Four years ago there were Many Clouds in the Aintree winners’ enclosure. Now its time for a spot of Vintage.
Sue Smith’s grey has consistently run up to standard in staying handicaps for three seasons now. He has been fourth in the Welsh National, third in a Scottish and handles all types of going. His yard won the 2013 edition of this race with Aurora’s Encore and he is my pick to get the better of the 39 others in the line-up.
Though the fences have relinquished their previous demand, winning the Grand National is no mean feat. It will be a pleasure, yet again, to revel in the spectacle, but not before more drama unfolds in the five races prior.
Sire Du Berlais landed an enormous gamble in the Pertemps when Barry Geraghty drove him to the front late in the day. He always looked likely to get there, but an 8lb rise looks harsh and he’s very opposable at the prices. Aux Ptits Soins ran no race in the Cleeve Hurdle, but was impressive in a handicap prior to that while the mare, Mia’s Storm, skipped Cheltenham and chases a hat-trick. Burrows Park was successful at Kelso over further and will hope for a test of stamina while Coole Cody was very well beaten in the Pertemps. Slightly closer behind was THECLOCKISTICKING, who represents the value bet for Stuart Edmunds. He was sixth to Sire Du Berlais, beaten nine lengths, but gets a 9lb pull at the weights dropped 1lb in the handicap. Nadaitak as a wide-margin winner on his penultimate start but showed nothing at Cheltenham while Keeper Hill often pops up when you least expect him to. Tommy Rapper has been consistent this season, but of most appeal at a price is Red Indian back over hurdles.
2. Aux Ptits Soins
3. Burrows Park
Brewinupastorm is due a big victory having chased Champ and City Island home in two Grade Ones as well as having fallen at the last at Cheltenham in January. However, he faces a few fearsome opponents, in particular ANGELS BREATH who is stepped up in trip. He never featured in the Supreme, but did make some headway towards the end and with pace at less of a premium here, he could showcase his talent. One For Rosie is on an upward curve and tanked a huge weight close in a Grade Three novices’ handicap last time out. Kateson finished ahead of Brewinupastorm in the Challow, but was very disappointing latest. Chosen Mate has won three times in Ireland and challengers from across the sea have been hugely dangerous this week while the progressive Reserve Tank isn’t entirely discounted. Quite an open contest.
1. Angels Breath
2. Chosen Mate
Slight preference is for US AND THEM, who ran on, despite being outpaced, in the Arkle. This is sharper, so may be uncomfortable viewing as far as Joseph O’Brien’s charge is concerned, but with four front-runners in the field, it should set up for a horse to come from the back. Clondaw Castle was the only horse matching Duc Des Genievres until the home stretch in the Arkle, but faded badly up the run in while Knocknanuss didn’t appreciate the ground that day although this isn’t much better. Ornua fell in the Arkle so will have to bounce back as will Lalor, though that looks highly likely as he has won at this meeting the last two years. Destrier is on the up, unlike Caid Du Lin, who is exposed.
1. Us And Them
It takes a leap of faith to support Apples Jade after she bombed at Cheltenham. It may just be that she hates Prestbury Park and was taken out of her comfort zone early in that contest. Even so, there’s a chance that more complications abound with her and she can be taken on. SAM SPINNER bounced right back to his best when second to Paisley Park in the Stayers and a repeat performance would make him a worthy rival to the favourite and tough to beat for the rest. His jumping was much better that day and looks more reliable than earlier this season. The Worlds End reverts from chasing, where he’s been disappointing of late while all of Agrapart, Clyne and Unowhatimeanharry have seen better days. If The Cap Fits is likely a danger getting his first chance at this trip and he should be well suited by it. Kilbricken Storm, Nautical Nitwit and West Approach were all well beaten in the Stayers so Roksana looks a greater danger as, though she was fortunate to win the Mares hurdle, that 2m4f trip was on the sharp side for her and this trip looks preferable. Lord Napier and William Henry step up from handicaps though both look up against it.
1. Sam Spinner
2. If The Cap Fits
A staying handicap before the ultimate staying handicap. Debece and Amaulino come in chasing hat-tricks having found form at the right time while Kildisart was a good fourth in the JLT, with both Mengli Khan and Lostintranslation having franked that form since. Touch Kick made mistakes in the Kim Muir, but travelled strongly so could be dangerous if jumping better. Springtown Lake was one of a number routed by A Plus Tard in the Close Brothers, but stayed on to the line. The extra half mile should suit. Polydora and Theatre Territory find it difficult to win, but in a race where nobody can be discounted, OLDGRANGEWOOD may have a chance of returning to form. He hasn’t got close for a while, but he was ninth in the Ultima at Cheltenham and has been dropped 3lb as a result. He’s now 9lb lower than when fourth last year and has not gone off the boil just yet.
3. Theatre Territory
No one would begrudge the hugely popular Tiger Roll making history by becoming the first horse since Red Rum to win this race twice. If anything, he’s a much better horse than when victorious 12 months ago having hacked up in the Boyne Hurdle and X Country Chase at the Festival. A 9lb rise isn’t too harsh for a National winner, but he has struggled carrying weight in the past in big handicaps. Rathvinden’s trainer Willie Mullins has had three incredibly facile winners this week already and his charge’s victory in the Bobbyjo Chase was a perfect trial. However, he’s a sketchy enough jumper to have faith in here. Anibale Fly is the class act and though giving 4lb and more all round, he has an admirable record in big races. The two Trevor Hemmings greys, VINTAGE CLOUDS (nap) and Lake View Lad, filled second and third in the Ultima with preference for the former in this. He’s been fourth in a Welsh National and third in the Scottish equivalent with a recent wind operation looking to have revivified him. He’s 5lb well in, stays all day and is likely to be on the front end. If he gets into a rhythm, he’ll be a formidable opponent to pass under such a light weight and can defy the poor record of greys in this race. Joe Farrell won the aforementioned Scottish National, but would ideally like a sounder surface and ran just two weeks ago while Rock The Kasbah, if jumping at his best, should make a bold bid for Richard Johnson. Others of serious note are Pleasant Company, runner-up having jumped superbly last year and laid out for this with a 2lb reverse with Tiger Roll, Ramses De Teillee, another grey and another with stamina in abundance, Ultragold, a two-time course winner and One For Arthur, who could prove the forgotten horse in the race having taken the spoils two years ago.
1. Vintage Clouds
2. Pleasant Company
3. Ramses De Teillee
4. Anibale Fly