Absent Prince set to make up for lost time in Grand National

Bill Esdaile
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THE CRABBIE’S Grand National is now a very different race to what it was 10 or 15 years ago. It has often been referred to as a “lottery”, but that description is even more accurate now with numerous changes made to the fences meaning more horses have a chance of winning.

In the last seven years there have been two 33/1 winners, a 66/1 shot and a 100/1 outsider, so it is becoming increasingly difficult to rule anyone out.

There are also far more classier horses in the race these days who have been given a chance by the handicapper. Tidal Bay, although aiming to become the first 13-year-old to win since 1923, cannot be ignored off top weight, while the same is true of Long Run, who has won a Gold Cup and two King Georges.

However, their presence means that others get in off attractive weights and my main fancy is PRINCE DE BEAUCHENE at 22/1 with BetBright to give Ireland a first win since Silver Birch in 2007.

Willie Mullins won this famous contest in 2005 with Hedgehunter and Prince De Beauchene has been the ante-post favourite for the National for the past two years, failing to make it both times due to injury.

He’s finally set to run in the big one tomorrow and, although his four runs this season are pretty uninspiring, his handicap mark has dropped to 147 which gives him a big chance. He won a Listed chase the last time he ran at this meeting in 2011 and the last two winners were 11-year-olds, so age shouldn’t prove a barrior.

Mullins and owner Graham Wylie just missed out on the Gold Cup last month, but a win in this would be some compensation.

The horse I simply cannot leave out of my top four is the likely favourite TEAFORTHREE, who produced a wonderful round of jumping 12 months ago to finish third.

This has been the plan for Rebecca Curtis’ stable star since he crossed the line last year and he has dropped two pounds since then and carries a lower weight.

It’s a shame for connections that this race isn’t quite as much of a jumping test as it used to be as Teaforthree leaps for fun and may actually have had a better chance to win the race a decade ago.

He will surely get round though and will give you a great run for your money.

David Pipe won his first National with Comply Or Die in 2008 and his best chance this year looks to be THE PACKAGE who ran a really promising race at Cheltenham last month on his first start in a year.

The 11-year-old was well fancied for this race four years ago, but unseated at the 19th fence. He is generally a good jumper and, while he is undoubtedly fragile, he gets in off a lovely racing weight and Tom Scudamore has been in excellent form this season.

My final selection is PINEAU DE RE for Dr Richard Newland after his fast-finishing third in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham last month.

Don’t Push It used the Pertemps as a springboard for his National victory in 2010 and the way Pineau De Re flew up the hill suggests he will relish this extra distance.

He was a commanding winner of the Ulster Grand National last year and is unexposed at marathon trips on good ground.

BetBright are offering six places on the National, refunding up to £50 if you finish second and giving new customers a £20 risk free bet at Aintree – you can’t ask for more than that!