Chicago can make it a Grey day for the bookies again

Bill Esdaile
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NEPTUNE Collonges became the fourth successive winner of the John Smith’s Grand National to carry 11 stone or more when coming first last year by the narrowest of margins — a marked change from the preceding decades. Amazingly, between 1984 and 2004, all but one winner carried less than 11 stone.

With 15 of tomorrow’s 40 runners set to be above this mark, there is every chance the pattern of heavyweight winners will continue, but I’m pretty sweet on the chances of the lightly-weighted CHICAGO GREY to land Ireland their first win for six years at 14/1 with Paddy Power (five places each-way).

Chicago Grey, trained by the man responsible for saddling Ireland’s last National winner Silver Birch, back in 2007, only managed to get as far as the fifth fence 12 months ago when he was brought down. Gordon Elliott’s former winner of the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival has stamina in abundance and granted a bit of luck is weighted to go very close off a 9lb lower mark than last year.

My primary selection bounced back to form when winning a Grade Two Chase at Navan in February over an inadequate 2m4f and has apparently reaped the benefits of a recent wind operation. The only concern is that his big race pilot Paul Carberry is struggling to recover from a fall he had at Fairyhouse on Tuesday. He is a master at nursing horses around these tough fences and I hope he is passed fit to ride.

Regular readers of this column will know that I fancied CAPPA BLEU to win last year’s contest and Evan Williams’ charge ran a cracker to finish fourth. He lines up off a two pound lower mark this time around and I’m hopeful of another bold show as I think he’ll be ridden a little more positively. He can be backed at 12/1 with Coral and once again looks a rock-solid each-way bet.

BALTHAZAR KING sidestepped the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival to come here fresh on the better spring ground he thrives on. Now, he has yet to tackle Aintree’s famous fences, but if there was one horse in the field guaranteed to relish the experience it would be this fellow.

He’s been revitalised by the challenge of cross country chasing and the Grand National looks right up his street. He is a 20/1 shot with Coral and gets in off what looks a really decent racing weight.

My final selection narrowly goes to Rebecca Curtis’s TEAFORTHREE at 16/1 with Star Sports. This year’s Welsh Grand National runner-up won the four-miler at the Festival on decent ground two years ago and has that necessary touch of class. The nine-year-old is a fantastic jumper (yet to fall over fences) which will hold him in good stead around these tricky obstacles.

Those that just failed to make my final four include Irish raider Rare Bob (25/1) and 2011 winner Ballabriggs (20/1). The former has been given a real chance by the handicapper and his stable remains in great form – I just have a niggling doubt about his stamina.

As for Ballabriggs, he finished a gallant sixth last year and is 4lb lower 12 months on. He looks sure to run well without possibly troubling the judge and is one of those worth backing with Samvo.

If you are anywhere near the firm’s London betting cafés in Camden or Hammersmith, it may be worth a visit as they are offering each-way betting with a staggering eight places.

Bill Esdaile’s National 1-2-3-4


Racing Post's key ten-year trends to consider

  • Age of horse: Look for a horse aged between eight and twelve.
  • Experience: Horses need to have run at least ten times over fences.
  • Stamina: Go for a horse that has won over at least three miles in their career.
  • Ability: Aim for a proven handicapper with a bit of class who has won a Class 1 handicap chase.
  • Recent form: Trends show your horse should have at least one top-three finish in its last three runs.
  • Frequent runner: Look for a horse that has run between three and six times since the start of August.
  • Not a prolific winner: National winners haven't been overly successful elsewhere recently, having had no more than one win that season.

To join in the fun of the 2013 John Smith's Grand National, download the Racing Post's Grand National Office Sweepstake kit by clicking here.