John Duggan's Grand National Preview
If you want to understand the Grand National, the most famous race in the world, run just North of Liverpool, then this is worth a look. In 1973, Red Rum defeated the magnificent Australian chaser Crisp in a race for the ages, a jump racing version of Seabiscuit versus War Admiral. Red Rum would eventually mark his place in the history books and popular folklore by winning the National 3 times. I remember as a boy watching BBC 2 one afternoon and there was a break in programming. Out of nowhere, they showed the 1973 renewal for 10 minutes. The way this race unfolded was compelling, and not without it's fair share of heartbreak. To me it is the greatest National and the late Peter O'Sullevan's commentary only adds to the beauty. Since I watched that afternoon, many years ago, I have been hooked on the National. I backed West Tip to win as a young lad and Lord Gyllene as a student. I tipped Comply or Die and Aurora's Encore as a journalist. I love the race. I get nervous before it. Maybe I need to get out more. The Grand National was first run in 1839, and won by a course called Lottery. Yes, it's true. It has become a global institution.
So I am not going to go through all 40 horses for Saturday's race at 5.15 and every possible angle. Trust me when I write that I have considered every runner and I still may not have the winner.
5 times in 21 years I have been lucky enough to pick the winner, but I don't have a strong view this year. The ground conditions are a real factor. It's going to be heavy ground, soft in places and since they modified the course 5 years ago, the race is a less of a jumping test and it brings more horses into the equation.
Those at the top of the weights are going to find it tough in the ground, but when I assessed the horses lower down the handicap, I was shrugging my shoulders. A lot of them lack class.
Here we go:
My main pick each way is Seeyouatmidnight at 14/1. Trained by Sandy Thomson, if successful this would become the second consecutive Scottish winner of the race. This horse goes on any ground, has a touch of class with previous wins over Blaklion and Bristol De Mai to his name, and is generally a fair jumper. A weight of 10-12 is workable. I felt he ran well, if a little exuberantly when third in the Scottish National 2 years ago. If jockey Brian Hughes can switch him off a bit, then I think he can make the frame.
Despite his weight burden, Anibale Fly must be respected. The ground won't be an issue, he finished third in the Gold Cup and promises to stay. It would be great to see Tony Martin in the winner's enclosure. The same level of respect should apply to Total Recall, a highly progressive chaser this season for Willie Mullins.
Raz De Maree is fresh and would buck the trends that 13 year olds don't take Grand Nationals. He was a very good winner of the Welsh National and his trainer Gavin Cromwell knows the time of day. If his pilot Robbie Power has him in contention late on, he'll be staying on better than anything else.
Final Nudge was third in the Welsh National and lost a shoe at Cheltenham. He could out run his odds. Shantou Flyer will appreciate the conditions and ran well last month. I backed Blaklion last year, but I worry that he has too much weight. Baie Des Iles is all the rage, but a 7 year old hasn't won the race since 1940. Regardless, Katie Walsh will get a terrific spin, and if she, Rachael Blackmore or Bryony Frost could become the first lady rider to win, it would be fantastic for the sport.
So the saver bet I will have after Seeyouatmidnight is on the John Kiely trained Carlingford Lough. Now 12, this horse has been out of form this season, but has been kept fresh since Christmas. He is a former winner of the Leopardstown and Punchestown Gold Cups and finishes his races like a train. His jumping could come under pressure, but that is factored into his price. A class act on his day, he ran well behind Sizing John in a Grade 1 a year ago and carries 11 stone 1 pound tomorrow. He may be worth a small each way investment at 50/1.
Whether you have a work sweepstake pick, like a name, or have done hours of form study like me to put yourself in a position to solve the puzzle, have fun. Enjoy the people's race.