The Cheltenham Festival has been and gone and jumps fans now turn their gaze to the forthcoming three-day Aintree Festival and its outstanding highlight, the £1 million Randox Health Grand National on Saturday, 14 April.
Today’s horse racing tips focus on a race like no other. Four-miles-two-and-a-half furlongs, 30 daunting fences, 40 runners, and a measure of unpredictability like no other in the sport. A glance back over the last 10 years shows how hard a race it is to assess with shock winners at 33/1 (twice), 66/1 and 100/1, while at the other end of the scale a 7/1 and a 10/1 winning joint-favourite showed that sometimes the punters’ first choice can prevail.
With three-and-a-half weeks still to go to the great race we still can’t be sure about which horses will actually line up on the big day, what the ground conditions will be, and which stables are in or out of form. But this is all part of the challenge of ante-post betting, and this is why the odds available are often higher than you will find on the day of the race.
What we can say, is that of the current 88 horses still entered in the race, those listed below number 65 are almost certain to miss out. The racecard numbers are allotted relative to the handicap weight given each horse; the best horses in the race have most weight, and the less talented horses have least weight, in theory giving all a sporting chance of success.
The Current Market Leaders
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ admirable Blaklion, fourth in the race 12 months ago, is generally 12/1 joint-favourite with the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall, who has already won the former Hennessy Gold Cup this season. Blaklion led some way from home in last year’s Grand National before being reeled in, but still ran a fine race. If he’s ridden with a little more patience this time he has a chance, but he has to race off a 9lb higher mark which will make life tough.
The Last Samurai (16/1), trained by Kim Bailey, was runner-up in 2016 off a 10lb lower mark but only 16th last year. He ran a great race to be third in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last week, but he probably had his best chance two years ago and it would be a surprise if he can improve on that. The popular Jonjo O’Neill trains Minella Rocco (20/1), runner-up in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. He bypassed last week’s renewal due to the very soft ground and has a touch of class.
Can Anibale Fly In?
The original top weight Definitly Red (11st10lb) was yesterday taken out of the race leaving Edwulf (11st9lb), eighth in last week’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, as the new top weight. Anibale Fly (11st4lb) ran a great race to be third, while American (11st2lb) finished ninth, Total Recall (11st1lb) was still in touch when falling at the third last, and Outlander (11st8lb) pulled up.
If the handicapper had the chance to assess these horses in light of their Gold Cup performances, there’s little doubt he would give Anibale Fly most weight. But he can’t do that as the weights were decided in advance in mid-February, so, in my view, Anibale Fly, trained in Ireland by the shrewd Tony Martin, looks well handicapped. 25 /1 (each-way with Marathonbet) looks a fair price, and he is the first of our three free horse racing tips in the Grand National ante-post market.
Of course, we don’t yet know for sure that he will have the stamina for the extra mile of the Grand National, or indeed if he will run, but connections will surely be considering the same evidence as we did and could be sorely tempted to have a go having seen him finish strongly up the hill after three-and-a-quarter miles at Cheltenham.
Midnight Chance as Clear as Day
Seeyouatmidnight is a horse I’ve always had plenty of time for. His trainer, Sandy Thomson, does a great job with his small string, and this horse has done the stable proud. He beat Blaklion in the 2016 Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in heavy ground, then found the ground too quick for him in the RSA Chase won by Blaklion two months later. At Ayr the following month he ran a cracker though, finishing a close third in the Scottish Grand National behind Vicente.
Last term he slammed subsequent Grade 1 Betfair Chase winner Bristol de Mai in a listed chase at Carlisle, but failed to fire behind Cue Card the time after. This season connections have had a frustrating time as his scheduled reappearance runs have been abandoned four times due to bad weather.
“He must have a fighting chance in the National and could be thrown in off [a handicap mark of] 149,” Thomson told reporters yesterday. “You need luck, but I was delighted with that mark.”
At 33/1 (each-way with Coral) Seeyouatmidnight is of definite interest. If the ground comes up soft on the big day, he could well be the subject of a major gamble.
Smith In The Know
Sue Smith, who sent out the unconsidered Aurora’s Encore to a shock 66/1 Grand National triumph in 2013, has a fascinating contender in the shape of I Just Know and knows just what it takes to win this extraordinary race. Like Seeyouatmidnight, I believe this eight-year-old – just an ordinary handicap chaser until he started to improve just over a year ago – has been trained all season with the Grand National in mind.
He absolutely bolted up by 15 lengths when stepped up to three-mile-six-furlongs at Catterick in January and was raised 14lb, but without that weight rise he would have had no chance of getting a run at Aintree.
Runner-up over hurdles Uttoxeter at the weekend, he should now be spot on for a crack at “the world’s greatest steeplechase”, and being No.47 in the list he looks all but certain to make the starting line-up of forty as there will be a number of absentees from above him in the list. At 66/1 (each-way with Marathonbet) he seems a sporting bet.
Today’s free horse racing tips in the Grand National ante-post markets are:
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.