Double Seven has National's number
McCoy link-up could give Martin Brassil's charge the advantage, writes Greg Wood
The 167th running of the Grand National may also come to be seen as the second running of the Grand National Mk2. Last year's race looked and felt so different from any other National in living memory that it cannot be dismissed as a one-off. The new fences installed around most of the track proved to be – as per their design – far more forgiving than those they replaced.
But while the number of fallers was much reduced this was still a race that more than half of the 40 starters failed to complete. Fourteen were pulled up by their riders when all hope had gone and six more blundered so badly that their jockeys were unseated.
This will still be the most demanding race of the season and the winner will almost certainly be a quick, accurate jumper, but the penalty for sloppy jumping is more likely to be defeat than something potentially far worse.
Which horse that winner might be seems more unfathomable than ever. The last five have been priced at 66/1, 33/1, 14/1, 10/1 and 100/1, which averages out at 45/1, and the quality of the race is now so high that most of the runners have at least one piece of form in the book that gives them a squeak.
It is difficult to recommend a bet on Teaforthree, third home last year, even at a best price of 10/1, since he found two to beat him last year off a similar mark with an incident-free round of jumping, and there are so many dangers lined up against him.
Long Run and Monbeg Dude, two of the next four in the betting, have been let down by their jumping at times but Tidal Bay has been given a chance by the handicapper and it is easy to see him staying on strongly into the frame. His price hardly seems generous for a horse being asked to give weight to 39 rivals, however.
From a long list of possibilities Rocky Creek appeals as a young horse with improvement still to come and a fair racing weight on the basis of his second place in the Hennessy Gold Cup in November. The Package is also the type to run well if he is fully recovered from his third-place finish at the Cheltenham Festival, as he is a fine jumper which is fairly handicapped on his best form. The worry is that this fragile chaser will go backwards from his return.
The pick of the prices, then, could be Double Seven, though the 33/1 that is widely available at the time of writing will surely contract significantly if he is the chosen mount of Tony McCoy. The eight-year-old appears to have been prepared with Aintree in mind from a long way out and Martin Brassil, his trainer, is a former National winner with Numbersixvalverde in 2006. He looked a much improved horse last summer when winning five races in a row and ran as well as could be expected over an inadequate trip at Leopardstown this month when returning from four months off.
1 Double Seven 33/1
2 The Package 40/1
3 Tidal Bay 16/1
4 Rocky Creek 25/1
Sunday Indo Sport