Published 16:23 05/04
It is the day of the year racing fans both love and fear.
Like many, I first cut my teeth on the Grand National, and the race has many happy memories as well as a few sad ones. I stopped watching it from behind the sofa a few decades ago and from between my fingers more recently, after improvements to safety were introduced following the 2012 running.
Part of the fear is, however, to do with being asked for a tip by non-racing family and friends, who are unlikely to be impressed by your wider record when they have just done their fiver each-way for another year.
I cannot promise a better outcome on Saturday, but I do at least fancy one in the big race, which is by no means always the case.
RAMSES DE TEILLEE has many of the attributes I look for in a National performer: he is young and progressive, but has a good amount of experience in races nearly as tough as this one (notably when second in the Welsh equivalent at Chepstow), is running off a feasible handicap mark, should be suited by the trip and likely ground, jumps soundly in the main, and represents a trainer who knows what it takes to win this race.
Do not be put off by the fact that no seven-year-old has won the Grand National since the Second World War: few have tried, even fewer had the selection’s credentials, and they have actually over-performed slightly in recent years against expectation.
There are, of course, 39 rivals to overcome and 30 fences to negotiate, but the selection is at a big enough price to justify the risk. The recommendation is to back him each way, seeking out enhanced place terms, and not to leave your bet at starting price given the past propensity for bookmakers to hack prices near the off.
The defending champion Tiger Roll is even better 12 months on and will be a very tough nut to crack if he is in with a shout in the closing stages, but he could go off at one of the shortest prices in Grand National history, and that is not for me.
Here is hoping that all horses come back safely for the seventh year in a row. The race is due off at 5:15, false starts and other dramas allowing…
Grand National Day at Aintree is not all about the world’s most famous jumps race. There is a strong supporting card, and a couple of bets that appeal to me at least.
The Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase at 3:00 is like a rerun of the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham, but without the brilliant winner that day, Duc Des Genievres. Five of the seven in this ran in that, and the result at Cheltenham might lead you to believe that Us And Them, who was second there, will come out on top.
Maybe, but if you stopped the Arkle approaching two out it looked a very different race. Us And Them was disputing sixth and under pressure, whereas CLONDAW CASTLE was the only one making a race of it with the imperious winner up front.
Clondaw Castle paid for it in the home straight, weakening into fourth, but looked all over a 150s-rated horse for most of the way, and that should be good enough to come out on top here.
The selection does not have to make the running – which he had done when impressive at Leicester and Huntingdon previously – and got a lead off the headstrong pair Ornua (fell sixth) then Knocknanuss (weakened into fifth) at Cheltenham.
A similar ride here, but without chasing the shadow of a superstar in the closing stages, could well see a much better outcome for Clondaw Castle.
I also like the look of SPRINGTOWN LAKE in the Betway Handicap Chase at 4:20. He is well-handicapped and worth another try at this trip of around three miles after rallying well (having got messed about on the home turn) behind the very classy A Plus Tard at Cheltenham last time.
The only occasion on which Springtown Lake tackled the trip was at Kempton the time before, when he severely compromised his chance by jumping repeatedly to his left but showed up well until between the last two. He is worth a chance to show what he is capable of doing this way round, and I would have him almost favourite in this field.
Angels Breath is probably the best horse in the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at 2:25, but he ran disappointingly at the Cheltenham Festival and the horse who beat him at Kempton (Southfield Stone) ran even worse at Aintree on Friday, so I will swerve the race.
The Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at 3:40 will be Apple’s Jade’s if she runs to her best – she is far better than her 14 rivals – but she seemed to sulk when taken on at Cheltenham and could encounter similar here at a trip at the upper end of her stamina.
I was tempted by putting up William Henry each way on the back of his smart Cheltenham win, but the longer trip is an unknown, and he will be playing for places only if the mare is on her “A” game.
Simon's Best Bets (scale 1-5 points):
DOOM BAR MAGHULL NOVICES’ CHASE, 3:00 AINTREE, SATURDAY
1 pt win CLONDAW CASTLE (4-1 bet365, Betfair Sportsbook, BetVictor, Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power)
BETWAY HANDICAP CHASE, 4:20 AINTREE, SATURDAY
1 pt win SPRINGTOWN LAKE (12-1 Ladbrokes 11-1 bet365, Coral, William Hill)
RANDOX HEALTH GRAND NATIONAL, 5:15 AINTREE, SATURDAY
0.5 pt each-way RAMSES DE TEILLEE (25-1 William Hill, 22-1 general)