2021 Grand National winner Minella Times was the horse responsible for capping off a history-making year for Rachel Blackmore as he powered through the line to score in decisive style last season. He returns to the race having failed to complete in two starts this season – including under Blackmore – and now must race off a 15 pounds higher handicap mark. He saddles top-weight this time around, which will make life challenging given that only Red Rum has carried 11st10 or more to win this race since 1974. He looks one to avoid this time around.
Delta Work arrives on the back of an excellent Cheltenham Cross Country victory, lowering the colours of stablemate Tiger Roll as he looks to pick up the baton where that one left off. Delta Work is a five-time Grade 1 winner over regulation fences but recently has built up a strong partnership with jockey Jack Kennedy and is the class act in this field. The fire still burns bright, and he has abundant stamina. He ticks plenty of these boxes. However, he is high in the weights, and his jumping has let him down at the highest level on previous occasions. Excellent chance.
He was an emphatic Cheltenham Cross Country winner in 2020 and looked to have the world at his feet. Still, since switching to the Jonjo O’Neill yard, he has failed to complete in three racecourse appearances, including when behind Delta Work at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. It’s too soon to write him off, and he could take to this discipline, but he rates a risky proposition in his current form.
Any Second Now
Any Second Now will attempt to become the first horse older than nine to win this race since 2014, but he will arrive here on an upward curve after a gusty success at Fairyhouse and ran a screamer to finish third in the 2021 edition. He carries seven pounds more in a bid to make it second time lucky, but he was badly hampered in this race last term, so his effort should be upgraded. It’s clear that extreme stamina tests are his bag, and he has excellent claims if getting a clear round, although he is the wise guy’s choice!
Run Wild Fred
Run Wild Fred let down his supporters when well touted for the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival despite being an unusual and advantaged second season novice candidate. On the plus side, he is an excellent jumper and should take well to these demanding fences. However, even though he finished an excellent second in the 3m5f Irish Grand National, his stamina is still up for debate, especially from this 18 pounds higher handicap mark. There are enough questions he needs to answer.
Ten-year-old, former Grade 1 winner and 2020 Gold Cup third, Lostintranslation, will attack the National fences for the first time in his career. This season, he has looked like a shadow of his former self and has become untrustworthy in the main and mammoth stamina trips is something that has not been associated with a fruitful career. He is a class act, but surely this is too much of a stamina test–little chance.
Eleven-year-old Brahma Bull unseated on his latest outing in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham but had been knocking on the door in competitive races before that run. He ran an excellent third in the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury off top weight earlier this season after being caught too far back to make a challenge, and he is no stranger to big field events. He may be a bit long in the tooth to suggest there is any improvement to come, but he is rather reliable from a place perspective.
Battleoverdoyen has been below his best the twice he has travelled across the Irish sea to England, and he has been a horse that hasn’t lived up to the early hype of his Novice season. Still, he has been well-placed to score in five starts over fences, and there is an air of unknown quantity about him over stamina trips. Interesting at best.
Burrows Saint claimed fourth place in this event last season, but his jockey did say he was running on fumes when reviewing the race. Consistency has not been his forte, but he is a horse with stacks of ability when primed for a certain target and is undoubtedly no forlorn hope.
Mount Ida found the 2m4f Mares Chase too much of a speed test at the Cheltenham Festival, but she was an emphatic winner of the 3m2f Kim Muir the year before. She can jump violently out to her right, and given the Grand National Fences are very wide, her jockey should be keen to keep her on the inside rail for as much of the race as possible. She is clearly very talented, is four for eight over fences and is unexposed at stamina trips which certainly looks her future on recent evidence. She could be a bet when knowing her racing position in play on the Betfair Exchange.
Longhouse Poet is two for two when going up to 3m (3m1f) in his short career over fences, and his latest effort at Navan, when well beaten over hurdles, was a prep run for this contest. He falls short of Grade 1 level, but he is more than capable of making his presence felt off this handicap mark of 155. He is an improving eight-year-old with more to offer and is a big player here.
If the rain stays away, Fiddlerontheroof’s chances of getting this trip will be enhanced if his recent run at Ascot is anything to go by. He looks weighted to his best at this time, but a sounder surface over this trip will see him unexposed and given the way he finished out his race in the Ladbroke Trophy under similar ground conditions, he is tough to write off. He may just find one or two better treated on the whole, but he is a likeable type, and connections strongly feel he will see out this distance.
Two For Gold
Two For Gold has never been a dour stayer and has looked vulnerable at the death over three miles, so today’s trip should be his undoing. He is a likeable, bold type, but this is a different ball game and a race he won’t be able to dictate. Non-Stayer.
Ten-year-old Santini is well-handicapped on past exploits, and the switch to the Poly Grundy yard has seen him somewhat spark back to life. A Grade 1 winner here at Aintree as a novice has always shaped as though a mammoth stamina test is what he wants, and his jumping should be well suited to the stiff National Fences. He has very likeable claims for this contest, and he is one of the likelier types at a big price.
Samcro was once crowned as the second coming when destroying all before him as a Novice hurdler, yet things have not gone to plan since, and this looks like a random roll of the dice by connections. He looked a non-stayer in his recent outing at Down Royal in a conditions race where he was favoured at the weights and is currently on a downward spiral. Hard to warm too.
Farclas ran an excellent fifth in this contest last year, and the eight-year-old is only six pounds higher in the handicap. He lacked the pace to get involved and finished a tired horse crossing the line. He had the ideal prep for this contest when chasing home Run Wild Fred at Navan, but it remains to be seen if this extreme trip is really what he wants?
Escaria Ten looks on a fair handicap mark of 152 on the balance of his form, including an excellent third in the National Hunt Chase over 3m6f at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021. He has work to do to reverse recent form with Any Second Now on their recent meeting at Fairyhouse and is 1lb worse off at the weights. Still, he is a horse that will need to be played late given his tendency to idle once hitting the front; otherwise, he will find a stronger stayer up this long run in.
Good Boy Bobby
Good Boy Bobby has transformed into a stayer in the last 12 months, but the fact he has the speed to win over 2m3f doesn’t give optimism that this 4m2f trip will see him improve. He won’t fault through his attitude, but he was legless when dictating a field over 3m when scoring in the Roland Merwick at Wetherby. Non-stayer.
Lord Du Mesnil
Lord Du Mesnil has stamina in abundance but has proved none too reliable this term, failing to complete in four of his last six starts. He pulled up in the Becher Chase on his first attempt over these fences and is opposable.
Coko Beach is another that is hard to trust, but he did score in excellent style in the Thyestes Chase last January before landing a Grade 2 contest, and a repeat of that form would see him in with a big shout. Connections ran him twice in quick succession in February, for which his latest run can easily be ignored. Still, I feel I am clutching at straws to make a strong case for him.
De Rasher Counter
A former Newbury Ladbrokes Trophy winner, De Rasher Counter returned from a 489-day lay-off to blow away the cobwebs in a Grade 2 contest at Newbury in what would have been his prep run for this contest. He showed up well there for a long way and shaped as though he would be all the fitter for that run. His profile is a bit in and out, but you get the feeling there is a bigger performance in him, and he could play a surprise hand in the finish with his jumping likely to hold him in good stead. Don’t underestimate.
Caribean Boy looked as though he hated these fences when trying them for the first time in the Topham Chase on this card 12 months ago, and he would be a surprise winner.
After transferring from Thomas Mullins, Court Maid will make her first start for last year’s Grand National-winning trainer Henry De Bromhead. She has run over a variety of trips in the last 12 months, proving very versatile for connections, but her best form has come over stamina distances. She finished ninth in the Irish Grand National last term off of a three pounds higher handicap mark, and she has claims if taking to these fences today. Place player.
Kildisart is an old fan favourite who had been off the track for 472 days before reappearing at Newbury 35 days ago when shaping as though he retained all of his ability. His improvement came for the step up to 3m before his absence, and there is every chance this strong stayer will be sticking to the task at the finish back at a track he scored so well at in 2019. He has the back class to have an impact off of this handicap mark of 148, is ground versatile and ticks plenty of boxes should his jumping hold up at his first attempt at these stiff fences. Huge player.
Discorama found this race all too much last season when arriving on the back of wind surgery and a short break, so connections have given him a prep run and a shorter break. He was given too much to do from the rear of the field, but his stamina does have to be questioned now.
Top Ville Ben
Top Ville Ben switches back to fences after reigniting the spark over hurdles, but he is best known for his work in deep ground and will find this as competitive race as he has had.
Enjoy D’Allen was recently purchased by JP McManus, which could look like a shrew buy should he land this valuable prize. He took his form to a new level when running third in the Irish Grand National and has only had one run over fences since then, likely to protect his handicap mark for this race. He has had a prep run over hurdles in which he ran above himself and likely arrives here in fine fettle. This eight-year-old has plenty more to come over staying distances and is a huge player.
Anibale Fly has a glittering CV, but at the grand old age of 12, he is certainly up against it, with the younger legs likely to come to the fore.
Dingo Dollar has found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place with his handicap mark in the mid 140’s for some time now and pulled up in the Grand Sefton on his only attempt over these fences. He is easily passed over.
Freewheelin Dylan’s crowning moment came when landing the Irish Grand National last April. Still, he is yet to match that sort of form in four starts, and it’s unlikely the bold front runner will have things all his own way at the head of affairs.
Class Conti has failed to live up to expectations and was beaten 129 lengths in this race last year. His record this season is hardly inspiring, but he represents a powerful trainer in Willie Mullins, who has worked his magic with similar types. Still, he is a 100/1 chance for a reason.
Noble Yeats was brought by Robert Waley-Cohen in late February for this particular race, and he has shown enough to think that he has the ability to be competitive off of this handicap mark of 147. He was underwhelming in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Still, he is a seven-year-old with a promising future over staying distances while the track and the ground should both play to his strengths. It’s hard to find many negatives with his chances, and on the evidence of his Wetherby run behind the useful Ahoy Senor, he must be a player.
Edinburgh and Scottish National winner last term, but as a result, he has been given a good hike in the handicap, and it would be very disappointing should there not be one better treated.
Cloth Cap went off favourite for this race in 2021 after Newbury Ladbroke Trophy and Kelso wins but has struggled off marks in the 150s and is now only 1lb lower than when lining up last year. He needs to rediscover some spark but is clearly on a workable handicap mark. How much improvement there is to come remains the question, though.
Snow Leopardess has been all the rage in the ante-post markets for this event, and her claims are obvious for all to see. She is a strong stayer and is firmly on the upgrade arriving here looking for a four-timer and won over these fences when landing the Becher Chase over 3m2f on her penultimate start. She is four for nine over fences, but her best form has come on a softer surface, and the drying ground would have to be of concern to even the die-hard fans.
Agusta Gold usually comes good at this time of the year, but her stamina should be questioned despite being placed in a Grand National Trial in 2020. That race was a very steadily run affair, and once faced with a true gallop, she folded like a deck chair in the Irish Grand National last April.
Phoenix Way arrives on the back of a fall at Kempton but showed improved form to win in good style at Ascot on his penultimate start, which came over 2 1/2 miles. There is little evidence that he will stay this distance, and he is hard to recommend, especially as his patient tactics will not sway here.
Deise Aba usually saves his best performances for Sandown, with a course record of 2211. Still, he did run a blinder here at Aintree over hurdles on seasonal return, and it’s quite possible he hasn’t ideal conditions elsewhere. He is a thorough stayer and has a bigger performance in him over this new distance. There seems to be no reason as to why his excellent jumping won’t hold up around here, and it would be a surprise should he not be hitting the frame at big odds with the drying ground in his favour.
Black Lion is long in the tooth these days at the age of 13, but he has been a good money-spinner for connections and ran well to finish sixth in this race last year off of the same handicap mark. He has won twice since then, and it would be no surprise to see him run a grand race to finish in a similar position. He can be opposed from a win perspective in a deeper contest, though.
Poker Party has shown very little in three starts over varied trips this season since fitted with a tongue-tie and is hard to make solid claims for. He needs to bounce back, but his waiting tactics will not be served well here.
Daryl’s Grand National Prediction
1. Deise Aba
3. Delta Work
4. Enjoy D’Allen
6. Longhouse Poet