William Hill estimate that over half of the punters betting on the National base their selections on names, and as over 500,000 people in the UK hold the first name ’William’ and nearly 300,000 have the surname ’Williams’, bookmakers are bracing themselves for a monster payout.
To make matters worse, the 7-1 market leader is piloted by punters’ favourite Ruby Walsh and trained by champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
William Hill spokeswoman Kate Miller said: “It could be carnage for the bookies if My Will prevails on Saturday and we estimate the industry could be rocked with a payout in excess of £100million.
“Everyone knows someone with the name ’Will’ and it could be our worst Grand National result for the last decade.”
State Of Play and Offshore Account have been the two horses backed in the totesport offices today ahead of the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Offshore Account has been nibbled into 33-1 from 40s to give Charlie Swan a National winner from his first runner in the race, while there has been sustained support for State Of Play, who is 12-1 from 14-1.
Totesport’s George Primarolo said: “The Grand National market is now beginning to take shape and, barring any surprise withdrawals, My Will should head the betting when the final declarations are announced on Thursday.
“State Of Play and Offshore Account are the latest two to be cut but it’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of the gambles in this year’s race.”
Connections of Maljimar are keeping their fingers crossed the nine-year-old makes the cut with just one horse above them in the handicap now needed to come out.
Owner Jane Williams, wife of trainer Nick, said: “We’ve been in the same position before with Philson Run (fourth in 2007) and managed to get into the race.
“But we’ve had so much bad luck with Maljimar that it wouldn’t be a surprise if we didn’t get in.
“He’s been a bit of a problem horse and we have on occasions struggled to keep him in one piece. He’s not straightforward and he tends to boil over quickly sometimes.
“It was heartbreaking when he got caught on the line at Cheltenham last time, as that would have been our first winner at the Festival.”
If he does make it into the final line-up, the Williams family will be doing their best to try and keep him calm during the usual big-race preliminaries.
“Not to put too a fine a point on it, he went absolutely nuts in the build-up to the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on his first start this season and threw his chance away before the race had even started,” Mrs Williams continued.
“He was much better at Cheltenham last month, but I am worried that he won’t like the preliminaries, particularly the parade, and especially if it’s a hot day.
“He’s very, very well at the moment.
“If we can get him down to the start without him boiling up then hopefully he’ll run well, but it’s the Grand National and you can’t get your hopes up too high.”
Dessie Hughes admits Black Apalachi’s stiff rise in the weights for his success in November’s Becher Chase will make life tough, but is still hopeful he can give a good account of himself.
“The handicapper gave him the full whack, and we have to put up with it if we are going for the National,” said Hughes.
“Everything over 11st makes the four and a half miles harder to get, so we’ll see.
“He jumps so well, it’s all about jumping the National. If you keep jumping cleanly you have a good chance of making the trip.
“If you make any sort of mistakes, there’s no chance. He jumped exceptionally that day (the Becher) and if he jumps the same it will help him get the distance anyway.
“I think they will leave the ground very safe and good, good to soft on the day. I’d be very happy with that.”
New safety measures, including additional run-outs for riderless horses, have been added to this year's National course.
RSPCA equine consultant David Muir said: “The RSPCA has monitored the Grand National for many years and we are thrilled that these new safety measures have been introduced.
“Much has been done to make things better for horses in recent years, thanks to our positive dialogue with the managers of Aintree and also the British Horseracing Authority.”