Forty runners to get through here as these magnificent thoroughbreds and brave jockeys bid to negotiate 30 fences around the greatest steeplechase course in the world. Any amount of luck will be needed, but whatever happens, let’s hope all riders and horses come back unscathed.
Here, I give a quick synopsise of each horse running in the 2017 Randox Health Grand National
1. The Last Samuri
An excellent second in this race last year when the ground was softer than ideal. Conditions will be more in his favour this time around, but he now races off a 12lb higher mark and must carry 16lb more in physical weight. Can run well given his good record over these fences, but looks booked for places at best.
2. More Of That
Former top-class hurdler who hasn’t scaled the same heights over fences. Built to jump fences, but physical problems have scuppered his career. He’s had bleeding and wind issues and this marathon test will put his body under maximum pressure. While the case, has shaped nicely in last two runs and is a class act on his day. Can’t rule him out, but comes with risks.
3. Shantou Flyer
A good winner at Cheltenham in January and generally been shaping nicely over two-and-a-half miles. Worth a crack at this trip, but mark does look a touch high and trainer not been inform of late.
4. Perfect Candidate
Comes here in good order on the back of a sound Exeter victory, but has paid the price in terms of going up the handicap. Could run well for a long way if taking to this test, but is potentially better served by softer terrain and smaller fields.
5. Saphir Du Rheu
Is on a very fair mark and comes here on the back of a career best, having finished fifth in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Has always been a horse with a touch of class and a big reputation, but has never truly delivered. Maybe now the penny is finally starting to drop? All things considered, he must at least make your short/longlist.
6. Roi Des Francs
Not sure this test will bring out the best in him. He’s a horse that loves heavy ground, small-field races in his native Ireland. Teenage sensation Jack Kennedy rides and he’ll have to work his magic to trouble the judge.
7. Wounded Warrior
A horse that I’ve always thought could be a Grand National type. He has plenty form on very soft ground in Ireland, but nice terrain shouldn’t inconvenience too much. The worry with him is he hasn’t shown much spark this season.
8. Wonderful Charm
The drying ground and flat track will suit. He comes here in good order, but I’d have stamina doubts and a mark of 153 back in this company looks high enough.
9. Tenor Nivernais
He’s been in brilliant form this season, his runaway Ascot victory the highlight. A shame connections ran him at Kelso last time as coming here on the back of that previous win would’ve been a positive. I’d have serious stamina doubts about him, but he’s the type of horse that adrenalin could carry if he gets out in front and enjoys himself. Type to shape well for a long way, but ultimately will come up short.
Last year’s winner of a sub-standard RSA Chase at Cheltenham. Hasn’t gone on this campaign, but at his best he is a gritty, straight-forward and honest character. He tends to travel and jump well so must enter calculations for a trainer that has twice won this race. His run last time out was a step in the right direction.
11. Drop Out Joe
Type that has shaped like marathon tests could bring out the best in him, but can be in and out. Still lightly-raced for a nine-year-old, will enjoy the nice ground and his record fresh is useful. While the case, others look classier.
12. Le Mercurey
A horse with a touch of class, but is generally best served by small fields. Not sure he’s the type to take to this test and can be swerved.
13. The Young Master
Classy handicapper that has been trained for this day. Fell on his only start over these fences, but was never put in the race late and did go as far as the second last. One of the more likely ones to stay this trip and his form this campaign has been eye-catchingly progressive.
14. Cause Of Causes
A three-time Cheltenham Festival winner and still only nine, Cause Of Causes has a habit of winning on the big days. He was a sound, although well-held eighth in this in 2015, never able to land a serious blow. His overall profile along with him nearly being a guaranteed stayer over the trip means he is of interest.
15. Regal Encore
A horse with a very in and out profile, but on his day, he is useful. Softer ground would be better, but he represents an inform trainer and a jockey who is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment. There are worse 66/1 shots, but he just doesn’t fully convince.
16. Vieux Lion Rouge
Shaped with distinct promise at last year’s Cheltenham Festival before running well to finish seventh in this race, albeit, well held in the end. Has had two runs this season and won both, including a race over these fences. He has an obvious chance for a trainer that has won this contest before.
17. Definitly Red
Comes here at the peak of his powers and is officially “well in”, meaning, he should, in theory, be carrying more weight. Has shaped as if this kind of stamina test could bring out further improvement. Another with an obvious chance.
18. Ucello Conti
A sound albeit well-held sixth in this contest last year. Runs off the same mark and comes here in similar form. On that basis, he’ll need to improve, but this year’s race will be run under different conditions and the fact he has completed the course is a big positive. Runs for Gordon Elliott, who kick-started his brilliant career in winning this very race ten years ago.
19. Double Shuffle
Represents a trainer/jockey combo in Tom George and Adrian Heskin that have enjoyed a brilliant season together. Flat track and nice ground will play to his strengths, but slight doubts about him seeing out this trip.
20. Houblon Des Obeaux
Bits and pieces of high-class handicap form, but not the force of old. At ten, he still operates to a decent level, but outside place prospects look most likely. He will at least see out the trip better than most, but a surprise if at least a half dozen don’t prove to be better treated.
21. Pleasant Company
A lightly-raced nine-year-old who comes here in good order. Looks to be progressing, jumps, travels and has a sound shot at seeing out the marathon trip. Represents the game’s most feared duo. The only worry? Softer ground would probably suit.
22. One For Arthur
A good fifth in the Becher Chase over these fences before going on to win the Classic Chase in good fashion. This much-improved eight-year-old looks to have an excellent chance of staying this trip and I couldn’t put you off him. The concerns would be him getting too back early on lively ground.
Historically a horse with problems and comes here in awful form. An easy duck.
24. O’Faolains Boy
A second horse to represent the Rebecca Curtis yard, this ten-year-old won the 2014 RSA Chase at Cheltenham, but has ultimately disappointed since. Classy on his day, but the yard struggling means I can leave him be.
25. Highland Lodge
He hasn’t run in 126 days, but that’s a positive as he is best fresh. His form figures over these fences on this track read 12 and he clearly comes to life on Merseyside. Maybe lacks the class of many ahead of him in the market, but he must be of interest with his record around here.
26. Bishops Road
Would be on interest on very soft and heavy ground, terrain he has shown himself to excel on. That concern along with jumping frailties mean I will look elsewhere.
27. Lord Windermere
A former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner meaning he has reached the pinnacle of the sport, to add this race would make him one of the most decorated. On old form his mark looks extremely feasible, but his hit and miss nature means I can look elsewhere. Pulled up in the 2015 running of this race.
28. Saint Are
Likes Aintree on a whole and has some nice form over these fences. Was second to Many Clouds two seasons ago before pulling up in last year’s contest, where, to be fair, the ground would’ve been too soft. Has held his form well since, but that means his mark is no more than fair. Of interest, again with his trainer in good form.
Last year’s Scottish National winner who hasn’t sparked this season. Maybe connections have laid him out for this day and he’ll peak, if so, he deserves respect. Nearly sure to see out this trip which is a plus. He’s hard to weigh up.
30. Just A Par
Got plenty of quality form over regulation fences, but never convinced over the Aintree birch. Comes here in winning form, but quite simply, he’s not for me.
Would be of interest of the basis of his third in last season’s National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but has been in poor form since. Another that looks best suited to smaller fields and I will look elsewhere.
32. Raz De Maree
Highly commendable 12-year-old who has been in good order this year. Would have stronger claims on softer ground and, in a race where the younger horses are taking on their elders more, this old boy may just struggle.
33. Stellar Notion
Keen-going sort that likes to get on with things. Could be a sight over the first three miles, but he will probably struggle to see out this trip.
34. Rogue Angel
Last season’s Irish National winner when having a pretty charmed run through the race. Hasn’t been anywhere near that level since and is hard to recommend on that basis.
35. Cocktails At Dawn
36. Thunder And Roses
The 2015 Irish National winner who has been in good form this season. While the case, I just can’t warm to him, I’m not sure he has the class.
37. Gas Line Boy
Looks too high in the handicap on the back of a good Kelso win where he had everything go right. Will probably struggle against this grade of horse.
Another horse of Kerry Lee’s that would be best served by much softer ground. I’ll pass.
39. La Vaticane
An inconsistent mare that jumps well. She is hard to catch right and it’s hard to see her troubling the judge.
40. Doctor Harper
Of those to the bottom of the handicap, he looks the most likely to run well at a big price. Is a winner on the hurdles course here and is trained by a man who has won this race in these very colours. Could creep into late and maybe hit the frame.
I think it makes sense to keep a class horse on your side in the National and that horse this time around will be Saphir Du Rheu. It could’ve been More Of That, but with him finishing ahead of the Jonjo O’Neill horse in the Gold Cup having had a worse trip – and now meeting him on 1lb better terms – he has to be included.
Others who made the shortlist were Blaklion, Vieux Lion Rouge, Definitly Red, Ucello Conti and Pleasant Company.
I like horses having experience over these fences and with that being the case, Vieux Lion Rouge gets the nod. He’s a fine stamp of a horse, but he impressed with his agility and stamina here when winning the Becher Chase back in December.
Blaklion may have won a sub-standard RSA last season, but he is a Grade 1 winner in a handicap and a really likeable horse. He is honest, jumps well and will love getting back on some nice ground. His second last time out was a step in the right direction.
I’m not a big man on stats, but of the two nine-year-olds remaining – Ucello Conti and Pleasant Company – I’ll just edge towards the latter. Ucello Conti was well held in this last year off the same mark and I’m not sure he’s improved whereas, Pleasant Company is certainly a progressive horse on the up. I’d prefer softer ground for him, but hopefully he gets away with it over this trip.
Of those remaining on the shortlist, Definitly Red has to be of interest given he comes here in top form, but I’m not sure about his jumping around here. On value grounds, Saint Are should be included on your list. He finished second in this race in 2015 on nice ground. He’ll get similar terrain again today and with the Tom George team in great order, he looks the value play.
My advice would be to do your bets soon because nearing the race the bookies will slash everything. Good luck!
2017 Grand National picks
2. Pleasant Company
3. Saphir Du Rheu
4. Vieux Lion Rouge
5. Saint Are