Sporting history is shaped by memorable moments. These moments are often captured in both pictures and words. Three of my personal favourites are: “Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over, it is now.” “Brilliant by Quinell, this is Gareth Edwards, a dramatic start, what a score!” And from the great Sir Peter O’Sullevan; “A tremendous reception, you’ve never heard one like it at Liverpool, Red Rum wins The National.” In 1977 the greatest Grand National horse, Red Rum, won the World’s greatest race for the third time. It was the moment that I became hooked by the Aintree spectacular. The Grand National is one of the great sporting events. It’s the ultimate equine test. The race distance of over 4 miles along with those wonderful fences and an enormous field of 40 runners, all combine to create ten minutes of sporting drama. Last year’s race was one of the most thrilling for many years. Neptune Collonges, a classy grey from the Paul Nicholls stable, defeated Sunnyhillboy by the smallest of margins. While Cheltenham has its famous hill, Aintree has the incredible run-in from the last fence, around the ‘elbow’ to the finishing line. Races are often won and lost in extraordinary fashion. This year’s renewal is as competitive as ever. Racing experts have studied the field, and in their guides to the Grand National have concluded that all 40 horses are in with a chance. I personally feel that Tatenen will struggle, but if I were to draw him in the office sweepstake I would still sit down to watch the race with a fair amount of optimism. Trends always play a role in selecting possible winners of the Grand National. Horses aged 9, 10 and 11, have a great record. Carrying too much weight is a definite negative, though in recent years, ‘too much weight’ seems to have risen to around 11 stone 6. Last year’s runner-up, third and fourth all return for this year’s race. They could all be in with a chance as the field turns for home. Cappa Bleu is favourably handicapped and could make the frame for each-way punters. Seabass has to carry 11-6, though I still see him running a big race. Sunnyhillboy is less favourably treated and may have missed his chance after last year’s agonising defeat. I cannot see him carrying 11-4 to victory. On His Own is the big-race favourite. The Willie Mullins horse was running a big race last year when falling at Beechers. His handicap mark is fair and he has to be considered. My worry is that he lacks experience having only run seven times over fences. The horse I’m most keen on in this year’s race is Teaforthree. He won the four-miler at Cheltenham last season on good ground and he was a terrific second in the Welsh National in January. A slight concern has to be his last run at Haydock. He fell away tamely that day, though under top weight in heavy ground. He has been rested since, and if his Welsh National exertions have not left their mark, I feel he is the horse to beat. Across The Bay has to be of interest. He is thought to need soft ground, but he has form figures of (232) from his three visits to Aintree. He is a gutsy performer and at 40/1 is well worth an each-way punt. Chicago Grey is ‘thrown in’ on his best form. He was brought-down in last year’s race, but is also a previous winner of the Cheltenham Festival four-miler. His jumping can be a little sticky, but he is very talented. His rider Paul Carberry has already won the Welsh National this season. Finally, two other well-handicapped horses with an each-way chance are Rare Bob and Quiscover Fontaine. Both came down in last year’s race, with Rare Bob brought-down whilst Quiscover Fontaine got in too close at the 17th when going well. Quiscover Fontaine was only just behind Sunnyhillboy in the Irish National two years back and looks a forgotten horse to me. He is now the right age and only carries 10-7. Rare Bob is classy and only carries 10-6. So there you have it, simple. Back every 9, 10 or 11 year-old each-way and sit back with a huge smile on your face, waiting for sporting history to be written. My Grand National first six prediction: 1 Teaforthree 2 Chicago Grey 3 Rare Bob 4 Seabass 5 Across The Bay 6 Quiscover Fontaine Good luck!
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