Once again we face the problem of solving probably the most difficult race of the year.
The Grand National will see forty runners (2012 Grand National Runners list here) do battle over thirty fences across four and a half miles of Aintree turf but the race hasn’t been the bookies benefit you may think in recent years.
No less than 17 of the last 21 winners of the race have started at 20/1 or below, quite an astounding stat considering less than half the field are covered by those odds each year. Add to that the fact that only three horses in the last four years have even finished in the first five at odds bigger than 20/1 and it seems all the placed horses are likely to be 20/1 or less. So which are the best contenders?
The most likely favourite at 4.15pm today has to be Synchronised and it is easy to see why he is the favourite. Only a month ago he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup despite conditions probably not being to his liking in that race. The Grand National is likely to suit better and Synchronised seems to have limitless stamina having won the Midlands Grand National in heavy ground over four miles and a quarter two years ago. He has also won another ‘National. He took the Welsh Grand National last season. He has never fallen over fences (although has fallen over hurdles oddly enough) and perhaps the only negative is the weight he has to carry. No horse has carried this much weight to victory since the days of Red Rum but Synchronised has certainly earned his weight and is likely to be on the premises for Tony McCoy and Jonjo O’Neill who won the race two years ago with Don’t Push It.
Another popular runner this year is Ballabriggs and he is another who will carry plenty of weight having won the race last year. He is proven in this race before though and runs for Donald McCain Jnr, the son of Ginger McCain who was the last man to train a horse to win more than one Grand National (Red Rum). Recent Grand National winners may have struggled to win the race again but they have certainly run well the following year with four of the last ten winners placing the following year (2003 winner Monty’s Pass, 2005 winner Hedgehunter, 2008 winner Comply Or Die and 2010 winner Don’t Push) so each way bets on Ballabriggs still look likely to provide a profit.
There have been a few pretty big gambles over the past week that seem to have dried up, West End Rocker and Giles Cross have both shortened notably probably due to the wet weather earlier in the week but the drying ground is certainly against Giles Cross. Whereas West End Rocker might not be too inconvenienced so still merits plenty of respect having been unlucky in the race last year (brought down fairly early one) before going on to win over the Grand National fences in the Becher Chase in November by 22 lengths.
Junior was one of the horses to drift because of the rain but drying ground is in his favour and this race has been his aim all season so he certainly has the chance that his odds suggest whilst Chicago Grey, who seems likely to go off at 20/1 or less will need plenty of luck in running as he is a confirmed hold up horse. On His Own is another interesting contender and will have Ruby Walsh in the saddle which is a major positive but he is relatively inexperienced with just six runs over fences to date and he may just have a better chance in this next year although he still merits respect if going off at 20/1 or below as expected.
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