Everybody is gearing up for the biggest race of the year
The Grand National, Aintree, Saturday 5.15pm
The Last Samuri () is the one who could get his nose in front in Saturday’s Grand National (5.15pm) at Aintree. Trained by Kim Bailey he won the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase in March – beating The Druids Nephew () by 10 lengths, a horse who was travelling well in last year’s National before falling six out.
There are a lot of things you need to win the National. You need a horse that stays, a clear run, and of course you need a lot of luck. The Last Samuri is a winner over 3 mile 2 furlongs, and he’s only unseated his rider once in 14 runs under rules. Now he just needs the rub of the green.
Aintree experience isn’t too worrying. In this race, anything can happen. It’s different at a track like Cheltenham, where you’re looking for a horse who will stay up the hill or who has done it before, but at Aintree it’s less of a concern. Auroras Encore and Neptune Collonges won without ever going over National Fences, and Pineau De Re won in 2014 after falling eight fences into his only previous attempt. The Last Samuri has never run over Aintree fences but that shouldn’t put you off.
Part of the attraction of the National is it’s unpredictability but hopefully luck is on The Last Samuri’s side, and if it is then fingers crossed he can go on and win.
Silviniaco Conti () is the class horse in the race – he’s a seven-time Grade 1 winner – but this is 4 miles 2 furlongs, 30 fences, 40 horses and anything can happen. In the 2005 race Clan Royal was six lengths ahead of the field and travelling well when he was carried out by a loose hose at Becher’s Brook. Is Silviniaco Conti the classiest horse in the race? Yes. But does that mean he’s the most likely winner? Not necessarily.
If Many Clouds () goes on to win he’ll be the first horse to win back-to-back Nationals since Red Rum in 1973 and 1974, and Leighton Aspell will be the first jockey to win three on the bounce which is an incredible achievement. A lot of people will be willing Many Clouds to win and make history, just as the public were so willing to get behind AP McCoy to win in his last Grand National before retirement in 2015. Many Clouds is only carrying a pound more than last year and has to have a great chance.
Holywell (below) () might be a better bet however. He has a wonderful chance of making the frame off a nice light weight of 10-12. Hopefully he’s come out of his race at the Cheltenham Festival (second in the Ultima Handicap Chase) in sound form, and if so he’s a major player.
The Grand National is later this year is at 5:15pm and Southampton face Newcastle at St Mary’s at 3.00pm, so whether we get to watch it might depend on the result! Ideally we’ll pick up three points and then we’ll be allowed to have it up on the TV in the changing room. There’ll probably be a little sweepstake among the lads as well – it’s all part of the fun of the day.
Everyone likes to have a cheeky bet on the National – some do it on names, or numbers, or colours. My favourite number is 11, so if I was to plump for a horse purely on number I’d be backing Rocky Creek (). He completed last year which is a positive, but was well down the field. As for a colour, my favourite is blue – so possibly Wonderful Charm () for Paul Nichols or Soll () for David Pipe.
So many people get involved in the National – whether it’s placing a bet on form, a number, a name, or just a hunch – and that’s why it’s so special. It’s a fantastic day for racing – and will be even better for punters if The Last Samuri wins!