The who’s who of the racing world have enjoyed a spectacular lunch at the Sky Garden in London today, and while we’re sure there would have been a lovely spread, there were more important matters at hand.
The weights for this year’s Crabbies Grand National have been released and we see this as the opportune moment to start wading through the bumper field to put together our shortlist.
We’ve looked over the stats from recent renewals to bring to you our 10 leading candidates as things stand.
Keep your eyes peeled for a recap after the Cheltenham Festival, but right now, here are the trends we need to be aware of when narrowing down the field:
– Over two-thirds of horses placed in the race since 2009 have carried at least 10-10
– In the last 15 years 58 of the 60 horses to make the frame were aged between eight and 11
– Nine of the last 10 winners had previously won a chase worth at least £29k
– The last 14 winners had won or been placed in a chase with at least 15 runners
– Since 2011, 65 per cent of placed horses had finished in the first four in either the Aintree, Welsh, Scottish or Irish Grand National
So there you have it. We are looking for a horse higher in the weights, aged between eight and 11, that has gone well in big fields before (preferably in a National of some sort) and has brought in the dough for connections.
Here’s our top 10:
Backed into 7/1 last year, probably due to the AP McCoy factor, Jonjo O’Neill’s charged travelled best of all turning into the straight.
The former Irish Grand National winner faded back into fifth that day, but subsequent reports were that the nine-year-old wasn’t right for some time after that.
With a second run of the season over hurdles pencilled in for Saturday, expect this dour stayer to be available at much tastier prices this time round.
Staying trips look to be his game with victory in the Midlands National last March followed up with a gallant second place in the Scottish equivalent at Ayr.
Two disappointing runs over these fences must be forgiven but he’s a massive chance over this longer trip.
Jim Dreaper’s chasers have been in decent form this season with over one-third of runs resulting in either a first or second-placed finish.
Oliver Sherwood’s Grand National hero shouldered 11-09 to victory last year, more weight than any horse since Red Rum in 1974, and will only have to carry one pound more this time round.
Without a win in three runs this term, the Aintree spectacular has obviously been the target since winning the race 12 months ago, and he must be respected as favourite.
At aged nine, there is every possibility he still has more to give.
Another JP McManus-owned gelding that has run well in the race before, finishing third in 2014.
Martin Brassil’s charge missed all of last season through injury, but has returned for two adequate runs over hurdles this time round.
He will need to prove that he still retains the ability of two years ago, but with his mark well protected, he could put up another bold show.
The majority of his last five runs have been poor but Paul Nicholls’ charge does tick all the boxes as far as the trends go.
He finished fifth on Merseyside off a mark of 156 in 2014 so might be well enough treated to make the frame once again.
Conditions are likely to be key, with very few of his best runs coming with too much cut in the ground.
Mark Walsh was contemplating pulling up his mount turning for home in the Irish Gold Cup but the 10-year-old came alive in the latter stages at Leopardstown.
The way in which he stayed on up the home straight to claim a second Grade 1 triumph suggests that this bigger test of stamina will be right up his street.
The prescence of Many Clouds and/or Don Poli in the race could see him avoid having to carry top-weight.
Houblon Des Obeaux
Venetia Williams was left questioning why it took her so long to put cheekpieces on her nine-year-old after he blitzed the field in the Denman Chase last weekend.
After a disappointing season up to that point, it was refreshing to see the former Hennessy runner-up get his head in front for the first time in over two years.
He stays the trip, but will have to avoid any jumping errors that could halt his momentum.
Kerry Lee seemingly cannot do any wrong since taking the reins from her father at their Herefordshire yard, with three Graded wins to date.
One of those came courtesy of a mud-loving performance from Mountainous in the Welsh Grand National.
A faller in this race mid-way through in 2014, he can go further and get closer this time round, especially if Liverpool gets plenty of rain in the build up.
Mouse Morris’ gelding has shown just how good a horse he can be at times this season, finishing third in the Hennessy Gold Cup before running Don Poli close in the Lexus.
He can throw in the odd stinker though and will have to be on a going day to deliver his best and improve on his 16th placed finish 12 months ago.
He is a Grade 1 winner though and nearly fits the bill as a horse to go well in the big one.
Fourth in the race for the past two years, Fergal O’Brien’s horse knows what it takes to get around the unique jumping test that is the Grand National.
His owners have been blessed with horses running well in the past, with Cappa Bleu and State of Play both placing in the race without winning it.
Their representative has been dropped a pound this time round and he could be set for another bold showing.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing