Football League sponsors Sky Bet take a look at the world’s greatest steeplechase, the Crabbie’s Grand National, taking place at Aintree on Saturday.
Teaforthree has been a strong fancy for the race for some time and was third in last year’s renewal. Trained by Rebecca Curtis, he ran well for a long way in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and any rain wouldn’t be to his disadvantage. Monbeg Dude finished ahead of Teaforthree when they met in last season’s Welsh National and Michael Scudamore’s charge has been the subject of strong market confidence in recent weeks.
Among his part-owners is former England Rugby Union ace, Mike Tindall, and his wife, Zara Phillips.Nicky Henderson is yet to win a Grand National and the current champion trainer has four runners in Saturday’s showpiece.Long Run is undoubtedly the class act in the field having landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2011 and won the King George VI Chase at Kempton on two occasions. Although he’s not lived up to those heights this season, his presence at Aintree is all the more interesting.Paul Nicholls won the race in 2012 with Neptune Collonges and attempts to repeat the dose with Tidal Bay. At thirteen, the statistics are very much against him but he showed he still retains his enthusiasm with a solid third in this season’s Welsh National.
More runners equal more places to be played for and it could be worth looking at one or two of the big stables to give value against the market leaders.11-year-old’s have won the last two Nationals and The Package would come into this category. David Pipe’s gelding was strongly fancied for this race back in 2010 but only got as far as the 19th fence. He made a belated seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham last month where he finished an eye-catching third, and with Tom Scudamore riding so well at present, it’s no surprise that his odds have tumbled in recent days.
Shakalakaboomboom probably has the best name of the forty starters but he’s certainly no mug bet if Nicky Henderson can have him back to his best.He finished ninth under what was probably too positive a ride in his previous experience of the National, but injury has meant that we haven’t seen a great deal of him since.Two recent runs have been nothing to write home about although he performed particularly well in a race around Kempton’s Flat track earlier this year, and the fact that his owners have persevered with a couple of years of training fees suggests that he must have shown something worthwhile on the gallops.
Multiple champion jockey, Tony McCoy has only won the National once and sadly injury has meant that there will be no Ruby Walsh or Timmy Murphy, who have been the most successful riders in the modern era.
Among the current crop, Barry Geraghty won on Montys Pass in 2003 and has placed on a further four occasions while Paul Carberry won the race on Bobbyjo in 1999 and has placed on two other occasions.
There are, however, a number of high profile riders that have never won the National. Richard Johnson went close on Whats Up Boys in 2002 though he has at least got completed the course in three of the last four contests.Nick Scholfield, who rides for Teaforthree, has ridden in five Nationals and has got round in three.It is not unheard of jockeys to win on their first ride in the race. Ryan Mania managed the feat last season on Auroras Encore and followed in the footsteps of Liam Treadwell, who won the 2009 renewal on 100/1 outsider Mon Mome.
Nicky Henderson’s record of never winning a National is clearly a rare gap in his CV but the McCain family have been the masters of Aintree having made it their own through the exploits of Red Rum (1973, 1974 and 1977); Amberleigh House (2004) and Ballabriggs (2011). David Pipe is another to have followed in the footsteps of his father with Comply Or Die (2008) but from a statistical perspective, Ted Walsh has a particularly impressive record. Walsh sent out the well-backed Papillon to victory in 2000 and he has placed with a further two of his other nine runners over the years.
Depending on the ground
The ground is one of the most important things in racing and while some sunshine anticipated ahead of the Grand National, there are also a fair amount of showers. Recent renewals have seen the going generally good or good to soft and the state of the going can often effect the number of finishers in the race. The Nationals of 1998 and 2001 were staged on going officially described as “heavy” and six completed in the former with just four getting round in the latter (two of those being remounted – something that is no longer allowed.)The going in 1991 was officially described as good to firm and Mr Frisk’s time of 8 minutes and 49seconds is a record that appears unlikely to be troubled on this occasion.
Last year’s winner
Sadly Auroras Encore had to be retired earlier in the season but his connections will enjoy another crack at the race with Mr Moonshine.The ten-year-old had been something of an underachiever in his career having seemed a smart prospect in his younger days, but he’s looked a different horse this year, finishing third over the National fences in the Becher Chase in December before going on to win races at Musselburgh and Carlisle. Ryan Mania will take the ride. Trainer, Sue Smith, is also represented by Vintage Star. Sixth in this season’s Welsh National, he is owned by locally based owner, Trevor Hemmings, who is no stranger to success in this race having won it twice with Hedgehunter and Ballabriggs.
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