The distance may have been cut by a furlong to try and reduce the speed of the maximum field of 40 charging towards the first fence, but there’s no mistaking the identity of the race which will hold not just the nation but millions of punters worldwide in its grip, shortly after 4pm on Saturday afternoon (live on Channel 4).
Worth a staggering £547,268 to the winner, the John Smith’s Grand National will command a vast television audience, as well as a monster crowd here at a sold out Aintree Racecourse.
The standard of the race seems to creep higher and higher year on year, but the quality on display in 2013 is not to be argued with:
2013 Grand National Selection:
12. Join Together – Track, trip and ground could be ideal for a couple of contenders in this year’s race, none more so than the Paul Nicholls trained Join Together. He acquitted himself very well over the big fences back in December in the Becher Chase, and can go one better on the day that counts. Nicholls has had to endure a frustrating campaign watching chief rival Nicky Henderson sweep up many of the major honours, but this exciting eight year old could well land a sizeable blow for the Ditcheat team.
Back Join Together each way at 20/1 with Paddy Power, all of whom are offering each way punters a quarters of the odds down to five places.
Best odds for all 40 runners from leading bookmakers at
Here’s a summary of the rest of the field…
1. Imperial Commander – Nigel Twiston-Davies – Sam Twiston-Davies
Off a mark of 158 he has to shoulder top weight, but bounced back from a 22 month absence with a powerful display when second in the Argento at Cheltenham. Forced to miss the Gold Cup last month, but that could be to his advantage here. Won the 2010 Gold Cup. Foolish to rule out, especially as Neptune Collonges scored under 11st 6lbs a year ago.
2. What A Friend – Paul Nicholls – Sam Thomas
Won Betfred Bowl at this meeting in 2010, but out of form this year and hard to envisage him winning the National. Would be a shock winner.
3. Weird Al – Donald McCain – Timmy Murphy
A dazzling novice in his days with Ian Williams. Nothing seems to have gone right for him lately though, and fell in this race four our in 2012. Has been known to break blood vessels.
4. Quel Esprit – Willie Mullins – Paul Townend
Won Irish Hennessy in February 2012 but stamina doubts and sometimes makes jumping errors. Opposable.
5. Big Fella Thanks – Tom George – Denis O’Regan
Hardy veteran who gives his all. However, form figures of 6, 4, 7 in three previous assaults on this prize suggest he doesn’t quite get the marathon trip. Place prospects at best.
6. Seabass – Ted Walsh – Katie Walsh
Third a year ago when sent off a gambled on 8/1 joint favourite. That was from a 5lb lower mark, but has shaped well over fences and hurdles in the interim, and must be considered a major threat. Trainer won the race with Papillon back in 2000.
7. Roberto Goldback – Nicky Henderson – Barry Geraghty
A sixth run for current trainer after transferring from the care of Dessie Hughes. Acts on better ground and proved there’s still fire in his belly when taking Ascot’s United House Gold Cup in November (off 4lb lower). Could be involved.
8. Sunnyhillboy – Jonjo O’Neill – Richie McLernon
Connections clearly believe his is feasibly handicapped off 152 given he hasn’t jumped a fence in public since finishing second by a nose to Neptune Collonges 12 months ago (off 142). Prior to that he won the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, and deserves maximum respect despite the fact AP McCoy shops elsewhere. Trainer won the race in 2010 with Don’t Push It.
9. Ballabriggs – Donald McCain – Jason Maguire
The McCain family enjoy an indelible assocaition with this race, not just for the exploits of the great Red Rum, but also for this wonderful horse’s victory in the 2011 renewal. Managed sixth a year ago, but pulled up in the Becher Chase here in December, and perhaps the years could be catching up as he’s now a 12 year old. That said, he’s now only two pounds higher in the weights than when winning.
10. Teaforthree – Rebecca Curtis – Nick Scholfield
A first taste of Aintree for this dour stayer who did this column a mighty favour when grittily landing the four miler at the Cheltenham Festival 13 months ago. Second in the Welsh National in January and stable on a high after the win of At Fishers Cross at Cheltenham. Acceptable racing weight, big chance. No Welsh trained winner of the race since 1905!!
11. Across The Bay – Donald McCain – Henry Brooke
Mixing regulation fences & hurdles has run well here in the past on more than one occasion. Loves testing ground. Has had a wind op. Unlikely to be good enough.
12. Join Together – Paul Nicholls – Daryl Jacob
Bindaree in 2002 and Party Politics in 1992 are the last eight year old winers of this contest, but this guy has stamina to burn, handled these fences with aplomb when second in the Becher Chase back in December, and hails from the stable that won the race 12 months ago. A mark of 150 means he is reasonably weighted with 11st 2lbs, and you can out a line through his prep run when pulled up at Doncaster having been badly hampered. Avoided Cheltenham specifically to target this prize, and looks primed to deliver a big challenge as Daryl Jacob searches for a repeat win in the saddle. Not too much mileage on the clock and loves decent ground.
13. Colbert Station – Ted Walsh – AP McCoy
The Walsh family hold a very strong hand in the race, with Ted saddling both Colbert Station and Seabass, while son Ruby rides favourite On His Own. Colbert Station is the choice of champion jockey AP McCoy, and hails from the strong staying family of Witness Box. Winner of the valuable Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas time, he followed up with a win over hurdles in a Pertemps Qualifier at Punchestown in February. In the form of his life, and this will be just his sixth appearance over fences.
14. Forpadydeplasterer – Tom Cooper – Andrew McNamara
Won over three miles at Thurles in November, but major stamina doubts have to be the prime concern for the 2009 Arkle winner. His odds of 66/1 would appear to be an accurate reflection of his chance.
15. On His Own – Willie Mullins – Ruby Walsh
A faller in this race 12 months at Bechers second time around. Prior to that he was a facile winner of the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park in January 2012, but could a lack of experience count against him? He’s three from seven over fences, but bounced back from the injury suffered in this race a year ago by scoring in Navan’s Boyne Hurdle
in February. Short price appears to be based on that run and the formidable team he represents – they were successful with Hedgehunter in 2005.
16. Joncol – Paul Nolan – Robbie Power
No win since November 2011 but bags of experience over fences, with six wins from 18 outings. Won the Irish Hennessy in 2010, but not guaranteed to stay and also not in the best of form.
17. Balthazar King – Philip Hobbs – Richard Johnson
Nicely weighted and stays all day, as proven by his Cross Country win at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival. Drying ground a plus and definite each way squeak.
18. Cappa Bleu – Evan Williams – Paul Moloney
Strongly fancied 11 year old from top Welsh stable. Races off a mark of 145 despite running on strongly to grab fourth in this off 2lbs higher a year ago. Ground no problem and trained all year with this in mind. Good warm up second to Vino Griego at Ascot. Promising.
19. Oscar Time – Martin Lynch – Sam Waley-Cohen
Second to Ballabriggs in the 2011 renewal off an identical mark. Missed a year after that and yet to show similar level of form this term, plus is now a 12 year old. Would appreciate rain.
20. Always Waining – Peter Bowen – Tom O’Brien
Comes alive over these unique fences, bagging the Topham in 2010 (off 128), 2011 (133) and 2012 (138). Has eaned a bash at the big one, but is 12 now and rated 144, plus there has to be a massive stamina concern.
21. Tatenen – Richard Rowe – Andrew Thornton
Sent off a 100/1 outsider when unseating at fence eight a year ago. Sixth in the Grand Annual latest and unlilely to figure prominently.
22. Treacle – Tom Taaffe – Andrew Lynch
Fell in this a year ago but goes well in big field handicaps, hasn’t been over-raced for a veteran, will like the ground and won his prep race. Not written off.
23. Lost Glory – Jonjo O’Neill – Mark Walsh
Won four of his last five, striking at a lower level at Uttoxeter, Southwell, Stratford and Chepstow. Another big step forward required to get involved here.
24. Swing Bill – David Pipe – Conor O’Farrell
A winner of four of his 30 chase starts, this inconsistent old horse is capable on his day and likes these fences. Made it home in 10th a year ago, and showed up well when fourth in the Becher in December. Also fifth in the Topham of 2011. Might be booked for another mid-division finish.
25. Saint Are – Tim Vaughan – Dougie Costello
Not the best in the jumping department (one from 11 over fences) but scored over hurdles in Grade 1 company at this meeting two years ago, and followed up over regulation fences last season. Ground a plus and lightly weighted.
26. Chicago Grey – Gordon Elliott – Paul Carberry
Bit of a character and takes the odd chance with his jumping. Was unlucky to be brought down at the fifth in last year’s race (went off 20/1), but can now race off a nine pounds lower mark. Has had a wind op since then, which presumably contributed when he popped up at 25/1 to win his prep race at Navan.
27. Quiscover Fontaine – Willie Mullins – David Casey
Out of form of late over shorter trips, and wasn’t exactly flying when he fell in this race at the 17th last season. He did however run well to be fourth in the 2011 Irish National (3m 5f).
28. Rare Bob – Dessie Hughes – Bryan Cooper
Brought down at the fifth when sent off at 40/1 off a six pounds higher mark 12 months ago. Did however show up well for a long way when fifth in the 2011 Becher Chase over these obstacles. Ridden by man of the moment Bryan Cooper and a back to for third in the Leinster National at Naas last time out. Not dismissed.
29. The Rainbow Hunter – Kim Bailey – Aidan Coleman
Scored in May at Southwell and again after a break at Ascot in November, but couldn’t cope with Heavy ground at Chepstow in December, and well beaten at Ascot in February. Hard to say how he’ll adapt to these fences and others preferred.
30. Becauseicouldntsee – Noel Glynn – Martin Ferris
A towering horse having his third run in the race. Two falls haven’t put connections off trying to make it third time lucky, but he didn’t make it past fence two in 2011, and fence eight in 2012. Was a fair fifth in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival 23 days ago, but it’ll be a big shock if he can pull this off.
31. Harry The Viking – Paul Nicholls – Ryan Mahon
Best known for being in the part ownership of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, this lightly raced eight year displayed his ample stamina by finishing second to Teaforthree in the 2012 National Hunt Chase. Out of form in four starts since, most recently in the Kim Muir, but not impossible to envisage a resurgent display here.
32. Mr Moonshine – Sue Smith – Peter Buchanan
Without a win since November 2011 but solid and consistent and performed well to finish second to Cape Tribulation at Wetherby at Christmas time. Surprising if he’s good enough to figure here.
33. Mumbles Head – Peter Bowen – Jamie Moore
Twice a winner at Perth last summer and third here in a veterans’ chase in October, but fell at the first in the Becher Chase and then pulled up in the Tommy Whittle at Haydock Park three days before Christmas. Hard to fancy.
34. Ninetieth Minute – Tom Taaffe – Slippers Madden
Just one win from 11 starts over fences for this 10 year old son of Old Vic, that sole success arriving in a beginners’ event at Fairyhouse in February 2012. Warmed up for this with a second to stablemate Treacle at Down Royal last month. Difficult to imagine him winning.
35. Auroras Encore – Sue Smith – Ryan Mania
Won a handicap hurdle here at this meeting in 2008, and beaten a head in last year’s Scottish National. That said, three runs this year have seen him beaten 46 lengths to finish a tame fifth in the Classic Chase at Warwick, fall at Doncaster and then beaten out of sight at Kelso. Slim chance unless something can spark a revival.
36. Tarquinius – Gordon Elliott – Wilson Renwick
This’ll be run number 14 of a packed season for Tarquinius, one which has yielded wins at Punchestown, Leopardstown and Fairyhouse. Solid and consistent and sneaks into the weights with 10st 2lbs. Trainer won this race six years ago, but doubt whether this horse is good enough to repeat the feat.
37. Any Currency – Martin Keighley – Ian Popham
Gets in here flush off 10 stone and has bags of stamina. Will like the ground and won over 3m 4f at Wincanton in November. However, unseated in the Becher Chase on only attempt at these fences, and could only manage ninth in the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival.
38. Major Malarkey – Nigel Twiston-Davies – Tom Scudamore
Lively outsider but very infrequent visitor to winners’ enclosure – last victory December 2010. Stacks of experience at marathon trips though, including narrow second in 2012 Midlands National.
39. Soll – Jo Hughes – Mark Grant
Two pounds out of the weights but lightly raced and has potential to improve. Formerly with John Quinn and then Willie Mullins, but recorded first win for current trainer when making all on Heavy ground to win off 132 at Sandown Park last month. Could be more to come.
40. Viking Blond – Nigel Twiston-Davies – Adam Wedge
Hard to make a convincing case for….crashed out at the first in this a year ago, and though he goes well at Cheltenham this is surely too big an ask.
Posted 4 years, 11 months ago