Tom Lee's Grand National Preview: Just A Par or One For Arthur can conquer Aintree to become racing legends


The day the nation pauses en-masse to watch nine and a half minutes or so of thrilling horse racing action is here, with the iconic race on the calendar, the Randox Health Grand National, upon us.

The 40-strong field for big one is scheduled to face the starter at 5.15pm, so make time to have a bet with Unibet - preferably a couple of selections each-way in fact - then sit back and watch the action at Aintree unfold!

Here's a rundown on all 40 horses, together with a pair of big-priced suggestions on who it'll be taking home the £561,300 cheque for leading them all a merry dance, or scroll to the very bottom for my personal selections. . .

 

1. The Last Samuri - Second in this contest in 2016, since when he's again tackled the big fences when third in December's Becher Chase. Top weight, he arrives here in fine form after a rock solid second in Doncaster's Grimthorpe Chase. 17.00.

2. More Of That - Hugely talented and the choice of jockey Barry Geraghty, who had the pick of a trio of runners in the silks of owner, JP McManus. Most recently sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he won the 2014 World Hurdle. 15.00.

3. Shantou Flyer - Second to Cue Card at Ascot last time out. Stamina for this marathon race completely unproven. 34.00.

4. Perfect Candidate - Could go well at huge odds. A very strong stayer who will enjoy the decent ground. Has never fallen or unseated. 41.00.

5. Saphir Du Rheu - Fell in the Hennessy back in November but no doubting his ability, as proven when fifth in the Gold Cup. Is six pounds ahead of the handicapper. 21.00.

6. Roi Des Francs - Only eight-years-of age, young enough by Grand National standards, but warmed up for this with an easy win at Down Royal. 51.00

7. Wounded Warrior - Tailed off on two of his last three starts. Unconvincing. 51.00.

8. Wonderful Charm - Partnered by the ultra-tough Katie Walsh, who took a bad fall on Thursday but has recovered in time to steer a horse who was pulled up in this race last season. Excellent display last time out, beaten a neck in the Foxhunter at the Cheltenham Festival. 41.00.

9. Tenor Nivernais - A hugely impressive winner at Ascot in February. Represents trainer Venetia Williams, who won this race with 100/1 shot Mon Mome back in 2009. 51.00.

10. Blaklion - Successful in the RSA  Chase at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. Also third in a Grade 1 at Aintree this time last year. Since then he's been fifth in the Hennessy, third in Wetherby's Rowland Meyrick, as well second (to Vieux Lion rouge) in the Haydock Grand National Trial. Promising. 15.00.

11. Drop Out Joe - Not seen since 20/1 win at Uttoxeter in June. 51.00.

12. Le Mercurey - Stamina and experience are both concerns as he's only a seven-year-old. Winner of a Grade 2 Chase at Ayr in April 2016. 67.00.

13. The Young Master - A faller over these fences in the 2016 Becher, but prior to that was a winner of the same year's bet365 Gold Cup, aka The Whitbread, a classy 3m 5f handicap. Definite claims. 21.00.

14. Cause Of Causes - One of the toughest horses in training. Winner at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals, most recently last month when scoring in the X-Country. Usually has to wait 'til the following season to reproduce his form though, was eighth in 2015. 17.00.

15. Regal Encore - Talented but quirky. Often doesn't complete, including last time out. 51.00.

16. Vieux Lion Rouge - Seventh in this 12 months ago. Cracking chance based on his wins the last twice, over the big fences in the Becher Chase, followed by the Haydock National Trial. 13.00.

17. Definitly Red - Ten pounds 'well in' after winning the Grimthorpe Chase last month. Fancied by many. 13.00.

18. Ucello Conti - Ran fourth in the Becher Chase but only a distant sixth in this race last year. 21.00.

19. Double Shuffle - A win and a second at Kempton Park most recently. Has to prove his stamina. 34.00.

20. Houblon Des Obeaux - Has hard some hard races in defeat this season: third in the Welsh National, fourth in the Classic Chase, fourth in the Midlands National. 51.00.

21. Pleasant Company - Represents powerful combination of Mullins and Walsh. Comes into this bang in-form after victories at Punchestown and Fairyhouse, plus a fourth in the Thyestes at Gowran Park. 17.00.

22. One For Arthur - Huge player based on his jumping display when fifth over these fences in the Becher in December, followed by a powerful staying display in the Warwick Classic Chase. 15.00.

23. Ballynagour - Unseated his rider in this last season. Needs a leap of faith to fancy him having pulled up three times out of three. 67.00.

24. O'Faolains Boy - Risky given that's he's failed to complete twice in succession. However, may show the benefit of a recent wind operation and further back won the 2014 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. 67.00.

25. Highland Lodge - Player. Winner of the 2015 Becher Chase and again second in that race in 2016, so knows these fences as well as any. 26.00.

26. Bishops Road - Talented nine-year-old who missed the cut for this by one in 2016, two months after his victory in that season's Haydock National Trial. Has plenty of class but might prefer softer ground ideally. 51.00.

27. Lord Windermere - First time tongue tie for the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero. Pulled up in this race in 2015. 51.00.

28. Saint Are - First time blinkers for a horse who fell at the first in the Becher. Has run in this three times previously, his best effort when second in 2015. 34.00.

29. Vicente - Scottish Grand National winner for whom Brian Hughes is an excellent jockey booking. Also sixth in the Welsh National and ninth at Haydock in the National Trial. 26.00.

30. Just A Par - Comes to life in the spring. First and second in the last two runnings of the old Whitbread Gold Cup, so stays very well and handles better grounds with aplomb. Only 15th in this in 2016, but that was on Soft ground and could go very well at a price with that experience under his belt. Rider Harry Cobden is looking for a double over these fences after winning Friday's Topham Chase on 50/1 shot Ultragold. 51.00.

31. Measureofmydreams - Makes his fair share of jumping errors but was third in the four miler at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. Fell in the Scottish National, 12th in the Whitbread. 34.00.

32. Raz De Maree - Quietly fancied following placed effort in Welsh National. Had his prep over hurdles, and also won over three and a half miles on Good ground at Cork earlier in the season. 34.00.

33. Stellar Notion - Hard to gauge given this is his first try beyond three miles. Was fourth in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown. 41.00.

34. Rogue Angel - Irish National winner who was 10th in the Becher and fifth in the Thyestes. Very tough. 26.00.

35. Cocktails At Dawn - Major question marks about both jumping and stamina. 81.00.

36. Thunder and Roses - Irish National hero of 2015. Comes into this having been second at Fairyhouse and sixth at Naas. 34.00.

37. Gas Line Boy - Fell at the first two years ago. This season has won at Kelso as well as fourth in the Haydock National Trial. 67.00.

38. Goodtoknow - A fantastic effort when second to One For Arthur in the Classic Chase in January. Backed that form up with a win at Hereford, perhaps found the race coming too soon when pulled at Haydock Park latest. 81.00.

39. La Vaticane - Pulled up in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, but knows these fences having been eighth in the Topoham and fifth in the Grand Sefton. 101.0.

40. Doctor Harper - Good second at Cheltenham on Jan 1st but since then has disappointed at Warwick and only seventh in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival. 51.00.



 

VERDICT: It makes sense to back a couple each way given the size of the field, and a generous odds a couple who can play a big part are:

22. One For Arthur - Many Clouds won this race as an eight-year-old in 2015, and One For Arthur could very well do likewise, in the process becoming just the third of that age group to win this famous race since 1983. Gained valuable experience over these unique fences in December, and impressed when winning a valuable pot at Warwick in January. His trainer, Lucinda Russell, is having an excellent season and continue her fine form here.

30. Just A Par - A thorough stayer who can make a mockery of his huge odds. A big field handicap on quicker ground holds no fears for this experienced campaigner, and he'll be steered by the jockey, youngster Harry Cobden, who rode 50/1 stunner Ultragold to victory in Friday's Topham Chase. Don't forget, horses aged 10 or above have won 17 of the last 27 runnings of the National!