Which of this year's market leaders have the best credentials?
Recent results suggest the Grand National has become even more of a lottery, with the last three winners priced at 25/1, 66/1 and 33/1, and you don’t have to go too far back to find 100/1 shocker Mon Mome. However, that won’t stop us having our fivers and tenners on the race and three winning favourites, albeit joint ones, since 2005 suggests it’s not a lost cause.
But which of this year’s fancied horses should we be backing for success? Here, we look at the credentials of the current first four in the betting, including the trainer / jockey combination, racing weight and best prices at the time of writing.
Shutthefrontdoor (Jonjo O’Neill / Tony McCoy; 11st 2lb)
Has been favourite since betting opened and could go off a very short price indeed to give his 19-times champion jockey a fairytale success on his final Grand National ride – AP has said he will retire straight away should he be successful rather than wait until the end of the season. That could well happen as the eight-year-old has long looked cut out for marathon trips and proved the point when winning last season’s Irish Grand National. He looked to have improved again when beating subsequent Hennessy winner Many Clouds at Carlisle on his reappearance and there could be better to come after just six starts over fences. It’s a slight concern he’s been off since but his trainer, who sent out Don’t Push It to win in 2010 on the back of a pulled-up hurdle effort, can be relied upon to have him ready – 15/2 William Hill.
Verdict: A shorter price than he should be due to the McCoy factor but, even so, has plenty going for him and is still value at 15/2, with his starting price likely to be half that.
Rocky Creek (Paul Nicholls / Sam Twiston-Davies; 11st 3lb)
Jumped and travelled well in last year’s race, moving into the lead two out before appearing not to stay and fading into fifth. His trainer put that weak finish down to his breathing and had him operated on for his wind during the summer. It was not immediately apparent the op had worked when the nine-year-old was pulled up in the Hennessy on his reappearance, but he looked all the better for it when running his rivals ragged to win the Betbright Chase at Kempton last time. He was raised 9lb for that success and as the weights had already been framed, he gets in here off his old mark of 154, which is 2lb lower than last year – 10/1 Betfred.
Verdict: The pick of the weights and has valuable course experience in the bank, so makes plenty of appeal.
Balthazar King (Philip Hobbs / Richard Johnson; 11st 2lb)
Game runner-up last year when staying on well for pressure without matching the winner Pineau De Re, and he looks reasonably weighted this time round off a 3lb higher mark. His whole season has been geared towards another crack and has deliberately been kept off the track since winning over the Cheltenham cross-country course in November. His accurate jumping was again in evidence there and he’s only fallen once in 26 chase starts, winning half of them. The question is whether his long absence will work against him as it appeared to do in the 2013 renewal, in which he ran too freely and faded into 15th of the 17 finishers, whereas last year he arrived here on the back of a Cheltenham Festival win – 10/1 bet365.
Verdict: Not hard to see him going well for a long but he’ll need a career-best effort at the age of 11 to go one better than last year.
The Druids Nephew (Neil Mulholland / Aidan Coleman; 10st 9lb)
Lost his way last season after showing promise as a novice, but has looked better than ever since being switched to his current stable for the start of this season. After a confidence-boosting win at Huntingdon in October, he’s caught the eye in races at Cheltenham (second to the smart Sam Winner) and in the Hennessy (looked sure to be placed until fading after the last). The best was yet to come, though, as he won a fiercely competitive 3m handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, and that leaves him 10lb well in here with the promise of more to come for his up-and-coming trainer. The big negative for him is his lack of experience over the National fences and it’s anybody’s guess over whether he takes to them – 14/1 Ladbrokes.
Verdict: If you ignore his lack of course form, he looks to have plenty going for him and could easily figure. Like every runner, though, he will need some luck in running.
If the above has encouraged you to place a bet the advice is to get on early (Saturday morning at the latest) as prices always collapse before the off.