The greatest race of them all

The greatest race of them all

It could be a grey day in more ways than one at Aintree for the race that stops the nation.

A gamble on Katie Walsh’s mount BAIE DES ILES has seen odds cut from 50/1 to 16/1. 

A mere seven-year-old but proven in soft ground and almost guaranteed to stay, punters clearly fancy her to make Walsh a first female winner of the Randox Health-sponsored Grand National. 

This is the ultimate girl power combination of a mare, who is grey, with a very good lady jockey, and trained by the jockey’s husband. But no seven-year-old has delivered since 1940. 

Appropriately enough the first winner back in 1839 was called Lottery, and any one of the 40 runners can win the world’s most famous steeplechase. 

With more rain expected to fall from greying skies the ground will be heavy in places, including at the infamous Canal Turn, which will suit mudlarks like THE LAST SAMURAI. But can he overturn the 66-length hammering last year?

Gordon Elliott expects to launch a three-pronged challenge in his bid to complete a great Grand National double having taken the Irish equivalent two weeks ago, and he believes Davy Russell’s well-backed favourite TIGER ROLL will adore the unique challenge of the Aintree spectacular.

But winning at the Cheltenham Festival is the kiss of death and the exertions of TOTAL RECALL and ANIBALE FLY in the Gold Cup may also prove too much. Elliott also has UCELLO CONTI, who will need a change in the weather and BLESS THE WINGS who, at 13, does not have age on his side. 

The Scots have obvious claims for a back to back victory with SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT, a recent and eye-catching purchase by the powerful Cheveley Park outfit, and CAPTAIN REDBEARD. 

The former will love the juice in the ground, and he can turn out here off the same mark as when finishing third in the Scottish marathon; while his earlier defeat of BLAKLION came off a higher mark, albeit in novice company. 

He still has some scope as a chaser given his higher hurdles rating earlier in his career, and his recent return to action ought to have him spot on for a tilt at the Grand National fences.

THE DUTCHMAN looks to have been handed a nice weight for the Aintree showpiece and must have a solid chance in stamina sapping ground despite his big odds, and another with a live chance at a big price is VALSEUR LIDO. 

One of the classiest horses in the race and a three-time Grade One winner, Henry de Bromhead’s charge could prove an ideal Grand National type and is an attractive each way option at 66/1 with Carrigill’s despite his relatively hefty weight burden. His sole start beyond three miles came at Punchestown back in 2015 when he won the Growise Champion Chase when in the care of Willie Mullins, and he has often looked as if a test of stamina would be his forte. 

Shrewd punters have also supported REGAL ENCORE who was running on when finishing 8th in this last year and is 4lb well in, but I’m going for a Yorkshire winner from Sue and Harvey Smith in I JUST KNOW. The Bingley-based trainers are fully aware of what is required for Aintree and this fellow jumps well and stays longer than the mother in law. I JUST KNOW wins the National.

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