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Dublin: 9°C Monday 8 March 2021

A pinsticker’s guide to… the Aintree Grand National

If you’re one of those people who chooses horses in the most unscientific way possible, we’re here to help you in your quest.

Ballabriggs, ridden by Jason Maguire, clears the water jum goes on to win the Aintree Grand National
Ballabriggs, ridden by Jason Maguire, clears the water jum goes on to win the Aintree Grand National
Image: David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images

THERE IS SOMETHING about the Grand National which inspires people who have no interest in betting for the other 364 days of the year to part with their hard-earned cash.

If you are one of those people, then this is the guide for you as we help you pick a winner in the most unscientific way possible.

If at any point while reading this, you find yourself thinking “that’s not how I’ve been reading that horse’s form,” then you’re probably in the wrong place.

Read on, part-time racing lovers. Read on.

1. Synchronised (AP McCoy)

If you backed Synchronised when he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month or regularly back that noble gent AP McCoy, you probably have your mind made up already. Be warned though: the last horse to win carrying this much weight was the legendary Red Rum in 1974.

2. Ballabriggs (JM Maguire)

Last year’s winner at 14/1 so a proven performer on the National course, but carrying 9lbs in extra weight this year which will make his task much more difficult. If you backed him last year, stick with him.

3. Weird Al (TJ Murphy)

Another one carrying Red Rum levels of weight. Steer clear unless your name is Al — always back a horse with your name in it.

4. Neptune Collonges (DA Jacob)

Leaving aside Mon Mome in 2009, French-bred horses don’t win the National — and he’s carrying 11st6lbs in weight. And he’s grey. How many more negatives are you looking for?

5. Calgary Bay (D Elsworth)

An early faller here last year, but a winner on his last two starts. If you know where Calgary Bay is (hint: it’s not Canada), this might be the one for you.

6. Alfa Beat (DN Russell)

Another grey. Had a bad experience over these fences in the Topham Chase last year but he is trained by an Irishman named Shark Hanlon — yes, Shark. That’ll definitely be enough reason for some to part with their cash.

7. Planet of Sound (R Johnson)

This one’s for any Pixies fans out there. Winner of the Guinness Gold Cup in Punchestown two years ago and had a couple of creditable places early this season.

8. Black Apalachi (DF O’Regan)

Normally, you’d need your head checked if you’re backing a 13-year-old in the Grand National. But not so fast, this one’s Irish and finished second here in 2010. Willing to make an exception?

9. Deep Purple (JE Moore)

Unless you can play “Smoke on the Water” in it’s entirety, I’d give this one a miss.

10. Junior (T Scudamore)

One with a genuine chance, bound to be up near the business end of the betting. But could you bring yourself to back a horse that shares its name with that god-awful film about Arnold Schwarzenegger being pregnant?

11. Chicago Grey (P Carberry)

As you might have guessed from the name, this one is for the grey backers. Trained by Gordon Elliott and one of Ireland’s better chances to score a first success in the race since 2005.

12. Tatenen (A Thornton)


13. Seabass (Ms K Walsh)

Owned by Ted Walsh — a man who famously said “I rode her mother once” and kept a straight face —  and ridden by his daughter Katie who is bidding to become the first female jockey to win the Grand National. Will attract a lot of Irish money.

14. Shakalakaboomboom (BJ Geraghty)

The top choice of the Henderson-Geraghty team which ran amok at Cheltenham. If that detail means nothing to you, amuse yourself by saying the name five times really quickly.

15. West End Rocker (W Hutchinson)

Has won over the Grand National fences before, which is always a good sign. If it rains, his chances will improve.

16. According to Pete (Harry Haynes)

Hey Pete / Peter / Petey / Pedro! Back me, back me.

17. On His Own (R Walsh)

Loners and Ruby Walsh backers, join hands and come on down — this is your horse. Willie Mullins’s top contender as he looks for a second win in the race.

18. Always Right (J Reveley)

Has won a couple of smallish chases in the past. Not a lot to recommend him, but if you’re always right, you’ll be able to decide for yourself.

19. Cappa Bleu (Paul Moloney)

This one has every chance apart from the fact that he’s trained in Wales and a Welsh horse hasn’t won the National in… oh, 107 years. Still, it’s a Grand Slam year etc etc

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20. Rare Bob (Bryan Cooper)

This is probably your guy if your name is Rob, Robert or any variation. An old-timer but has shown glimpses of form, and you can never write off Dessie Hughes. Unlikely.

21. Organisedconfusion (Miss N Carberry)

Winner of the Irish Grand National in 2011 and saddled by Nina Carberry. Could she become the first woman to win? It’ll be even more impressive as a seven-year-old horse hasn’t won the race since before World War II.

22. Treacle (AE Lynch)

To quote the legendary George Hamilton: “Danger here”. Second in the Paddy Power Chase in December but might need a bit of rain to strengthen his claims.

23. The Midnight Club (P Townend)

The second challenger from Willie Mullins’s yard. Sent off favourite in last year’s National but hasn’t done anything of note since, culminating in a ninth-place finish in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

24. Mon Mome (Aidan Coleman)

Winner in 2009 at odds of 100/1. Highly unlikely to do it again.

25. Arbor Supreme (MP Walsh)

If you backed him before, you’ve probably seen enough to know not to back him again.

26. Sunnyhillboy (RP McLernon)

JP McManus only has the four runners in this year’s National, but if just want to back one, this might well be his best chance. Third in last year’s Irish National and winner of the Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham. Worth a second look.

27. Killyglen (RM Power)

Fell at the fourth last when in contention last year, but don’t let that put you off. Has the potential to run a big race again off low weight. Killyglen is in Antrim, FYI.

28. Quiscover Fontaine (DJ Casey)

French-bred. Looks like there are better options if you’re looking to back one of Willie Mullins’s runners.

29. Tharawaat (BT O’Connell)

Irish-trained but not even the best seven-year-old in the field, let alone the best horse.

30. Becauseicouldntsee (DJ Condon)

Reports that Arsene Wenger has lumped the Arsenal transfer kitty on this are completely without foundation. Fell in last year’s National but comes here off the back of a good run at Cheltenham.

31. State of Play (N Fehily)

This is the only race he runs in these days — finished fourth, third, and fourth again in the last three runnings. Used to be a banker for place money but is 12 now and getting old.

32. Swing Bill (Conor O’Farrell)

French and a grey. Oh dear.

33. Postmaster (DC Costello)

If you are the postman — or the postman’s child — go on. Otherwise, steer clear.

34. Giles Cross (PJ Brennan)

The best of the contenders among the lower weights. Like some others, needs a bit of rain and needs to get out the front early. If he gets that much, could challenge.

35. Midnight Haze (S Quinlan)

Can’t see it.

36. Vic Venturi (Harry Skelton)

He’s had brutal luck here and was brought down in each of the last two races. At 12, his best may be behind him.

37. In Compliance (NP Madden)

Put in a clear round in 2011 but trotted up 98 lengths behind the winner. A year 0lder and, at 12, unlikely to be a year better.

38. Viking Blond (B Hughes)

Whatever about a seven-year-old or a French-bred horse winning, it’s hat-eating time if a French-bred seven-year-old wins.

39. Hello Bud (S Twiston-Davies)

Remember all the negative things about 12-year-old horses? Hello Bud is 13.

40. Neptune Equester (Felix de Giles)

Out of the weights — with good reason.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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