This is the most spectacular race of the whole National Hunt season and I’ve been lucky enough to win it twice.
If the Melbourne Cup stops a nation then the National has the capacity to stop two of them, the British and the Irish.
It is, of course, a huge lottery and there is no way anyone can be in any way dogmatic regarding the likely outcome.
My gut feeling is that the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Synchronised, is the one we all have to beat, assuming he takes to the place.
I know he has to carry top weight and that is a massive ask. But he has at least 7lbs in hand, although the vagaries of the National can nullify such an advantage in a flash.
Synchronised is a class act and his last two wins have both been in Grade 1’s. He is in sparkling form and it won’t surprise me should he make light of his welter burden.
I finished second in the Gold Cup aboard Hedgehunter and then he went and carried top weight into second in the National as well. I’d imagine Synchronised is a better horse than Hedgehunter.
I team up with On His Own and think he has a great chance. He won the Thyestes at Gowran Park very impressively, but that was on soft ground.
Being by Presenting you would think he should be better suited by a quicker surface, but that is just supposition and we will have to wait and see.
On His Own has a lovely weight to carry, although I am worried that he is a more effective travelling right-handed.
I don’t overly fancy last year’s winner, Ballabriggs. He didn’t impress me at Kelso and has a lot more to do this time round.
I’m on record as saying that my father’s Seabass is far from certain to get the four and a half miles. I hope, however, my sister, Katie, enjoys a fabulous spin.
I have a sneaky feeling for Barry Geraghty’s mount, Shakalakaboomboom. Nicky Henderson’s horses are flying and he seems to have been laid out for this. Nicky has never won the race, so it would be nice if it happened.
I could have ridden Neptune Collonges, but just think he will get outpaced and be too far back.
A real possibility is Quiscover Fontaine, who hasn’t run over fences since last year’s Irish Grand National, when having a poor preparation. He is working really well right now and is unexposed.
To sum up, the way the ground is riding at Aintree slow horses have no chance. I’m hoping lightning can strike for a third time and that On His Own can deliver.
If he does then I do not want Seabass to be second, that would take the gloss off the success. Likewise, should Seabass win then the last place I will want to be is in the runner-up berth.
As I’ve already said I think Synchronised is the most likely winner, with Shakalakaboomboom the sneaky one and Quiscover Fontaine the dark horse of the contest. But I mightn’t be too far away either.
I begin my day on Molotof for Nicky Henderson in the opening novice hurdle. Finishing second is the best any of us can hope for here, because brilliant Cheltenham winner Simonsig is impossible to oppose.
It is the same story in the following novice chase, with another superb Henderson inmate, Sprinter Sacre, in the field.
I’m on Toubab for Paul Nicholls and there will be no hiding place, with Australia Day likely to go off at a hundred miles an hour.
I’ll be taking my time, trying to grab as much prizemoney as I can, but there can only be one winner, barring something unforeseen happens to Sprinter Scare.
The Aintree Hurdle is a fascinating contest, bringing together my mount, Zarkandar, Rock On Ruby, Oscar Whisky and Thousand Stars.
Paul was anxious I ride Zarkandar and I’m more than happy to oblige. I watched the Champion Hurdle recently and couldn’t believe how far behind Zarkandar was two out and how much ground he made up.
Rock On Ruby was a very worthy winner of the Champion Hurdle and got a great drive from Noel Fehily.
Thousand Stars and Oscar Whisky were fourth and fifth respectively behind Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham and both had hard races. Indeed, so tired was Oscar Whisky that Barry Geraghty had to get off him.
Rock On Ruby didn’t perform at this meeting last year, but too much shouldn’t be read into that. He is clearly going to be a tough nut to crack, but I’ll be disappointed should Zarkandar not at least get much closer to him now.
In a handicap chase I’m giving Chapoturgeon, who was second to Salsify in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham, a real life.
One other horse I must mention is Ted Spread, Harry Derham is in the plate, in a handicap hurdle. I rode him in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham and we were unlucky. He was bumped in the air at the second last, otherwise would have gone close.
And, referring back to the National, I’ll finish on this note, which is especially for people who are superstitious.
When I won on Papillon he was number 13. Guess who carries 13 today, Seabass.