Only three greys in the Grand National’s 177-year history have won the race, which may not fill fans of the majestic animals with much confidence.
However, following the massive drought after firstly, The Lamb (1868 and 1871), and then Nicolaus Silver (1961), Neptune Collonges landed the world’s greatest steeplechase by the shortest of margins back in 2012, to maintain the belief in the grey specimens.
This year’s race isn’t as sparse of greys, as previous years and there are four to choose from, in the shape of Our Father, Walkon, Rose of the Moon and Swing Bill.
The horses often carry the cash of the casual punter who are awe-struck by the beauty of the animals, and this year is set to be no different. However it must be said, with the exception of Neptune Collonges, the record of the gorgeous greys leaves much to be desired, as a winner, or even a place is often extremely rare, with only King John’s Castle making the frame in the last ten years, when finishing second back in 2008.
Yet the grey quartet come into the race in fine form, and all have a solid chance in their own rights.
Our Father has been in solid form over timber, with a Grand National appearance always on the agenda. He was last seen finishing ninth in the Kim Muir after a series of jumping errors put paid to any chances he might have had. This was following a sound round, when finishing fifth in the Grand National trial at Haydock, when his jumping looked sharp and quick, great traits to have over the Aintree obstacles.
However, his lack of experience in testing races may be a slight negative, and the race may come a year too soon for David Pipe’s gelding, although he always shown a lot of believe in the eight-year-old.
|22||24-759||Our Father||33/1||8||10-8||David Pipe||Denis O’Regan||145|
|David Pipe knows what it to takes to win a National, as he masterminded the training performance of Comply or Die’s 2009 success, and he has always spoke of how Our Father struck him as a perfect horse for the race. He is rather in-experienced but he has been thrown in at the deep-end, with just cause according to his trainer. A fine showing in the Kim Muir will serve as a sold prep-run and he may well have been a lot closer had he not blundered badly two out. A few minor jumping issues need to be ironed out before he can be considered a major challenger, but the race should act as an eye-opener to how good he really is. If Pipe’s confidence is justified the 33/1 may look a silly price, but this may come one year too soon for the eight-year-old. Rating 2/10|
He, along with Swing Bill, are the two unlikeliest winners of the grey runners, as although David Pipe’s other grey gelding ran a gallant sixth in last year’s race, it looks like his chance to land the big race went with it.
He ran another solid race over the fences when fifth in the Becher back in December, so you can be almost assured of a good run for your money. His prep-run in the Kim Muir, where he finished midfield, was very promising, yet, now at the grand age of 13; it is extremely hard to see him troubling the younger generation.
|40||406-50||Swing Bill||50/1||13||10-1||David Pipe||Conor O’Farrell||138|
|David Pipe’s popular grey will try and sneak in off a low weight, after finishing a gallant sixth in last year’s race. He ran well for so long in his usual strong travelling style, however he couldn’t go with the leaders two out, and this is a major negative. He loves the fences and attacks him in his own unique style, yet at 13, his best years are behind him and although you are guaranteed a good run for your money, he will probably be outpaced and others are preferred. Sponsors Crabbie’s own this horse. Rating 3/10|
However Rose of the Moon and Walkon are extremely interesting at very big prices. Firstly, Rose of the Moon has managed to sneak into the race off a low weight; he will be hoping to take advantage of. He raced in the Becher Chase last Decemeber, finishing a distant tenth, but the experience over the fences will benefit him greatly when he lines up on Saturday. He has since kicked on, running away with what looked a competitive chase at Wetherby when last seen on a racecourse, and should he continue on this apparent upward curve, he could well outrun his odds. Currently trading at 50/1, the form factor, the name, and the fact he is a grey will all ensure he will be backed with great confidence in the build-up to the race, and it would be a surprise if he were to start at that price.
|35||14P-01||Rose Of The Moon||50/1||9||10-3||David O´Meara||Jake Greenall||140|
|David O’Meara is renowned for having stars on the flat; however he has a solid chance of having a potential big winner of the obstacles, as Rose of the Moon lines up at Aintree. He was very highly rated during his hurdles career, and he had a whole host of brilliant performances, including finishing a close second behind Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth in a Novices’ Hurdle, and fourth behind Champion Hurdle winner Rock on Ruby in a Bumper. His chase form is less impressive, but still solid and he managed to negotiate the National fences safely when finishing tenth in the Becher Chase in December. He has had one run since then, when running out a very impressive winner at Wetherby, staying on best of all, over 3m 1f. He looks a likely improver, and ticks a lot of the boxes to run a big race, at a surprisingly large price of 50/1. Rating 6/10|
Finally, the last grey of our 2014 quartet is the rather intriguing Walkon, who is the sole Alan King runner in the race. He would be an extremely apt winner, having been named with the song commonly sung on the Kop, given Liverpool’s exceptional season so far. There will be plenty of Liverpool fans getting involved with the 50/1 on Walkon to land the big race, and there will be plenty of grey fans also putting their faith in the ten-year-old. He hasn’t won since November 2011 which is a slight concern, but the former high-class hurdler has been running consistently without hitting the line first. He has never won over three miles which seems a concern on paper, but his trainer has always stated he thought he would enjoy a step-up to a marathon distance. His Aintree form, and fact he has shown he still retains some of his ability from his hurdling career suggests he may be able to outrun his odds, and ensure that the red half of Merseyside will keep on with that winning feeling.
|8||P52-U4||Walkon||50/1||9||11-0||Alan King||Wayne Hutchinson||151|
|Walkon has experience over the Grand National fences before, after finishing runner-up behind Triolo D’Alene in the Topham Chase at Aintree last year. The nine-year-old excels in big fields, and his jumping style seemed suited for the unique obstacles, which is a major positive for all fans of the big grey. The fact he has only ran twice since Aintree twelve months ago, is a slight concern, however a solid prep-run in February should serve him well in the quest to land the big prize for Alan King. Serious each-way contender. Rating 8/10|