Great and all as the Irish, Scottish and Welsh versions are, nothing quite compares with the Aintree Grand National.
Today’s renewal is as competitive as ever and below are my thoughts on each of the 40 runners.
Thunder And Roses: He has a light weight on his back but he fell at the seventh in the Irish National and needs to recover his best form to get involved.
Blaklion: In the absence of Minella Rocco he now carries top weight. He was very good in the Becher Chase, but I wasn’t overly keen with the way he jumped at Haydock on his last start and I think he’s up against it with top weight.
Anibale Fly: Technically well in on his rating after the Cheltenham Gold Cup, where he ran a blinder. He’s one of the class horses of the race and is a huge player.
The Last Samuri: Ran okay in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham but I think he had his chance two year ago, when he ran a super race to finish runner-up to Rule The World. Was well beaten in this race last year and is likely to struggle again.
Valseur Lido: His last run, behind Koshari in Clonmel, was disappointing and he would have to recapture his very best form to get involved.
Total Recall: He tipped up at the fourth-last in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham but comes here in great order. He’s the horse I would have been riding and I would love to be on him as I think he has loads of class and has a massive chance.
Alpha Des Obeaux: He has a huge swing at the weights with Total Recall on their Munster National meeting. Rachael Blackmore rides him today, he is an each-way price and has an each-way chance.
Perfect Candidate : He stays forever but I’m not sure he’s quick enough to play a leading role today.
Shantou Flyer: Very consistent sort, who has run up a string of second-place finishes. He ran well enough in this race last year and has a bit of a squeak.
Tenor Nivernais : His trainer, Venetia Williams, won this race with 100-1 shot Mon Mome but I think this would be an even bigger surprise.
Carlingford Lough: He has dropped down the ratings, but he is a class horse, with a decent weight on his back, and I like him at his price.
Delusionofgrandeur: He has been running well enough in staying chases this season and I expect he will run his race again, but, as a potential winner of the race, he’s not for me.
Tiger Roll: Won the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and his stable-companion, Cause Of Causes, finished runner-up in this after winning that race at the 2017 Festival. He’s well fancied, Davy Russell rides him, and if he jumps well enough he’ll be thereabouts.
Regal Encore: Ran okay in last year’s race when eighth behind One For Arthur, but I think he looks up against it in the handicap.
Vieux Lion Rouge: Having his third run in the race, he likes it around here, but I don’t think he has a pound in hand on the ratings.
Chase The Spud: Stays well but was pulled up on his last two starts, and I think they’ll be going too quick for him today.
Warriors Tale: Ran well in Doncaster, when just touched off by Wakanda. His owner, Trevor Hemmings, won this race with Hedgehunter, which I rode, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds, and I could see him running very well.
Seeyouatmidnight: Stamina could be an issue. He’s a classy individual and if he gets the trip he could be involved.
Gas Line Boy: Not getting any younger but he likes it around here. He was fifth in this race last year but the penalty he picked up for winning the Grand Sefton, over these fences, in December could stop him winning the English National.
The Dutchman: Colin Tizzard’s horses are flying, and Harry Cobden rode the winner of the Topham Chase for him yesterday, so he must have some sort of chance.
Pleasant Company: He made a bad mistake last year and didn’t get home, but I don’t think he’s in as good a form this year.
Ucello Conti: He fell at Becher’s Brook in this race last year when still travelling really well, and if he’s in the same form today he is a massive player.
Saint Are: Runner-up to Many Clouds in 2015 and third last year, he always runs well but age is catching up with him and it’s hard to see him winning it at the fifth time of asking.
Walk In The Mill: In as a reserve and looks up against it.
Raz De Maree: Winner of the Welsh National, he’ll be galloping when a lot of horses have stopped, but he’s thirteen years old now and I think the handicapper could have him.
I Just Know: Has been running well in the north of England and is quietly fancied by connections.
Virgilio: Pulled up on his last start, but Dan Skelton has his horses in good order and it would be a nice way for Dan to have his first winner at the meeting.
Baie Des Iles: Katie rides her and she’s the one I’ll be cheering for. She’s in really good form and will love the ground but she was value at 25-1 but not at her current price, around 14-1.
Maggio: Not getting any younger. I’m sure he’ll give connections a nice day out, but I can’t see him being a major player.
Pendra: Hasn’t reached the standards which, as a younger horse, I thought he might. He’ll run well but I don’t trust him.
Buywise: He’s a talented horse, and I think stepping up in trip has been the making of him and he has a sneaky chance.
Childrens List: He lacks a bit of experience and probably wants better ground, but he’ll outrun his odds.
Lord Windermere: Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, he ran okay in this race last year, but he’s not in sparkling form.
Captain Redbeard: There seems to be a lot of people in Scotland tipping him, but his form means little to me. He’s an admirable horse but I can’t see him winning this.
Houblon Des Obeaux: He stays all day and will run well but he’s not getting any younger and he’s not my idea of the winner.
Bless The Wings: Another who doesn’t have age on his side, he was pulled up in the Irish National last week and it’s a long way back from there to here.
Milansbar: He jumps, he stays, Bryony Frost is in the saddle, all of which are positives, but he has to improve on his Warwick form.
Final Nudge: Stays really well but he’s in the bracket of horses I can see completing the course but not getting involved.
Double Ross: Another who can complete but is likely to struggle to have an impact.
Road To Riches: Was a very good horse on his day, but has dropped a long way down the weights and always preferred better ground.
Summary: It’s another fascinating renewal and I think an Irish-trained horse will win it. The two class horses in the race are Total Recall and Anibale Fly and whichever of them has the bit of luck will win the race. I hope Baie Des Iles runs a big race for Katie, and the two big outsiders I like are Alpha Des Obeaux and Carlingford Lough.
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