par look best of those at monster prices.
Unibet are offering 7 places for each-way bets, with most bookmakers 6 places.
|1st – Joe Farrell||5.15 Aintree||20/1||BetVictor, William Hill|
|2nd – Minella Rocco||5.15 Aintree||50/1||Ladbrokes, Coral, BetVictor|
|3rd – Tiger Roll||5.15 Aintree||5/1||Unibet|
|4th – Anibale Fly||5.15 Aintree||16/1||Unibet|
|5th – Up For Review||5.15 Aintree||50/1||William Hill, Coral, BetVictor|
|6th – Noble Endeavour||5.15 Aintree||66/1||Ladbrokes, William Hill, Paddy Power|
|All odds quoted are subject to change|