Friday 2 December 2016

Pinstickers' guide to the John Smith's Grand National

Published 04/04/2011 | 12:49

DON'T PUSH IT (Jonjo O`Neill)

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Bidding to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to land back-to-back victories but faces a stiff task off top weight. Nevertheless, he loves Aintree and shaped well on his prep run a Cheltenham. Rating 8 (out of 10).

TIDAL BAY (Howard Johnson)

As quirky as he is talented, it is impossible to predict how he will react to the unique fences and the extreme distance. If he takes to the course then he could be in the shake-up - it's quite a big 'if' though. 6.

VIC VENTURI (Dessie Hughes)

Unlucky in the race last year when he was hampered at the 20th fence and unseated his rider. Has won the Becher Chase over these obstacles and has been trained for another crack. 7.

WHAT A FRIEND (Paul Nicholls)

His fourth in the Gold Cup gives him every chance and he is sure to attract plenty of support. Co-owned by Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, this smart chaser would be a major player if he rises to the occasion and is 'well in' at the weights. 8.

MAJESTIC CONCORDE (Dermot Weld)

A fascinating Irish contender, whose trainer went close with Greasepaint in 1983 and 1984. A winner on the Flat, over hurdles and over fences, he certainly has plenty of class and has been lightly raced over the last couple of years. 8.

OR NOIR DE SOMOZA (David Pipe)

This purchase from France, where he was a prolific winner, has yet to run in Britain but connections have won the National in the past and are clearly excited by the nine-year-old. Hard to assess, however. 5.

DOONEYS GATE (Willie Mullins)

May not be the stable's first string, but a decent performer. His form stands up well and he was fourth in the Topham over these fences last April. 7.

BIG FELLA THANKS (Ferdy Murphy)

Having his third attempt after finishing sixth and fourth in the last two years for Paul Nicholls and has since changed stables. Sure to have his supporters and he has been trained with just this day in mind. 8.

BALLABRIGGS (Donald McCain)

Has been a big fancy for some time to continue the McCain family's amazing record in this great race. Did not have his first run of the season until January and after two spins over hurdles shaped well when second back over fences at Kelso. 9.

THE TOTHER ONE (Paul Nicholls)

Very useful on his day and not that many miles on the clock. However, his jumping could be a big issue here as he does make the odd mistake. 4.

NICHE MARKET (Paul Nicholls)

The Irish National winner in 2009, he was pulled up here 12 months ago after losing touch when making a bad mistake. He has since been switched from Bob Buckler's stable and his new trainer has been focusing on getting him 100% for the big day. 8.

THE MIDNIGHT CLUB (Willie Mullins)

Went on many people's short list when winning the Bobbyjo Chase, a traditional trial for the National, at Fairyhouse in February. The trainer struck with Hedgehunter in 2005 and this is his number one hope this time round. 9.

BACKSTAGE (Gordon Elliott)

Quietly fancied last year only to unseat his rider at the 20th fence. Has been given an unorthodox preparation with two runs in point-to-points which he won both. Trainer won with Silver Birch in 2007. 8.

CHIEF DAN GEORGE (Jimmy Moffatt)

Missed the cut for the race last year but has safely got in this time. Usually prominent from the start in his races but fell at Cheltenham on his latest outing. 6.

SILVER BY NATURE (Lucinda Russell)

No grey has won since Nicolaus Silver 50 years ago but few have arrived on Merseyside with his credentials. Second in the 2009 Welsh National, he put up a terrific performance when scoring at Haydock last month for the second year running. Any rain would help his cause. 7.

CALGARY BAY (Henrietta Knight)

Has an interesting profile for a National horse and could run a big race if he takes to the course. The stable is not known for its runners in this, but he is normally a good jumper and should be suited by the galloping nature of Aintree. 7.

KILLYGLEN (Stuart Crawford)

Although a winner on the Mildmay course as a novice, he has not quite lived up to expectations and has plenty of weight for what he has achieved of late. 4.

OSCAR TIME (Martin Lynch)

Would be a fairytale triumph for connections of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run. He was bought after finishing second in last year's Irish National with Aintree as the objective. Ran a fine trial last time out and could well deliver. 10.

BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE (Noel Glynn)

Yet another of a strong Irish contingent. Unexposed yet has shown a good level of form in staying chases, finishing runner-up in the Cheltenham four-miler last year and second to Majestic Concorde on his last start in December. 7.

COMPLY OR DIE (David Pipe)

The winner in 2008 and runner-up in 2009, age appeared to catch up with him when he was 12th last year and hard to fancy to strike again, although he could get round in his own time. 5.

NORTHERN ALLIANCE (Tony Martin)

Smart performer on his day and won the Kerry National at Listowel a couple of years ago. No win since though, and while he has been running well over shorter trips recently, there have to be major doubts about him getting this marathon trip. 5

QUINZ (Philip Hobbs)

Has been mixing it in top novice company this season and stepped up to win the ever-competitive Racing Post Chase at Kempton recently. Remains open to huge improvement and is at the right end of the weights. Inexperience the worry. 7

QUOLIBET (Jonjo O'Neill)

Has some fair form to his name from his days in France but was pulled up on his British debut in Cheltenham's cross-country event. Not up to a task like this. 2

GRAND SLAM HERO (Nigel Twiston-Davies)

Won last year's Summer Plate at Market Rasen and will have ground to suit, but still difficult to seeing making much impact. 2

ROLL ALONG (Nigel Twiston-Davies)

Classy sort on his day who has filled the runner-up spot in an RSA Chase and finished sixth in a Gold Cup. But recent results suggest he is on the decline and hard to enthuse about his chances. 2

KING FONTAINE (Malcolm Jefferson)

Progressive chaser who has won twice at Haydock this season and was not disgraced in finishing fifth in a hot handicap at the Cheltenham Festival. Looks the sort to do well in this race if taking to the fences, but this might be a year too soon. 6

STATE OF PLAY (Evan Williams)

Was fourth in this a couple of seasons ago and ran similarly well to grab third last year. Those experiences should stand him in good stead and he may pick up minor honours again, but difficult to see him winning. 6

HELLO BUD (Nigel Twiston-Davies)

Highly creditable fifth in last year's renewal and has since won the Becher Chase over these giant fences. Looks badly handicapped as a result, however, and no 13-year-old has won this since the 1920s. 2

IN COMPLIANCE (Dessie Hughes)

Has lost a gear or two since since winning a Grade One back in 2006, but has done well to come back from numerous injury problems. A winner at Thurles earlier this season and might go well for a way, but huge question marks over his stamina. 5

SANTA'S SON (Howard Johnson)

A nine-time winner but this a different league to what he has been competing in for most of the season. No chance unless the rest fail to complete. 1

WEST END ROCKER (Alan King)

Enjoying a fine campaign, winning on decent ground at Newbury before ploughing through the mud to win a competitive Classic Chase at Warwick. Ran no sort of race last time but has an each-way squeak if forgiven that and the rain comes in bucket loads. 6

BLUESEA CRACKER (James Motherway)

Won a heavy ground Irish Grand National last spring and this has been the plan since. But she was well beaten by the Midnight Club last time and hard to see her reversing that form. Snapped up recently by last year's winning owner JP McManus. 4

CAN'T BUY TIME (Jonjo O'Neill)

Has looked the sort to run well in this for a while but he has failed to complete the last two years. Fair effort at Cheltenham on New Year's Day and would have place claims if completing, but that is no given. 5

CHARACTER BUILDING (John Quinn)

Was well fancied 12 months ago but could only finish a never-nearer seventh. Has been largely disappointing since and if he could not do it last year, he surely won't this time. 4

ORNAIS (Paul Nicholls)

Has not had much racing over the past few years but showed he retains some sort of ability when second in a Newbury hunter chase last time. This is a different kettle of fish and impossible to fancy. 2

PIRAYA (David Pipe)

Arrived from France with a big reputation a while back but has managed just one win and was beaten out of sight in this 12 months ago. Might get round again but will be nearer last than first. 2

SURFACE TO AIR (Chris Bealby)

Won three on the spin in 2008 but then spent almost three years on the sidelines. Last of 10 on his belated comeback and it seems injuries have wrecked a promising career. 1

THAT'S RHYTHM (Martin Todhunter)

Not a bad sort at his level - but this isn't it. Might improve for this extreme distance, but surely not enough to make his presence felt. 1

ARBOR SUPREME (Willie Mullins)

Parted company with his jockey at halfway last year but recent second to stablemate The Midnight Club, finishing in front of Oscar Time and Vic Venturi, reads well. Definite each-way chance. 7

OUR MONTY (Willie Mullins)

Won three on the spin in 2009, culminating in a superb display in the Cork Grand National. Has not been seen since but if his master trainer has him back on song, he should certainly not be written off. 5

ROYAL ROSA (Howard Johnson)

Was well beaten off when unseating his rider last year, but has since filled the runner-up spot in the Becher. Disappointed since in the Welsh National but a return to these fences might light him up. One of the more appealing 100-1 shots but not getting any younger. 5

ALWAYS WAINING (Peter Bowen)

Ran away with the Topham 12 months ago and was not disgraced in finishing sixth in the Becher on ground softer than ideal. Has been campaigned over hurdles since to protect his mark and can be given an each-way squeak. 6

GOLDEN KITE (Adrian Maguire)

Won a thrilling Munster National in October and a recent spin over hurdles should have him spot-on fitness-wise. Lack of course experience the main concern. 5

SKIPPERS BRIG (Nicky Richards)

Very smart horse who beat fellow National hope Ballabriggs at Kelso recently. Of some interest off a featherweight but quick ground would be a big blow to his chances. 6

BELON GALE (Howard Johnson)

Showed he possesses the requisite stamina with victory in an attritional Northumberland National in the winter, but he has been pulled up twice since and this looks a bridge too far. 2

FAASEL (David Pipe)

Talented but quirky individual, who was second in the Kim Muir for the second year in succession at Cheltenham. Anyone's guess how he'll take to this and he's not betting material. 2

LE BEAU BAI (Richard Lee)

Will definitely stay but lacks the pace to threaten on this quicker ground. Pulled up in the Midlands National last time too, so too many negatives to make a case for him. 2

MERIGO (Andrew Parker)

Last year's Scottish National hero who appears to handle any going. But fell in the Becher and then ran no sort of race at Doncaster last time and now has questions to answer. 5

PUTNEY BRIDGE (Keith Goldsworthy)

Enjoyed an excellent summer last year, winning three times before chasing home Grand Slam Hero at Market Rasen. But this is a huge step up in class and he will have his limitations exposed. 2

ASKTHEMASTER (Robert Tyner)

Ran a blinder to be second in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham, but this is two and a half miles further. Has all the hallmarks of a non-stayer. 2

GILES CROSS (Victor Dartnall)

Second in the Welsh National but they are going to go too quick for him on this ground. 2

Verdict:

1. OSCAR TIME

2. The Midnight Club

3. Vic Venturi

4. Big Fella Thanks



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