The John Smith’s Grand National really is the race of dreams; the stuff of legend. Anyone who witnessed Tony McCoy’s post-race reaction to finally landing the world’s most famous race at the 15th attempt last year, will know how much it means to a jockey to have this race on his CV.
However, trying to find the horse that will complete the stamina sapping four and a half miles and 30 fences quicker than his 39 opponents is no easy feat. Yet, the rise in prominence of the betting exchanges like Betdaq has brought with it a multitude of alternative ways to bet, and in a 40-runner handicap such as the National, these alternatives become particularly attractive.
We often advise laying horses in these pages but it is possible to take things much further, with downloadable software such as Bet Angel (www.betangel.com) letting punters operate on the sports exchanges like they might do on the financial markets.
There’s no feeling like picking a winner, but why not go at the National a bit more scientifically and maximise your chances of a profit by ‘dutching’? Specify how much you want to win, highlight the horses you think have a chance and eliminate those that you expect to fall, or fall short. The software can then automatically advise the staking plan which will give you the best chance of reaching your specified benchmark, or inform how to adjust your selections in order to do so.
As for my fancies in this year’s race, I have narrowed the field down to four and reckon the best value lies with MAJESTIC CONCORDE at 33/1 with William Hill. Dermot Weld isn’t normally associated with the Grand National, but he runs this classy eight-year-old and he must have a big chance. He finished fourth in the Chester Cup last May and romped home off top weight in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. He is a tremendous jumper and although he has plenty of weight, he should give amateur jockey Robbie McNamara a great spin around these unique fences. Stamina is definitely a worry, but I’m prepared to take a chance at the price.
In 2007, Gordon Elliott became the youngest ever trainer to win the Grand National and he has since become one of the top trainers in Ireland. Fresh on the back of two wins at Cheltenham, he has a big chance to win a second National with BACKSTAGE tomorrow. Sent off at 25/1 last year, he was travelling really well before being brought down at the 20th fence. The shrewd Elliott has given him a couple of confidence-boosting point-to-point spins and he holds strong claims at 12/1 with Paddy Power. Incidentally, Victor Chandler are paying out each-way on the first six places.
BIG FELLA THANKS finished sixth in this race as a novice in 2009 and improved on that to come fourth last year. However, as he physically grows, he now has a better chance of seeing out this trip. He moved to the Ferdy Murphy stable last summer and there is no better trainer at targeting a particular race for a horse. This has been the target all season and the combination of Murphy and Graham Lee is absolutely perfect.
My last vote goes to OSCAR TIME who is another horse who has been targeted at the race. He has stamina, is fresh and is set to be ridden by Gold Cup winning amateur Sam Waley-Cohen who has a terrific record over these fences.
Sporting Index always come up with some interesting Grand National specials and one that catches the eye is ‘First DiSPatch’. This is the combined SPs of the first fence casualties and the spread is 68-78. Over the last five years there have been make-ups ranging from 0 to 240.
Finally, you can keep tabs on all of my thoughts live from Aintree on Twitter @BillEsdaile and my best bet of the weekend is MONTBAZON in the very last race tomorrow. So, if you win a few quid on the National, don’t forget to back one of the most exciting Bumper horses in training.
BILL ESDAILE’S NATIONAL
1 Majestic Concorde
3 Big Fella Thanks
4 Oscar Time
BEHIND THE LINES
What a weekend of sport this is! The greatest horse race in the world takes place at Aintree tomorrow and the Masters is well underway in Augusta.
The Grand National looks fiercely competitive, as always, but we will be offering our customers each-way 1/4 odds the first six places on the big race from this evening, which we think is a fantastic concession.
What A Friend is easily our biggest loser in the book. We expected him to be running in the Bowl on Thursday and we’ve seen plenty of interest in the Sir Alex Ferguson-owned eight-year-old since his impressive fourth in the Gold Cup. It’s already been a great week for the United manager and it could be about to get even better. We actually wouldn’t be surprised if What A Friend ends up going off favourite.
We also have the story of dentist surgery owner and Gold Cup winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen going for an extraordinary double with Oscar Time. There doesn’t appear to be a lot between him, The Midnight Club and Arbor Supreme on their Bobbyjo Chase form, and all three would be dangers.
After a poor Cheltenham, we’ll be hoping to get a decent result. Mon Mome, come back!