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Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Our tips for the 2017 Grand National are One For Arthur and Definitly Red!
The dour stayer One For Arthur should relish this challenge, with the Grand National seemingly tailor-made for Lucinda Russell’s eight-year-old by Milan. He has run three brilliant races this season, reappearing in October when comfortably winning a handicap chase and backed up that performance when fifth in the Becher Chase at Aintree in December. He was staying on very strongly towards the finish under Derek Fox and stamped his credentials for the National with a good jumping display round the course. The further he goes, the more he improves and that statement was proven true when he won the Classic Chase at Warwick over the 3m 5f trip, powering clear after the second last for a six length success. He looks likely to put up a bold showing for connections, and a weight of 10st 6lb will certainly see him able to show his best.
Much of the same can be said for Definitly Red, who looks a perfect fit for the Aintree Showpiece. He has been steadily improving this season as he goes up in distance, winning at Wetherby on Boxing Day in the Rowland Meyrick Chase after a brilliant display of jumping. Once striking the front there was no looking back and he stayed on strongly, drawing clear for a seven length success. He was staying on dourly when unseating Henry Brooke in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock, with his jumping letting him down on that occasion which is certainly a rare occurrence. He atoned for that on his latest start when jumping well to land the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster in March, comfortably dispatching last year’s second place The Last Samuri. He powered clear of that rival after striking the front at the fourth last, winning by 14 lengths which was increasing towards the finish. He will be carrying 10st 7lb for the Grand National and he is certainly improved in recent runs, so looks well weighted for a bold showing for Brian Ellison. He is another who should improve for the step up in distance and can put up a brilliant display for connections.
VIEUX LION ROUGE (11/1)
Number: 16 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 155 – Trainer: David Pipe
Analysis: Seventh in last year’s running, he has great form this year, winning the Becher Chase in December and made it two wins from two starts this season when comfortably outstaying Blacklion in the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February. Raised 9lb as a result, but remains with potential and he looks a big player for this year’s renewal.
DEFINITLY RED (11/1)
Number: 17 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 159 – Trainer: Brian Ellison
Analysis: A Grade 3 winner over fences when winning the Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day, drawing clear after two out and never looking in danger from that point. He slammed his Grand National credentials on the table when powering clear of The Last Samuri in the Grimthorpe Chase, showing a great deal of stamina. He has definite claims if building upon that run and is one who needs careful consideration.
CAUSE OF CAUSES (14/1)
Number: 14 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 142 – Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Analysis: Winner of the Kim Muir at the Festival in March 2016 in good style and showed some signs of a revival that season when fifth in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham, never a factor after early mistakes but sticking on. He showed his usual Cheltenham zest when winning the Cross Country Chase at the Festival in March 2017, but it couldn’t be said with any confidence that he’ll back up that performance. He has a big chance at his best though as he looks to be in peak condition.
Number: 10 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 156 – Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies
Analysis: Winner of the RSA Chase at the Festival in March 2016 and showed he has stamina in droves when second in the Grand National Trial at Haydock, giving 6lb to Vieux Lion Rouge and only beaten by around three lengths. He is likely to have learned a lot from that run and remains with any amount of progress for the rest of the season, so has to be one to consider.
MORE OF THAT (14/1)
Number: 2 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 157 – Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill
Analysis: 2014 World Hurdle winner who has good form over fences and was not disgraced when sixth in the Lexus Chase in December. He was in the process of running a big race when unseating the rider at the last in the Irish Gold Cup and is well worth a go at this distance. He ran a good race when sixth in the Gold Cup, keeping on but never able to threaten so does look very interesting at this distance.
ONE FOR ARTHUR (14/1)
Number: 22 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 148 – Trainer: Lucinda Russell
Analysis: He has been steadily improving this season, winning on reappearance at Kelso and was by no means disgraced to finish fifth in the Becher Chase behind Vieux Lion Rouge, running on strongly at the finish. He proved his stamina credentials for this distance when winning the Classic Chase at Warwick in January and looks likely to give a bold showing.
PLEASANT COMPANY (16/1)
Number: 21 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 148 – Trainer: Willie Mullins
Analysis: Winner at the 3m 1f trip at Punchestown, he returned this season when a promising fourth in the Thyestes Chase. He backed up that promise when beating seasoned stayer Thunder And Roses in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, making him very interesting for this. He ran on well and gave the impression that he will stay further in time, so should not be discounted by any means.
THE LAST SAMURI (16/1)
Number: 1 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 161 – Trainer: Kim Bailey
Analysis: He ran with huge credit to finish second in the race last season when tiring late on. He was not far behind Vieux Lion Rouge in the Becher Chase at Aintree, only beaten by about a length when giving that rival 15lb. He was also giving 12lb to Definitly Red when second to him in the Grimthorpe at Doncaster, though he does have work to do to reverse placings. He does not however look well handicapped for this and may well struggle if history is anything to go by. Nevertheless, he could not be discounted with any real confidence.
UCELLO CONTI (20/1)
Number: 18 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 146 – Trainer: Gordon Elliot
Analysis: Sixth in last year’s running and has been running better than perhaps the form figures suggest this season, finishing a close fourth in the Becher Chase after travelling well. His second in the Thyestes Chase was also another solid effort. He was quite disappointing when fourth in the Leinster National but was carrying a big weight and kept on for most of the way. He has proven that stamina should not be an issue and he could have say if getting a clear round. Place chances.
SAPHIR DU RHEU (20/1)
Number: 5 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 162 – Trainer: Paul NIcholls
Analysis: Four time winner over fences who has run well in races at around three miles in the past. He put in one of his best efforts when a staying on fifth in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, though he never had the pace to get on terms. He is hard to assess going further up in trip, but he looks likely to be contender as long as his stamina holds out, which is far from guaranteed. He does have place claims, but more is certainly needed.
THE YOUNG MASTER (20/1)
Number: 13 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 150 – Trainer: Neil Mulholland
Analysis: Won the 2016 running of the Sandown Gold Cup in April which would suggest that this distance is not out of reach, though he did fall when well beaten in the Becher Chase at Aintree in December (seasonal reappearance). He was well beaten in the Cleeve Hurdle as expected and was much better for going back over fences when sixth in the Festival Chase, staying on but not able to get to the leaders. That effort would suggest that he could be very interesting at this sort of trip with his mark slowly falling, so he needs consideration.
Number: 29 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 146 – Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Analysis: He capped off last season when winning the Scottish Grand National and is currently on the same mark as he was for that win, although that is only due to his poor performances this season. He was tailed off and never better than midfield when beaten in the Grand National Trial at Haydock and, on that basis, he needs much more. His mark however is dangerous currently and he should improve for this distance, so has to be given a live place chance.
ROUGE ANGEL (25/1)
Number: 34 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 141 – Trainer: Mouse Morris
Analysis: Won the Irish Grand National in March 2016 when making virtually all, but has largely struggled since then. His first respectable effort of the season came when fifth – though he was still beaten a reasonable distance – in the Thyestes Chase. Despite that, he remains on the same mark, though he should inevitably improve for the step up in trip. He had plenty to find with a few of these on the Becher Chase running and can only be given a small outside chance.
HIGHLAND LODGE (25/1)
Number: 25 – Age: 11 y-o
Rating: 140 – Trainer: James Moffatt
Analysis: Winner of the Becher Chase in 2015 and returned this season with an admirable effort in the race despite being 5lb higher for this year’s renewal, finishing a short-head second to Vieux Lion Rouge. He has not looked a stayer at the marathon trips in the past, but this seems to be the right year to enter him, with a mark of 140 not out of reach based on past performances. He has a definite outside chance if he stays the trip, but others do have more pressing claims.
THUNDER AND ROSES (40/1)
Number: 36 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 144 – Trainer: Mouse Morris
Analysis: Seasoned stayer who finished a valiant second in a 3m 5f chase at Fairyhouse in December and backed up his claims when second to Pleasant Company in the Bobbjo Chase at the same venue in February. More is needed if he is to turn around that form, but he looks almost certain to appreciate the step up in distance. It would be foolish not to give him a place chance if things fall right.
RAZ DE MAREE (40/1)
Number: 32 – Age: 12 y-o
Rating: 143 – Trainer: Gavin Cromwell
Analysis: No one can doubt his commitment even at this late stage in his career, running on well to finish second behind Native River in the Welsh Grand National on his fourth start this season. He has been raised 4lb as a result – which is a career high mark – but that run did suggest that he would not be a surprise stayer at this trip. Another who can put up a brave effort and should be in there pitching for a place come the finish.
SAINT ARE (40/1)
Number: 28 – Age: 11 y-o
Rating: 147 – Trainer: Tom George
Analysis: Second in the 2015 Grand National behind the great Many Clouds, though in last year’s renewal he made far too many mistakes and lost his place three out before being pulled up. Not disgraced on his latest start in a 2m 7f chase at Doncaster when gunned down at the finish and clearly in as good a form as ever. More is likely to be needed at the third attempt and, although he does have possible each way claims, him taking a win at the age of 11 would be a surprise.
TENOR NIVERNAIS (40/1)
Number: 9 – Age: 10 y-o
Rating: 160 – Trainer: Venetia Williams
Analysis: Running well without winning this season before making all in impressive fashion at Ascot in the Keltbray Swinley Chase, despite some errant jumps on occasion. The winning distance was 30 lengths that day and he kept up a relentless gallop which bodes well for this sort of distance. He did not back that up when well beaten at Kelso in March, although he looked below par that day and lost a shoe. More is likely needed, but he is impossible to discount entirely.
DOUBLE SHUFFLE (40/1)
Number: 19 – Age: 7 y-o
Rating: 149 – Trainer: Tom George
Analysis: Chaser on the upgrade this season and posted a career best when finishing second in the Betbright Chase at Kempton in February, finishing second; he likely would have finished much closer if not for a blunder at the third last. Adrian Heskin retains the ride and he looks capable of a big run in the conditions, although his stamina is far from assured as he has only gone as far as three miles. He is very much unexposed and looks capable of playing a part for the placings if his stamina holds out.
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (50/1)
Number: 20 – Age: 10 y-o
Rating: 144 – Trainer: Venetia Williams
Analysis: He has proven himself to be a useful commodity at the staying trips and has by no means been disgraced this season. Finishing a running on third in the Welsh Grand National, he was once again running on when it was too late in the Classic Chase at Warwick and it does not look the right time to step him up to this trip. Although not sighted at the Grand National Trial at Haydock, he is better than that and a mark of 144 makes him very interesting, as he was a Grade 3 winner off this mark in the past and is not one to dismiss.
LE MERCUREY (50/1)
Number: 12 – Age: 7 y-o
Rating: 151 – Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Analysis: Finished a close second behind the great Many Clouds at Aintree in December and was not discredited to finish the same margin behind Native River in the Denman Chase at Newbury. He is yet to go beyond three miles and off a mark of 151 he does need more to threaten. He can therefore be given a small outside chance if staying, but may just find this too soon in his career.
LORD WINDERMERE (50/1)
Number: 27 – Age: 11 y-o
Rating: 150 – Trainer: Jim Culloty
Analysis: 2014 Gold Cup winner who never went on from that success, though he cannot be judged on his only other tilt at this contest as he was racing off of top weight. Not disgraced in three runs this season, he was clearly not hard pushed when well beaten in the Bobbyjo Chase on his latest start. He is a stone lower than he was in the 2015 renewal and gets the services of Leighton Aspell, which is a big advantage. He can make his presence felt off this lowly mark and is a very lively place contender for Jim Culloty.
JUST A PAR (50/1)
Number: 30 – Age: 10 y-o
Rating: 146 – Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Analysis: Finished fifteenth in last year’s renewal when never able to land a blow, however he arrives this year in good heart after victory in a Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Newbury in March. 3lb higher for this year’s race and Harry Cobden takes the ride, indicating that he is not Nicholls’s strongest chance. Nevertheless, he could not be ruled out for the placings if everything drops right, with the yard and jockey in such blistering form.
Number: 31 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 146 – Trainer: Noel Meade
Analysis: Arrives at the race in no sort of form after pulling up at Gowran Park in January and he was no better when well beaten in the Ultima Handicap at the Festival in March. That Cheltenham effort perhaps offered some hope and he was favourite for the Scottish Grand National last year when falling, so could not be ruled out with any confidence. Likely stayer as he finished third in the 2016 four miler at the Festival and the Aintree fences could spark a revival.
WONDERFUL CHARM (50/1)
Number: 8 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 153 – Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Analysis: In good form this season with two victories followed by a game second in the Foxhunter Chase at the Festival, running on strongly at the finish and only just running out of track. Pulled up in last year’s renewal and only one pound lower this time around, however he arrives in better form and the ground is likely to be in his favour. Outside place claims with Katie Walsh taking the ride, although others perhaps have more pressing claims.
PERFECT CANDIDATE (50/1)
Number: 4 – Age: 10 y-o
Rating: 156 – Trainer: Fergal O’Brien
Analysis: Bold jumping front runner who gained another victory when galloping his rivals into the floor at Exeter last season, despite running off top weight. He was raised 6lb as a result, yet he continues to defy the handicapper and looks a lively outsider for the contest. He has won at 3m 2f in heavy ground conditions in the past which makes him look a promising candidate to stay, so he has to be considered for the placings.
STELLAR NOTION (50/1)
Number: 33 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 146 – Trainer: Henry De Bromhead
Analysis: Yet to go beyond three miles, though he does have good form at that distance, finishing fourth in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December when only headed at the final fence after attempting to make all. It is impossible to know whether he will stay this far, although he has given out positive signs and the better ground will suit him. David Mullins will take the ride and he has a solid each way chance if his stamina can hold up.
ROI DES FRANCS (66/1)
Number: 6 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 154 – Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Analysis: In good form overall this season and capped off his preparation when winning at Down Royal in a comfortable fashion over the 3m 2f trip. More is needed if he is to pose a threat based on his fifth in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown in February where he was weakening out of contention. He did not have the blinkers on that occasion like he did on his latest start so he could be perked up. However, others do look more likely for the placings.
BISHOPS ROAD (66/1)
Number: 26 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 147 – Trainer: Kerry Lee
Analysis: In very good form back in 2015/16 and was touted as one of the favourites for the 2016 renewal after a game win in the Haydock Grand National trial. He did however just miss the cut and has had to wait his turn, falling over these fences in the Topham Chase on his only attempt at the Aintree fences. He has been going about his business quietly this season and has a chance at the weights for a place, though he is a risky proposition as his jumping cannot be relied on.
DROP OUT JOE (66/1)
Number: 11 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 152 – Trainer: Charlie Longsdon
Analysis: Has had limited running in recent years due to injury problems and has not been seen since June 2016, where he won the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter in June ahead of Ballynagour. Will evidently arrive fresh, but there is no way of knowing if he will be fully prepared for this, though the ground is in his favour and he seems a likely stayer from that latest run. Perhaps place claims at his best, but he is not a straight forward case.
WOUNDED WARRIOR (66/1)
Number: 7 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 153 – Trainer: Noel Meade
Analysis: Not the most consistent but has some solid form in the book, including a comfortable victory at the expense of Rule The World in a Grade 2 at Naas back in January 2015. Better ground will suit him well and he has been given an easy time of it this season, with this race clearly in mind. Looks to have very good each way claims for Noel Meade and can make his presence felt for last year’s winning owners.
Number: 23 – Age: 11 y-o
Rating: 148 – Trainer: David Pipe
Analysis: All but impossible to predict recently and he has pulled up on all three runs this season, showing very little on his latest start at Cheltenham in a Grade 3 back in January. He was making some headway when unseating the rider at the nineteenth fence last year and is 3lb lower for the race this time. Others have far more pressing claims on form coming into the race, but he could be an each way danger if consenting to a good run this time around.
O’FAOLAINS BOY (66/1)
Number: 24 – Age: 10 y-o
Rating: 143 – Trainer: Rebecca Curtis
Analysis: Set a bold sight out in front in the Gold Cup of 2016 but was well beaten when headed and returned from almost a year off when pulling up in the race won by Tenor Nivernais at Ascot, never involved at any stage. Strong stayer at the three mile trip, but it is impossible to know if he will be able to go this far and his latest performance leaves him with a lot of questions to answer. A mark of 143 is a career low over fences which makes him slightly more interesting, so he cannot be entirely discounted.
REGAL ENCORE (66/1)
Number: 15 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 150 – Trainer: Anthony Honeyball
Analysis: Very inconsistent but classy on his day, winning the Ascot Silver Cup in December, though prior to that he had pulled up twice and did so again on his latest start at Cheltenham in a Grade 3. His best form is on better ground so he has that in his favour but hard to recommend with how wayward his profile is, so perhaps others are best to focus on this time around.
SHANTOU FLYER (66/1)
Number: 3 – Age: 7 y-o
Rating: 156 – Trainer: Rebecca Curtis
Analysis: Smart horse at around the three mile trip and was a running on second behind Cue Card in the Ascot Chase on his latest start, although he is yet to compete at any ‘extreme’ distances. He was midfield when coming down in the four miler at Cheltenham in 2016 and he has a good chance of staying, though he perhaps is not kindly weighted on this occasion at the age of seven. Others seem more likely for the places this time.
Number: 38- Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 144 – Trainer: Kerry Lee
Analysis: Very capable stayer on his day, finishing second in the Classic Chase at Warwick in January behind one of our picks One For Arthur. However, he should not be relied on and his overall profile is very inconsistent. He pulled up in the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February and, although he performs on any ground and should stay, others have more pressing claims for the places on this occasion.
DOCTOR HARPER (66/1)
Number: 44 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 150 – Trainer: Anthony Honeyball
Analysis: Very inconsistent but classy on his day, winning the Ascot Silver Cup in December, though prior to that he had pulled up twice and did so again on his latest start at Cheltenham in a Grade 3. Best form on better ground so that is in his favour but hard to recommend with how wayward his profile is, so perhaps others are best to focus on this time around.
GAS LINE BOY (80/1)
Number: 37 – Age: 11 y-o
Rating: 144 – Trainer: Ian Williams
Analysis: Fell in the race back in 2015 when a 66/1 chance so it is not fair to judge him on that performance alone, especially as he does have some good staying form in the book. He ran respectably on his latest start when fourth at Haydock in the Grand National Trial, though was beaten a long way by both Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion. More is clearly needed, however he will be much better weighted in this. He looks to be a likely stayer, so it would be no surprise if he were to be fighting for the final place.
LA VATICANE (100/1)
Number: 39 – Age: 8 y-o
Rating: 143 – Trainer: David Pipe
Analysis: Will have no problem with these fences after two completions over the National fences, but both of those were over much shorter distances and he has not seemed an assured stayer on many occasions. Arrives on the back of a poor display in the Kim Muir at the Festival and, despite being off such a low weight, others are much more convincing and this looks highly unlikely to be his time.
COCKTAILS AT DAWN (100/1)
Number: 35 – Age: 9 y-o
Rating: 145 – Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Analysis: A very volatile profile overall which immediately throws up the red flags and he was a faller in last year’s Topham Chase over the National fences. His stamina is unproven for the marathon distances and it is hard to build a case for him in this.
Grand National Tips
The 2017 Grand National meeting is a three day event that takes place this year from 6th until 8th April. The feature race is the Grand National; the handicap chase after which the meeting takes its name. The race sees 40 horses tackle 30 fences over a four mile three furlong trip, although the field will not include reigning Champion Rule The World who retired shortly after taking the race at odds of 33/1 last year. Other races being held up in the North West during the meeting include the Aintree Hurdle, the Melling Chase and the Topham Chase. We will have a Grand National tip along with other tips for all the races across the meeting!
The horses lining up for the flag to drop is quite the spectacle to behold and is unmatched by any other meeting in the year. The camera shot of all of the horses with the fences in the foreground and the fans in the background shows just how special this race really is. Our Grand National tips will help punters make the most informed decision as to which horse to back for this showpiece of National Hunt racing. Despite the horses taking so many fences over the marathon four mile, three furlong trip, it is perhaps surprising that so many of the races have ended in very tight finishes.
In recent memory, it is impossible to forget the gripping finish to the 2012 Grand National, where Sunnyhillboy looked to have the race won before Neptune Collonges started to close at a rapid rate of knots. In an incredible end to the race, Daryl Jacob managed to get Neptune Collonges up on the line in heartbreaking fashion for connections of Sunnyhillboy. Surprisingly, despite all the runners in this race that he has had, that was only Paul Nicholls’s first ever win in the race. Our Grand National tips will make sure to take account of the fact that this is not a race that always goes to top trainers, with Nicky Henderson the most notable absentee from the roll of honour. Runners do not necessarily have to be the best based on raw ability, as stamina is the key here. Auroras Encore showed this in the 2013 running of the race when winning at odds of 66/1, despite having been well beaten on all eight of his previous starts and on all three starts since. The Grand National betting is not something that can easily be pieced together, as explained in the next section.
The Grand National is the one day in the steeplechasing calendar that gets the whole world talking. The Saturday of last season’s renewal at Aintree saw over 9 million people tune in on Channel 4, accounting for a massive audience share across all terrestrial and cable channels! It is a day where sporting and casual fans alike will have their bets on who they think this year’s winner will be.
Grand National Betting
The Grand National betting can be a minefield, as last year showed when Rule The World powered to victory at odds of 33/1. In fact, there have been an incredible six winners at odds of 66/1 or bigger in the history of the race. What made his win so intriguing was that he had never previously won a race over fences and, considering how unforgiving the unique fences are, that was an eye-catching statistic. However, our tips will take every factor into account and leave no stone unturned, regardless of the horse’s place in the market. As evidenced last year when the brave Vic’s Canvas managed to finish third at 100/1, the Grand National betting really is a tough conundrum to solve. No horse can be ignored and, as previously mentioned, every horse will get a thorough mention in our analysis.
As recently as 2013 we had a 66/1 one winner in the form of Auroras Encore and, looking at the bare statistics alone, you would not have thought he would be a Grand National horse. If you were to dig deeper into his form, you would find a very game second in the 2012 Scottish Grand National, with the front two well clear of the third. Granted, he brought poor recent form into the race, but the betting certainly got him completely wrong and he should never have been such a big price considering how much stamina he clearly had in the locker.
The market always pays extra attention to the weight given by the handicapper to each horse, which is hardly surprising. No matter how good a horse is, those in the Grand National will be running over four miles; carrying a high weight is an extremely difficult task to say the least. Since 2000, only six winners of the race have carried 11 stone or more to victory. Obviously, this proves that if you have the perfect competitor the weight can be dealt with, but it takes a special kind of horse to be able to do so. Our Grand National analysis will take into consideration the weights of all horses as it is a statistic which cannot be ignored.
Grand National Horses
It takes a unique type of horse to win the Grand National, with winners not just having quality alone. Horses such as multiple Grade 1 winner Silviniaco Conti – winner of the prestigious King George VI Chase – but he pulled up before the 14th fence. On his race before the big event, he won the Grade 1 Ascot Chase by 20 lengths and on his next start he finished second in the Down Royal Champion Chase (Grade 2), showing just how difficult this race is. The quote “The horse who has never previously won a race over fences” was often used to describe the 2016 Grand National winner Rule The World before the race, with that statistic being the main basis for many to rule him out. However, his near misses over the larger obstacles had kept his handicap mark down, meaning he came into the race off a weight of 10st 7lb, which appears to be in the range of perfect weights for horses.
No matter how good a runner is, if they are carrying a weight of over 11st 5lb, statistically they are going to struggle. Having said that, Many Clouds was a special horse and the fact that he managed to carry 11st 9lb to victory in the 2015 renewal was an incredible feat. To put that performance into perspective, the last horse to carry such a large weight to victory was Red Rum in 1977, who was laden with 11st 8lb (one pound less). Grand National horses typically needed lower weights though, as proven by the fact that only nine horses since 1980 have carried 11st or higher to victory in this showpiece race.
Aintree racecourse was opened on 7th July 1829, though steeplechasing was not introduced to the track until ten years later in 1839; flat racing was the main type of racing prior to its introduction. It is known as one of the toughest courses to complete successfully on the National Hunt calendar, with 16 challenging and unforgiving fences that catch out even the best horses year after year. Grand National horses certainly need to be unique and very versatile.
There are five main fences at the track which would prick the ears of any racing fan, as they are synonymous with Aintree and the National itself. After four tricky fences in their own right, the runners come round to Bechers Brook, named after the horse Captain Becher who came down at this fence. A fence that has cost mainly dearly, the competitors are given no respite as they head to Foinavon, named after the 100/1 shot who won the race in 1967. Despite being well out the back of the pack, Foinavon was so far back that he was able to avoid the carnage ahead of him and – as the only horse to successfully jump this fence at the first attempt – managed to hold on to the advantage he gained and went on to win the race.
Fence number eight is the Canal Turn and it has a history of catching out some of the best horses. Immediately after jumping the fence, the runners turn 90 degrees to the left, although horses who are able to take the obstacle at an angle can gain many lengths on the field. Immediately after is fence number nine: St Valentine’s. A critical milestone on the course, it provides a good indication as to which horses are going to be challenging for victory. If a horse is in the leading group at this point on the final circuit, they have a very good chance of at least a place in the top four or five. Even though on the face of it fence nine is not the biggest nor most challenging fence, it has caught many horses out over the years, including Gallant Oscar in 2016 who was a highly fancied runner.
The final named fence is the second last – The Chair. This is the biggest fence of the Grand National course; a six foot fence with a five foot two inch ditch before take off. This fence does not catch as many horses out as might be expected, although last year both Sir Des Champs and On His Own independently fell at the fence.