While the Cheltenham Festival is the betting paradise for those in the know, the Grand National represents manna from heaven for those punters who love a flutter on the horses but once a year. Well, you time is now friends: the world-famous renewal is under the starters’ orders for Saturday afternoon.
Despite the early morning studying of the form guides and the crunching of the numbers, in truth the Grand National is something of a lottery. The average price of the winner in the past 20 years is some 32/1, which naturally lends itself to backing the ‘mid-field marauders’ rather than the favourites.
At the head of the betting this year is Many Clouds (8/1), who triumphed here last year. Should you need convincing not to back this admittedly very good horse, here are three reasons: only two favourites in 20 years have won this race, only five winners in more than 250 years have successfully defended their title and no jockey has ever won the Grand National three years on the trot (as Leighton Aspell will need to do here). It would be a story of almost Hollywood proportions.
So punters will need to look elsewhere for worthy selections in this four-mile behemoth at Aintree, and luckily for you we’ve picked out a top trio that are worthy of your attention:
Despite the relatively short price (which will be enough to put some punters off in a race of this nature), we really like the look of Holywell. This is a Jonjo O’Neill gelding that has finished in the money places in 21 of his 25 starts, and he has already won at the Grand National meeting in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase – where he took the scalps of the noted Don Cossack and our old chum Many Clouds.
An impressive run-out at Cheltenham – where he was pipped by the impressive Un Temps Pour Tout despite leading with three to jump in the Ultima Handicap Chase – has added further weight to his credentials.
Aged nine and weighing in the region of 11-7, Holywell boasts all of the credentials we’re looking for.
Cause of Causes (20/1)
Cheltenham form is often a good guide to a decent run in the National, and while it was the more prestigious races that took most of the headlines one that flew under the radar was the Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase. The winner of that renewal, Cause of Causes, is in the field here and looks a smashing horse to follow.
Winning on the undulating challenge of the Cheltenham track is one thing, but to run a 3m 2f race and look just as cool, calm and collected at the end as at the start is a fantastic bonus. Cause of Causes did just that, and after finishing eight in this race in 2015 it’s fair to say that the pedigree is there to launch an assault this time around.
Carlingford Lough (25/1)
The Gold Cup is the standout feature of the Cheltenham Festival, and fans of omens will know that Many Clouds finished sixth in that particular race in 2015 before going on to win the biggie at Aintree a mere month later.
This year it was Carlingford Lough, who ended up fourth in the festival’s major curtain call, who did his Grand National claims no harm at all with a sturdy showing.
The uninitiated will see a record of nine wins from 28 starts and be put off instantly. Those who like to dig deeper will note that in starts over longer distances – we’re talking 24f plus – he has finished ‘in the money’ in five of ten attempts. Give Carlingford Lough soft ground over a longer stretch and the Irish gelding really comes into his own.