Rejuvenated Soll has all the credentials for glory
Odds stacked against McCoy as shrewd Pipe has charge in perfect shape from change
Published 11/04/2015 | 02:30
Given AP McCoy's exasperating historic record in the Crabbie's Grand National, a second victory in the unique Aintree showpiece today would certainly make for a romantic farewell.
Five years after slaying the ghost aboard Don't Push It, the soon-to-be-crowned 20-time champion sports the JP McManus silks once more for Jonjo O'Neill aboard Shutthefrontdoor. It's his 20th and final outing in the world-renowned £1m Liverpool handicap.
Last year's Fairyhouse hero has a chance, but odds of 7/1 don't accurately reflect his prospects under 11st 2lb. He hasn't run since scooting up at Carlisle on November 10, so he must overcome a 152-day lay-off.
Moreover, Shutthefrontdoor has had just six runs over fences, which all the evidence suggests isn't enough experience to win the race, notwithstanding that the course doesn't take nearly as much jumping following the destructive tinkering of late.
There are simply too many negatives surrounding him to be taking such a short price about his giving McCoy a fairytale swansong.
McManus' Cause Of Causes is one of eight Irish-based contenders seeking to end the drought since Silver Birch's 2007 win for his handler Gordon Elliott in 2007. He got off the mark at the 11th attempt over fences in the four-miler at Cheltenham and he has the considerable assistance of the inimitable Paul Carberry here.
With 10st 9lb for 146, Cause Of Causes has plenty going for him, though it is significant that no seven-year-old has won the race since Bogskar in 1940.
That statistic also goes against Paul Nicholls' Unioniste, the third top-weight here with a hefty 11st 6lb following a costly Sandown rout in January.
Nicholls' 2014 fifth Rocky Creek gets in off the same mark of 154 that he won decisively off at Kempton in February.
He is two pounds lower than when carrying 11st 11lb last year, so he will have a squeak, with Lord Windermere's presence keeping his weight down to a more manageable 11st 3lb.
Mouse Morris' classy First Lieutenant gets in off the same weight.
A flamboyant jumper, he has looked a shadow of his old self this term after some punishing campaigns. Nonetheless, he is handicapped accordingly, and the prospect of he and the sublime Nina Carberry hitting it off over these fences is an especially tantalising one.
Lord Windermere is impossible to fancy even in a first-time visor, but his Jim Culloty stablemate Spring Heeled has appealed as a big player for the race ever since finishing fourth to Road To Riches under 11st 4lb in the Galway Plate.
The Old Vic eight-year-old brushed off the cobwebs with a respectable effort behind Roi Du Mee in the Bobbyjo Chase, tiring only after the second-last fence on unsuitably soft ground against in-form, race-fit opposition.
Alan King's Godsmejudge is a Scottish National winner with claims, while Soll is also intriguing.
The former Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old was seventh in the 2013 National off a mark of 132 for Jo Hughes.
With the exception of a blunder at the Chair, he jumped brilliantly - as he did over too short a trip in last year's Topham.
Soll has switched to David Pipe this term, and has improved markedly for doing so.
He beat Nicholls' re-opposing Rebel Rebellion on his February stable bow at Exeter and then raced with renewed vigour en route to following up in a veterans' race over the Hennessy Gold Cup distance at Newbury.
A dour stayer that has been freshened up since, he is officially seven pounds well in here off 139 for just 10st 2lb under Tom Scudamore, as he will race off 146 in future.
That reflects the progress that Soll has made since joining the shrewd Pipe.
If he can sustain his upward curve now, he appeals as winning material at odds around 20/1.