THOSE of you that follow trends will think I’m mad tipping BLACK APALACHI to win the John Smith’s Grand National. All bar one of the last 25 winners have shouldered 11 stone or less to victory and Dessie Hughes’ charge has 11 stone 6lbs tomorrow. In fact, you have to go back to Red Rum in 1977 to find a winner with more weight in the saddle.
Yet, as pointed out last week, he jumped for fun out in front in this race last year before unseating at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit and has been trained for the race again. He is one of a handful of runners with winning form over these unique fences after recording a bloodless victory in the Becher Chase a couple of years ago. He can still be backed at 14/1 with William Hill and makes plenty of each-way appeal.
I’m also standing by SNOWY MORNING, tipped last week at 22/1, to run another huge race in a contest in which he finished third in 2008. Like Black Apalachi, he is trained in Ireland (four of the last seven winners have been trained over the Irish Sea) and he has to have a huge chance at 16/1 with William Hill. He ran far better than his finishing position of ninth suggests 12 months ago and carries 9lbs less this time around.
The next on my shortlist would be last year’s Irish Grand National winner NICHE MARKET, currently a best priced 18/1 with William Hill. Bob Buckler’s nine-year-old was only narrowly beaten by Tricky Trickster at Newbury on his penultimate start and was tapped for toe in the William Hill Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival on his latest start. He is a genuine four-miler and if he stays on his feet, it is hard to imagine him not taking a hand.
Last year’s winner Mon Mome ran the race of his life last time in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and is very hard to leave off any shortlist. However, he is now as short as 10/1 and I prefer to pick something at a bigger price. MY WILL was sent off favourite for last year’s race and ran a cracker to finish third. He is set to carry 2lbs less this time around and even though Ruby Walsh has deserted him, he is still overpriced at 40/1 with bet365 as the drying ground will suit.
Looking at this afternoon’s racing and I’ll be backing old friend KALAHARI KING against Forpadydeplasterer and a host of stars in the Melling Chase. He is definitely a 2 ½ miler and was making up ground late on in the Champion Chase last time.
In the Topham Chase, over the National fences, I’ll be backing two of the 30 runners. OFFSHORE ACCOUNT ran well for a long time in the National last year and ran a super race at Cheltenham. At a bigger price, I will also have a few quid each-way on FRANKIE FIGG at around 20/1. He seemed to love these fences until falling late on in the Grand Sefton and could go well at a big price with his stable in good form.
BILL ESDAILE’S NATIONAL 1-2-3-4
1 BLACK APALACHI
2 SNOWY MORNING
3 NICHE MARKET
4 MY WILL
KALAHARI KING Aintree 3.10pm
OFFSHORE ACCOUNT e/w Aintree 3.45pm
FRANKIE FIGG e/w Aintree 3.45pm