Grand National - At The Races

Four for the Festival: Tim Carroll

Top of my shortlist is the Willie Mullins-trained RATHVINDEN - who is attempting the Hedgehunter route in winning the Bobbyjo Chase in Ireland before going on to win the big race.

He is far from a typical 11-year-old in the sense that he hasn't had much racing, but he's a classy sort over fences and was a Grade 1 standard novice chaser. That tells me he is well-handicapped off 154 and he has a nice racing weight to boot.

He looked superb at Fairyhouse in February and he's nice and fresh with that being his sole start this season.

As a National Hunt Chase winner at the Cheltenham Festival, we know he stays well too. He looks the complete package.

JURY DUTY is another with classy Grade 1 novice form - and he looks equally well treated from his mark of 151. He was nudging up towards the 150 figure as a hurdler and looks just as good over fences.

Trained by Gordon Elliott, he hasn't had your usual campaign, as he went across to America in October and won the Grand National Hurdle in Far Hills.

I have always had the impression an out-and-out test will suit the horse as he does stay on well. He displayed that with a fine third in the Galway Plate and a rather unlucky effort in the Kerry National. He had a lovely prep ahead of Aintree by thrashing Mala Beach at Down Royal last time out.

It was a tough choice between the little hero Tiger Roll and ANIBALE FLY, but preference is for the latter; who showed all his class and abundant staying power to finish second in this year's Gold Cup. That was something as near to a personal best from the horse, and he'll need another "PB" to win this from 164 and top weight.

He deserves that rating though, with a pair of placed efforts now in Cheltenham's Blue Riband, but also a fine fourth in last year's National. Remember, he was hampered at the first fence in 2018, and took a while to get going.

But he is a such a strong stayer, given a clear round, it's hard not to imagine he won't be picking up strongly with the race reaching its thrilling climax.

On his Sandown victory over 3m5f last term, Mark Bradstock's STEP BACK is worth throwing into the mix given a clear round. He absolutely bolted up in that race and thrashed Rock The Kasbah by a huge margin. It's somewhat surprising to see the horse he beat that day at a shorter price for Saturday.

He can make the running and is a thorough stayer who has raced just six times over fences so is still unexposed.

I don't have any fears with the ground, neither his mark of 147. Granted his season hasn't exactly been a sparkling one, but he's got the profile off a horse who has been trained with this in mind as his number one target.

Tim's Four for the National

  • RATHVINDEN
  • JURY DUTY
  • ANIBALE FLY
  • STEP BACK