After telling you how NOT to do it yesterday, here’s some real advice for the big one today.
It is now official, 40 horses will go to post at 4.15 tomorrow for the Aintree Grand National. That’s a lot of options to choose from, and with the standard of the race sky rocketing in recent years, it has never been more difficult to choose a winner.
Even a decade ago, the race would have been stuffed with genuine no hopers, at massive odds, that could be ignored immediately. Looking at the betting this morning, the largest price available on BetPack for any horse in the race is 66/1, and one of those is Swing Bill, sixth in the race last year.
So with every horse having a genuine shot at glory, how do you go about whittling the field? Well, you just have to treat it like it is, as a quality handicap chase and try and parse the form. It ain’t easy, but nothing worthwhile is.
Let’s start at the top of the market. The current favourite is Teaforthree, at 8/1 at the time of writing. It is easy to see why Nick Scholfield’s charge is heading the betting. Third last year, the 10-year-old is carrying 5lbs less this time out and after a decent run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup (finishing eighth) it is hard to look past him for at least a place, but at that price, he offers no EW value. And we love a bit of value.
Tidal Bay, at 14/1, will give you a better return, if he breaks the top five. A classy animal, Tidal Bay carries top weight at 11-10 and at 13 he would be the oldest winner since Sergeant Murphy in 1923. Tidal Bay skipped Cheltenham to run here and trainer Paul Nicholls is very happy with his build-up. But the age and weight worry us and with a young, though talented, jockey in the saddle too, 21-year-old Sam Twiston-Davies, we couldn’t tip this horse to place.
So with two big contenders dismissed, how about a horse with real, real quality. Long Run, a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in 2011 and a King George winner a year later, has not been in tremendous form this season but at 12/1, he might just be the best bet if you fancy going for an on-the-nose punt.
Ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen, the amateur jockey has his knockers but his record over the big fences at Aintree is superb (he won over them again yesterday) and he has finished second, fourth and fifth in the National. Add in the fact that his saddle will carry the initials of his brother Tom, who died of cancer, and you have all the elements of a traditionally compelling National story.
Monbeg Dude is another ‘story’ horse, a factor that should never be overlooked in this race. Owned by rugby trio Mike Tindall, James Simpson-Daniel and Nicky Robinson he has had extra lessons in jumping from Mike’s missus, Olympic medallist Zara Phillips. Well handicapped, and with experienced jockey Paul Carberry aboard he has to be reckoned with, even if the price, 12s, is a bit skimpy.
Time for a quick wrap up of good EW bets, the most popular, and probably wisest, punt in this race.
Cheltenham Cross Country Chase winner Balthazar King (20/1) looks tasty to us, and the ground and distance should suit. Having Richard Johnson in the saddle is no harm either. Another former Cross Country winner is Big Shu, and at 25/1, is my best Irish bet of the race. The horse has won in races over four miles before and if we get a bit of rain before the off, then you have to stick a few euro down on Peter Maher’s horse.
That font of knowledge Donn McClean reckons another Irish horse, Lion Na Bearnai (33/1) has a shot. A former winner of the Irish National, the 12-year-old will be ridden by Davy Russell, so that is another sign that we should invest a few bob this way.
Finally, if you want a real long-ish shot, then how about Hunt Ball (66/1). Trained by Nicky Henderson, who has remarkably never won this race, the horse was a decent fourth in the Ryanair Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. It would be a shock to see the horse win, but a place in the top five will get you a return with BetPack, and that is more than possible.
Betpack won’t be beaten for price on this year’s National as they are Top Price All Runners from 10am on Saturday & paying 5 Places.