I love the Grand National and the city of Liverpool. It’s a hell of a place for a party and I was lucky enough to experience it when I won on Rough Quest in 1996.
I felt invincible, like I could do anything. I was floating on air and that’s when I came up with the immortal line to Des Lynam, live on the BBC: “After that, Des, even sex is an anticlimax!”
But there was a flip side too. Fast forward 12 years to 2008 and I’m at the landing side of the second fence, lying on a spinal board, not able to feel my legs because my spinal cord was in shock!
This is what you get with the Grand National. It takes you to extremes. And this year will be no different.
My main fancy on Saturday is Paul Nicholls’ Saphir Du Rheu who has often been the bridesmaid in the past, but looks primed to deliver on the promise he’s always shown.
I was impressed with his run in the Gold Cup last month when fifth to Sizing John and that’s the best bit of individual form we have going into the race. Don’t forget he was a 15 length winner of a Grade One Novice Chase at Aintree in 2015, and looks to really have gotten his act together with his jumping again, particularly in his last two races.
He’s got that bit of class and comes into the National in the best form he’s been in for a while.
However, it is the Grand National and with Paddy’s paying 6 places each-way we want to throw a few names into the hat so everyone can get a run for their money. The other five I expect to give backers some fun are The Last Samuri, Vieux Lion Rouge, Ucello Conti, Shantou Flyer and Measureofmydreams.
The National dominates Saturday’s action but there’s a very good undercard to the main event.
I’ve been looking out for Ben Pauling’s Le Breuil who is a good horse and dodged Cheltenham to have a crack at this Mersey Novices Hurdle 2.25pm. All the chat will be for Finian’s Oscar and Gold Cup winning jock Robbie Power takes over in the saddle having landed the gig to ride Alan Potts’ horses.
Finian’s Oscar is unbeaten for trainer Colin Tizzard and is a worthy favourite, despite missing the Festival through injury. It’s a quick turnaround for him so I just fancy Le Breuil to prevail this time.
Charbel looks the one to be on in the Maghull Novices Chase at 3pm. He was making Altior work for it in the Arkle Chase last month before falling two fences out. I’d love to see him get some compensation here for connections.
Paul Nicholls’ Politologue can get competitive now that he reverts to two miles. He should finish strongly and can chase the favourite home.
There’s 18 declared for the 3m Handicap Chase 3.40pm and a lot of these ran down the field in the Festival handicaps.
It never worked out for Starchitect where he finished fifth to Road to Respect and he still could be well handicapped. However, one that I’m interested is Henri Parry Morgan. He’s had a disappointing season, but 12 months ago, he was a three-length second in the Grade One Novice Chase to Native River at this meeting. Leading National fancy Blaklion and last month’s Cheltenham winner Un Temps Pour Tout were third and fourth respectively.
He’s plummeted down the ratings to 138 since and can take advantage of that now.
In the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle 4.20pm connections have seen the light with Yanworth and he steps up in trip to try and get some compensation after his Champion Hurdle flop. He looked like he might have been tailed off at Cheltenham, but came home reasonably well.
He’ll never be a Champion Hurdler so he can make the first step on the road to staying races from now on a winning one.