By John Doyle
With all the recent modifications to the conditions of the Aintree Grand National, the quality of horse participating has greatly increased. These days you need to have a well exposed highly rated horse to get a run in the race.
The form is very strong so factors like ground conditions become very important.
Last season, Blaklion travelled and jumped really well through the race, but went for home very early and was vulnerable on the run to the line. The field closed in and he dropped back to fourth.
It has been a long 12 months for the Nigel Twiston-Davies team as they have planned a return for this year’s race. Returning for the Becher Chase over the course in November, he was heavily backed and again travelled and jumped well before winning easily.
His preparation race for this was a slog in the mud at Haydock, but he has been given plenty of time to recover. He’s had a wind operation and should be spot on to run a big race. He will be very hard to beat if ridden with more restraint for longer this year.
Anibale Fly ran a great race in the Gold Cup, finishing well to take third. This is an improving horse for Tony Martin and has good form in big field handicaps so you would expect him to relish the challenge. He jumps really well and will go along in midfield before coming with a steady run.
Total Recall won the Ladbroke Gold Cup at Newbury and was pointed towards the Grand National afterwards. He was running a decent race until falling late in the Gold Cup. He has reportedly recovered well from that experience.
The trouble with this individual is that he can run fresh in his races and over this trip, that will make it difficult to last home.
Tiger Roll is an interesting contender for the Gordon Elliott team. This horse is a three-time Cheltenham Festival winner and has looked a real class stayer winning the four-mile National Hunt Chase last season and the Cross Country this year.
With a nice weight and Davy Russell doing the steering, this horse will have his chance maximised to make an impact.
Also, from the Elliott stable, Ucello Conti is an interesting outsider. This horse has been luckless in these big races before but has plenty of staying ability, and with a clear round could easily run into a place.
Another outsider who always runs well in these big competitive races is Shantou Flyer. He jumps well and shows real grit to dig deep at the end of races. He will be ridden by teenage riding sensation James Bowen, so is another one to consider.
In summary, this year is very reminiscent of the Hedgehunter winning year where the tactics were refined and he ran out an impressive winner. Blaklion is the one to replicate this and give the Twiston-Davies team the win they crave.
John Doyle’s Selections:
2nd Tiger Roll
3rd Ucello Conti
4th Anibale Fly