GRAND NATIONAL PREVIEW: your A-Z pinsticker's guide to all the Aintree runners
Fancy a flutter on the Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree on Saturday?
Most of us will be tempted, even if it’s only 50p each/way. So to help you make your choice, here’s my potted A-Z pinsticker’s guide to the probable and possible runners, complete with odds at the time of writing:
One of two contenders for Venetia Williams, who saddled the 100/1 shocker Mon Mome in 2009. This 12-year-old is unlikely to follow suit, but is an honest sort who used to run on the Flat for Sheikh Mohammed.
Came from the clouds to finish fourth in the 2014 race and occupied the same spot behind Many Clouds 12 months ago. Has been seen only once since, and definitely has his own ideas about the game, but he’s on a 5lb lower handicap mark than last year.
Willie Mullins-trained flagbearer for leading Cheltenham Festival owner, Rich Ricci. A one-time class act, but his best form is over 2m4f and he was brought down at the Canal Turn in last year’s race.
Fragile 10yo, trained by David Pipe, who has been mixing it at the highest level since bolting up in a Cheltenham Festival handicap two years ago. However, his form this season has been a letdown.
BISHOPS ROAD (25/1)
Rookie trainer Kerry Lee has carried all before her this season, particularly with gritty staying types like this 8yo import from Ireland. Owned by one of the directors of Aintree, Alan Halsall, he’s almost certain to stay the 4m2f.
BLACK THUNDER (50/1)
So smart as a novice that he beat Many Clouds one day. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls retains the faith, but three runs this term have been disappointing, albeit off big weights, and he’s up for sale.
BOSTON BOB (33/1)
Grade One winner, saddled by the best trainer, Willie Mullins, and ridden by the best jockey, Ruby Walsh. Not guaranteed to stay the marathon trip, but Mullins has long suspected he’s an ideal type for the race.
Trainer Evan Williams has had a horse placed in each of the last five Nationals. But although this 9yo is talented, there are huge question-marks over his stamina limitations and unorthodox jumping.
DOUBLE ROSS (66/1)
Honest sort who carries the hopes of the winning trainer in 1998 and 2002, Nigel Twiston-Davies. Has valuable experience of jumping the Aintree fences, but hasn’t won since his novice days.
FIRST LIEUTENANT (33/1)
Consistent, high-class veteran for the high-profile Gigginstown House Stud operation. But he was hammered 95 lengths after an early blunder in last year’s National and hasn’t won any race for three years.
GALLANT OSCAR (25/1)
Interesting 10yo who has been earmarked for a tilt at the National since shining at Cheltenham and Punchestown last spring. Owned by JP McManus, he has been steadily brought to the boil by shrewd Irish handler Tony Martin.
Cross-country chase expert Enda Bolger fields this 8yo, who ran respectably at the Cheltenham Festival. But while he’s smart, his best form is at shorter distances and he’s not fancied to give owner JP McManus a second National triumph.
Hails from the yard of Jim Dreaper, whose dad Tom trained the legendary Arkle. Won the Midlands National and finished second in the Scottish version last season. Major chance, but he’s not convinced in two tries over these fences.
HADRIAN’S APPROACH (50/1)
Attractively handicapped on his best form, but has not scaled the heights he threatened as a novice. As a fragile sort who hates the mud, he doesn’t appeal as the one to break the National duck of genius trainer Nicky Henderson.
HIGHLAND LODGE (50/1)
Took to the Aintree fences like a duck to water in the Becher Chase four months ago when posting his first win since December 2012 on his maiden appearance for new trainer Jimmy Moffatt. This is stiffer, but he’s a terrific jumper and a powerful stayer.
After hammering Gold Cup hero Don Cossack in 2014 and finishing fourth in the Cheltenham showpiece himself last year, Jonjo O’Neill’s 9yo lost his mojo. He duly tumbled down the handicap, but he always comes alive in the spring and has returned to form at just the right time.
HOME FARM (100/1)
An expert at tilting at windmills, having also tackled last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and Irish National as a 100/1 shot. You have to go back three years to find any form that justifies a place in this field for Henry De Bromhead’s 9yo.
JUST A PAR (40/1)
For a £260,000 purchase, he can be moody and recalcitrant. But his excellent young jockey Sean Bowen somehow cajoled him home in a big race at Sandown a year ago to underline the latent talent of Paul Nicholls’s 9yo.
There aren’t many no-hopers this year, but Venetia Williams, one of only three women to train a National winner, has one in this 10yo, who has shown nothing since being considered good enough to tackle the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
KNOCK HOUSE (100/1)
Wildly over-priced on his raw ability, particularly on Good ground, and his chances are enhanced if the brilliant Nina Carberry rides. But the 7yo, trained by ex-England footballer Mick Channon, carries age and stamina negatives.
The mount of champion jockey-elect Richard Johnson, who has yet to win the race in no fewer than 19 attempts. Philip Hobbs’s 9yo has definite ability, but he’s made several errors in two previous outings over the Aintree fences.
LE REVE (40/1)
The Flat racing environs of Newmarket is where Lucy Wadham’s 8yo is based. He’s a solid staying handicapper, but he’s shown a marked preference for right-handed tracks (Aintree is left-handed) and ground that is not too Soft.
Seasoned, but genuine, 11yo representing the small Irish stable of Patrick Griffin. Got round in his own time over these fences in the Topham Chase last season, and it’s likely to be a similar story on Saturday.
MANY CLOUDS (8/1)
One of the most impressive winners in National history last year, defying a mammoth weight and clocking the second fastest time. A relentless galloper, he now runs off a 5lb higher handicap mark, but appears in even better form.
MORNING ASSEMBLY (33/1)
Classy stayer who beat Gold Cup hero Don Cossack as a novice and has bounced back well this term from a lengthy injury-absence. He warmed up nicely at the Cheltenham Festival and will relish all the rain that’s falling.
O’FAOLAINS BOY (40/1)
Tremendous jumper who beat Many Clouds en route to Cheltenham Festival glory in 2014. Outran his long odds in the Gold Cup last month and is a live longshot to make Rebecca Curtis the first Welsh winning trainer since 1905.
The silks of 1986 Aintree hero West Tip will be carried by Philip Hobbs’s useful, stamina-laden youngster. However, no novices have won the National since 1958 and no seven-year-old has even been placed since 1971.
ON HIS OWN (40/1)
One of two former Cheltenham Gold Cup runners-up in the race for master trainer Willie Mullins, whose son Patrick is in the plate. As a 12-year-old, he’s a bit long in the tooth now, but he’s jumped these fences before.
The least fancied of four runners for wily, evergreen owner JP McManus, but has always been well regarded and has few miles on the clock. Not the biggest, though, and well beaten in last year’s Irish National.
PERFECT CANDIDATE (66/1)
Cheltenham specialist, although he’s been disappointing at the last two Festivals. Takes time to get into his stride, but Fergal O’Brien’s 9yo has the form form in the book to spring a surprise in a race he’s been aimed at all season.
PINEAU DE RE (50/1)
Winner of the 2014 National, despite an indifferent round of jumping, but only 12th last year and, on the evidence of his last two performances, age is beginning to catch up with the 13yo who has served his admirable trainer, Dr Richard Newland, so well.
PRESENT VIEW (80/1)
Curious choice of race for an 8yo who was progressing commendably over much shorter trips a couple of seasons back when bagging a good prize at the Cheltenham Festival. Hasn’t won since for his up-and-coming trainer Jamie Snowden.
ROCKY CREEK (66/1)
A third crack at the race for Paul Nicholls’s 10yo, who was a creditable fifth in 2014 but was beaten a long way last term. The mount of 43-year-old veteran Andrew Thorton, he seems to be deteriorating.
RULE THE WORLD (50/1)
Mouse Morris’s 9yo has yet to land a single race over fences, but he’s generally consistent and was runner-up in last year’s Irish National. Also previously a classy hurdler, chasing home The New One at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.
SAINT ARE (16/1)
Could it be third time lucky for Tom George’s 10yo, who was ninth in 2013 and a gallant runner-up in last year’s race? He loves the Aintree fences, stays all day and tuned up perfectly with victory in a veterans’ chase at Doncaster.
Jonjo O’Neill’s 2014 Irish National winner gave Tony McCoy a dream spin in his final Aintree ride last year. Stamina gave way as he faded into fifth but only because he’d been too keen early on. He’s been quietly primed to go close again.
SILVINIACO CONTI (12/1)
As the winner of seven Grade Ones, including two King Georges, and more than £1 million in prize money, Paul Nicholls’s 10yo is the class act of the race -- and a well-handicapped one. Stamina is the worry.
SIR DES CHAMPS (40/1)
Runner-up in the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Willie Mullins’s injury-plagued 10yo has regressed since. However, he’s on a nice weight and wouldn’t be the first horse to be revitalised by this unique challenge.
Giant veteran, who boasts four clear rounds over the Aintree fences, including in two Nationals when seventh and ninth. On the downside, he broke a blood vessel in last year’s race and is badly handicapped.
THE DRUIDS NEPHEW (16/1)
Leading and going well when crumpling on landing five from home in last year’s race, a month after winning at the Cheltenham Festival. The 9yo is 9lbs higher now, but his preparation has been spot-on.
THE LAST SAMURI (10/1)
All the rage to give trainer Kim Bailey his second National, fully 26 years after Mr Frisk. Has risen through the ranks with a string of impressive displays, making the frame in all bar two of his 14 starts.
THE ROMFORD PELE (50/1)
Named after ex-Arsenal star Ray Parlour, Rebecca Curtis’s 9yo is a consistent type whose form figures this term do not reflect three respectable runs at Cheltenham. Wouldn’t want the ground too Soft.
TRIOLO D’ALENE (33/1)
Conquered the Aintree fences when winning the Topham Chase in 2013 and landed the Hennessy Gold Cup later that year. But crack trainer Nicky Henderson’s 9yo was pulled up in last season’s National.
UCELLO CONTI (33/1)
Specifically bought for the race by owner Simon Munir from France, where he won eight of 21 starts. Based in the yard of Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer Gordon Elliott, he prefers testing ground.
Just like the 2012 winner, Neptune Collonges, he’s a grey trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by John Hales. Once a high-class prospect, he’s now a dour stayer who fell early on in last year’s National.
VICS CANVAS (66/1)
At 13, he’s the oldest in the race and no teenager has won it since 1923. Nevertheless, he remains reliable and ran a lovely race over these fences in the Becher Chase in December, jumping impeccably.
VIEUX LION ROUGE (66/1)
Capable novice who carries the colours of racing nut Caroline Tisdall. However, no seven-year-old has tasted National glory for 76 years, and he failed to stay 4m at the Cheltenham Festival last month.
WONDERFUL CHARM (66/1)
One of five runners for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, whose first jockey Sam Twiston-Davies rides. An exciting prospect at one time, he’s not fulfilled his potential and is unlikely to get home over this trip.