For many horse racing fans, the Grand National is just a more difficult event from which to tip the winner but the race also tends to attract numerous once a year punters attracted by the large field and terrestrial television coverage.
40 horses look set to appear in the 2014 renewal but with the modification of the fences in recent years and significant extra prize money, the quality of the participants is increasing but there still remains the problem of finding the potential winner.
A glance at the ante-post market reveals no real outstanding claimants for victory in this prestigious race.
The Rebecca Curtis trained Teaforthree is currently (1st April) the 10.5 favourite on Betfair with his third placing in the 2013 contest proving that he is capable of adapting to the Aintree course and distance. He further proved his stamina when a close second in the Welsh Grand National and used the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup as a means of sharpening his fitness.
Yet it is two years since he last won a race when claiming the four mile amateur rider’s novice chase at Cheltenham and there is just the suggestion that he may now lack that extra turn of foot at the end of a long race.
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Second favourite in most lists is Long Run from the Nicky Henderson yard. A winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2011 when beating Denman and Kauto Star followed by claiming the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park, Long Run has failed to show much sparkle this campaign although he did beat Knockara Beau at Kelso over 3m 2f. He probably needs a true test of stamina these days and can be backed at 14/1 with William Hill, but he may have just lost his zest for racing.
For third favourite and top weight Tidal Bay, it may be the opposite. At 13 years of age, he appears to have rediscovered his racing appetite under the wing of trainer Paul Nicholls. A close third in the 2013 Welsh Grand National and then a second placing in the Irish Hennessy have proved his well-being, but the fact that he unseated at the 10th fence when adrift in the 2011 Grand National may suggest that the unique fences were not to his liking. He is being offered at a best price of 18 on the Betfair betting exchange to win on Saturday.
Monbeg Dude is another horse with clear credentials for winning this race. A winner of the 2012 Welsh Grand National from Teaforthree under a patient ride from Saturday’s jockey Paul Carberry, he also won a competitive race at Cheltenham in December. However, off the same rating as on Saturday, he disappointed in the Grimethorpe Chase at Doncaster in February and despite Coral quoting him at 16/1, there is a question mark about his current form.
Of the other leading contenders, there are two horses with creditable form figures. 2013 Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D’Alene was given a break during the heavy winter ground conditions but returned to the racecourse in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in which his lack of fitness was exposed. Although he will be racing off a much higher rating than when winning at Newbury, he did win the Topham Chase at Aintree last season and is overpriced at 28 on Betfair.
Second to Triolo D’Alene in the Hennessy was Paul Nicholls trained ROCKY CREEK who won three races as a novice last season before losing to Dynaste at Aintree. He returned to racing at Cheltenham in January to finish second to The Giant Bolster in the Argento Chase when giving seven pounds to the course specialist. This lightly raced eight year old gelding may lack experience but appears to have a reasonable chance of winning this race with Ladbrokes offering him at 25/1.
Among the outsiders, Grimethorpe Chase winner NIGHT IN MILAN can run the occasional poor race but should he make the cut and odds of 40/1 at BetVictor could represent decent each way value, while spring horse and Irish trained BIG SHU is more effective over the cross country courses but can be backed at 33/1 with Betfred as an each way candidate.
2014 Grand National, 4.15 Aintree, Saturday