GRAND NATIONAL: pinsticker's guide to all the runners
Finding the winner of the Grand National is often likened to finding the numbers you need to land the National Lottery.
Indeed it’s surely no coincidence that the very first winner of the great race, way back in 1839, was a horse called Lottery.
Forty runners, 30 fences, four-and-a-quarter miles. Where do you start?
Most of us rely on names we like, or jockey’s colours we like. Many of us just stick in a pin and hope for the best.
To help all the pinstickers, I’ve pieced together this mini-guide to all the runners for Saturday’s race at Aintree, which is being shown live on ITV at 5.15 pm.
Removing all the technical jargon, it just gives you a bit of extra inside information on each horse, their jockey, trainer and owner that you might find useful or interesting.
The horses are listed in racecard order, complete with their prices in the betting market, which were the best available at the time of writing. Good luck!
MINELLA ROCCO (18/1)
Burdened by top weight, but one of the class acts of the field, having finished second in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. Owner JP McManus and trainer Jonjo O’Neill teamed up to provide Tony McCoy with his sole National success (Don’t Push It) in 2010. Has long been considered a National natural, potentially, but can be a dicey jumper, and definitely prefers Good ground.
Superb fourth in last year’s National after jumping and travelling through the race like a dream. Also won over the Aintree fences in December, and has triumphed at the Cheltenham Festival too. Was put through a hard race in Heavy ground last time, but has had an operation on his wind since, and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies saddled Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002) to National glory. His son Sam rides.
ANIBALE FLY (12/1)
Top-class 8yo who brings the best form of the race to the table after his career-best third in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. He has plenty of weight to carry but is arguably still improving. Irish trainer Tony Martin,who used to be famed for his successful raids to Britain with well-fancied horses, is convinced he is an old-fashioned chaser who will love the marathon distance of the National. Jockey Barry Geraghty is one of the best in the business.
THE LAST SAMURI (18/1)
An Aintree regular, who finished second in the 2016 National and has twice been placed in other races over the unique fences. The 10yo is trained by Kim Bailey, who produced Mr Frisk to win the race in record time back in 1990 and is one of only two current handlers to have saddled the winners of National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle.
VALSEUR LIDO (66/1)
Such huge odds are an insult to a 9yo who was a classy chaser in his pomp and was twice placed at the Cheltenham Festival. However, he was been well below-par this season and it’s very doubtful that he will stay this 4m-plus marathon trip. One of several contenders for all-conquering owners, Gigginstown House Stud.
TOTAL RECALL (11/1)
The main flagbearer for Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins, who has not bagged the National since Hedgehunter in 2005. Impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup) in December, but took a heavy fall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last time. Owned by a family syndicate of seven brothers and one sister and the likely mount of brilliant Irish jockey Paul Townend.
ALPHA DES OBEAUX (40/1)
Aims to repeat the 2016 success of Rule The World for trainer Mouse Morris, and provide 28-year-old jockey Rachael Blackmore with a dream debut ride in the race. A one-time high-class hurdler, he is not as good over fences, but he’s a solid jumper likely to be prominent, so you should get a good run for your money.
GOLD PRESENT (28/1)
Talented 8yo who is bidding to end champion trainer Nicky Henderson’s long wait for a National winner. Although he was pulled up at the Cheltenham Festival, he ran well for a long way off top weight and on unsuitably testing ground. The worry is his lack of experience and the fact that he fell at the Canal Turn when he tackled the Aintree fences in another race last term.
PERFECT CANDIDATE (80/1)
A veteran of 30 races and an honest 11yo chaser from the up-and-coming Cotswolds stable of Fergal O’Brien. Tends to reserve his best performances for Cheltenham and was pulled up in the 2017 National when his stamina appeared to give way in the final mile.
SHANTOU FLYER (40/1)
Owner Carl Hinchy hails from Southport and remembers watching mighty Grand National legend Red Rum training on the beach there. This 8yo is not in the same class as ‘Rummy’ and had to be pulled up in last year’s race after being hampered. But he’s consistent enough and aims to make 17-year-old jockey James Bowen the youngest to have ever taken the Aintree spoils. Trained by Richard Hobson at the delightfully named Bobble Barn Farm.
TENOR NIVERNAIS (150/1)
Itr’s 20/1 for the winner to be trained by a woman, but Venetia Williams, who oversees this 11yo, is enduring a torrid season. At his best when allowed to dictate from the front, the French-bred has produced one or two sparkling performances during a mixed career, but he was well beaten in last year’s National.
CARLINGFORD LOUGH (50/1)
Fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup of 2016 and a Grade One winning chaser at his peak for shrewd Irish trainer John Kiely. But although he has never fallen, he has been in decline for the past two seasons and age appears to be catching up with him.
Winner of the Scottish National for the past two seasons and primed for a major assault now on the big one for crack trainer Paul Nicholls, who sent out Neptune Collonges to triumph in 2012. Has shown little this season, but he needs much better ground than he’s encountered. Owner Trevor Hemmings has celebrated three victories in the last 13 years.
TIGER ROLL (12/1)
His owner, Michael O’Leary of Ryanair fame, describes him as “a rat of a thing”, and his trainer, Gordon Elliott, says he’s so small he “headbutts his fences”. But this 8yo has achieved the extraordinary feat of winning three different races at the Cheltenham Festival, including last month when he sauntered home most impressively. Sure to stay the extreme 4m-plus distance, which is incredible since he was bred to win a Derby over 1m4f on the Flat, and the mount of in-form jockey Davy Russell.
REGAL ENCORE (33/1)
One of several contenders for legendary owner JP McManus and has always been highly regarded. Often flatters to deceive and has been pulled up seven times in his last 13 outings. But he wasn’t disgraced when eighth in last year’s National and he was at his best when winning at Ascot last time. Jockey Richie McLernon has National demons to conquer after he was beaten by a whisker in the 2012 race.
VIEUX LION ROUGE (33/1)
Proven over the Aintree fences, winning over them in a race in December 2016. But by fading into sixth in last year’s National and seventh the previous year, the petrol ran out and similar is expected this time. Trained by Martin Pipe’s son, David, who saddled Comply Or Die to success in 2008, but is suffering a very lean time at the moment. Ridden by Tom Scudamore, whose grandfather, Michael, guided Oxo to victory in 1959.
CHASE THE SPUD (66/1)
Ten-year-old mudlark who is one of the few in the field certain to relish the demands of the race, having landed the Midlands National last season. However, he has been pulled up on each of his last two outings, including in the Welsh National, after which vets reported him to be suffering from ataxia (loss of full control of bodily movements).
WARRIORS TALE (50/1)
Both the owner, Trevor Hemmings, and the trainer, Paul Nicholls, know what it takes to win the great race and there’s little doubt that this 9yo is a useful, consistent chaser. An unlucky second on his last two starts, including in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster, he’s in-form too. The big question marks concern his suspect stamina.
Described by jockey Brian Hughes as “like driving a Ferrari”, the 10yo has attracted a lot of support from punters to become the second successive Scottish-trained winner after One For Arthur last year. He’s had his problems and was off the track for a year until making a belated return three weeks ago. But at his best, he was bordering on top-class and was third in the Scottish National of 2013.
GAS LINE BOY (33/1)
Ian Williams, who trains this 12yo stayer, was once assistant to legend Jenny Pitman in her Grand National-winning heyday. This will be his charge’s third attempt at repeating the heroics of the likes of Corbiere, and he’s a live outsider if he can build on a gallant fifth last year, after falling at the first in 2016. Owned by a couple of mates who hail from Merseyside, he returned to Aintree to win over these fences in December.
THE DUTCHMAN (33/1)
Somerset farmer Colin Tizzard is aiming to become the first trainer for 42 years to field the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season. This 8yo is no Native River, but he’s no forlorn hope either, especially with talented teenager Harry Cobden aboard. It is a slight worry, though, that he bled from the nose when flopping on his last run.
PLEASANT COMPANY (33/1)
Intriguing 10yo who was in the process of giving Ruby Walsh a beautiful ride in last year’s race until a bad blunder at Valentine’s Brook on the second circuit almost brought him to a standstill. Still recovered to come home ninth and considering it was only his sixth appearance over fences, it was an eyecatching effort. Although his efforts this term have been disappointing, you can be sure he’s been readied for another crack by top trainer Willie Mullins.
UCELLO CONTI (20/1)
It might seem madness to tackle a race of this magnitude with a horse who has failed to win any of his last 20 starts since coming over from France. But he was bought specifically for the National for leading owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede and has performed well over the Aintree fences three times. His trainer, Gordon Elliott, saddled a remarkable eight winners at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.
SAINT ARE (66/1)
Admirable 12yo who is set to tackle his FIFTH Grand National after finishing second in 2015 and third last year in first-time blinkers. He has shown nothing on his two outings this season, but his trainer, Tom George, enjoyed a terrific Cheltenham Festival.
Long-in-the-tooth outsider who flies the flag for one of the smallest stables represented in the race, Leek-based Jennie Candlish. A front-runner who prefers Good ground, the 11yo does have experience of the Aintree fences, but does not look well-handicapped.
RAZ DE MAREE (40/1)
At 13, he became the oldest horse ever to win the Welsh National in January, having also landed the Cork National twice and the Munster National back in his native Ireland earlier in his career. This is the mud-lover’s third attempt at Aintree glory and he will hope for better luck than last year when he unseated his rider at Becher’s Brook while ducking left to avoid a fallen horse.
I JUST KNOW (25/1)
Remember show-jumper Harvey Smith? Well, his wife Sue trains this relentless front-runner and terrific jumper, who loved his first crack at a marathon trip when winning January’s North Yorkshire National at Catterick. Victory would be highly emotional after the recent death of his owner, Ray Scholey.
Lightly-raced 9yo with a touch of class who is a dual winner at Aintree over hurdles and was third to Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite over fences here last season. Trainer Dan Skelton’s gelding has been well below-par this term, but he’s had a wind operation in preparation for this. Needs the rain to stay away.
BAIE DES ILES (20/1)
Husband and wife Ross O’Sullivan (trainer) and Katie Walsh (jockey) team up for this 7yo grey mare. Katie, sister of Ruby, was third on dad Ted’s Seabass in 2012, which is still the best effort in the race by a female jockey. Has been heavily backed this week, but no mare has won since 1951, only one grey has won since 1961 and no 7yo has won since 1940, although this one was sixth in the Irish National as a 5yo.
Old-timer whose 54 career starts include a shock 50/1 win at Aintree on Grand National Day two years ago. But that was over the Mildmay course, not the National fences, which he didn’t particularly enjoy in another race here in 2015. Asking a lot of a 13yo, especially as only one teenage horse has even been placed since 1969.
Fragile 10yo who has seen a racecourse only three times since December 2015, including in the National of two years ago when he finished way back after an error at the Canal Turn. But he’s also capable and trainer Charlie Longsdon has produced him to run well three times at the Cheltenham Festival.
Enigmatic but loveable veteran who has earned a following of fans over the years for his style of running in which he finishes fast from the back, invariably too late. He finally won for the first time in three years in January, but this is a different test altogether, and it’s hard to envisage him improving on his effort of 2016 when he was beaten more than 80 lengths.
CHILDREN’S LIST (80/1)
Third string for Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins and a curious choice of race for an animal who has run over fences only four times. However, Mullins and flamboyant owner Rich Ricci know best, and the 8yo did beat subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Edwulf last season.
LORD WINDERMERE (66/1)
Surprise winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2014, but has regressed badly since, failing to win in ten outings, including in last year’s National when he was seventh after making several jumping mistakes. Also fell over the Aintree fences in December, although he’s undeniably well handicapped if trainer Jim Culloty, Best Mate’s former jockey, can coax him back to his best.
CAPTAIN REDBEARD (33/1)
Rookie jockey Sam Coltherd, only 18, rides this 9yo for his father trainer, Stuart, a 50-year-old Scottish farmer. Victory is probably expecting too much, especially as he is usually campaigned over shorter trips, but he’s a smart chaser, reasonably handicapped and handled the Aintree fences in a race here earlier this season.
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (66/1)
At his best, Venetia Williams’s 11yo was considered good enough to run in two Cheltenham Gold Cups and was third to this year’s Gold Cup hero, Native River, in the Welsh National. But despite tumbling down the weights, he’s become hard to win with and finished a distant tenth in last year’s Aintree spectacular.
BLESS THE WINGS (66/1)
The skills of trainer Gordon Elliott and Irish racing’s new teenage jockey sensation Jack Kennedy will have to work overtime to get this 13yo first past the post. He has tackled the Aintree fences before but is more of a specialist in cross-country races these days and showed nothing in the Irish National on Easter Monday after a bizarre fall at the Cheltenham Festival.
As long as you don’t count Elizabeth Taylor in ‘National Velvet’ (!), and even she was disqualified, no female jockey has ever won the Grand National. But 22-year-old Bryony Frost, who has enjoyed a tremendous season, has a live chance on this 11yo who stays all day and would love deep ground, which he got when second in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter last month. If Frost manages it, she would emulate dad Jimmy, who steered Little Polveir to success in 1989.
FINAL NUDGE (66/1)
As a horse who was third in the Welsh National in January and was going well when falling four out in last season’s Midlands National, David Dennis’s 9yo is the most interesting outsider in the field. He’s been disappointing in his last two runs, but he’s mixed it with top-class company during his career and unquestionably has a big race in him at some stage.
DOUBLE ROSS (100/1)
Hardy 12yo who has danced many a gig for former National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. He was pulled up in the 2016 race when his saddle slipped, but he has often run with credit at the Cheltenham Festival, including last month when keeping on into fourth as if this extreme distance would be within his compass.
ROAD TO RICHES (66/1)
Top-class Irish chaser at his peak, finishing third in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup. But he has not won any of his last 12 races, dating back to the following November, and has displayed no form at all this season. Now officially rated almost two stones lower than he once was.
THUNDER AND ROSES (66/1)
A faller in each of his last two runs and has not won a race of any description, totalling 22 starts, since he landed the 2015 Irish National when he beat subsequent Aintree hero, stablemate Rule The World. To complete the discouraging profile, he unseated his rider in last year’s race when badly hampered by a loose horse.
One of three possible runners for Yorkshire trainer Sue Smith, who was responsible for shock 66/1 winner Aurora’s Encore in 2013. A reliable pacesetter who has been treading the boards at Northern tracks, particularly Catterick, where he has won four times, but appeared not to stay 4m when trying it in February.
WALK IN THE MILL (100/1)
The son of a Derby runner-up, Robert Walford’s 8yo has been a reasonably consistent sort since coming over from France. Got bogged down in the Haydock mud last time, but previously ran a nice couple of races at Ascot.
VINTAGE CLOUDS (40/1)
Very game and genuine galloper who was third in a big handicap at the Cheltenham Festival last month and seems to possess bottomless reserves of stamina. He just might lack the tactical speed for a contest such as this, but he’s been out the first three only three times in 19 completed runs during his career and stands out as each/way value.
WOUNDED WARRIOR (100/1)
One of a handful of Irish stayers, owned by Gigginstown House Stud, who seem to be in serious decline. At his best, he was acquitting himself well in heady company, but he was pulled up in last year’s Aintree National when tailed off and has struggled to recapture his form since.
GENERAL PRINCIPLE (50/1)
Bounced back to form when getting up late to snatch the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday. It will be a surprise if Gordon Elliott asks his him to take in this challenge as well only 12 days later. But he has a featherweight to carry and if the 9yo gets his favoured Soft ground, it might tempt him.
SPLASH OF GINGE (66/1)
Before this 10yo had even run, owner John Neild, a Liverpool-born former stable lad, had £1,000 at 1,000/1 on him to win the National one day. Neild is well known for his boisterous celebrations, which have already been triggered by big-race wins over hurdles and fences for the gelding, who is at his best when the mud is flying but has never suggested he’d be suited by 4m.