Grand National tips and pinstickers' guide: Can Tiger Roll retain the title at Aintree?
The Randox Health Grand National from Aintree takes place at 5.15pm on Saturday. So that means many punters will be spending today working out who to back.
We've got the Pinstickers' Guide and some top tips ahead of the big race to help you decide:
Grand Nations tips
Pricewise (followers won £84 from £10 stake at Cheltenham): BALLYOPTIC E/W
Irish trainers saddled five of the first six home last year and they have seven of the top ten in the weights this year, but at this stage I think it might be worth siding with one of the best trainers of staying chasers in Britain and Grand National specialist Nigel Twiston-Davies, who runs BALLYOPTIC.
An unlucky second in the Scottish National last season, the nine-year-old has plenty of classy form including when defeating Bellshill and Balko Des Flos in a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Aintree and he beat Elegant Escape by 13 lengths on his chasing debut last season.
Ballyoptic came down in the Becher Chase on his reappearance but had jumped really well up until getting in too close. He had a rushed preparation for the Welsh National but ran respectably in the circumstances under a big weight and Aintree has always been his target.
(Via the Racing Post)
Nick Robson: TIGER ROLL
It has been a long wait since 1974 and Red Rum for a repeat winner of the Grand National, and it just goes to show how hard a race it is to win twice. Nevertheless, TIGER ROLL looked like he might have gone close in the Gold Cup, so easily did he win the Cross Country at Cheltenham, and if he avoids trouble he is surely the one to beat. In any other year Rathvinden would be heading the market and he can give the favourite most to do. At bigger prices, Regal Encore and Jury Duty look the ones for each-way backers.
Ashley Iveson: JURY DUTY
Jury Duty can spoil the party for stablemate Tiger Roll by winning the Grand National.
Trainer Gordon Elliott fields 11 runners in the extended four-and-a-quarter-mile showpiece, with last year's winner Tiger Roll an incredibly short price to become the first dual winner since Red Rum in 1974.
However, that very statistic proves he is up against it and while a podium finish seems almost guaranteed, such is his form at the moment, his Elliott teammate Jury Duty can be the one taking home the trophy this time.
He is technically already a National winner of sorts - although the American Grand National is contested over two miles and five furlongs with hurdles not fences, so it is perhaps better to evaluate his chances aside from that Far Hills triumph last October.
The eight-year-old has a handful of fine big-race efforts to his name, most notably when beating subsequent Cheltenham winners Shattered Love and Presenting Percy as a novice, and his third place in last year's Galway Plate shows he can handle the demands of a sizeable field.
Jury Duty booked his Aintree ticket when shrugging off a 10lb penalty to win a decent event at Down Royal last month, easily accounting for stablemate and favourite Mala Beach as he relished every yard of the three-and-quarter-mile trip.
Clearly the National provides a different task and the marathon distance is not absolutely certain to suit, but Elliott appears to have had this race in mind for some time and Jury Duty has the touch of class that is crucial in this race nowadays.
Pinstickers' Guide to the Grand National
1. ANIBALE FLY (Tony Martin): Approx odds - 10/1
Third in the Gold Cup and fourth in the National last season. Lightly-raced this term, but looks equally as good after his runner-up finish at Cheltenham three weeks ago. Less time to recover this time and burdened with top-weight.
2. VALTOR (Nicky Henderson): 33/1
For all he has achieved, Nicky Henderson has a poor National record and this French import is unlikely to improve it. Arguably his chance was blown when winning at Ascot by eight lengths, causing a 12lb rise in the weights.
3. TIGER ROLL (Gordon Elliott): 7/2
It has been a long time since a previous winner returned with stronger claims 12 months on, but this one does. Won a Grade Two hurdle over an inadequate trip before bolting up at Cheltenham. History awaits?
4. OUTLANDER (Richard Spencer): 80/1
A one-time top-class performer, his best days appear behind him and he has not come close to reproducing his old form this season. Could be one who the fences might spark back to life, however.
5. DON POLI (Phil Kirby): 80/1
Another from the yard who is a shadow of former years. This dual Cheltenham Festival winner always appealed as a National type, but since returning from a lengthy absence he has not looked in love with the game.
6. GO CONQUER (Nigel Twiston-Davies): 40/1
Ultra-consistent chaser who excels on flat tracks and jumps brilliantly. A 6lb rise for his recent win makes life tougher, but the main question he has to answer is stamina. Likely to give his backers a good run for their money.
7. MALA BEACH (Gordon Elliott): 66/1
Seems best suited to big-field handicaps, having won the Troytown and finished second in the Thyestes, so that is in his favour. Certainly no forlorn hope, but now an 11-year-old.
8. MINELLA ROCCO (Jonjo O'Neill): 25/1
Represents connections who have tasted success in the National before and had the class to be second in the Gold Cup a few years ago. Has struggled since and little encouragement came from his Cheltenham run when pulled up.
9. LAKE VIEW LAD (Nick Alexander): 14/1
Arguably comes here in just as good form as Tiger Roll, having won the Rehearsal Chase and Rowland Meyrick this season. Very fine third at Cheltenham also means he is 3lb 'well in', and he looks sure to be involved.
10. PLEASANT COMPANY (Willie Mullins): 20/1
Last year's runner-up, but the feeling is that was his big chance. Only had two runs this season and hard to take any encouragement from either. Banking on the 'Aintree factor' bringing him back to life.
11. BALLYOPTIC (Nigel Twiston-Davies): 33/1
Proper stayer who was beaten just a nose in the Scottish National last April. Fell on his first try over these fences in the Becher Chase, ran a fine race to be sixth in the Welsh National but then pulled up most recently at Haydock.
12. DOUNIKOS (Gordon Elliott): 33/1
Looks one of the more likely contenders from his trainer's huge army. Appeared to have lost his way before bouncing back to win last time out over three and a half miles. Marathon trips could be the making of him.
13. RATHVINDEN (Willie Mullins): 10/1
In any other year he would be a short-priced favourite, but Tiger Roll stands in his way. Won the four-miler at Cheltenham last year, proving his stamina, and took Ireland's most notable trial for this recently. Huge player.
14. ONE FOR ARTHUR (Lucinda Russell): 25/1
Famously struck gold two years ago, but nothing has gone right for him since. He missed the following season through injury and has been restricted to just two runs this term because of the weather, unseating in both.
15. ROCK THE KASBAH (Philip Hobbs): 20/1
Will he finally deliver champion jockey Richard Johnson a first National? Certainly not without a chance, because he is a good jumper who races prominently. Just a worry the handicapper may have hold of him.
16. WARRIORS TALE (Paul Nicholls): 40/1
Trainer has been working miracles all season, but this would top them all. While the 10-year-old has run over the fences before, winning the Grand Sefton, he looked a blatant non-stayer 12 months ago.
17. REGAL ENCORE (Anthony Honeyball): 66/1
Those looking for one at a big price could do worse. Eighth two years ago, he has been lightly-raced since, but finished third in the Ladbrokes Trophy and won a big pot at Ascot. Nice prep last time out.
18. MAGIC OF LIGHT (Jessica Harrington): 66/1
Made hay in mares' races on both sides of the Irish Sea this season, over both hurdles and fences. Fair seventh at Cheltenham, but does not run like one who wants this trip.
19. A TOI PHIL (Gordon Elliott): 50/1
Decent two-and-a-half-miler at his best, but had been disappointing this season until going close in a hot Cheltenham handicap last time out over hurdles.
20. JURY DUTY (Gordon Elliott): 20/1
Winner of the American Grand National, although that is only over two miles and five furlongs and hurdles. Classy novice last season and good win last time out. Not to be underestimated.
21. NOBLE ENDEAVOR (Gordon Elliott): 33/1
Had looked an ideal type for this race a couple of years ago, but injury has intervened. Ninth in the Becher gave him a taste of the fences and mid-division at Cheltenham. No forlorn hope.
22. MONBEG NOTORIOUS (Gordon Elliott): 66/1
Yet another for these connections, he has always looked suited by a real test of stamina. Eighth when well fancied for last year's Irish National, he has struggled on quicker ground this term - so any rain would be a plus.
23. RAMSES DE TEILLEE (David Pipe): 25/1
Has always been viewed as next year's horse, but made startling progress this year so connections have had their hands somewhat forced. Narrowly missed out to Elegant Escape in Welsh National, but another who needs the mud flying.
24. TEA FOR TWO (Nick Williams): 80/1
Another who would be front-page news if he won because he is ridden by Lizzie Kelly and was the horse to help her create history a few years ago in a Grade One at Kempton. Unfortunately he has not come close to reproducing that form for a while.
25. JUST A PAR (James Moffatt): 100/1
Has proved several times he can handle these fences and gets his chance as a reserve. But at 12, with just one run here in December for his new stable after a 20-month break, surely his best racing days are behind him.
26. STEP BACK (Mark Bradstock): 20/1
An intriguing contender from the Coneygree team. Showed his ability when a wide-margin winner of the bet365 Gold Cup. This has been the plan all along, but he has only had two runs since Sandown - and down the field in both.
27. ULTRAGOLD (Colin Tizzard): 66/1
A real specialist over these fences, but all his good runs have come over shorter trips. His third in the Becher offered hope, but he was pulled up at Cheltenham behind Tiger Roll.
28. BLOW BY BLOW (Gordon Elliott): 100/1
Well placed to win first time out this season, but has shown absolutely nothing to recommend him since.
29. UP FOR REVIEW (Willie Mullins): 25/1
Has always looked the type to pick up a nice race, and his third in the Thyestes promised plenty. Was travelling well at Cheltenham until a big blunder cost him any chance. That has to be a worry where these fences are concerned.
30. SINGLEFARMPAYMENT (Tom George): 50/1
It would be a fair achievement if this notoriously weak finisher can win the National. Has looked sure to oblige on a number of occasions only to raise the white flag close home. Ability not in doubt.
31. VIEUX LION ROUGE (David Pipe): 40/1
Looks like his best chance to win is behind him. Seventh, sixth and ninth the last three years, he has won the Becher - but recent form does not suggest he is improving.
32. VALSEUR LIDO (Henry de Bromhead): 66/1
Another who appears to have lost his way. Once a very smart chaser, he was eighth last year but is very hard to recommend on recent form.
33. VINTAGE CLOUDS (Sue Smith): 12/1
Jumps well, stays all day and represents a trainer who has won the National before - so plenty going for this grey, who bounced back to form at Cheltenham and was third in the Scottish National last year.
34. GENERAL PRINCIPLE (Gordon Elliott): 25/1
Won last year's Irish National in a blanket finish and had been running well enough to give him a squeak before an unlucky run at Cheltenham, where he made mistakes and met plenty of trouble, which was not an ideal prep.
35. LIVELOVELAUGH (Willie Mullins): 50/1
Had the pace to finish second on fast ground over two and a half miles on his penultimate start and has never appealed as one crying out for this test.
36. WALK IN THE MILL (Robert Walford): 25/1
Won the Becher Chase in good fashion and has been saved for this race. Has shown up well in a couple of runs over hurdles since then.
37. FOLSOM BLUE (Gordon Elliott): 40/1
Absolutely guaranteed to stay the trip, but can tend to get outpaced early on and could soon lose interest.
38. CAPTAIN REDBEARD (Stuart Coltherd): 50/1
Beat Gold Cup outsider Definitly Red in a match, for his small Borders stable, and ran well again on return to Kelso last month. Unseated early in last year's National, though, and otherwise unraced beyond a little over three miles.
39. BLESS THE WINGS (Gordon Elliott): 100/1
Defied his odds to finish third last year as a 13-year-old, but is another year older and his form has been getting progressively worse.
40. JOE FARRELL (Rebecca Curtis): 16/1
Last year's Scottish Grand National winner should stay at least. He has had an interrupted campaign, after an early setback, but was much-improved after his belated reappearance when second at Newbury two weeks ago.
RESERVE 1. THE YOUNG MASTER (Neil Mulholland)
His name is not as appropriate as it once was. But he has mostly been close to his best form this season, and ran a fine trial in a Cheltenham Festival handicap.
RESERVE 2. ISLEOFHOPENDREAMS (Willie Mullins)
Went close in the Irish National last season, but needs plenty of cut in the ground to bring his stamina into play.
RESERVE 3. EXITAS (Phil Middleton)
Getting on in years and appears badly out of form if his run at Ascot on Sunday is anything to go by.
Belfast Telegraph Digital