Seven weeks can be a long time in racing, and while the news on Brexit is very much a case of “same old, same old”, there have been plenty of developments on another topic of national importance in that time, specifically the Grand National at Aintree.
Indeed, the complexion of the race has changed dramatically since the weights were first announced at a swanky lunch in Liverpool on February 12th. Like Theresa May’s Brexit deal, some horses’ hopes have been dashed – such as the injured Blaklion – while others have followed in the footsteps of Boris Johnson and made a bid for leadership, with their performances on the track suggesting that the handicapper may have been too lenient.
To celebrate Paddy Power paying six places, we’ve identified the six runners who appear best-handicapped going into Saturday’s 40-runner cavalry charge…
Anibale Fly was fourth in this race 12 months ago, when arriving on the back of a good third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and he comes here this time round officially 8 lb well-in, having gone one place better behind Al Boum Photo in the blue riband last time.
Admittedly, he will have to defy top weight, but the case for him is still an easy one to make – he has an excellent record in big-field handicaps and the experience he gained last year could prove invaluable.
Another for the Mullins yard that won this race with Hedgehunter in 2005, Rathvinden arrives here with a similar profile to that horse, having run out a comfortable winner of the Bobbyjo Chase on his reappearance at Fairyhouse.
That form sees him top the field on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings here and – 8 lb well-in officially – he is certainly one for the shortlist, having looked a strong stayer when also winning the four-miler at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Last year’s hero has done what few other recent Grand National winners have this season, by returning better than ever. An impressive winner of the Boyne Hurdle at Navan, he followed up in emphatic fashion in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham last time, and is now 8 lb well-in on the back of that.
Gordon Elliott’s charge does have more weight to carry this year (11-05 compared to 10-13), but he has already compiled a remarkable CV, and it would take a brave man to bet against Tiger Roll becoming the first multiple winner of the race since Red Rum.
A stablemate of Tiger Roll, Jury Duty comes into the race under the radar compared to several of these. That could be because he has raced only one since October – when impressively winning a minor event at Down Royal last month – but that was a career-best effort, and the suspicion is that he has been trained for this.
The handicapper would have him 6 lb higher given his time again, and, behind only Rathvinden on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings, he remains potentially overpriced.
The Trevor Hemmings-owned pair of Vintage Clouds and Lake View Lad are 5 lb and 3 lb well-in, respectively, but the last of our sextet is another grey in the shape of Ramses de Teillee, who is also well-in to the tune of 5 lb, having filled the runner-up spot in the Grand National Trial at Haydock last time.
Also second in the Welsh Grand National, he is a likeable sort who has improved with every start this term, and is included ahead of Vintage Clouds because of the ‘p’ attached to his Timeform rating, denoting that he may yet prove capable of better still.
Trained by Willie Mullins, Pairofbrowneyes produced a career-best when winning the Leinster National at Naas (for the second successive year) last time, forging clear on the run-in to win by five lengths.
According to official handicapper Martin Greenwood, he is now the most well-in of any horse currently guaranteed a run in the Grand National – to the tune of 10 lb – and it would be folly to discount him for each-way purposes at 25/1, for all that he is still unproven over further than three miles.