The Grand National Festival is finally underway and the 40 horses have been confirmed for the 4m4f steeplechase that is the biggest test of stamina in the horse racing calendar.
This is the third and final part of our look at the race and we have ranked the chances of all of the 40 entrants in a similar fashion to the official music chart.
In Part One of our series we assessed 10 leading fancies after the announcements of the weights, looking at who initially seemed best handicapped.
In Part Two we reassessed after the Cheltenham Festival, where some of the runners had continued their preparation.
Now that we have all of the necessary weaponry in our arsenal, including jockey bookings and the state of the Aintree ground, we analyse the prospects of the top 40, with Rocky Creek spending a second week at number one.
Looked the most likely winner of this three fences from home last year before failing to see out the trip. He has had a breathing operation since and runs off a 2lb lower mark here. Dominated a good field in the BetBright Chase off this mark last time too.
Returns after finishing second in this 12 months ago and is rated 3lb higher here. However, unlike last year, he has been laid out for this in 2015, missing a likely victory in the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival. Good ground essential to his chances and he should get it.
The only horse in the field that ticks all five boxes in terms of the common Grand National trends, winning the Scottish National last season despite plotting a wide route throughout. His runs in a couple of hurdles contests this year have been solid and should ensure he is spot on for this.
His run in the Denman Chase when third to Coneygree and conceding weight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner now looks especially eye-catching. Being a seven-year-old is a negative, but he is unusually experienced over fences for one so young and looks a certain stayer.
The good ground that he desperately desires appears likely with no rain forecast and there are no reservations that he will see out the trip. Usually a sound jumper too and should stay clear of trouble as he can be expected to race prominently up with the pace.
The Druids Nephew
The best-handicapped horse on account of his victory in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase success at the Cheltenham Festival, for which he has been punished 10lb for future contests. His jumping remains a slight concern and much will hinge on how well he negotiates the first few Aintree fences to get into a rhythm. Barry Geraghty’s absence is a negative too, with Aidan Coleman deputising.
Cause Of Causes
Stamina is no longer a concern after his victory off this mark in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival – his first chase win. The jockey booking of Paul Carberry also looks a positive as he is arguably the best in the game with horses who stalk around the back and are produced late.
Looks to have better prospects than when ninth to Auroras Encore in 2013 and ran well over these fences when third in the Becher Chase in December. The fact he jumps Aintree well and should see out the trip makes him a viable each-way candidate.
Loves this time of year, but has been off the track for a while, albeit deliberately, and is largely inexperienced compared to many National winners. The booking of Tony McCoy is a positive, but jumping can be sketchy. Looks capable of more though.
Looks a lively each-way contender at bigger odds in starlet jockey Sean Bowen’s first National. Isn’t badly treated on the best of his old form, has performed credibly this season and is one that could relish the step up to this sort of marathon trip.
At the announcement of the weights in February, he was considered the most likely winner on account of his Scottish Grand National second last season. His performances since have not brought such positive vibes, but his stamina is more assured than most and expect him to be running on late, especially on good ground.
The Rucker family have now owned a top-four Grand National finisher in each of the last six years, which was continued when Alvarado was fourth 12 months ago. He is only 1lb higher here and would benefit from being ridden slightly closer to the pace now he is confirmed to get the trip.
Chance Du Roy
Proven around Aintree having won the Becher Chase in 2013 and finishing sixth in this last year. Back again off 2lb lower and appears to have been campaigned to preserve a decent-looking mark. One that should feature on any shortlist at a bigger price.
Pineau De Re
Red Rum was the last horse to win consecutive Grand Nationals, while Amberleigh House is the only 12-year-old winner since 1995. Daryl Jacob replaces Leighton Aspell in the saddle and this is the horse’s first chase start of the season.
Has been campaigned cagily by David Pipe to sneak him in at the foot of the weights, with a couple of victories secured in veterans’ races to get the necessary rise in handicap mark. Has won again since off this mark and won’t be daunted by the fences as one of the biggest horses in the field. Remains 7lb higher than when seventh behind Auroras Encore in 2013 though.
Up 9lb from his victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup earlier this season and ran creditably in the Cheltenham Gold Cup before getting outclassed. Should relish the jumping test Aintree provides, but much prefers softer ground. Not sure he has been campaigned to peak in the National.
Court By Surprise
Has either won or placed in seven of his 11 starts over distances of 3m or further and the fact he has been off the track since November shouldn’t jeopardise his prospects by much. Unexposed over this sort of distance too.
Sam Waley-Cohen is something of a master over the Grand National fences with a record that reads five wins and four seconds. Oscar Time may be 14, but has already landed the Becher Chase this season and can’t be completely discounted for a place.
If Pineau De Re can’t provide Dr Richard Newland with consecutive Grand National victories, this horse isn’t the worst second string. A former winner of the Scottish Borders National over 4m and has continued to improve. 15lb higher than last chase win here, but has been kept over hurdles since October, possibly to preserve his mark.
Lord Windermere is classy enough to carry top weight to victory, being a former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. However, he looked a long way short of that form at this year’s Festival and the last three top weights have failed to finish. The faster the ground the better for him.
The mount of Nina Carberry as the wait continues for a first female-ridden winner of the Grand National. He has slipped down the weights and could come into it on better ground, especially if running to his level of last season.
A former Welsh National winner, but his jumping can be clumsy and he looks in the grips of the handicapper, especially given the way he disappointed down the field at the Cheltenham Festival for no apparent reason. The rise in trip should help, but unlikely to be to any great extent and will do well to better last year’s seventh-place finish, albeit off 3lb lower.
Trainer Warren Greatrex has already experienced a first Cheltenham Festival winner this year when Cole Harden won the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and a victory in the National would cap off his best season ever. The lack of rain forecast is a positive for Dolatulu, who has a good cruising speed and experience of jumping the Aintree fences before.
Warrants respect as the leading representative of the legendary McCain family, but may struggle to dictate from the front in the manner which seems to best suit. Not seen since running poorly in January, although an injury was subsequently discovered. Runs off his last winning mark.
Night In Milan
Doesn’t stand out as being exceptionally well treated at the weights, but there are encouraging signs in his profile. He was second on his only prior visit to Aintree and has been a solid performer in handicap company this season off this mark.
One of the trickier runners to assess. He was once rated 168 and although on the decline these days, has enjoyed a lease of life of late, winning twice in 2015. A rating of 146 won’t be his undoing based on recent form, but the trip might. He previously didn’t get home over 3m1f.
Has failed to kick on from his novice chasing days, when it seemed a race of this nature would be right up his street. He likes to be up with the pace, which is a positive, but his form this season has shown little to encourage a big run. Is well handicapped on his older form though.
Finished second in the Grand National trial in Ireland at Punchestown in February and although he will have to produce a career-best to triumph, his experience in big fields is a positive. No Aintree know-how, but is tough and has confirmed stamina. Might get too far behind to make a real impact.
One that may slip under the radar of many and capable of following in the footsteps of Auroras Encore and Mon Mome in terms of a monster-priced winner. Pulled up on sole start this season, but weighted to run well based on last season’s novice form, when officially rated higher.
Has never truly looked to stay 3m in the past let alone the 4m4f test that is the Grand National, so stamina looks a major concern. Does represent Willie Mullins though so it could be foolish to completely write him off.
The Rainbow Hunter
Hard to fancy on the premise that he has unseated his jockey on both previous Grand National attempts and looks a shade high in the weights. However, this race is capable of bringing out unanticipated improvement if he makes it round of course. Last year’s preparation looked better though.
Gas Line Boy
Stamina is his chief asset and he will be one of a few that will benefit from some rain in the coming days. Bumped up significantly by the handicapper for some decent victories earlier in the season, but not guaranteed that further improvement can’t be found. Not a reliable jumper either.
A disappointing effort in his final prep race makes him difficult to fancy, but not totally discounted if reproducing some of his efforts from early-season staying chases. Also open to more improvement than most, having had only 10 chase starts.
Across The Bay
Is one of a few in the field that would prefer some rain before the off and there is a feeling that his best days are behind him. Should complete, but probably in his own time and may give backers some excitement on the opening circuit at Aintree.
Not the quickest in the field and a fall on his latest start is far from a confidence booster before a test around Aintree’s fences. He is a game customer, but is unlikely to be close enough to make this useful attribute tell.
Has plenty of National experience, having previously won the West Wales edition at Ffos Las before struggling to make an impact in the Midlands version off a bigger weight. Still looks too high in the weights to have a say in this and looks too much of a plodder on good ground.
Probably the fourth string of the Paul Nicholls team and certainly an unproven stayer. Both of his recent wins have come over 2m4f. Didn’t get home in a veterans’ race over 3m in between.
No young buck at the ripe old age of 13 and no sure-fire stayer either. He does seem to have been campaigned for this though and has completed two handicap chases around Aintree.
Hard to make any sort of case for on his first run in Britain and it doesn’t often pay to follow French form when considering a Grand National winner.
Carlito Brigante – NON RUNNER
Consistent sort that has finished in the first three on all of his last six starts, including last time when running in the same Kelso contest that was also contested by Ballabriggs and Auroras Encore in the years they landed the Grand National. The drying ground will be in his favour too.