Above: The statue of the legendary three-time Grand National hero Red Rum overlooks the paddock at Aintree
Randox Health Grand National fever is starting to grip the nation as the five-day declarations for the four-and-a-quarter-mile marathon were revealed at lunchtime on Monday showing 63 horses still engaged in the world’s greatest steeplechase.
With 40 runners set to compete in the £1 million race that starts at 5.15 on Saturday afternoon, the weights continue to be headed by Jonjo O’Neill’s Minella Rocco (11st 10lb), runner-up in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, while the last horse guaranteed a place in the starting line-up is the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained veteran Double Ross (10st 5lb).
The final declarations will be on Thursday lunchtime, but there will be four additional reserves – Road To Riches, Thunder and Roses, Delusionofgrandeur and Walk In The Mill – in the event of one or more of the 40 contenders being declared a non-runner before the big event.
Happily for followers of Betting.Net’s free horse racing tips on the race our three ante-post selections all remain very much in contention and have been well supported in recent days. Anibale Fly (11st 7lb) is now a top priced 12/1 with Sun Bets having been recommended each-way at 25/1 a few weeks ago. It’s a similar story with Sue Smith’s I Just Know who we recommended at 66/1 each-way. He is now a general 25/1 shot, but William Hill are a standout 28/1 at present.
Our third selection, Seeyouatmidnight (10st 11lb), set to be partnered by leadng northern jumps jockey Brian Hughes, was originally recommended each-way at 33/1 but is now a best priced 20/1 with Unibet. Many other firms are as short as 16/1. Sandy Thomson’s stayer was very much in the news yesterday as it was revealed he has been purchased for an undisclosed sum by David and Patricia Thompson, owners of the famous Cheveley Park Stud.
The Thompsons saw their familiar pink and purple silks carried to a memorable victory in the 1992 Grand National by the Carl Llewellyn-ridden giant, Party Politics (see video below), and have stepped in late to buy genuine Grand National contenders on a number of occasions since that great day 26 years ago, although they have yet to taste further success. Highland Ldoge, who led for much of last year’s race, was their previous Grand National acquisition.
One horse who won’t be running though in this weekend’s Grand National is last year’s brave runner-up Cause of Causes, whose retirement was also announced yesterday. The 10-year-old was a three-time winner of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but pulled up in last month’s renewal won by Tiger Roll.
“He came back a little bit sore from Cheltenham,” explained owner JP McManus’ racing manager, Frank Berry, “and he’s been such a good servant we thought we’d retire him. He was a very sound horse and ran some terrific races in between going to Cheltenham. It’s hard to find one like him.”
Willie Mullins’ Total Recall remains the marginal 11/1 Grand National favourite (with Betfair), while last year’s fourth placed Blaklion (12/1 with 188Bet), the aforementioned Tiger Roll (12/1 with Bet365), and Anibale Fly could all potentially go off favourite in what is sure to be a sensational race.