The time is nigh, the final field of 40 is now confirmed for the Grand National.
This is our third look at the 2016 showpiece, running the rule over the full list of 40 runners and ranking them in the same manner as the official music chart.
Part One of this series was published after the release of the Grand National weights, listing what we believed to be the top 10 who looked the most well handicapped.
By Part Two, the Cheltenham Festival had passed and many of the Grand National entrants and been seen somewhere on the racecourse. This shook up the top 10, with numerous runners impressing from their Aintree marks.
Finally, we have now extended to the full top 40, with jockey bookings and the probable quicker ground helping to once again rotate the chart order.
Below is our final order and some explanation for our choices:
A confirmed stayer and the classiest horse in the field based on past achievements. he proved himself to have lost little of his quality in destroying some credible rivals by 20 lengths at Ascot after the weights were announced. None of them have gone on to flatter the form since, however.
The Last Samuri
Is effectively 11lb well in here after winning the Grimthorpe Chase off this mark after the National weights were released. He looks a great jumper and the further he goes, the more he seems to enjoy it. Any rain will be in his favour too. The only doubt is that he is quite a small horse and these bigger Aintree obstacles will be a new experience.
Just 3lbs higher than when landing the National in 2015, so he has every right to go close. An authoritative victory at Kelso last time out was his first of the season, whereas last term he had scored in three of his four races en route to Aintree. Campaigned exclusively for this race, or simply not in the same form this year?
Collateral handicap form suggests the 156-rated 2014 RSA Chase winner could be well-in here. In December he bested Sausalito Sunrise off level weights by 15 lengths, with that one now rated 159 after destroying Vieux Lion Rouge by a similar margin in it’s next outing. Ran well for a long way in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, often a good trial for the National, last time.
Runner-up in this last year and runs off a 1lb lighter weight this time, even though his official rating is 3lb higher. Won well at Doncaster on last start and has been in the first two three times at the Grand National Festival. Certainly one for the shortlist.
The Druids Nephew
Fell five from home when running a massive race in 2015, Neil Mulholland’s gelding goes off a 9lb higher mark this time, but has the fact that this race has been his focus since the beginning of the campaign in his favour this time around. Just 10 lengths behind The Last Samuri when giving that one 6lbs in a very promising warm-up last time out.
Sir Des Champs
Found only Bobs Worth too good in the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup, running to a mark 19lbs higher than the one he runs off at Aintree in the process. Returned from an absence of almost two years with a victory that hinted that he may retain the majority of his former ability. Two unimpressive runs since and now without Ruby Walsh because of injury, but Nina Carberry is a solid deputy.
Won the Midlands National last year and then followed up by finishing second in the Scottish equivalent off a 3lb lower mark than here. His second at Naas last month should help ensure he is spot on for this.
The final Grand National conveyance of the incomparable AP McCoy last year, when finishing a highly credible 12-length fifth. He is rated just 1lb lower this time around, yet carries nigh on a stone less than he did 12 months ago. Remains as unexposed as the well-fancied The Last Samurai, yet has the bonus of positive experience over the big fences. Enthusiasm only checked by an unconvincing prep run last month.
This has looked his target for much of the season, having failed to make the final 40 last term, and his astute trainer has campaigned him smartly under the radar to protect a workable handicap mark. The obvious danger is that he has a preference for being ridden out the back, increasing the risk of interference. Hold-up horses have a poor National record, with it often paying to race prominently.
Once again proved himself an altogether more seductive proposition once spring has sprung when finishing second off a sizeable burden in a Cheltenham handicap last month and a welter of excellent handicap form suggests he’ll have the stomach for a challenge just like this too. Loves it at Aintree, where he has finished out of the medals just once in five runs.
The Evan Williams/Paul Moloney axis know a thing or two about National sorts, having teamed up to claim a total of seven places in the Aintree cavalry charge over the years with first State of Play, then Cappa Bleu. Hasn’t hit the bulls eye since February of last year, but has much to commend about all six of his runs, each in highly-competitive handicaps, since.
Proved staying credentials with RSA Chase third in 2014 and has returned to the track in fairly accomplished fashion after a season out. Twice a runner up in Ireland before being beaten into fourth in the Ultima Handicap at this year’s Festival, and only then by a length when giving The Young Master 4lbs.
Finished 10th in this in 2014 and the general consensus is that he is capable of bettering that effort. This mark is probably a little on the high side for him to be a serious contender for victory though, based on his fifth in a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival. But he brings experience and has this season’s Champion Jockey in waiting on board.
Brings the experience of four Aintree chases to the table and seems to have been around for ages, even though he is still only an eight-year-old. All three runs in 2016 have been an improvement on last season and he is on a lenient mark if rediscovering his best. Likely to find a few too good though.
Rule The World
Has been the model of consistency over the last 18 months, with a stream of placed finishes. However, he is still to win after 13 starts over the bigger obstacles and jockey Bryan Cooper has opted to ride First Lieutenant instead. The distance and ground look to be in his favour.
Was ‘lucky’ enough to run his best race for more than a year not long after the National weights came out, landing the renowned staying test that is the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse and is now 4lbs well-in as a result. Ruby Walsh’s decision to jump ship for Sir Des Champs in the days leading up to the race makes it hard to be too enthusiastic though.
His form is hard to accurately judge, given he had done all of his racing in France until having three starts in Ireland. The latest pair of these brought placed finishes in well-respected handicaps, but needs to improve again for a jockey that has never ridden him before.
Vieux Lion Rouge
This is still his first season as a chaser and it’s a big ask for one so inexperienced to win a race as demanding as the Grand National. But his run in National Hunt Chase over 4m at the Cheltenham Festival last time was encouraging, travelling best entering the home straight before fading.
Hennessy Gold Cup Chase win in 2013 proved to be something of a false dawn for Nicky Henderson’s promising pupil. A subsequent flop in the Gold Cup just months later when 10th out of 11 in the Cheltenham showpiece served notice of his limitations in class company. Pulled up in midfield in this one last year so big ask to feature.
A wind operation and the use of blinkers have brought noticeable improvement to a horse that has been busy in recent months, with four races already in 2016. There are concerns that the benefit of the latter will begin to wear off, but he is sure to put himself in the firing line to be shot at towards the front.
Jockey booking suggests that he is the number one challenger from the Nicky Henderson team and ran credibly on first start for over a year at Kempton in February. He is only 1lb above his last winning mark, but any rain will be a big negative.
Got round last year off 1lb lower, finishing 16th despite mistakes at the first two fences. A year older now having always been adept at finding one or two too good – the last of his three victories in 29 chase starts came in the Aintree Bowl back in the sepia-toned days of 2013.
The Romford Pele
Could still be open to improvement, as he is only five runs out of novice company. During that time he was rated 7lb higher than his current mark. The main concern is that he will get too far back and not be able to make up the ground. Doesn’t want it too soft either.
On His Own
Willie Mullins’ veteran former Cheltenham Gold Cup silver medalist proved the old fire still burns when a head second to Boston Bob in renowned trial the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February. Yet, it’s difficult to feel positive about his chances, given he fell in both his previous National runs, in 2012 and 2013.
One of only two seven-year-olds in the field and there hasn’t been a winner this young since 1940. But he has looked a slick jumper for one that has only had eight races over obstacles of any kind in his career and this sort of stamina test should be right up his street. Open to more improvement than the majority.
Hard to get excited about a 17-length second to Aachen in his sole run so far this season, but Paul Nicholls’ chaser has an appealing habit of placing. He’s finished third or better in 10 of his 14 chases to date, including twice at Aintree. Having been pulled up early on his sole run beyond 3m2f, he remains unexposed over marathon trips too.
Brought down at the Canal Turn on the first circuit 12 months ago when having Ruby Walsh on board. This time it’s Ruby’s sister Katie off a 3lb lower mark. Doesn’t seem to relish a battle enough to win and the tank has a tendency to empty fairly quickly. Hard to fancy as a result.
Like the charity fundraiser in the old fashioned diving suit at the London Marathon, Soll gets round every year without looking remotely like winning. Has placed seventh, 11th and ninth respectively in the last three Nationals, with the last of those runs coming off a mark of 139. Pitched in off 13lb higher this time around, he’ll do extremely well to improve on his past exploits.
Seemed to like the Aintree fences when fifth in the Becher Chase off a 1lb higher mark in December, but he has fallen over more than he has won in the past two years. No concerns in the stamina department if his jumping holds up.
Just A Par
It would be a big surprise if he won, giving that his current mark seems on the high side for his achievements and his jumping has been known to fall to bits. Did land the Bet365 Gold Cup around this time last year so a strong performance is not impossible, even if unlikely.
Remains fairly lightly raced, having only been seen four times in the past two years. However, there doesn’t seem much leniency in his current mark and there are stamina doubts too. His only previous try over a marathon trip saw him finish in the midfield in the 2014 Irish Grand National.
A last-minute purchase by Robert Waley-Cohen, which conveniently means his son Sam gets a ride. This could be a benefit as the riding dentist has a good previous National record. As for the horse, he has looked out of sorts for much of the season.
Only been seen over hurdles this term over inadequate trips, after spending much of the last campaign finishing down the field in top-level chases. Not impossible he could surprise off this mark and his trainer is fairly shrewd, but plenty of others make more appeal.
An eight-length defeat to eventual Gold Cup winner Don Cossack back in October was no crime. However, he failed a significant test over the Grand National fences in November, pulling up in the Grand Sefton, albeit he was badly hampered in running. Two more disappointing outings in 2016 don’t bode well.
A capricious customer that has been pulled up twice in the six races since landing the most recent of his five wins from 26 career outings last May. He last scored in the UK off a 15lb lower handicap mark than he’s working with here and has never won a race over further than 2m5f, which are hardly the credentials of a sure-fire stayer.
Way out of his depth in last season’s Betfair Chase before unseating Ryan Hatch and would take something of a miracle for Nigel Twiston Davies’ yard to be toasting Grand National success. Then refused in the subsequent King George VI when also struggling to prove that blunder was no fluke. Dropped 9lb over seven winless outings since.
Form leaves a lot to be desired as in his four starts across the last two years, he has pulled up twice and finished outside the top 10 on the other two occasions. Ideally wants the course to turn into a bog to have any hope.
The ability of Cross Country guru Enda Bolger’s eight-year-old to stay a marathon trip has to be doubted. He’s never scored over further than 2m4f, finishing unplaced in a trio of runs up to a maximum of an extended three miles. Finished fourth off a 9lb lower mark in his last handicap run in December.
Running off a mark some 26lbs higher than that with which he began the campaign, the Venetia-Williams-trained 12-year-old will likely be sent off a similar price to his trainer’s triple-digit 2009 National winner Mon Mome. Unlike that one, it’s difficult to imagine rereading his form in the wake of a shock victory, bewildered as to how his obvious claims could have been missed.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.