Some of the biggest names in the world of horse racing slug it out over four miles at Aintree on Saturday 14th March to decide this year’s Grand National winner. It’s the event that brings the UK to a standstill, uniting avid backers and race fans with once-a-year penny punters.
One for Arthur banked the prize money last year for trainer Lucinda Russell with those who had him backed celebrating a chunky 14/1 pay-out. The champion won’t be back to defend, ruled out through injury, meaning there will be a new king or queen and all we have to do is pick it before the off and get our stake money down. Easier said than done but there is no lack of opinions flying around in the build-up, including the Grand National tips at Timeform.
As well as some of the brightest talents in handicap steeplechasing, we also get a chance to witness the bravery of the jockeys as they aim to write their name into the history books. In the madness of it all, the crowds cheering jockey and horse as they kick for home, it’s easy to overlook the dedication and commitment of the racehorse trainers.
This year, we see old rivals Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott go head-to-head and both men have wheeled out the big guns in an attempt to shoot down the other. Mullins famously won the race back in 2005 with Hedgehunter but that remains his sole success to date. Gordon Elliott finally made an appearance in the Aintree winner’s enclosure two years later with Silver Birch.
Both trainers hold strong hands in this year’s renewal with two horses each featuring in the first ten of the ante-post betting. Here are their hopes and what’s expected of them…..
Total Recall (Mullins)
Total Recall has already proven very popular with punters and he goes no bigger than 12/1 pre-Cheltenham. That’s a compliment but it’s easy to see where traders are coming from with the jolly enjoying a hot-streak, winning each of his last three.
That purple patch began with an eye-catching win in the Munster National Handicap Chase at Limerick in October when hammering a strong field, nearest rival Alpha Des Obeaux coming home seventh lengths behind in second. 2/1 favourite that day and the shorter distance won’t be a worry as the victor seemed to have plenty to give on the run-in. Two months later, he was seen taking the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury over 3m 1f, although this time it was closer, Whisper beaten a neck. The hat-trick was completed with a decent cushion over Oscar Knight at Leopardstown in the William Fry Handicap Hurdle.
Cause Of Causes (Elliott)
The tallest stalk in Gordon Elliott’s field is Cause Of Causes, who was runner-up in last year’s race behind One For Arthur, 4 ½ lengths the distance between gold and silver. Despite going to post a 16/1 also-ran, the experienced 10-year-old knew enough to move his way into the mix despite finding plenty of trouble along the way.
Hampered and bumped during an eventful race, he was with the winner at the business end before going flat when it mattered. With a clearer run, who knows what may have happened. Connections will be eager to right a few wrongs here and that course and race form must be respected.
Moving onto the bigger prices; this is one race you can’t put a line through a runner simply because the odds-makers think it can’t win. This is the home of the upset and 25/1 says Bellshill will trump them all on the day. The eight-year-old bay holds the respect of Mullins and showed what he had in a warm-up race earlier this year, winning the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse over 3m 1f.
Favourite going to post, the gelding lived up to the hype with a near five-length lead of A Genie In Abottle in second. The result was expected but the manner in which he won the race wasn’t easy to sweep under the carpet, taking the trip without drama and running away from them at the post. Third in the RSA Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year under the ride of Ruby Walsh, he’ll receive a share of each-way bets again here.
Ucello Conti (Elliott)
33/1 in places but that won’t put many off. Ucello Conti rates as a well-treated 10-year-old who went into the spring with a record of three seconds and a third from a dozen starts. Still has plenty to learn and this may be a bit much for him but the outsider has bags of progression and his runner-up in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December behind Anibale Fly won him some new friends.
He took silver off a cracking 25/1 SP that day but question marks remain over his ability to stay on his feet; he got rid of Daryl Jacob in last year’s National on the second crack at Bechers. Looked to be in the race when making that mistake and would’ve come on for the experience.