06:26 GMT06 May 2021
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    The world’s most famous and exciting steeplechase returns on Saturday (there was no race in 2020 due to Covid lockdown), with 40 runners going to post in the 4m2f Aintree showpiece, due off at 5.15pm. The big question is: Who’s going to win?

    It’s the Grand National Jim, but not as we know it. Due to the seemingly never-ending Covid restrictions, this year the great race will take place ‘Behind Closed Doors’ with no paying spectators in attendance.

    The lack of crowd atmosphere- which adds so much to the occasion- is not the only disappointing thing about this year‘s renewal; there’s also the absence of dual winner Tiger Roll. The horse who might well have become the first since the legendary Red Rum to win the National three times, was instead re-routed to Thursday’s Betway Bowl by connections, a decision which the Racing Post described as ‘dismal‘.

    But even though there’s no crowd and no ‘Tiger’ to roar home, the race should still be a great spectacle, and our enjoyment of it will only be enhanced if we can find the winner, or at least have a few each-way returns.

    With 40 horses to choose from the National can appear a daunting puzzle to solve, but if we bear in mind certain key factors, we can narrow the field down.

    Here’s my horse-by-horse guide, in race-card order, to help you in your Big Race deliberations.

    Horse star ratings:

    ***** Strong chance, a likely winner.

    **** Definite each-way possibilities

    *** Could place on a good day

    ** Outsider

    * Only slim chance/No Hoper

    1. BRISTOL DE MAI ***

    Weight: 11st 10lbs. Age: 10. Odds: 25-1.

    Classy grey who has won three Grade 1 Betfair Chases and been placed in a Gold Cup;  fancied by connections but the big negative from a win perspective is his weight, as no horse has carried more than  11st 9lbs to victory since Red Rum, back in 1974.

    2. CHRIS’S DREAM **

    Weight: 11st 7lbs. Age 9. Odds: 40-1

    Stamina unproven  (never raced beyond 3m1f), and has plenty of weight, pulled up at Cheltenham last time after jumping blunders, can be good on his day but overall the ‘’dream‘ looks unlikely.

    3.YALA ENKI ***

    Weight: 11st 3lbs. Age; 11. Odds: 33-1

    Has finished third in last three Welsh Nationals, but that was in the mud and he did fall at the first fence over the National obstacles in December, which is off-putting. If he does negotiate the first few fences ok and gets into a good rhythm he could go well as stamina shouldn‘t be an issue, though  he could have done with more rain.

    4. BALLYOPTIC **

    Weight: 11st 1lbs. Age: 11. Odds: 66-1.

    Wasn’t out of it when fell 4 out in the 2019 renewal, but that was his second fall over these fences (also came down in the 2018 Becher); on a good day he could surprise but overall profile- 4 non-completions in his last 13 races- makes ‘Bally’ a risky proposition.

    5. DEFINITLY RED **

    Weight: 11st 1lbs. Age; 12. Odds 50-1.

    Fourth in the 2019 Becher over these fences, but stamina an unknown for the National as he was badly hampered and pulled up early in the 2017 renewal. Has a touch of class, so can’t be entirely discounted,  but best form has tended to be in smaller fields.

    6. LAKE VIEW LAD **

    Weight; 11st 0lbs. Age; 11. Odds; 33-1.

    This Lad was struggling and well behind when pulled up 4 out in the 2019 renewal; won over the Mildmay course in December, no surprise to see him run better this time after a wind-op and headgear fitted, but stamina still unproven and others look more solid.

    7. BURROWS SAINT *****

    Weight: 10st 13lbs. Age: 8. Odds; 8-1.

    Has attracted significant support for this in recent days, not hard to understand why: he’s an Irish National winner (and was keeping on well at the finish at Fairyhouse over 3m5f in 2019), and trained by Willie Mullins, who won the National with Hedgehunter and has had other placed horses in recent years. The negative on the trends is he’s only had nine chase starts,  which is a bit of a concern, though still short-listed.

    8. MAGIC OF LIGHT ****

    Weight: 10st 13lbs. Age: 10. Odds: 16-1.

    Came close to beating the mighty Tiger Roll in the 2019 renewal when an unconsidered 66-1 shot, carries 2lbs more this time, but this has been the aim for some time now and should give another good account in her bid to become the first mare to win since Nickel Coin, all of seventy years ago.

    9.  ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS ****

    Weight: 10st 12lbs. Age: 11. Odds 20-1.

    Another from the Mullins stable, this one was a staying-on third behind stable Burrows Saint (see above) in the 2019 Irish National, and that -together with his BobbyJo win in February, when he beat Burrows Saint, makes him a live contender here.

    10. TALKISCHEAP ***

    Weight: 10st 12lbs. Age: 9. Odds: 66-1.

    Will we be talking about this one as the Grand National winner come 5.30 on Saturday evening? While others have stronger claims, a bold show is not entirely ruled out, as he showed he had stamina in abundance when winning the old Whitbread at Sandown by 10l on good ground in 2019. Although he hasn’t done much since there are probably worse long-shots in the field.

    11.TOUT EST PERMIS **

    Weight: 10st 12lbs. Age: 8. Odds: 66-1.

    Would be an ironically named winner given the last twelve months of restrictions, but probably an unlikely one too, given that he’s failed to complete in two of his last three starts. On his one try at a marathon trip he didn’t appear to stay in the 2019 Irish National, when he finished eighth.

    12. ANIBALE FLY *****

    Weight 10st 12lbs. Age. 11. Odds 25-1.

    A highly creditable 4th and 5th in 2018 and 2019  when he was carrying big weights running off handicap marks of 159 and 164, the Tony Martin-trained Gold Cup third of 2018 comes in under the radar this year, and could be dangerous off his current mark of 148.

    13. MISTER MALARKY ***

    Weight 10st 12lbs. Age:8. Odds: 20-1

    Victory would be a great way for retiring trainer Colin Tizzard, who has never won the National, to bow out; has put in some good performances around 3m, stamina unproven over further, but pedigree offers hope he might stay and ticks the right age and weight boxes too so not discounted.  

    14. KIMBERLITE CANDY ****

    Weight: 10st 10lbs. Age 9. Odds: 10-1.

    Marked up as a real live Grand National contender when he won the Classic at Warwick in 2020 (race was won by 2017 National winner One For Arthur);  has finished second in the last two Becher’s so clearly goes well on the track, looks sure to give a good account; the only negative is that he is unlikely to get his favoured soft/heavy ground.

    15. ANY SECOND NOW ****.

    Weight 10st 9lbs. Age 9. Odds  10-1.

    Despite his fall in the 2019 Irish National, you have to respect this fellow as he’s trained by the shrewd Ted Walsh, who saddled the 2000 winner Papillon and also came close with Sea Bass (there was nothing fishy about that one). Stamina still to prove but he was staying on  strongly at the finish when landing the 3m2f Kim Muir at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.  

    16. BALKO DES FLOS **

    Weight: 10st 9lbs. Age 10. Odds: 50-1.

    Form has generally been regressive since winning the 2018 Ryanair, unseated in the Cross Country at Cheltenham on his last start, and will need a revival to figure here.

    17. ALPHA DES OBEAUX ***

    Weight: 10st 9lbs. Age 11. Odds: 66-1.

    Was going well and tracking the leaders when came down at the Chair in 2018, and was a staying on third in the 2019 Becher Chase. Could be given an each-way shout on those pieces of form as well as his staying on 4th in last month’s Cross Country at Cheltenham, but overall others have more solid credentials.

    18. OK CORRAL **

    Weight: 10st 8lbs. Age 11. Odds: 40-1.

    Comeback run at Cheltenham after over a year off wasn’t too impressive (pulled up after jumping mistakes and finished lame), bids to give trainer Nicky Henderson his first win in the race, but while he has useful form around the 3m mark, he looks unlikely to be involved in the final shoot-out.

    19 TAKINGRISKS ****

    Weight: 10st 7lbs. Age: 12. Odds: 25-1.

    Veteran who has some very smart form in staying handicap chases- including a Scottish National win on good ground in 2019; showed he was no back number with a 40-1 win in the Great Yorkshire in January-with stamina no problem and ground to suit he should go well granted a clear round.

    20. SHATTERED LOVE **

    Weight 10st 7lbs. Age 10. Odds; 40-1.

    Stamina a real issue for this Gigginstown mare as she’s usually campaigned over much shorter trips- and the only previous time she was tried over a marathon trip- in the 2019 Irish National- she was pulled up.

    21. JETT **

    Weight 10st 7lbs. Age 10. Odds 66-1.

    Trainer Jessica Harrington saddled the 66-1 runner-up in 2019 so on price alone he can’t be dismissed; but while he ran ok for quite a long way in the Becher in December, he did weaken 2 out to finish 8th and that doesn’t boost confidence he’ll have the stamina for this.

    22. LORD DU MESNIL ***

    Weight: 10st 6lbs. Age 8. Odds 33-1

    Has stamina in abundance and while it would be no great surprise to see him go well, all his best form is on more testing conditions and he wasn’t at his best in two previous runs at Aintree (once over the Mildmay course when he pulled up) and in December’s Grand Sefton when he finished ninth).

    23. POTTERS CORNER ****

    Weight: 10st 6lbs. Age: 11. Odds 20-1.

    The 2019 Welsh National winner who also won the ‘Virtual’ running of this twelve months ago (whatever we read into that!). Quietly campaigned this year, with this the target for a long while. Should run well and certainly one for the shortlist but his chances would have been boosted by some rain as both his Welsh National and Midlands National wins came on heavy.

    24. CLASS CONTI **

    Weight 10st 6lbs. Age 9. Odds 50-1.

    Stamina unproven as never raced beyond 3m1f; and never won beyond 2m5f; could go well, but betting on him looks quite speculative.

    25. MILAN NATIVE **

    Weight 10st 6lbs. Age 8. Odds: 28-1.

    A Cheltenham Festival winner (won the 2019 Kim Muir), so has a touch of class, but disappointing in the Ultima at this year’s festival, and will have to jump better to figure here.

    26. DISCORAMA ****

    Weight  10st 6lbs. Age: 8. Odds 14-1

    Will his supporters be dancing with delight come Saturday night? He certainly stays well-just touched off in the 2019 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and is on a handy mark, and while he places a lot more often than he wins, he has definite each-way possibilities.

    27. VIEUX LION ROUGE ***

    Weight: 10st 5lbs. Age 12. Odds 50-1.

    The ‘old lion’ is something of an Aintree legend as he has jumped an incredible 223 National fences without mishap. Put in a great performance when winning the Becher Chase again in December (as tipped up in our Sputnik racing guide that week); if this was over a mile shorter he’d be a definite fancy but the National trip seems to stretch his stamina and from four safe completions the best he has finished is 6th, in 2017.

    28. CLOTH CAP *****

    Weight 10st 5lbs. Age 9. Odds: 4-1.

    Went into my 2021 Grand National notebook when a staying-on third in the 2019 Scottish National but unfortunately I neglected to place an ante-post bet at big prices and look at his price now! Romped home in the Hennessy and was  again very impressive in his warm-up at Kelso, Jonjo O’Neill’s runner ticks all the right boxes (age, stamina, ground, weight) and he is also a stone ‘well-in’; no working man‘s price now to go with his working man’s name, but for all that still rates a likely winner.

    29. CABARET QUEEN **

    Weight 10st 5lbs. Age 9. Odds 80-1.

    Was all out to win the Kerry National from the front in September, but that was over 3m and  stamina taken on trust here; could go well for a long way but it’s that final mile and a quarter that’s the concern, though the good ground should help.

    30. MINELLA CELEBRATION **

    Weight 10st 5lbs. Age 11. Odds 66-1.

    Has a great record over Aintree’s Mildmay course,  unlucky over the National fences in the Becher in December when jockey lost iron and was unseated on the flat; a year earlier had come tenth in the same race, could go well for a long way but again seeing out the trip is the concern.

    31. CANELO **

    Weight 10st4lbs. Age 8. Odds 40-1.

    Won the Rowland Meyrick over Christmas but that put him up to a career high mark which he’s appeared to struggle from since, and while he’s consistent, others appeal more.

    32. THE LONG MILE *

    Weight 10st 4lbs. Age 7. Odds 40-1.

    Was staying on at the finish behind Acapella Bourgeois and Burrows Saint in the Bobby Jo; but his age is definitely against him as no 7-year-old has won the National since 1940.

    33. GIVE ME A COPPER **

    Weight 10st 4lbs. Age 11. Odds 50-1.

    Was staying on at the finish of the 2019 ’Whitbread’ so that gives some encouragement on the stamina front;  overall  though his profile is not as persuasive as other contenders.

    34. FARCLAS **

    Weight 10st 3lbs. Age 7. Odds 20-1.

    Ran well to be second behind The Shunter at the Cheltenham Festival in the Paddy Power Plate but stamina is unproven for this; that said connections did own another former Triumph Hurdle winner who went on to win the National, a certain Tiger Roll. Even so, others make more appeal ,especially given his age, which is a big negative on the trends and he‘s only had seven chase starts.

    35. MINELLA TIMES ****

    Weight: 10st 5lbs  Age: 8. Odds: 9-1.

    Has been consistent over shorter trips (either first or second in six of his last seven races); represents the De Bromhead/Blackmore combo that did so well at Cheltenham, although stamina still needs to be proven, he has been staying on at the finish over 3m and pedigree offers hope, usually a sound jumper, so has to be considered.  

    36. SUB LIEUTENANT ***

    Weight: 10st 3lbs. Age 12. Odds: 66-1.

    Big outsider, but has run well at Aintree before, and was a staying-on second in the 2019 Topham over the National fences, jockey Tabitha Worsley has also won over the National fences too, so could outperform his odds.

    37. HOGAN’S HEIGHT ****

    Weight: 10st 3lbs. Age: 10. Odds: 66-1

    Did us a big favour when running away with the Grand Sefton over the National fences in 2019 at odds of 16-1,  campaigned quietly since then over hurdles and the Cross Country, and while stamina still to prove, no surprise to see him go well at a big price.

    38. DOUBLE SHUFFLE **

    Weight: 10st 2lbs. Age 11. Odds: 40-1

    Admirable veteran who’s at his best over 3m at Kempton, while ground will aid his chances of staying, stamina still to prove (he pulled up in the race in 2017); others make more appeal.  

    39. AMI DESBOIS *

    Weight 10st 2lbs. Age 11. Odds: 80-1.

    Three seconds in his last four races, but they were in lower grade; stamina to prove as he’s never raced beyond 3m3f and would be an unlikely winner.

    40. BLAKLION ***

    Weight: 10st 2lbs. Age 12. Odds 66-1.

    Fourth in the 2017 National carrying nearly a stone more and also won that year’s Becher’s so has some good course form, but was brought down at the first in 2018 and has had plenty of problems since then; needs a revival to figure.

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    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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