The eyes of the sporting world will be on Aintree for the Grand National on Saturday (5.15pm) Irish horses dominated last year’s race filling five of the first six places. And we could do it again.
I honestly believe Willie Mullins has three massive chances in the race (below), but it will be later in the week before I decide who’ll I ride. I got it wrong in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when Paul Townend won on Al Boum Photo after I picked Bellshill, so I’m hoping lightning doesn’t strike twice.
He’s always looked an ideal type for the Aintree Grand National and we’ve had this race in mind since winning the 4m National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last season. Rathvinden has a bit of class and even though he’s an 11-year-old, he’s still quite lightly raced. He won the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse at the end of February and seems in great form at home.
He has a bit of pace so should be able to hold his position, which is very important in the context of Saturday’s race. He also has a nice racing weight, is a safe jumper and just ticks a lot of boxes that you look for in a Grand National winner.
For a horse who was beaten a short-head by Tiger Roll last year, he’s kind of coming into this year’s contest a little under the radar.
Pleasant Company is 4lbs better off with Gordon Elliott’s runner for that defeat so if they both jump the last in contention again, he has a great chance of going one better. A slight mistake at the second last cost him a couple of lengths last year and he ended up being a nostril away from winning it. He deserves huge respect.
He’s a fine, big horse, carrying more than 11st won’t bother him and he’s a great jumper.
He’s theoretically 10lbs ahead of the handicapper as his win last time at Naas wasn’t factored in when the Grand National weights were published in February. Another bonus is that a Pairofbrowneyes should have a great racing weight. You can argue that Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly is also ahead of the handicapper – but that’s negated a bit by having to carry top weight.
While Pairofbrowneyes would appreciate any rain that falls, he should have no problem staying the 4m 2f trip and has a huge chance.
Last year’s winner looks the obvious favourite and blinkers seem to have brought about even more improvement in him. He’s been there, done that and has looked better than ever when winning the Boyne Hurdle and consecutive Cross-Country Chases at Cheltenham.
Is there a negative? Although many will argue he’s well handicapped, he’s only a small horse and is set to carry 11st 5lb.
He’s the one to beat for sure – but he’s not unbeatable.
Another Irish horse that that could go well is Tiger Roll’s stablemate Jury Duty, who has had a great prep also.
He won at Down Royal, likes good ground (which it could be on Saturday), is a solid jumper and was just off the top rank as a novice. He should carry less than 11 stone too – which will help.
He was sent off favourite for the National Hunt Chase a couple of seasons back – and while he was pulled up in it – looks a big player.
He’s sure to be a popular pick on the day as the UK’s champion jumps jockey Richard Johnson is due to ride him. Johnson is looking for his first Grand National win on his 21st attempt, but he has finished second twice in the world’s greatest race.
Given that he’s the oldest jockey riding in the contest, he would dearly love to go one better before he hangs up his saddle in the future.
Rock the Kasbah jumps, stays and travels well in his races. He looks one of the better English challengers.
*Runners & prices correct at time of publishing