Grand National Guide 2009

The 2009 John Smith’s Grand National Guide 2009 at Aintree on Saturday promises to have the usual excitement attached with Horse Racing’s most famous event on the calendar.

This year’s content is as open as ever and once more promises to be full of high drama for us punters. With the ground expected to be Good, Good to Soft in Places the lower weighted horses, tradition states, fare well around Aintree.

It is hard to rule out anti-post favourite My Will, given the form of Irish jockey Ruby Walsh and champion trainer Paul Nicholls. Walsh, fresh after returning from the recent Cheltenham festival as the leading jockey with a record breaking seven victories, will be hoping that his mount can repeat the performance he put in last month’s Gold Cup. On that day, the 100-1 chance ran a blinding race behind Kauto Star and a drop of six pounds in the weights makes him a lively contender. He has stamina to burn and if he can handle the Aintree fences he has a leading chance of giving Walsh another winner for the season.

Tony McCoy, who left people waiting right up until the final moments before announcing his ride at this year’s event, will be hoping to land his first Grand National success on board another Cheltenham runner, Butler’s Cabin. Trainer Jonjo O’Neill felt his charge was travelling well in last year’s Grand National when he fell second time around at Beechers and if he can complete the course this year he will be right up there for the honours. McCoy had a disappointing Festival by his high standards and he will be more than ready to show Walsh and co that he is still the top man in the locker room. Butler’s Cabin ran a creditable race at the Festival last month when finishing fifth behind Character Building in his first jump over fences since November. Connections feel he will come on from that run and put in a solid performance for the Champion jockey.

Rambling Minster (nap), the mount of James Reverley has a leading chance to scoop the honour. A solid jumper, the 11-year-old has won in his last two races and another big performance is expected from a horse that looks like he is still progressing despite his years. The Grand National Guide seems to favour horses lower in the weights and at 10st 9lbs he will love the ground and will stay forever, especially after his recent success against Alexanderthegreat at Cheltenham back in January when he ran on well after coming off the pace. Last time out at Haydock he again ran on well beating Coe by 3 and a half lengths after another impressive round of jumping, despite receiving a rise of 8lbs in the weights that day following his January victory. If he can repeat that performance today there are few who will be able to beat him past the post.

If you are looking for value in the race then it is hard to look beyond the two previous winners of this contest with 2007 victor Silver Birch joined in the field by last year’s champion, Comply or Die. It is fair to say that Silver Birch is not the horse of old having spent much of last season on the Vet’s table with injury before returning to action recently with two disappointing runs. However, connections think it may be third time lucky with him in 2009 and a small punt each-way looks the value. His Aintree winning colleague, Comply or Die, jumped superbly last year and ran a credible 7th behind Wichita Lineman at Cheltenham last time out when wearing headgear for the first time. A repeat of that performance, coupled with his impressive jumping from last year, will give this Aintree veteran a big chance of a repeat of his 2008 win under the leadership of Timmy Murphy once more.

Of the bigger prices horses Cloudy Lane looks good value at a bigger price having started favourite 12 months ago but finished sixth behind the eventual winner having been held up much of the way. A more positive ride this year is the plan this time around and, as such, the Donald McCain Junior 9-year-old could come close despite carrying top weight in the race. Last year’s third Snowy Morning is again expected to run a big race but he needs to improve his jumping if he wants to finish higher this year as do lively outsiders Golden Flight, Battle Cry and Killbeggan Blade whilst of the real big prices if you are Stan why not have an each-way shot on your namesake? Jonathan Sugar

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