I won the Grand National on Rough Quest in 1996 and whoever wins it on Saturday will go down in the sport’s rich history. I fancy five against the field (below) in the Grand National – but there’s plenty of action on the under-card too.
It’s Grand National day and there’s a really hot handicap hurdle to kick things off. Sire du Berlais was a hard-fought winner at Cheltenham off a mark 7lbs lower than today’s. He has crack conditional Jonjo 0’Neill on board who takes 3lbs off. He’s bound to go well but is short enough in the market. I like Poker Play here for trainer David Pipe. He’s gone up in the ratings for his win at Uttoxeter, but the trainer is in red-hot form and that counts for plenty.
Brewinupastorm ran a belter in the Ballymore Hurdle at Cheltenham and Champ franked the form by winning here on Friday. His is the best form on show – but how much of a mark has Cheltenham left on him. Angels Breath had no run in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and connections will be hoping he can do better here. One I like at a price is Kateson each-way. He was second in the bumper last year and will relish this contest and wasn’t beaten far when third in the Challow Hurdle earlier this season.
Lalor was my selection in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham but needs to bounce back from running a shocker there. There is talk of him being ridden handier to the pace, but there is so much pace in here that it may not be easy. He has a good record at this course and hopefully he can get his jumping career back on track here. I’ll give him another chance. Irish raider Us and Them can pick up the pieces if things don’t work out for Lalor.
Apple’s Jade was so disappointing in the Champion Hurdle that you have to be wary of that happening again. For that reason, mares hurdle winner Roksana has to be given an each-way chance in a race like this on the back of her second to Santini in the Grade One over this trip at last year’s meeting. If Apple’s Jade is back to her best – they won’t beat her. But that’s a risk after her Festival flop.
Kildisart ran a good race behind Defi du Seuil and Lostintranslation at the Festival and the latter franked that form here already. Kildisart has to be respected now back in handicap company. Debece has such a good record at this course and races off the mark that he finished fourth in a big handicap last year, so just gets the nod. He was also third in a Grade One before that so he the selection.
My idea of the first five in the Grand National is firstly, Rathvinden, to win it. He was such an impressive winner of the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse and he just gets the nod over Tiger Roll. The Tiger is trying to do what has seemed impossible since the mighty Red Rum managed it 45 years ago.
Dounikos is another I like for Gordon Elliot and Jack Kennedy. He won a Grand National trial at Punchestown over 3m 4f staying on well. The National is a real test of stamina now since the fences were made easier to navigate. I also like chances of Lake View Lad who finished the race off really well at Cheltenham, just behind a horse in the same colours, Vintage Clouds who could also finish in the money with Paddy Power paying 6 places.