40 horses. 30 fences. 4 miles and 2 furlongs. The most thrilling and spectacular horse race of the year. Here’s a run through of the contenders in the 2016 Crabbie’s Grand National.
1. Many Clouds L P Aspell (O Sherwood) 9/1
The defending champion is set to carry top weight in this year’s renewal, giving him a stiff test if he is to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win consecutive Grand Nationals. He has been running creditably against good horses this season, finishing second behind Don Poli and Smad Place, who both contested this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. On his latest start, he was impressive in slamming a decent field at Kelso by 10 lengths. His trainer reported that was the first time he had been 100% fit this season, which is a scary proposition. He is ridden by the very capable Leighton Aspell who is searching for his third straight Grand National victory, after also winning in 2014 on Pineau Du Re. Many Clouds is a worthy favourite, he has proven stamina, jumps well and has the requisite class needed to win a Grand National in recent years. However, the weight of history will rest heavily on both the horse and jockey’s shoulders, which could derail his chances.
2. Silviniaco Conti N D Fehily (P Nicholls) 14/1
Possibly the best horse to contest the Grand National in recent memory, as this horse has won 2 King George Chases, 2 Betfair Chases and 2 Aintree Bowls. He had seemingly lost his way after failing to win in his first three starts this year, but Nicholls put his disappointments down to a wind problem. That was fixed and the remedy worked a charm, as he easily won a Grade 1 at Ascot last time, which means he is lightly treated by the handicapper. A pinpoint jumper who likes to front-run, he could be some sight for the first circuit if he takes to the challenge. However, there have to be some concerns about his tendency to sulk when taken on for the lead, which could see him spit the dummy out before they jump Bechers for the first time. If you’ve backed him, you’ll know if you’re on to a good thing by the seventh fence.
3. First Lieutenant B J Cooper (M F Morris) 50/1
This horse was subject to much fanfare before last year’s renewal, since he was the first ride in the Grand National for Nina Carberry. A bad mistake at the first fence meant he was never a danger, but First Lieutenant plodded round under a quiet ride to pick up 16th place. The fact he managed to get round on his first attempt over the unique National fences is a plus, but his bad blunder at the first, when horses are going their quickest with the most intense crowd noise, showed he may not cope with the occasion. He has posted some decent results this year, standout being the 3rd place finish in the Hennessy to Smad Place. It is also a positive that he is the first choice Gigginstown House Stud representative, along with the fact his trainer landed the Irish Grand National last week. If he jumps with more fluency than last year, he could be a live Each Way contender.
4. Wonderful Charm Sam Twiston-Davies (P Nicholls) 50/1
One of the many Paul Nicholls entries due to his battle for the Trainers Championship. This horse’s best form is over 2m 4f, almost two miles shorter than this race, but his last few races have shown he is at least capable over a staying distance. He is liable to throw in a shuddering error in a few of his races, but when his jumping he generally runs very well, which makes him somewhat of a risky proposition. I suspect he just is not good enough to win a Grand National from so high in the weights.
5. Ballynagour T Scudamore (D Pipe) 66/1
Looked a horse of immense promise at the 2015 Grand National meeting when finishing second to Silviniaco Conti in the Bowl off a five month absence. That form makes him very intriguing at 66/1, but his performances have been wretched this season, more likely to be seen out the back of the screen than in front. He shaped better last time at the Cheltenham Festival, though was still back in seventh place, but a continuation of that upward progression could see him go close. He may be a murky handicap plot from a stable that can produce Grand National winners.
6. O’Faolains Boy B Hughes (Miss R Curtis) 33/1
A one-time Cheltenham Festival winner in the 2014 RSA Chase, he has been blighted by injuries ever since. The cotton wool was taken off this year, but the results haven’t exactly proven the horse retains his talent. He book-ended a victory in December with two pulled up finishes and a further 8th over hurdles. There was much more encouragement in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in which he was able to lay up with the big guns for the best part of 2 and half miles before fading to seventh. He showed tremendous early speed there with a surefooted jumping technique, which could see him up with the pace early but I can see him dropping away on the second circuit. The recent rain has also hindered his chances.
7. Gilgamboa R M Power (E Bolger) 66/1
A top class novice chaser last term, collecting a Grade 1 last April. He has mixed it with the best over 2m 4f without any success, it may simply be that is short of his optimum trip. It is interesting he was thrown into the valuable Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Christmas over 3 miles, he ran very well that day finishing fourth whilst shouldering top weight. This race is an outlier in his formbook/profile and perhaps shows that connections believe he could win a valuable race over a longer distance. He is trained by a master trainer of Cross Country horses, so he should have no problem with tackling the unique Grand National fences. It is slightly off-putting that he is only the third string JP McManus horse based on jockey bookings, but Robbie Power is already a National winner after Silver Birch in 2007, so it is no major negative. A very interesting contender from a powerful owner.
8. On His Own Mr P W Mullins (W P Mullins) 66/1
A loveable old veteran, who often wears his heart on his sleeve by leading from the front. At 12 years, On His Own is getting a bit long in the tooth and seems to have lost that bit of pace that kept him at the front of races. Not forgetting that he has fallen in both of his attempts in the Grand National (2012, 2013). This definitely looks the case of giving a stable favourite a swansong on the biggest stage, in a race his trainer will have to do well in to strengthen his Champion Trainer chances. Expect him to be scrubbed along early and fade out of contention soon after.
9. The Druids Nephew D F O’Regan (N Mulholland) 16/1
One of the favourites for last year’s renewal after romping home at Cheltenham three weeks prior. He led at Valentines Brook second time around, holding a very strong chance, before he coming down at that fence. It seemingly left Aidan Coleman so shocked that he very unusually stood straight back up, almost in disbelief, as horses streamed by him. His form recently hasn’t been as hot as 2015, he was last seen being put in his place by The Last Samuri at Doncaster. It is disconcerting that Aidan Coleman has jumped ship to ride a seemingly lesser rated horse. If ever a horse only had one chance at winning the Grand National, it might have been The Druid’s Nephew in 2015.
10. Triolo D’Alene J McGrath (N Henderson) 40/1
The winner of the Topham Chase over these fences back in 2013 has returned to form this season. This was most on show at Kempton back in December over 2m 4f, when trouncing two very decent rivals out of sight with a bold jumping display. He struggled last time when behind Silvianaco Conti at Ascot, but the ground was almost certainly too heavy and it might have been used a prep for this. As a winner of the Hennessy in November 2013 over 3m 2f, Triolo D’Alene should have the required stamina to be a big presence at the finish. He is trained by Nicky Henderson, who is somehow still yet to win this race after seemingly winning everything else in National Hunt racing. However, I think he’d love nothing more than to get one over his rival trainers, Nicholls and Mullins, by winning this year’s Grand National. Triolo’s blend of assured jumping at Aintree, speed and stamina could see him go very close. Just look at that price.
11. Rocky Creek A Thornton (P Nicholls) 80/1
Went off 8/1 second favourite for this race last year after an impressive win at Kempton, but he never seemed to take to the occasion and never travelled with any fluency. Eventually trailing home in 17th (third last of finishers), it is not hard to see why is a 10x bigger price for this year’s race. He hasn’t shown any sort of spark in his races this season, it is more likely that he is entered to provide Paul Nicholls with more ammunition in his battle for the Trainers Championship.
12. Sir Des Champs Miss N Carberry (W P Mullins) 25/1
A very good animal on his best form, as should be expected of a 2x Cheltenham Festival winner and one-time Gold Cup second. He has been made of glass since the 2013 season, with reoccurring injuries preventing us from seeing him on the racecourse. He returned with a victory in November at Thurles, but in truth he was expected to beat a poor quality field. His two subsequent lacklustre runs over 3m in Ireland have done nothing to assure us that he stills retains all of his ability, it is hard to see him figuring in the final shake up.
13. Holywell R McLernon (Jonjo O’Neill) 16/1
A very interesting contender from the stable of Jonjo O’Neill who knows how to ready one for the National. He has good form at Aintree, including a defeat of Gold Cup winner Don Cossack back in 2014. It is Holywell’s fourth in the 2015 Gold Cup that is most exciting, as that performance shows he is a much better horse than the 10-12 weight he has been allocated. He was very well supported at the Cheltenham Festival, but was just touched off in a 3 mile handicap chase. That was very encouraging as it was a return to some of his best form. Holywell is another that will not appreciate any more rain before the race.
14. Shutthefrontdoor B Geraghty (Jonjo O’Neill) 16/1
Destined to be a future pub quiz question as Tony McCoy’s last ride in the Grand National, Shutthefrontdoor went off favourite last year. He ran very well for a long way jumping the second last fence in 2nd place, but he then seemed to hit a bit of a brick wall on the run in and faded to 5th. For me, I don’t think he stayed the extended 4 mile distance and McCoy confirmed as much after the race, but Jonjo believes he is worth another crack at the race. He might not be wrong as this horse is a winner of the Irish Grand National over 3m 5f, so he can win over extreme distances and Barry Geraghty has chosen him. However I think he fail to have enough in the tank for the second year running, he could become a annual nearly-ran in the mould of Big Fella Thanks.
15. Soll C O’Farrell (D Pipe) 66/1
The main flagbearer for David Pipe last year, he ran a great race for a long way before weakening out of contention. It emerged after the race that he had broken a blood vessel and with a history of that in-race ailment, it would take a brave man to back such a fragile in such a demanding race. Stable confidence has seemingly been lost as well, with stable jockey opting for Ballynagour.
16. Buywise P Maloney (E Williams) 50/1
One of the more infamous horses in trainer due to his ability to catch the eye in high-profile handicap chases over the last few years. Buywise has developed a reputation for ploughing his way through most fences in his races, although that belief arose in 2m 4f races. When stepped up to 3 miles on his latest start, he appeared to jump much better in the slower pace of the longer distance. If you are backing this horse the one concern will be his jumping, he may be likely to end up on the deck at some point, but if he puts in a clear round, Buywise might just be a banker to hit the each way places. Not only does he tend to fly home late, he is also trained by a master of Aintree placed-horses, as Evan Williams has trained Cappa Bleu (2nd in 2013, 4th in 2012) and State Of Play (4th in 2011, 3rd in 2010, 4th in 2009) to collect prize money. Buywise’s jockey, Paul Maloney, also owns a remarkable record in the Grand National after securing a Top 4 finish in the last seven consecutive Grand Nationals. Do not be surprised at all if Buywise finishes in the places, at 50/1 he rates as an outstanding each way bet.
17. Boston Bob P Townend (W P Mullins) 33/1
A horse with a very similar profile to his stablemate On His Own. Same owner, same trainer, veterans of National Hunt racing. He has looked well past his best until recently, before his victory in the Bobbyjo Chase in February he was winless since April 2014. He was a lucky winner of an awful race that day, I don’t see that as the massive turn up in form he needs to figure today. He is another horse running for Mullins just because he is qualified.
18. Aachen H Brooke (Miss V Williams) 125/1
An experienced handicap chaser who had a bright day in the spotlight back in December when beating a few of these rivals at Cheltenham. He went up 23 pounds for that display and the handicapper seems to have got him firmly in his grasp, especially as he hasn’t figured in any races since. At 12 years old, he is already too old to be a Grand National winner according to the history books. Even though Venetia Williams has previous for causing a shock in the National, due to her 100/1 victory with Mon Mome in 2009, this one looks like playing a very minor role.
19. Morning Assembly D Russell (P Fahy) 22/1
Another promising Irish horse who was sidelined by injury and has returned with an attractive handicap mark. Pat Fahy was audibly excited when he saw Morning Assembly had been allocated 10-9, believing she had a great chance. An intriguing horse as she possesses great form both this season and in the past. Disappointing to see she hasn’t won since 2013, with a series of highly frustrating placed efforts in recent times. Her last run at Cheltenham also created some stamina doubts as she seemed to run out of petrol over 3 miles there.
20. Double Ross Ryan Hatch (N Twiston-Davies) 100/1
Once a promising staying chaser, he has slightly gone off the rails as of late. It is discouraging to see his only real glimmers of form have been over 2m 4f, which I suspect is his optimum trip. Double Ross has ran well over the National fences before, finishing fifth in a Topham Chase, so he will have no problem getting round. It just remains hard to see him lasting out the marathon trip of 4 miles plus, although Nigel Twiston-Davies is having a brilliant run of things lately so it isn’t wise to completely discount him.
21. Goonyella J J Burke (J Dreaper) 22/1
A Midlands Grand National winner and runner up in the Scottish Grand National, he will have no problem with staying out the 4m 2f Grand National. Goonyella has had two spins over these fences in the 2014 and 2015 Becher Chase, resulting in an unseat and ninth respectively. That improvement is encouraging, though you cannot be 100% confident he will get round. If he is able to successfully cross all 30 fences he could have a great chance, as he certainly won’t be stopping near the line. Last night’s rain is a massive plus.
23. Ucello Conti D Jacob (G Elliot) 33/1
This ex-French horse will be having only his fourth start in UK & Ireland when he lines up in the Grand National. Unsuccessful in his first three Irish starts, mostly down to the unusual riding tactics of French rider, Jacques Ricou, who somehow decided to race the furthest way round on his last start. The fact he got within 6 lengths of the winner despite running almost twice the distance was impressive. Ricou has been dumped, replaced by a Grand National winner in Daryl Jacob, which should be a big aid to this chances. His profile still remains a bit sketchy as he only has the three runs here, so it is hard to get a hold on him as a horse. There may be some stamina issues based on his second last run.
24. Unioniste N Scholfield (P Nicholls) 33/1
Same connections who tasted Grand National success with Neptune Collonges in the 2012 renewal. Unioniste was quietly fancied for last year’s race, only to fall at the fifth fence, it is hard to get a gauge on how he took to the occasion from that run. On his next start over the Grand National fences he made a large mistake at one of the fences which put him out of the race. You can only assume that he is an unreliable jumper around here, who is always liable to dive at one of the fences. Based on his form, he will have a very hard task beating Many Clouds who was 10 lengths ahead on their last start, despite a weight pull. One to leave alone.
25. Gallant Oscar M Walsh (A J Martin) 18/1
Appears to have been targeted at this race by his shrewd trainer ever since finishing 3rd to The Druids Nephew at the Cheltenham Festival last year. He obliterated a field in a valuable handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival next time out, showing he is a horse from the top order. It is easy to forgive him subsequent runs, as it is no doubt he has been prepared with this race in mind all season. He will have to rediscover the form of his 9 length victory at Punchestown to stand a chance here.
26. Onenightinvienna T J O’Brien (P Hobbs) 50/1
An unusual Grand National horse as he is still a novice chaser, only having four races over fences in his career. His 2 length second to Blaklion was franked at the Cheltenham Festival, as was his second to Local Show to a small extent. However he was very disappointing on his latest start, trailing home in 5th after being taken on for the lead and not quite it enjoying himself. If he is able to regain his accurate, bold jumping in this test, he may run well, but chances are very high he will be taken for the lead, which could see him flail under the pressure of the first few fences.
27. The Last Samuri D Bass (K Bailey) 12/1
Previously trained by Donald McCain, who earmarked him as a future Grand National horse, which is a noteworthy comment from a member of a National Dynasty. Switched to Kim Bailey, he has improved leaps and bounds, finishing 3rd on his first race in a very hot handicap at Newcastle, behind Wakanda and Virak. The Last Samuri has been victorious in his previous two races, showing grinding stamina to win at Kempton and a turn of foot to win at Doncaster. Kim Bailey knows what it takes to take home this race, winning the 1990 renewal with Mr Frisk. His profile is very encouraging and could take a lot of beating.
28. Kruzhlinin R Johnson (P Hobbs) 33/1
Same owner as The Last Samuri, he is another who has switched trainer and improved out of recognition. He was very well fancied for this race after impressing on a course that did not suit him first time out, he overcame jumping way out to his left on the right -handed course of Kempton that day. Kruzhlinin lined up at the Cheltenham Festival last time out, he was in the process of running a massive race, but then clattered into 4 out and made a similar mistake at 3 out. That was very concerning, as the race was just quickening and it appeared as though he could not jump accurately going a stronger pace. I think he may be an early casualty in the race.
29. Rule The World D J Mullins (M Morris) 50/1
Without a win since January 2014, he is finding it hard to put his head in front nowadays, registering a string of placed efforts. Rule The World is a previous 2nd in the Irish Grand National over 3m 5f, he hasn’t really achieved that level of form since which is disappointing. If you have backed him, you will be hoping a return to a marathon trip will bring out the best in him. He could be a small each way squeak.
30. Just A Par Sean Bowen (P F Nicholls) 50/1
Another Paul Nicholls representative, he does have a notable piece of form in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown over 3m 5f. The main worry with this horse is that he tends to get very far behind in his races, which makes it very hard for him to get close. The only time he was able to catch up was in that 3m 5f race, so marathon trips might be his best option. However getting so far behind in a Grand National will be almost deadly to his chances, it will take a brilliant ride from 18 year old Sean Bowen to keep him interested at the back.
31. Katenko W Kennedy (Miss V Williams) 125/1
Another Venetia Williams outsider who seems to have gone way out of form in recent times. He is without a win since January of 2013 and hasn’t run many good races since to be honest. I cannot see him being involved in the finish, but then again this is Venetia Williams who made a lot of people eat their words in 2009.
32. Vics Canvas R T Dunne (D McLoughlin) 100/1
An old age pensioner at the age of 13, he showed career best form last year when winning the Cork Grand National and finishing second to Just A Par in the bet365 Gold Cup. However since turning 13, Father Time seems to have gotten into his legs, as he has been very disappointing in his last two starts. This might have come a few years too late, as his ability starts to fade. He would become the oldest Grand National winner for a long time.
33. Black Thunder Mr S Waley-Cohen (P Nicholls) 66/1
The last of Paul Nicholls’ runners, finally. On his best form this horse could have a squeak, but he hasn’t been seen on his day for a while. He was a recent purchase this week by Robert Waley-Cohen, he seems like a solution so Sam Waley-Cohen can get a ride and Paul Nicholls can get one more horse in his arsenal.
34. Ballycasey Miss Katie Walsh (W Mullins) 66/1
The final Willie Mullins horse. Ran in this race last year and was involved in a horror fall with Balthazar King at the Canal Turn, it is not hard to imagine that left some mark on him psychologically when it comes to tackling these fences. He returned to form last time at Cheltenham Festival, but that was over 2m 4f which looks like his best trip. He may provide Katie Walsh with a great spin for a long way, but when the race comes to the crunch he may be going backwards not forwards.
35. Hadrian’s Approach Nico De Boinville (N Henderson) 66/1
An interesting contender this low in the weights. He is another who has suffered injury problems leaving him with an attractive handicap mark. His past victory in the bet365 Gold Cup is encouraging for him in this race, but his more recent run have been less inspiring, not really contending at all. Whether this longer trip brings the best out of him again is up for debate, but if it does he may run a blinder.
36. Vieux Lion Rouge J Reveley (D Pipe) 100/1
A highly progressive handicapper this year, winning three races on the spin, that includes a stamina-laden with on bottomless ground at Haydock. He ran over 4 miles at Cheltenham Festival last month, looking like a running a major race with two fences to jump. He hit the proverbial wall that day, so it is not a stretch to say he is a doubtful stayer.
37. Pendra Aidan Coleman (C Longsdon) 100/1
Has been in good form this year, successful in a valuable handicap at Ascot back in December beating some in form horses. He also ran a fine race behind The Druids Nephew at Cheltenham last year to finish fifth. It is concerning in his only try in the Irish Grand National over 3m 5f, he faded badly to finish tenth. He may be a non stayer but if he takes to the challenge, he may just run very well for a long way.
38. Saint Are P Brennan (T George) 18/1
Last year’s runner up will unbelievably race off 1 pound lower in this year’s renewal. He showed himself to be in just as good form when landing a decent event at Doncaster last time, so he could go a lot closer with a bit more experience this year. Tom George is in flying form, already landing a Grade 1 chase at this year’s Grand National meeting. He could run very well for the second straight year, many will fancy him to win this year.
39. Home Farm A Lynch (H De Bromhead) 100/1
This Irish raider sneaks in at the bottom of the weights at number 39. He does not scream a Grand National contender to me, with his best form over two and a half miles and disappointing in every race over 3 miles. Trained by a man who can get his horses to jump brilliantly, he should have no problem getting round. He could be a classic leader on the first circuit, not sighted on the second.
40. The Romford Pele T Whelan (Miss R Curtis) 40/1
The second representative of Rebecca Curtis. He has been disappointing recently over fences, so Curtis switched him back to hurdles for his last two starts, in which he caught the eye both times. A winner over 3m 2f, he will more than likely stay the distance. It remains to be seen whether he can recover his best form over fences, or whether he is merely a hurdler now.
1 Saint Are, 2 Triolo D’Alene, 3 Buywise, 4 Goonyella