Grand National Betting – Aintree once again gets top billing on Saturday for the worldâ€™s most famous steeplechase, and for many people, the only race they watch all year. After the excitement of the Kauto Star v Denman Gold Cup clash, racing fans will be hoping for an equally thrilling Grand National to complete their season. The race is steeped in history, and has consistently produced thrilling finishes and heart-warming stories which live long in the memory.
When betting in a race of four and a half miles, over 30 legendary fences, it is inevitable that luck will play a part, however there are a number of historical trends to the race , that added to the formbook enable us to create a shortlist for the race.
Rain has fallen at the racecourse in recent days, and the going is almost certainly going to be soft on the National course. This will make it even more difficult for horses to break the trend of carrying in excess of 11 stone. Only Red Rum has carried more then 11st 5lb in the last 50 years, and only Hedgehunter more than 11 stone in the last 25 years, and he only carried 11st 1lb.
This focus on horses in the 10st – 11st weight range, points us towards a very well handicapped horse in Cloudy Lane, from the yard of Donald McCain, son of Red Rumâ€™s trainer Ginger, and owned by a leading figure in the north west Trevor Hemmings, who owned the 2005 winner and likely top weight this year Hedgehunter. This progressive eight-year old has won nine of his nineteen races, winning in great style at Doncaster recently, and with the weights for the National being framed early, will be very attractively weighted being asked to carry 10st 11lb from a rating of 141 compared to his current official rating of 161.
Another horse to catch the eye is Bewleys Berry, trained by Howard Johnson in Yorkshire, and carrying the colours of leading owner Graham Wylie. The horse has tackled the fences three times, twice finishing second and was going well in the lead until falling at Bechers Brook on the second circuit. Trained all year with this race as his target, he looks a leading contender.
Another horse trained specifically with the National in mind is Mckelvey, he has only raced over hurdles this year to bring him to peak fitness. My main selection last year , he finished badly lame whilst finishing runner up, would be an amazing training achievement for Peter Bowen to succeed this year with him and would be one of those amazing stories that the National has a habit of repeating.
Comply or Die will be a leading fancy for many, and will look well-handicapped after his win in the Eider chase. However, I will overlook him for two reasons, firstly the Eider has been an awful race to follow for many years and winners of the race have struggled to regain the winning thread. Secondly, the horse wears blinkers, and in the last 33 years , 137 horses have worn headgear, only Earth Summit was successful.
Last yearâ€™s favourite Point Barrow has form in races that are noted for providing National winners previously, being a 2006 Irish National winner and ran in this seasonâ€™s Hennesy at Newbury. He shaped well recently at Down Royal, but has been wearing blinkers recently and got no further than the first last year, and although I would not be surprised to see him run well, could not support him myself.
Anyone looking to support a longer priced horse each way, would do well to consider Philson Run currently priced around 33/1. This twelve year old is very lightly raced for his age, only having 16 races to do with a respectable 25% strike rate. Trained by west country handler Nick Williams, a trainer impressing many observers with the results obtained by his small string, he finished fouth in last yearâ€™s race and has looked in good form in both his races this season.
Of course in a field of 40, many horses warrant respect, and horses that came close to being included on this shortlist preview were Simon, Butlers Cabin, Mr Pointment and Vodka Bleu, and I could see why people would support these horses.
There can only be one winner, but in the worldâ€™s richest steeplechase and the highlight of the racing year for many, I prefer to split my stakes between horses and my summarising verdict would be as follows.
1 CLOUDY LANE
2 Bewleys Berry
3 Philson Run (each way)