Part one of our Official Grand National top 10 was launched upon the release of the weights in mid-February, where we attempted to highlight horses that looked especially promising betting propositions at that point.
But like the Official top 40 music chart, change can be expected on almost a weekly basis from now until race day at Aintree on April 11th.
Here is part two of the three-part series, with 13 runners now removed from the field at the latest declaration stage. This leaves 74 horses still looking to gain a run.
And with the Cheltenham Festival having taken place in recent weeks, alongside numerous minor contests where trainers took the opportunity to get their runners race fit without the threat of a weights hike for a favourable run, some horses suddenly look better bets than previously.
The big change in the official chart is that previous number one Godsmejudge has considerably fallen from grace. He is no longer even in the top 10 after an average performance in the BetBright Chase and then an even poorer showing in a hurdle at Bangor.
In total there are three new entries in the top 10 and obviously a new number one.
We highlighted previously that Rocky Creek could be well handicapped off 154 on the basis of last year’s efforts in the Argento Chase and Grand National (when fifth off a 2lb higher mark and ridden too positively).
Last time he was a decisive winner of the BetBright Chase off his Grand National mark and that was despite taking a wide line throughout.
The extra year’s experience from 12 months ago looks a major plus too.
The Druids Nephew
A first new entry here and The Druids Nephew was initially left off the list on the basis of his run when down the field in this year’s Hennessy Gold Cup where it seemed he might be a National horse for 2016.
However, from a 5lb higher mark he made relatively light work of a competitive-looking Ultima Business Solutions Handicap at Cheltenham, which suggests he is more than capable of a bold showing off 146 at Aintree.
The only bad news is that his regular jockey of late Barry Geraghty will miss the Grand National after fracturing his shin.
There is nothing new to add to Teaforthree’s chances from instalment one of this series, as he hasn’t been seen on the racecourse since running in a couple of Hunter Chases earlier this year.
He retains the same mark as when unseating Nick Scholfield in the Grand National last year, after being sent off as one of the favourites.
The decision to boycott a likely victory in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham shows just how seriously Philip Hobbs and his team are taking this year’s Grand National tilt.
He is only 3lb higher than when finishing second in the National last year behind Pineau Du Re and will arrive at Aintree this time much fresher and as an 11-year-old – which has been the age of the last three winners.
Here is the second new entry and although Unioniste hasn’t run since the Betfair Chase in early February, the way this form has worked out has substantially boosted his chances.
He gave Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree 5lb that day and was only beaten 10 lengths. Unioniste is officially rated 2lb lower at Aintree, while Coneygree, a non-participant in the National, is rated 19lb higher after his Festival victory .
Unioniste’s stamina isn’t questioned and now he also looks capable of running to a higher mark. He is an Aintree winner previously too – one of only 14 of the 74 remaining in the National entries.
The clear Grand National favourite found himself well down the top 10 last time, purely on the basis that he was so inexperienced on the back of eight chase starts. All of the National winners in the last decade had previously had at least 10.
However, Coneygree’s Gold Cup exploits has changed our thinking slightly, especially with the National getting easier by the year from a jumping perspective on the basis of horse safety.
Al Co is the only horse to receive a tick for all five of the trends that helped us narrow down our search for the Grand National winner, but the big negative towards his prospects is that it will take a career-best performance to triumph at Aintree.
Preparations have gone well though, with two solid hurdles performances since the announcing of the weights to boost his race sharpness.
Cause Of Causes
Given that it can be counted on one hand the number of races contested over 4m+ in a National Hunt season, it would be foolish to discount those to show the requisite stamina to win one of these.
Cause Of Causes did exactly this in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and still seemed to have a little in the tank at the finishing line.
He would have been higher in these ratings if a confirmed runner, but he remains prominent in the Irish Grand National betting, while hold-up horses don’t have the greatest record at Aintree either.
It may be harsh to drop Monbeg Dude five places in the chart on the back of his run behind The Druids Nephew at Cheltenham in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap, as the trip was always going to be plenty sharp enough for him that day.
However, it was a slight concern to see him so far back and not staying on past beaten rivals at the death with his assured stamina. It may have just been a one-off below-par run.
Whether it was the use of the cheekpieces and tongue tie combination for the first time or that he was simply unable to live with the pace set by Coneygree, but Sam Winner was well beaten in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Another performance at this level gives him no chance at Aintree, but recapturing the form that saw him take third in the Lexus Chase over Christmas gives him each-way claims at the least.