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The Crabbie’s Grand National takes place at Aintree racecourse on the 11th of April 2015, and it’s one of the highlights of the British Sporting Calendar. An audience of around 10 million will be tuning in to Channel 4 to watch the national hunt spectacle, and it’s right up there with the Boat Race and the FA Cup Final for sporting thrills, spills and entertainment.
It’s the most famous prize in jumps racing, but it’s also notoriously difficult from a betting perspective with forty-odd horses jumping the National fences over the grueling four mile, three furlong trip. You need a little bit of luck in running on the day to prevail in the toughest of races, and that’s part of what gives the race such romantic appeal for owners, trainers, jockeys, and punters alike. As if it needed any more spice, this year’s race will be the last time that Champion Jockey, Tony McCoy, competes in a Grand National as he has announced that he will retire at the end of the season. The legendary horseman looks almost certain to ride the favourite Shutthefrontdoor, and the duo will likely receive plenty of support on the big day.
Big Race Trends
The Grand National is a specialist race and it suits horses of a certain profile. Trends are there to be broken of course, but they can often give a useful insight into the type of runners to be successful. Age appears to be a significant factor with horses aged between nine and eleven having won the race in 17 of the last 20 runnings. Those horses at the top of the handicap are there because they’re the highest-rated, but carrying a heavy weight around this course is a thankless task, and only two horses in the last 20 years have carried more than 11st 3lb to victory.
Another trend to look out for is horses with form at Aintree, particularly over the National fences. Experience of these fences can be invaluable, and before parting with any betting cash, it’s good to know that your runner will be able to handle the unique conditions. It’s also worth remembering that only eleven favourites have prevailed in the last 100 years, so it’s worth looking for something at a better each-way price. Most bookies pay out 1/4 of the odds for the first four places, but some will pay out on the first five, while others will have some good offers closer to the time so it’s worth a look around before placing your bets.
With so many horse declared for the race it’s impossible to run through the entire field, but here are some of the principles along with our fancies:
Shutthefrontdoor won the Irish National last year, and represents top connections – trained by Jonjo O’Neill and owned by JP McManus. The eight year-old is more than likely to be partnered by Tony McCoy, and although he is a little young to fit the 9-11 age range, he is due to carry 11st 2lb so is just right at the weights. Favourites do tend to have a poor record in the race though, and that counts against him here.
Rocky Creek – 14/1 15.00 +1400 14.00 14.00 -0.07 with Ladbrokes
We were hugely impressed with the way Rocky Creek dealt with his rivals in the Betbright Chase at Kempton last week, and he is our main tip for the national as he ticks all the right boxes. The nine year-old is set to carry 11st 3lb, and finished a creditable 5th in this race last year so we know he can tackle the course. He hails from Paul Nicholls’ powerful yard, and has been trained with this race in mind all season. He travels well throughout his races and is a great jumper, which is so important over the National fences.
Balthazar King was second in the 2014 Grand National, chasing home Pineau De Re, and Phillip Hobbs’ horse returns with a good chance once again. He’s an out-and-out stayer and is another in the right kind of age and weight range. He should run his race again, but may find one or two of the others too good.
Godsmejudge has won the Scottish National in the past and was fancied to run a big race here last year, only to be withdrawn in the days leading up to the race. He is clearly a horse with some class, but a bet on him comes with a small leap of faith that he retains that class and will be able to show it on the day.
Last year’s winner Pineau De Re returns to the scene of his famous victory to defend the title, but he will be up against it this time around. He has reached the age of 12 now, which doesn’t automatically rule him out, but he’s a year older and not as well handicapped as he was last year. He comes from Dr. R. Newland’s small stable and on the plus side he will have been aimed at another tilt at this ever since last year’s win had sunk in.
It always pays to have a couple of horses on your side for the Grand National; after all, if your horse goes down at the first fence, all that waiting for the big day is wasted within 20 seconds. Our idea of a good outsider at a fancy price is Alvarado. He has stamina by the bucket-load, and finished 4th in the race last year at the same odds. Trained by Fergal O’Brien, he is 10 years old and will carry a featherweight at 10st 3lb. He’s obviously got form over the Aintree fences and should give us a good run for our money at a tasty price.
Grand National – Saturday 11th April 2015
Rocky Creek – Each Way – 14/1 15.00 +1400 14.00 14.00 -0.07 with Ladbrokes