With just five days to go to the world’s greatest race – the traders might have to reconsider their holiday plans if results don’t work out.
You don’t need to be a genius to realise that last year’s winner is the last horse we want to see winning again this year. He nearly cleaned us out last April after most of us were convinced that his small size would count against him when navigating the Aintree fences. It looked all over when he powered away from the last, but he did tire significantly on the run from the Elbow.
Pleasant Company nearly saved us – but as the cliché goes – nearly never wins the race. It didn’t that day and we were left licking our wounds. There’s a few of us could be updating our LinkedIn page if he does a ‘Red Rum’ and goes back-to-back on Saturday.
This looks to have been on the radar for the Willie Mullins team since he saw off some smart rivals in the 2018 National Hunt Chase over four miles at last season’s Cheltenham Festival. He only ran once again last year when beaten into fourth in the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Punchestown – beaten a head by another of Saturday’s rival Jury Duty.
Connections shrewdly didn’t run him again until after the publication of the Grand National weights in February, when he subsequently won at Fairyhouse a few days later. He may be an 11-year-old, but he’s lightly-raced and has halved in the betting in the last couple of weeks. A big run is anticipated.
Sue Smith’s grey just failed to get into the final 40 last year and connections were gutted. He proved that this test of stamina is exactly what he wants by finishing third in the Scottish National to Joe Farrell a few weeks after Aintree and underlined his well being when winning at Haydock first time up this season.
An under-par performance in the Welsh National in December was put right when a staying on second to Beware the Bear at Cheltenham last month. Looks a right player.
If there’s money for Tiger Roll, it stands to reason that the horse he beat by a short head should attract money too – particularly on more favourable terms. Pleasant Company failed by just the width of an iPhone to catch Tiger Roll as the petrol light started blinking red up Aintree’s long run in and with a better jump at the second last, he might well have won it.
Willie Mullins’ runner has just had two moderate runs this season in preparation for Saturday and if he gets turned on by being back at Aintree again, he is sure to run a massive race.
Will Tony McCoy ever win the Grand National? Will Frankie Dettori ever win the Epsom Derby? They eventually did and the narrative this year will switch to whether Richard Johnson can finally win a Grand National on his 21st attempt. Punters are latching on to it as well.
The reigning UK Champion jumps jockey is set to ride Rock The Kasbah on Saturday and there’s a feeling developing that this could be among England’s best chances of winning the world’s greatest race against another Irish onslaught led by Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins.
If you think there’s always a good story to the Grand National winner – then Pat Kelly’s Mall Dini could be the one to rival Richard Johnson’s quest for National glory. The stablemate of last month’s Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy, no-one can argue that he hasn’t jumped plenty of fences in preparation for this assignment – the problem is he’s never won a race over them in 14 attempts!
But, we wouldn’t let that put you off as the 2016 Grand National winner Rule the World had never won a race over fences either until he triumphed three years ago. Will lightning strike twice for the horse named after Italian footballer Paolo Maldini?
*Prices and runners correct at time of publishing