The weather forecast, unfortunately, isn’t great for Merseyside this week, and that means that the Grand National at Aintree could well be run in heavy, sluggish conditions.
As was the case at the Cheltenham Festival in March, where the going was as slow as it has been for a number of years, persistent rain in the area is casting a real shadow over Saturday’s marquee race.
Showers are expected throughout Thursday before the real damage is likely to be done on Friday, where consistent rain is forecast during the day.
Saturday is expected to be a drier day, ironically, but with thick cloud and minimal win any standing water will be tough to shift.
Why is this important? Well, if you are new to horse racing betting you may not know that ‘heavy’ conditions underfoot tend to suit some horses more than others. Indeed, if your Grand National bets are normally picked out by looking for a name that you have some attachment with, a lucky number or a favourite colour, then maybe this is the year where some research into the runners and riders will pay dividends in the office sweepstakes.
Here’s a quick look at those likely to thrive in an Aintree mudbath:
On the Raz
It’s odd that Total Recall has been handed favouritism by the bookmakers. He has shown a penchant for a 24f stretch, but in the longest race of his career to date – last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup – the nine-year-old was found wanting, falling three from home on a soft deck which insinuates he may struggle with a step up in trip in similarly soggy conditions.
Anibale Fly was a 33/1 jolly for the same Gold Cup and did remarkably well to finish third. Even so, a cut in price down to 12/1 for one of the toughest races on the calendar makes little sense to us, and so there’s no value here.
Blaklion didn’t have the stamina here 12 months ago, trailing off to finish fourth when leading, and in his last start finished a country mile shy of Yala Enki in a Grand National Trial at Haydock.
Tiger Roll is an interesting sort who has claimed back-to-back wins at the Cheltenham Festival, but when stepping up against high class opposition at Clonmel in November the eight-year-old was found wanting, having to be pulled up after weakening significantly.
Seeyouatmidnight hasn’t shown a liking for a longer trip over the years, and the same can be said of Minella Rocco – once the conqueror of Native River, but now a shadow of his former self.
So the head of the market holds very little appeal, but a little further down at 33/1 we find Raz De Maree, a former runner-up to Native River in the Welsh Grand National of 2016.
The 13-year-old would be the oldest Grand National winner in nearly a century, but the form is still there: second in the Cork Grand National Handicap Chase was followed by victory last time out in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
The message from trainer Gavin Cromwell about his French horse is simple: the heavier the going the better, as far as he is concerned. “They go off very quick [in the National] and the key thing is whether he can stay in the race or not. As long as he doesn’t get detached he’ll be fine. He’s very slow. But the more of a test of stamina it is the better because he doesn’t know how to stop,” he said.
“He’s definitely as good now as I’ve ever had him.”
Up in the Clouds
Another horse in the Grand National field who loves a good old slog is Vintage Clouds, and the heavy ground will certainly play to his strengths.
Trained by Sue Smith, who took the honours here in 2013 with the 66/1 shot Auroras Encore, the eight-year-old won at Aintree as recently as October. He was excellent in the Scottish Grand National last year, making a huge error early on but recovering to finish seventh after trailing the field.
In his last start Vintage Clouds finished third in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, which was a high quality renewal in which he stayed on well.
If the rain falls at Aintree in the coming days, this could be a horse that the market gobbles up; get on now if you can!