Has the Grand National ever been more difficult than it is in 2017? Changed fences, an ever higher class of runner into the world’s greatest steeplechase, a million plots for one day in particular and a race tempo which is as unforgiving to front runners as it is those who are not in the early van make this truly the hardest test of the year for punters and the prices in recent years show it.
Since a pair of well backed winners in 2010 and 2012 we’ve had 33/1, 66/1, 25/1 (twice) and 33/1 (again) winners, so it pays to look far and wide and not to be put off by the price.
The ground ison the good side and the weather at Aintree has been warm to say the least with no rain set to come so good ground horses should get their chance to shine in comparison to last year when the race became a slog and many wilted. By the start of the Grand National at 5.15pm it is likely to be even firmer.
Saint Are was one of those who didn’t take to the soft ground then but the surface should be completely different and will more closely resemble 2015, when he finished second to Many Clouds in what rates as as good renewal there and it’s interesting to note that he was second off 143. He’s rated 147 now, a generous mark even with the ups and downs he’s had since, and his second at Doncaster in a good Class 2 Veterans’ chase suggests that he retains all of that ability and with conditions to his liking he can make a bold bid. The booking of Davy Russell, who has a wealth of experience with horses like him, has been in the offing for a long time which speaks volumes.
There are a number with serious chances at the head of the market but the compression of the handicap means that One For Arthur will run with the same weight now as he did when he took apart the Classic Chase field. That was just another career best on top of his fantastic debut over the National fences, when he was fifth in the Becher Chase won by current joint favourite Vieux Lion Rouge (with other key players involved). He may have been staying on best that day of all of them, and he promises to improve for going further based on his Classic Chase win. As long as he managed to keep tabs on the leaders early then there are unlikely to be many who finish better.
For those looking for outsiders Stellar Notion and Just A Par are lively candidates. Everything about Stellar Notion’s form this season suggests that 66/1 is a very generous price although there are doubts about him staying the distance. Caught at the line by A Toi Phil when last seen, he was a fine fourth in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown the time before. the winner Noble Endeavour went onto run a fine race when third in the Ultima at Cheltenham whilst contender Ucello Conti was seventh there. Back in October, he had found only Tiger Roll too good in the Munster National. Given how empathic Tiger Roll was in winning the National Hunt Chase at the Festival he clearly bumped into a high class (rated 152 before NH Chase win)
Just A Par is not a front runner, which is the biggest major doubt about his credentials, but it ‘s hard not to find many other positives. He hated the ground when 15th in this last year but it’s important to remember that less than a month later he finished just a short head behind The Young Master off 148. The Young Master is now 22/1, having beaten Just a Par by a short head, whilst Just a Par is 50’s.
He’s not 146, having won at Newbury in a Veteran’s Chase (Leg 3 of the series) when he managed to overcome the soft ground for the first time in a good while, perhaps a serious sign, and the main worry is that he will find himself too far behind, but his price and rating are both tempting.
Grand National 2017 Tips:
1.5 pts each/way Saint Are (40/1 Hills, Bet365)
1.5 pts each/way One For Arthur (16/1 Paddy Power)
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Photo by Rachel Hantonne _rachelmariexo on Instagram.