THE Grand National is a spectacle like no other and 40 individual jockeys and their horses will try to manoeuvre their way around Aintree.
Taking in famous fences such as Becher’s Brook, Valentine’s, The Chair and the epic Canal Turn, the hopes of punters up and down the land will be mostly praying that their choice makes it from one fence to another.
The big races starts at 5.15pm on Saturday, April 8
Aintree has done an excellent job in renovating the course to ensure that any casualties are kept to a minimum and that all being well all horses come home safe and sound.
In a race with so many participants there will be accidents and some will fall.
As everyone jostles for position waiting for the starter’s flag to wave the crowd will give an almighty roar as the race that stops a nation gets underway.
With that in mind we take a look at some of the runners who we expect to give punters a run for their money.
The Last Samuri
He absolutely loves it around this place and has finished second and third in his two most recent starts over these fences. He does have a welter burden to carry though but lightly raced this year and has stronger claims that most.
More Of That
Hasn’t won a race since 2015 and seemingly gone off the boil. Geraghty rides but more likely to be pulled up than not.
Consistent and an excellent second to Cue Card at Ascot back in February. Rebecca Curtis more than capable and could sneak into the frame.
Talented handicapper who won at Exeter last month. The perfect age for this but stamina is a key concern.
Saphir Du Rheu
Classy on his day but those days are well and truly behind him. A grey will always get backed so if you like him back him early. His jumping is sketchy at best now and I cant see him getting around.
Roi Des Francs
Yard in top form and have won this in the past with Silverbirch. The talented Jack Kennedy rides and it would be foolish to write him off. Respected.
You are more likely to be wounded financially than not if you back him. Avoid at all costs.
Recent form gives you hope but prior to that he was a real dodgepot. If you back him close your eyes.
Not without hope and trainer excels in this type of race. Would love the rain and his chances increase with each drop.
Missed Cheltenham in order to run here. Stamina is a big worry but Noel Fehily will look after him and he fancies his chances. Shortlist material.
Drop Out Joe
Will proably live up to his name as he hasn’t raced since last June. In saying that he goes well fresh and his only win this season has been franked by Pacha Du Poler. An outsider with a slim chance.
The fact that he is trained by Paul Nicholls is the only positive about this horse. He has never raced at anywhere near this trip and another who can make mistakes at crucial times. Not for me.
The Young Master
Useful handicapper on his day but he has been having an off season. Neil Mulholland is an excellent trainer though. If recapturing his best form he would be in with a shout.
Cause Of Causes
A prolific stayer who landed the four miler at Cheltenham last season and was laid out again to win the Cross Country Chase. This might come a bit soon but if in the mood he has an excellent chance.
More miss than hit these days and has pulled up in three of his last four races. These fences might just waken him up or have the complete opposite effect.
Vieux Lion Rouge
Finished seventh in this last year and clearly learned a lot as he won the Beecher Chase back on this course last December beating The Last Samuri and Highland Lodge. David Pipe will have him primed and he deserves his place at the head of the market.
Certainly going the right way and has everything in his favour to run a huge race. This might be a year too early for him though.
Certainly not a punter’s pal having not graced the winners’ enclosure since 2012. He does tend to run solid enough races though and was fourth behind Vieux Lion Rouge here back in December. Will stay on but probably just at one pace.
An excellent second in a Grade three at Kempton just losing out to Pilgrim’s Bay. Better ground in his favour but has stamina concerns. First time at anywhere near this trip but not out of it if staying.
Houblon Des Obeaux
Not a bad handicapper on the face of it but has never shown a liking for this course. Hard to see that changing today.
Likely to be the choice of housewives up and down the land because Ruby Walsh rides. He loves to get his toe in so every drop of rain that falls is in his favour. Likely to attract support through the day.
One For Arthur
An out and out stayer who is two from three this year. Seems to be getting better with age and ran well enough here back in December. Given a nice break and he should make the frame.
More often than not pulled up. He won't like this. Best avoided.
Another with more letters in his form guide than numbers. Best avoided.
So unfortunate to be caught by Vieux Lion Rouge back in December. Likely to go off near double that one’s price. Goes well fresh and is a major player here.
Kerry Lee has established a reputation for being a formidable trainer of good staying types. This horse was all the rage last year but he got no further than the first in the Topham and the fences haven’t changed. Uphill struggle.
The most unlikely of Gold Cup winners who is ground dependant. The drier the better for him. He might get around but it will be in his own time.
Had developed a real liking for this track until recently but is coming back into form. If you are brave enough to back him, hide behind a pillow. In fairness I have seen worse horses win this race.
Has switched owners since last season and now runs in the colours of Trevor Hemmings who has enjoyed winning this race with the likes of Hedgehunter and Many Clouds. Interesting contender despite awful form this year.
Just A Par
Loves a flat track so that is in his favour and always runs on in the closing stages. Finished in the midfield last year and likely to do so again this year.
Has only had two runs this season but has been well touted for this for quite some time. Running in the colours of last years’ winning owner. This trip likely to bring out the best in him and respected.
Raz De Maree
Now a 12 year old but has won the Irish equivalent in the past and was runner up in the Welsh National earlier in the year. Has plenty of experience to call upon but will need to be at his very best to repel some much younger rivals.
Getting better with each run this year but finds winning extremely difficult. Paul Nicholls cast offs have won this before though and Henry De Bromhead is a good trainer. Likely to get around without being quite good enough.
Has form like a telephone number but always lines up in this marathon contests. A former winner of the Irish Grand National he stays longer than the mother in law. Not out of this by any means from a relatively low weight.
Cocktails At Dawn
You would need to be drunk to back this on all known form. He might need alcohol when he sees what he has to jump. If he wins the drinks are on you.
Thunder And Roses
Has endured a long season and an event like this will be too much for him. His name will attract some but not me.
Gas Line Boy
Hard to believe he has only had a handful of runs this year. He always runs a solid race but fell in this two years ago. If he stands up he can get in the mix but that is a very big if.
Too much ground to make up on others in this line up including Vieux Lion Rouge and One For Arthur. One of the lesser likely brigade.
Recent form does not inspire and will need the Pope to give her his blessing in order to win.
The only people to back this would be any Doctors with Harper as their surname. Absolutely no chance in a strong renewal such as this.
Karl Hedley's Tips for who to back in the Grand National 2017...
1. Highland Lodge
2. Tenor Nivernais
4. The Last Samuri
5. Cause Of Causes