The Cheltenham Festival may be at the forefront of many racing fan’s mind, but ask any jockey which race would be the one they want to win, and it’s a pretty safe bet that the majority would choose the Grand National.
The four-mile-plus marathon around Aintree’s famous course is set to take place on April 9, and while we are three months away, you can bet your bottom dollar that connections are already gearing up for the mammoth test.
There will still be cards to be played and twists to the narrative before the day on Merseyside arrives, but here are five things we think you can take as a given in regards to the big race.
Many Clouds double attempt alive and well
Prior to Pineau De Re securing a victory over hurdles last month, no Grand National winner had won another race since Bindaree in 2002, such is the feat Many Clouds is attempting this year.
What is in his favour though is that he is being specifically targeted for Aintree this year, whereas he had an outing in the Cheltenham Gold Cup before heading to Liverpool last year.
What’s more, he carried 11st9lbs last year, and despite the fact that he has gone up 6lbs since in the official ratings, he will only be asked to shoulder 3lbs more at a maximum.
You’ll get a much better price on one particular runner this year
In his last Grand National before retiring (Sir) AP McCoy opted to ride Jonjo O’Neill’s Shutthefrontdoor, causing punters to go stir crazy, eventually sending the gelding off as 6/1 favourite.
He did well to finish fifth, with his trainer reporting that he came back from the race sore, but wasn’t to present the greatest jockey of all time with a parting gift.
Currently a 25/1 shot, even if Barry Geraghty does opt to ride him out of all of JP McManus’ horses, after dropping a pound in the weights, is likely to be a touch more value this time around.
Paul Maloney will be back to break his National jinx
If you are looking for a jockey to bag you some place money over the spruce-topped fences at Aintree, Paul Maloney is your man.
He has managed to finish in the places in eight of the last seven, yes seven, Grand Nationals, but is yet to get his mount home in front.
Alvarado, his partner when finishing fourth last year is set to be back for another shot, and while he looks a live chance at 33/1, it’s probably safer backing him each-way given his jockey’s past.
Paul Nicholls could be mob handed again
Since winning the race in 2012 with Neptune Collonges Paul Nicholls has been mob handed in the subsequent renewals seeking a second triumph.
He saddled four last year, and three in each of the two years previous to that, but only managed to get one horse finish in the first 10.
Three Ditcheat inmates currently occupy the betting for the 2016 running with two-time King George winner Silviniaco Conti (25/1) and Bet365 Gold Cup winner Just A Par (25/1) ever-so-slightly more fancied than Rocky Creek (33/1) who was fifth in the race two years ago.
Poli looks to have the staying power for a National test
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the undoubted aim for Willie Mullins’ Don Poli, with the Lexus Chase winner a 6/1 chance for glory at Prestbury Park.
But the manner in which the gelding races, rarely catching the eye, but always finding more under pressure could be just the ticket for the stamina-sapping contest in the north west.
He’s currently the 20/1 second-favourite for the race, and if coming out of the Festival well enough, it wouldn’t be a massive chance to see connections take their chance at Aintree.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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