SYNCHRONISED, last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, heads the weights and the betting for tomorrow’s John Smith’s Grand National (4.15pm) and will bid to become only the second horse to win both races in the same season. He will be the 17th to line up at Aintree and only Golden Miller, way back in 1934, managed to pull off the double.
At the time of writing, he is a best-priced 15/2 with Paddy Power, who incidentally are offering five places for each-way backers, and I can certainly see him starting shorter. However, he isn’t the biggest of horses to shoulder such a massive burden and both his ungainly jumping style and his inability to hold a position certainly won’t help him around here.
David Pipe’s Junior is bidding to become the first horse to add a Grand National win to a CV that also contains victories at both Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival. He has a tremendous attitude and it’s hard to envisage him not playing a part in the finish if he takes to the fences. He is as short as 10/1 with Coral and that’s just too short in my opinion for a horse who has no secrets from the handicapper.
There has been plenty of money all week for mudlarks West End Rocker and Giles Cross, but the ground appears to be turning against them and they can only drift in the betting.
The first of the four I’m going to recommend and, in my opinion the most likely winner, is the Evan Williams trained CAPPA BLEU. The lightly-raced 10-year-old has that all important mixture of class, speed and stamina and is available at 16/1 with Coral.
The former winner of Cheltenham’s Foxhunter Chase back in 2009 has only seen the racecourse seven times since, but really caught the eye when third in the Welsh National over Christmas. The ground would have been far too soft that day, but he plugged on well with his big weight.
Ever since Gordon Elliot’s CHICAGO GREY won last season’s National Hunt Chase over four miles at the Cheltenham Festival, I’ve had him marked down as a potential Grand National winner. I have absolutely no doubt that his shrewd handler, who tasted Aintree success back in 2007 with Silver Birch, will have given him the perfect preparation for the race.
He sneaks into the race off a lenient mark (set to carry under 11 stone) and has the ideal jockey in the saddle in the shape of Paul Carberry. There is no better man for nursing a horse around these fences, although even he may have his work cut out if Chicago Grey throws in one of his occasional howlers. I’m prepared to take that risk as these fences may make him concentrate and will take some of the 14/1 available with Paddy Power.
KILLYGLEN was in the process of running a cracker in last year’s race when falling four fences from home. He arrives at Aintree in better form this time round and can race off a five pound lower mark than 12 months ago. He can be backed each-way at 20/1 with Coral and that looks fair value.
My final selection has to be last year’s winner BALLABRIGGS, narrowly ahead of Becauseicouldntsee and Black Apalachi. Admitedly, he has to carry 10lb more than he did 12 months ago, but he bolted up that day and arrives here a fresh horse on the back of only one run at Kelso. Previous Grand National winners don’t often come back here and win, but they often show up well and I think he’ll finish in the money.
BILL ESDAILE’S 1-2-3-4
1 Cappa Bleu 2 Chicago Grey
3 Killyglen 4 Ballabriggs
SIMON CLARE’S 1-2-3-4
1 Ballabriggs 2 The Midnight Club
3 Seabass 4 Rare Bob
PADDY POWER’S 1-2-3-4
1 On His Own 2 According to Pete
3 Becauseicouldntsee 4 Seabass