Grand National Day last year was certainly different for all of us compared to a normal one!
In an ordinary year my normal routine of form studying in the morning before the usual battle with the once a year visitors to the betting shop was instead replaced with a walk upto the town of Golborne with my brother where we stopped off for a sausage barm before a gentle stroll back home for an afternoon of watching Premier League football……..from Belarus.
Come 5.00pm and ITV was switched on as Nick Luck from the comfort of his favourite arm chair in the front room home presented the Virtual Grand National which was commentated on as usual by Stewart Machin who had to swap his usual position of the Aintree commentary box for a laptop and dictaphone, It was fun to watch although jockey Charlie Deutsch was definitely kicking his dustbin at 5.35pm when Aso came down at the second last.
This year and probably behind closed doors unless you develop the same body movements as Inspector Gadget it looks like we will have a Grand National and the weights were unveiled around lunchtime on the 15th February so let’s take a look at some of horses who have caught my eye to back and to leave alone.
Naturally the one horse drawn to almost everyone is of course Tiger Roll, dual winner in 2018 and 2019, he was being trained for the big race when Coronavirus caused racing and all sport to be suspended and so the chance to equal Red Rum’s record was put on hold for a year, alloted 11st 9lb he is 5th in the weights but may potentially move up, with two races so far this season, one on the flat and the other at Cheltenham where he pulled up after never really travelling he will probably be retired at the end of the season but i don’t think the three timer will be landed myself.
Willie Mullins has a real live chance with Burrows Saint who is 14th on the list and won the Irish National in 2019 beating some decent horses in the process, at time of writing he needs to run in a steeplechase to make the qualification to run, he holds a Gold Cup entry and with time slowly running out he will probably go down that route, his weight is 10st 13lb which is very nice and despite only having eight races over fences he does have big field experience so the hustle and bustle of Aintree should not be an issue, he is definitely one with a live chance.
In the summer Trevor Hemmings announced he was going to sell some of his horses due to the current financial climate but did keep a decent string too, one of those who remained in his ownership was Cloth Cap who is trained by Jonjo O’Neill, already a far better chaser than a hurdler, he put in one of the performances of the season when he landed the Labrokes Trophy at Newbury in November where he bowled along from the front and bolted up by 10 lengths, he will be dangerous if allowed to lead again plus stamina is assured as his Scottish National third will testify, definitely one to put on the shortlist.
Course form always counts for plenty at Aintree and the Tom Lacey trained Kimberlite Candy is certainly the sweet diamond at Cottage Field Stables, from finishing runner up to Walk In The Mill in the 2019 Becher Chase he then landed the Classic Chase at Warwick a few weeks later and although the algorithms of the Virtual Grand National had him down the field he began this season with a second place behind runaway winner Vieux Lion Rouge in the 2020 Becher, unraced since then he may have a prep run beforehand and alloted 10st 10lb he is on a very honest rating and should go close.
One horse i totally adore is the 10yo Bristol De Mai, having seen him race at my local course Haydock many times, although sadly i had to see his third Betfair Chase win from the sofa as opposed to being in the stands, he is reportedly heading straight to Aintree and is set to carry top weight of 11st 10lb, after his Haydock win in November he then ran a cracking race behind the evergreen Native River in the Cotswold Chase at Sandown, that was a very good performance on the whole but there has to be a doubt to him of a race of this nature, He is the class act for sure but i think the National might take him of his feet a bit and with plenty of pace in the race he could be scared off and find himself dropping down the field a bit from which he may drop the anchor early so for me while i love BDM to bits i think this won’t be his day.
Finally we come to a horse who definitely deserves plaudits to his trainer for the way he has been campaigned this season, i doubt very many Grand National winners have ever visited the Knavesmire on the road to Aintree glory but owner and trainer Ronan M P McNally has done just that with The Jam Man, York in October saw this horse win a 2m handicap on the Knavesmire before going on a month later to land the popular Troytown Chase over 3m at Navan where he beat Roaring Bull (i know you screeched that name out loud) by 18 lenghts, after that he was 6th in Haydock’s valuable 3m Hurdle in November before finishing 12th at Leopardstown in a similar contest this month, he has a unique profile for sure and looks to be a traditional plot job by a smaller trainer for a race like this and should not be underestimated at all.
So to sum up here are my recommendations for this years renewal.
Burrows Saint,Cloth Cap,The Jam Man ✔
Tiger Roll, Bristol De Mai ✖