My Guide to the 2019 Grand National

As any racing blogger worth their salt should be doing at this time of the year, I’ve pored over stats, replays and quotes to come up with a detailed guide to every runner in the 2019 Grand National. All 40 are previewed below, their chances evaluated and given a mark out of 5. The system is as follows.

5 – Yes. Just yes.

4 – Maybe. Just maybe.

3 – OK. Just OK.

2 – About. Just about.

1 – No. Just no.

Here we go then. And feel free to ignore me, this has almost certainly been a useless exercise.

1. Anibale Fly: Carries top-weight as he’s the class horse in the field by some way. Third and second in the previous two runnings of the Gold Cup and fourth in this last year. In all three of those races, he’s stayed on at the finish. Under this burden it’s possible that he’ll lack a little tactical pace at a crucial time for all that he’s very talented. He has only 1lb more than a year ago and the softened conditions could prove in his favour, but may just find one or two too good again. 4/5

2. Valtor: French import who hacked up on his first start in this country for Nicky Henderson. Was found out at a higher level next time at Cheltenham and though that race may have gone against him from an early stage, it takes a huge leap of faith to suggest he’s capable off this mark in such a deep field. Trainer’s only hope in the race and his winless run looks set to go on for at least a year longer. 1/5

3. Tiger Roll: For all his performances this season have been staggering in their versatility and ease, something tells me this remains a big ask. Has the best chance of any Grand National winner since Hedgehunter (and probably since Red Rum) of winning this twice as he’s only up 9lb on ratings and carries just 6lb more weight. Nevertheless, I still feel he could be a liability due to his height and this looks too competitive a Nash otherwise to back a 4/1 shot. For all this, he is the likeliest winner but there’s enough evidence against him. 4/5

4. Outlander: Unlike most racehorses, Outlander, a triple Grade One hero in his pomp, has soured with age. Looks to have fallen out of love with the game and its been 18 months since he returned victorious anywhere. If for some reason he takes to Aintree, his weight could prove generous on just his second handicap start, but its far more probable that he’ll sulk once again. One of Gigginstown’s least likely winners. 1/5

5. Don Poli: An anagram of “I Plod On” and that is all he really does nowadays. Very good at his peak, as evidenced by his third to fellow Don Cossack in the 2016 Gold Cup and the one guarantee is he’ll stay (would ideally want 8 miles instead of 4). Injuries, however, have curtailed his carer since. Was beaten a long way by Jury Duty last time out in receipt of 10lb. Now concedes weight to that rival. You do the maths. 2/5

6. Go Conquer: Has become a winner of good-quality handicaps in the last two seasons, including Doncaster’s SkyBet Chase in January. He’s only up 6lb for that, but this is his career-high mark by some distance and he’s never tackled a trip beyond three miles. Has jumped very well on all three starts since joining Nigel Twiston-Davies and may yet find more for stepping up in trip, however, he should lack the class to be able to shoulder his weight allowance. 2/5

7. Mala Beach: Has never races in England before so this will be somewhat of a baptism of fire for the 11-year-old. Ran a solid trial behind Jury Duty at Down Royal a few weeks ago but he is 7lb higher than his most recent winning handicap mark. Likely not as good as he once was and would struggle to make Gordon Elliott’s top ten let alone this race’s. 1/5

8. Minella Rocco: Would have been top-weight last season which shows you the strength of this horse in his prime (second in the 2017 Gold Cup). However, he’s gone right off the boil this season and though he’s only nine, he would appear to be on a steep decline. Won the four-miler, beating Native River, at Cheltenham in 2016 so does stay and a spark isn’t out of the question, but he’s also a haphazard jumper. Not the McManus no.1 2/5

9. Lake View Lad: Nick Alexander’s first runner in the race. Trainer’s having their first runner rarely stand a chance, nor do greys win this often (one in 57 years prior to this year’s renewal). However, having run on into third off top-weight in the Ultima at Cheltenham there’s no guarantee that Lake View Lad won’t continue to impress. Nevertheless, the trip is an unknown and the handicapper will have done his best to prove a step ahead of him. This field, naturally, is much deeper than the Prestbury Park handicap though he certainly looks set to give a good account. 3/5

10. Pleasant Company: Last year’s runner-up, although he arrives this year 3lb worse off with the handicapper than he should be. He has been laid off for this though, arriving in virtually identical form to last year, and the recent rain is a plus. 2lb better off with Tiger Roll 12 months on, though that rival has taken his game to a different level, whereas Paul Townend’s ride is now aged 11. Jumped beautifully last year though and if he can get into that sort of rhythm again, other factors may pale into insignificance. 4/5

11. Ballyoptic: This time last year, he was fourth to Presenting Percy in the RSA and hasn’t lacked or ability at times over fences. Beat Elegant Escape at the beginning of last season and was a nose second to Joe Farrell in last season’s Scottish National. Will relish the trip, but has been hugely disappointing in the last twelve months and fell on his only journey to the Grand National course in December’s Becher Chase. That’s a huge worry. 2/5

12. Dounikos: Had done absolutely nothing for over a year before winning the Punchestown Grand National Trial in February when doing all his best work at the end. Had failed to complete on four of his six starts prior to that, including falling on his penultimate start, and now races off his highest mark (3lb than when pulling up in the 2018 Irish National). Opposable enough. 2/5

13. Rathvinden: Has a spookily identical profile to Tiger Roll of last season. Winner of the previous season’s National Hunt Chase, small in stature and carrying no.13. Won decisively on his sole start in 2018/19 from a good yardstick, but his jumping has left quite a bit to be desired in the past. He is the Mullins no.1 as Ruby Walsh takes the mount and he’s been laid out to challenge though he’s never run in a handicap. With holes to be picked in his best form and the aforementioned jumping issues, he can be avoided. 2/5

14. One For Arthur: The forgotten horse in many respects as he also chases a Red Rum-like double. Is only 6lb higher than his victory two years back, but he hasn’t completed a race since. Injury put paid to last season though two unseats in as many starts this season is a massive worry confidence-wise. He’d have to be at the top of his game to feature and while I think his jumping should stand the test again, he could be overwhelmed for fitness. Has endured the test before though and you can never rule out a previous winner. 3/5

15. Rock The Kasbah: Richard Johnson has never won the Grand National and may not get too many better chances for the rest of his career than with Rock The Kasbah. Won a three-and-a-half miler at Cheltenham in November and was second in last year’s Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown over a similar trip. Won’t have massively appreciated the recent rain and despite those runs, its not certain he wants any further let alone 4 miles and the rest. Weighted to the hilt too. 2/5

16. Warriors Tale: The second of three Trevor Hemmings runners, but the least likely by some way. Pulled up in this last year after walking from Valentine’s and has never raced beyond three miles otherwise. Did win the Grand Sefton over these fences in December so traversing the course should prove less dangerous for him than many other, but impossible to fancy trip wise. Would need to show something he hasn’t before. 1/5

17. Regal Encore: Horrible to follow as he blows extremes of hot and cold. Was eighth two years ago when picking off a few late on and was an eleventh-hour absence 12 months later. 2lb higher than in 2017 and though he ran creditably in his prep race, this looks his toughest assignment for some time. Would not be the most surprising winner in the field, but I’d back him to pull up quicker than each-way. 2/5

18. Magic Of Light: The only mare in the field and was a decent seventh at Cheltenham latest. However, she’s prone to a blunder and unseated on her penultimate start. Was greatly improved beforehand and is imposing so though she’s never raced beyond 3m1f, she’s not an unlikely stayer. That said, she’s not done enough to suggest she can get near winning, but could finish mid-division. 2/5

19. A Toi Phil: Hasn’t run in a three-mile chase since 2017 and never suggested at the time that distance chasing was his game. Did run creditably in the Pertemps Final over hurdles last month, but faded a little on the run-in. Two-and-a-half milers used to have a decent record in this race though as they can be switched off and make ground late. Lively enough at his price given ground conditions will suit and his best form could see him run well for a long way. 3/5

20. Jury Duty: Jay Trump won the American National before winning this in the sixties and Jury Duty looks to do likewise. Had a couple of those above him in the weights behind him when conceding 10lb to them so the numbers read well. That was over a significant enough trip though there’d be some concern that he took a tired fall when beaten by Rathvinden in the 2017 National Hunt Chase. As such, you couldn’t say with confidence that he’s going to last. 2/5

21. Noble Endeavor: Had 20 months off before re-appearing in the Becher Chase. Got round, which is a positive, in ninth, which isn’t. Beaten into mid-division by Beware the Bear at Cheltenham though that run could put him right for this. Was sixth in the Irish National before his lay-off and has won a big-field handicap in the past off 7lb lower. Could outrun his odds and creep into contention. 3/5

22. Monbeg Notorious: Grade Two winning novice and won the Thyestes at Gowran Park in 2018. No wins this season and failed distinctly to repeat his Thyestes triumph in January. Faded well out of contention behind Dounikos in the Punchestown National Trial so everything points against him staying. 1/5

23. Ramses De Teillee: The record of seven-year-olds in the race gets a nice run out every time the National comes around: no winners since 1940. This horse relishes a marathon (second in the Welsh National and Haydock National trial this season) and the more rain the better. Has never fallen, but his style is economical which can be risky at Aintree. 5lb well-in and stable are riding the crest of a wave. Close. 4/5

24. Tea For Two: Grade One winner at his peak, but those days are a distant memory now. Unseated in the X-Country and is tending towards incompletions rather than victories. Lizzie Kelly has a great rapport with this horse, but even at his best, his jumping made the heart flutter. I’ve got more chance. 1/5

25. Just A Par: Takes the place of the injured Mall Dini in the line-up, but is actually the bottom-weight in this. Bet365 Gold Cup was his hunting ground in 2015 and 2016 where he finished first and second (beaten a short-head). He’s only had one win in four years though and was a never nearer 14th in this two years ago. Seventh in the Becher after a long lay-off back in December on his first start for James Moffatt and could fill a similar position here. That is probably the best connections can hope for. 2/5

26. Step Back: Bradstock and de Boinville represented the little man when taking the 2015 Gold Cup with Coneygree. Rapidly improved at the end of last season with a wide-margin novice victory at Fakenham before taking Sandown’s Bet365 Gold Cup in devastating style. 12lb higher as a result and a touch disappointing this term. Looks set to appreciate every yard, but his mark demands more than he’s shown. 3/5

27. Ultragold: I’m hopeful that course form plays a part because I think this horse could run a massive race. Pulled up in the X-Country at Cheltenham, but that race is notoriously difficult to run well in first time out. Has taken the last two runnings of the Topham and while that’s over much shorter, he was third in the Becher Chase in December off 1lb higher when running on at the end. He clearly loves it round here and if patiently ridden, he could make his presence felt. 4/5

28. Blow By Blow: Looked promising at the beginning of the season, but form since of Pulled Up-Last-Pulled Up isn’t particularly encouraging. Has looked like a selling plater in those and should be twice the price. And he’s already 100/1. 1/5

29. Up For Review: Made a costly error when cruising at Cheltenham last time out. The fact he can throw in a jump like that would be a concern as would the fact he went out like a light afterwards. However, there’s no telling how much that mistake took out of him and his previous form would make him intriguing and not without a hope of staying. Worth a second look for those searching for some value. 3/5

30. Singlefarmpayment: Won’t win because that’s not what he does. Has lost narrowly on so many occasions although he didn’t most recently. That’s because he lost convincingly so at least he’s bucking some trends. Usually more consistent than that so his form is a big concern and won’t be desperately in love with the ground. Lots to prove, but he’s quirky so could stick a middle finger up to a number of people. 2/5

31. Vieux Lion Rouge: Has never shaped like he can stay this, but he’s only ten so the Pipe team can continue to pretend otherwise for a couple more years yet. In fairness, he was a fast finishing runner-up to Walk In The Mill in the Becher this season though the wheels have flown off since with two incompletions in rear. Could jump this course with his eyes closed and backers may believe for a while if he can get near the pace. That doesn’t seem likely though and if he does, he won’t stay there. 2/5

32. Valseur Lido: Hugely admirable horse who was top class at his best. Hasn’t shown any form for quite some time though, but there is a glimmer here. Ran off 12lb higher in this race last year when still in contention across the Melling Road and may have done too much too soon. Jumped like a buck and ground conditions this season could lend him a better chance of lasting home. Could equally be pulled up before halfway, but a similar performance makes this 100/1 the best each-way bet of the outsiders. 3/5

33. Vintage Clouds: There’s been Many Clouds victorious in the National before. Now its time for some Vintage. Burst back from a wind op in fine style when second at Cheltenham last time. He sprinted up the hill on soft ground that day and could be a better horse than prior to his operation. He was good enough the too, as evidenced by his third place in last season’s Scottish National. Receives a pull in the weights with both horses that finished ahead of him that day and 10-4 is a very generous weight for this thorough stayer to carry. If he gets on the front end and into a rhythm, he may take some pulling back. 5/5

34. General Principle: it seems foolish to rule out an Irish National winner in this. However, he won a truly bizarre running of that race last season and has since looked shaky in terms of staying. Consistent prior to pulling up at Cheltenham and only 5lb higher than his Irish National triumph, but this looks beyond him. 2/5

35. Livelovelaugh: Like Children’s List last year, Mullins and Ricci send us a left-field National contender and another with no realistic chance. Well beaten in the Kim Muir when fading late on and that was his only start beyond three miles. Has some decent handicap form over shorter, but nothing to suggest a big run here is in the offing. 1/5

36. Walk In The Mill: Has been campaigned for this since winning the Becher Chase with Robert Walford keeping him over hurdles. Up 7lb for that success, but he took to the course thoroughly impressively. May not have a whole lot left up his sleeve, however, for all he can be ridden to stay given his supposed aptitude for the track. Becher winners haven’t the best record in this either. Each way play, but unlikely winner. 2/5

37. Folsom Blue: If Don Poli wants 8 miles, this horse wants 12. If he’s still going after the third last, be sure he’ll run on past a couple. Was fourth in last season’s attritional Irish National and eighth and sixth in the Welsh and Midlands National this season. He’s consistent in marathons and will be finishing much faster than anything else. He’ll probably be a fence behind by that point though. 2/5

38. Captain Redbeard: Beat Definitly Red in a match race, which is very creditable, but didn’t back that up next time out. Unseated early in this last season and has been well beaten in two editions of the Grand Sefton as well. Could stay as he’s not fully exposed beyond 3m2f (which he has run well over), but others will take to the test better than him. 2/5

39. Bless The Wings: Call me mad, but don’t completely rule the veteran out. He’s now 14 and has been well behind Tiger Roll on his last two starts. Nevertheless, he’s off the same mark as when third last year and this race suits him better than any other has this season. Years obviously against him and may have lost any ability he clung onto a year ago, but if any remains, no horse relishes tests like this more. 3/5

40. Joe Farrell: Scottish National hero last term and gets in at the foot of the weights. Encouraging second at Newbury two weeks ago when staying on at the finish and that suggests this mark is manageable for Rebecca Curtis’ charge. However, this will be his third race in a month and he’s better on ground sounder than soft. He is a stayer, but fitness-wise he may have a bit more on his plate than other well-fancied types. If fully fit, he is a danger. 3/5

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