There were nine withdrawals from the field leaving 87 entries for this Saturday’s Grand National and there are a few big names that could miss out, including 2014 winner Pineau De Re.
One horse that won’t miss out is last year’s second Saint Are, who profited from those withdrawals and sits inside the top 40, so if no travel or health issues is guaranteed a run.
Many Clouds will be looking to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to defend his crown while his pilot Leighton Aspell will look to become the first jockey to win the race for three consecutive years.
Oliver Sherwood’s runner will carry just 1lb more than he did when victorious last year and he looked in prime condition when jumping for fun around Kelso in a prep run. All things look positive for a big run from the defending champion.
As mentioned Saint Are is guaranteed a run as he currently sits at 38 in the list of runners. He was one of my trio for the race this time last year and he has to be again on this occasion. Tom George’s charge won a Veteran’s Handicap Chase at Doncaster in February and it has since emerged that the ten-year-old had a wind operation prior to that run.
It’ll stand him in good stead for this plus he is running off with 1lb less weight than he carried around at the Merseyside venue. We saw him handle the fences last year plus he jumped them well when finishing third in the 2014 Becher Chase. This ten-year-old saw out the trip very well last year and with a pull at the weights he can run another big race.
The second runner that interests me is the Jim Dreaper trained Goonyella. The ground is currently described as soft, which should suit this son of Presenting. He won last year’s Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter and is every bit of a stayer, so he fits the criteria in terms of stamina.
He followed that success up with a second in the Scottish equivalent at Ayr on good ground, so he may not necessarily need it as soft as many believe. He is a sound jumper who has only fallen once and that was in the point-to-point sphere. One small blip in his career form is the unseat in the Becher Chase over these fences and that came at the first back in 2014.
He has a profile that looks to suit this race for the fact of his stamina and jumping credentials. He has taken a bit of time to come to hand this season but there looked to be plenty of encouragement about his latest run at Naas. Running off 10st 8lb makes him look well weighted but with the compressed nature of the handicap this trend doesn’t look to be as relevant.
The one at a bigger price is one of Paul Nicholls six that currently are in the top 40. Just A Par won the Bet365 Gold Cup Chase at Sandown over 3m5f in 2015 and in that race he stayed on strongly to get on top of proceedings in the finish. Vics Canvas and Le Reve filled the places that day and they are set to face a start here – so both of those come here with chances.
He faces a further trip for this race but hinted at being able to see out the full 4m2f, which he’ll need to do. On top of that his pedigree makes for interesting reading. His dam is from a family of staying chasers, which include The Langholm Dyer, who placed in an Eider over 4m and placed at Cheltenham over the same distance in 90’s.
He placed in the Grade 1 Sefton Hurdle back in 2013, so has back class and has also won a Grade 2 and Grade 3 over these larger obstacles. His record in the month of April reads four starts, one win, a second and a third suggesting he could be a spring horse.
Sean Bowen rode him to success at Sandown gets the leg-up again and the jockey finished 11th in last year’s race aboard Mon Parrain, in what was his first ride in the Grand National. He seems to get on well with this nine-year-old having had that win plus placed with him on two previous occasions.
The one slight concern for him would be the fact he only ran three-weeks ago but it was a run that gave you encouragement about his wellbeing. He was given 10st 6lb allocated as his weight and that is something that makes him more appealing.
Others to give favourable mentions to would include:
Shutthefrontdoor went off favourite last year due to him being the final ride in the race for AP McCoy. He was fifth in that race and this time around runs off a lower weight bringing him into the equation.
Holywell is a spring ground horse and comes into this run after finishing second at the Cheltenham Festival. There have been a few whispers suggesting this nine-year-old is in good heart and the handicapper hasn’t been too harsh on him with him having to carry 10st 12lb.
Lucy Wadham’s Le Reve comes with warnings attached. He has never won going left handed and personally feel that if he was targeted for the season finale at Sandown he would be a good thing considering his record at the track. He was third behind Just A Par in the Bet365 Gold Cup Chase but has to prove his stamina.
Buywise is similar to above with his warning being about his jumping. He is likely to clout one or two on his way around and these stiffer fences could cause a problem. He is one that tends to be at the rear and stay on late, so to be honest the extra trip could be gettable. If Paul Moloney gets the leg up then he could be one that is of interest.
The final one to mention is Philip Hobbs’ Kruzhlinin. He was 10th in the 2014 renewal for Donald McCain but has now been switched yards by his owners – Paul and Clare Rooney. He ran fifth in a Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival; the same one Holywell was third. That was only his second run this campaign, so he should be close to prime fitness and if he jumps better than he did last month then with his experience over these fences could be well worth a play.
Saint Are (16/1 Each-Way)
Goonyella (20/1 Each-Way)
Just A Par (40/1 Each-Way)