On Saturday 14th April 2018, Aintree Racecourse will be hosting the grandest spectacle on turf, the Randox Health Grand National Steeplechase. The great race has seen many heroes win the race throughout its history. From Aldaniti and Bob Champion’s emotional comeback win in 1981, Red Rum’s hat trick in the 1970s to the late great Many Cloud’s popular win in 2015. Who will be etched in to the history books and gain racing immortality in 2018? For the latest information on the big race, analysis, previews, tickets and tips check out: https://www.grandnational.fans/
This year’s final line up of 40 horses could be the classiest ever with multiple graded winners and top rated seasoned handicappers amongst the 105 initial entries recently revealed. The biggest trials for the race include the Becher Chase, ruan in December over the Grand National course. That race was won by this year’s 10/1 ante post favourite, Blaklion, who finished an impressive 9 lengths winner over 2016 Grand National Runner up, The Last Samurai. Blaklion, a classy 9 year old, winner of the 2016 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival has had his sights set on this race ever since finishing fourth in the Grand National in 2017 behind One For Arthur, who will miss his defence this year due to injury. The attributes Blaklion has including his sound jumping and ability to perform on any ground has many people calling for a Cheltenham Gold Cup bid. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has won this race twice before with Earth Summit in 1998 and 2002 with Bindaree, and Twiston-Davies has maintained the Grand National as his main target along with the popular grey horse Bristol De Mai and Splash Of Ginge.
Bristol De Mai, a 33/1 shot for the big race at Aintree has not been seen at best affect in the second half of recent seasons. Before Christmas, he put up a fine double by taking the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, beating Blaklion in to second, and then followed up with a 57 length demolition job at Haydock in the Betfair Chase against Tea For Two, Cue Card and Outlander, who is entered for the Grand National. The spring ground seems to work against Bristol De Mai, and evidentially he seems to be a horse to catch at the start of the season when the ground is heavy; conditions he will almost certainly not get at Aintree.
The third interesting entry for Nigel Twiston-Davies is Splash Of Ginge. A former winner of the Betfair Hurdle in his novice hurdle days, Ginge and his army picked up their biggest prize in November when he claimed the Bet Victor Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Although lacking the class of his aforementioned stablemates, Splash of Ginge will be in line for a £1 million bonus if he ever wins the Grand National. Surely a chance of a life time any connection of a race horse would be willing to go for?
Realistically speaking, Splash Of Ginge has struggled to stay even 3 miles in his racing career, so the 4 and a half mile stamina test at Aintree will surely prove a dream instead of a reality.
The most impressive performances this season for me in handicaps have come from the Willie Mullins 9 year old Total Recall. He started off his season with a 7 length victory from former World Hurdle runner up Alpha Des Obeaux in the Munster National at Limerick in October. That victory was top class and connections then sent him to Newbury for the Ladbrokes Trophy, (formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup). Total Recall put in his biggest performance to beat Whisper by a neck and claim the prestigious prize. His next appearance in February at the Dublin Racing Festival saw him thrown in off a mark of 125 over the smaller obstacles in preparation for his next run in the Bobbyjo Chase. A gritty and brave performance saw him take up the running a long way out and win going away in fine style by 3 lengths. What I love about Total Recall is his attitude and approach to racing. He seems to race with enthusiasm and clearly has a lot of natural ability. He has been talked up as a horse that could go well in either a Cheltenham Gold Cup or a Stayers Hurdle. With a stern test to come in the shape of top novice chaser Presenting Percy in the Bobbyjo, a bold performance will surely propel him towards the top of the Grand National market for which he can currently be backed at 16/1.
One of my favourite horses in training is the Gordon Elliot trained Cause Of Causes. A horse who finished second in last year’s Grand National. The 10 year old owned by JP McManus has plenty of miles under his bonnet. He claimed victory in the National Hunt Chase in 2015, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir in 2016 and the Cross Country Chase in 2017 at the Cheltenham Festival in a combined racing distance of just under 11 and a half miles! Stamina is an obvious trait that any horse must possess to win the Grand National, and Cause Of Causes clearly has it in bundles. The horse is always very quiet in the winter months and thrives for better ground and a strongly run race. He is always an eye catcher for punters at the Spring festivals and with his assured jumping; he has a profile that must give him a serious chance again this year and at 33/1 is definite value.
A horse who fits a similar profile to Cause Of Causes is Tiger Roll. A onetime top juvenile and Triumph Hurdle winner, Tiger Roll has turned in to a staying chaser to keep on side. Another horse that is from the National Hunt Chase School of winners, he will first be aimed this year at the Cross Country Race at the Cheltenham Festival.
Last time sent around the course and distance in December for an outing he is sure to come on for the run and put in a bold display in March. Cause Of Causes took the same route last year and went on to win the Cross Country Race and finish second in the Grand National. 50/1 is a price hard to ignore and with the horse being in the hands of former Grand National winning trainer, Gordon Elliot, this is a horse to take seriously.
The old saying in racing is ‘they never come back the same ‘. This saying may be generally accurate, although in the case of Edwulf, this is a unique story that would capture anyone’s imagination as he’s a horse that did come back. In the home straight of the 2017 National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, the Joseph O’Brien trained 9 year old collapsed and was on the verge of meeting his maker, before he was miraculously saved by the excellent staff at Cheltenham. Any horse would struggle to even regain full health and fitness, but in a remarkable training performance and with a lot of love and care, Edwulf returned to the track at Christmas and then again in February to cause a major shock to some by winning at huge odds to claim the Irish Gold Cup. Horses that progress from the National Hunt Chase have a good record in the Grand National and with the class Edwulf possesses he can be ridden in this race with confidence knowing that he will get the trip and stay on past many horses through the famous Aintree elbow. I like the way this horse travels, and at 50/1 he offers definite each way value, and what a fairy tale ending to his year this would be with a bold showing in the world’s greatest race.
I am a big fan of Total Recall and think he is the horse still open to progress. I would be confident he will stay the trip and with the experience of running in big handicaps as either a hold up horse or from the front, he has proved he can jump his way to victory again come April.
3 pts win – Total Recall 16/1 generally
1 pt each-way – Tiger Roll 50/1 generally