So ladies and gentleman, the Cheltenham Festival is over for another year and we have to wait over 11 months now till we can taste it once again. It was a very successful Cheltenham for me and many others, and we ended up 7.12pts up on the Cheltenham clues blog and although we had 2 fallers on our other 2 blog posts in Noble Endeavor who fell while in contention for a place and The Job is Right unseating in the Kim Muir, we did put up Cause of Causes as an alternative in the Kim Muir hoping for more value on the day, however that went out the window when Our Father was confirmed injured only 2 hours later! Even so, I hope some of you were on him as I piled in when that news came in, so some positive came out of that blog post.
Despite Cheltenham being over, Aintree is only a couple of weeks away which marks the start of the brilliant Grand National festival and I can’t wait for that already. Bearing that mind, I’ve had my eye on 3 horses for the National for a while. You may be in shock that I would put up 3 horses for one race, but for a race like the National, you need a great deal of luck and it often pays in any big field handicap to have at least 2/3 selections.
First of all I’ll start with probably my main fancy in Jim Dreaper’s Goonyella who has been prepared for this race for a while now. He ran in the Becher chase at Aintree in December but from what I understand, they were very happy to let him pop round in that race without a battering and without ruining his handicap mark. Saying this, he was then given a lovely weight of 10-8 in the National which is a wonderful weight for this contest for a horse of his ability. He is a horse who has always been a model of consistency throughout his career, finishing in the top 3 in 12 of his 21 races throughout his career under rules. His most impressive win to date however, was in the Midlands Grand National storming clear by 9 lengths with Johnny Burke, who is set to partner him in the Grand National once again, on his back on heavy ground. Although he seems to prefer cut in the ground, he followed up his Midlands National run by running a cracker in the Scottish Grand National finishing 3/4l 2nd to Wayward Prince on good ground, showing his versatility on different types of ground. He was giving away a small amount of weight to the horses around him in the finish that day, so it was valiant effort that day. We all know that horses who have ran good races in previous staying National’s have a good record in the Grand National itself and Goonyella limbered up for the National with a solid 2nd in the Leinster National at Naasa couple of weeks ago. He is currently 20/1 with Bet365 paying 5 places, and I wouldn’t put anyone off backing him.
With Goonyella in mind, then that brings in another horse who has beaten him in the Irish Grand National and he is a horse who is well known for being A.P McCoy’s last Grand National ride and that is Shutthefrontdoor. I really fancied him for this race last year and he ran a cracking race finishing 5th in that race but he travelled really well and he just seemed to be outstayed that day. However, I think he could go a few places better again this season especially as he’s been given a lower weight of 10-11 this season compared to the 11-2 he was carrying last year. He is a horse who has been primarily trained for this race for a couple of years now and has always looked like a horse who is on the up from his Irish Grand National win and I think it’s a matter of time before he wins another big pot over fences. He has suffered an injury recently where he was given a prep run for the National at Newbury in the Greatwood handicap chase where he pulled up and he was found to have an abscess that day, and while he ran no sort of race, it was probably enough to give him a bit of a blow that day. All being well, Jonjo said he is still on course for the National and represents a decent bet at 25/1 each way 5 places with Bet365 and they also have NRNB in place too, which is a massive plus.
While we are on the subject of Shutthefrontdoor who is owned by JP McManus, then that brings my last fancy into place and it’s another JP owned horse in Gallant Oscar who was brought by JP after his fine 3rd in the Ultima handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2015, that race has been franked form wise this season. He followed that up with a win in a staying chase at the Punchestown Festival, blitzing his rivals on better ground that day by 9 lengths. He started off this season falling in the Paddy Power after making headway, and then having a blow in a handicap hurdle in January. His prep run was a run in the same race as Goonyella had his prep run in at Naas in the Leinster National finishing 5th and runs off a lovely weight of 10-8. He likes a little cut in the ground like Goonyella but he has shown versatility as well, so as long as it doesn’t dry out too much, then he should run a decent race and represents further value at 33/1 NRNB with Bet365 paying 5 places.
Despite the National being a limited handicap these days and the top class horses like Many Clouds and co are running big races, it may be hard for some of those top class horses to give weight to the real dour stayers who have a touch of class in themselves too. Many Clouds has been primed for this race and will start a short favourite, while Silviniaco Conti is the best horse in the field but I’m unsure whether the National will suit him and it doesn’t always pay to follow the best horse in the National. However, it may be worth having a small bet on Boston Bob who I’ve felt will win a big race one day and his weight is low for a horse of his class too and I’m tempted by a small saver on him too. While you need to have class, you need to stay, jump well and have a little luck and I think all 3/4 that I like represent value against the field.
Selections for the Grand National:
Goonyella – 1pt e/w @ 20/1 – Bet365 – paying 5 places
Shutthefrontdoor – 1pt e/w @ 25/1 – Bet365 – paying 5 places
Gallant Oscar – 1pt e/w @ 33/1 – Bet365 – paying 5 places
Boston Bob – 0/5pt e/w @ 33/1 – Bet365 – paying 5 places