2009 John Smiths Grand National Preview
It has often been said that Australiaâ€™s Melbourne Cup is the race that stops a nation. The UKâ€™s John Smithâ€™s Grand National, staged at Aintree due off 4.15 on Sat 4 April does the same. Broadcast throughout the world and at home on BBC 1, Racing UK Satellite Channel 432 and if you are on the move Radio 5 Live, it has a huge sense of occasion.
This yearâ€™s race was especially compelling as the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Denman was entered and headed the weights. Denmanâ€™s injury problems led to his withdrawal but in some ways it opens up the shape of the race.
William Hillâ€™s Kate Miller told me she expects industry wide betting turnover to exceed half a million pounds. My Will trained by Gold Cup winning team of trainer Paul Nicholls and Jockey Ruby Walsh are currently 11-1 fav. Kate reasons, â€œMy Will ran an excellent Grand National Trial beaten 23 and a half lengths. The worry would be that no French bred horse has won a National since 1986 and the French breds tend to be precocious.
The firm have also laid money for Character Building whose price has been cut in half. from 25-1. A surprise 16-1 winner of Cheltenhamâ€™s Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase John Quinnâ€™s 11 year old was quietly fancied for Newburyâ€™s Hennessey Gold Cup following a pipe opener over hurdles. It had been anonymous in the National betting but is now best priced 16-1 with Blue Square.
Leading Irish owner J P McManus has yet to win a Grand National but has a couple of possibilities. The Jonjo Oâ€™Neill trained Canâ€™t Buy Time was 4-1 fav for Cheltenhamâ€™s 4 mile chase and although beaten when hampered at the last had his price cut for the Aintree marathon
J Pâ€™s Irish trained Cross Country Chase winner Grade Champers under the care of Edna Bolger may be taking an unorthodox route to Aintree but displayed stamina, jumped with alacrity and a handy turn of foot over 3m7f and is worth consideration.
Jump racing in Wales is thriving. However the Principality is poorly represented in 2009â€™s biggest racing spectacle. Evan Williamâ€™s 2006 Hennessey winner State Of Play offers the best chance of a Dragon victory at around 25-1. Since that win the 10 year old has had mixed fortunes, including a fine win in Wetherbyâ€™s Charlie Hall Chase on fast going. He seems best fresh and will certainly be well prepared.
Respected Northern Professional Gambler Carl Harris has taken 14-1 My Will. Carl reasons, â€œI was at Cheltenham to see the Gold Cup in which My Will was fifth. My Will has a fantastic weight and looks a thorough stayer. If he reproduces the Cheltenham form over the National fences he must go close and with Ruby Walsh almost certainly taking the ride it is another positive.â€
Daily Mail Racing Columnist Sam Turner agrees. â€œConnections feel My Will will improve a great deal from the Gold Cupâ€ he told me. â€œa concern would be that Nick Skelton gave him a harder race than necessary. Butlerâ€™s Cabin would be the one for me at the short end of the market. Rumour has it that he was only 90% fit when fifth in the Kim Muir.â€
The North havenâ€™t won the race since Amberleigh Houseâ€™s famous victory in 2004 but have a leading contender in Keithâ€™s Reveleyâ€™s Rambling Minster. The 11 year old won Haydockâ€™s Blue Square Gold Cup last month a traditional Grand National trial and is a definite runner. A stable spokesman told me, â€œHe should run a very big race. He doesnâ€™t want the ground too fast, good or just a little cut will be ideal and James (Reveley) is likely to ride him up with the pace.â€
Rambling Minster 2pts e/w (20-1 Boyle Sports & SkyBet)
My Will 2pts e/w (12-1 generally available)
State Of Play 1pt e/w (25-1 Generally available)