John Doyle looks forward to this year’s spectacular
The trend of the Grand National has changed remarkably over the last few years with the Fences now less daunting and therefore the charge of the National is a much safer experience for horse and rider.
As a result of the latest race changes, the quality of runner being entered for the race is of a much higher standard. In last year’s renewal, the super classy Many Clouds ran out a good winner of the race, carrying a big weight.
His class and jumping were excellent and he had the race won a long way from home, despite a preparation that included a hard race in the Gold Cup, his primary target for the 2015 season.
This season, Many Clouds has been trained specifically for a repeat in the Grand National and with the quality of his runs this season improving each time, it is persuasive to support him in his quest for the double.
He ran second to Gold Cup contenders Don Poli and Smad Place in two of those outings before going to Kelso for his final preparation.
Giving weight away to all his rivals, he jumped superbly and pulled right away from his field for an emphatic victory. That race will have left him spot on for the big day.
Saint Are was a gallant second last season but you always felt the winner was holding him. Although his form this season hasn’t been of a high enough quality, it is fair to say that having run well over the big fences on more than one occasion Saint Are looks to like the course and can be expected to be in the mix again.
Saint Are made all in a Veterans Chase at Doncaster as his prep race in February, so again should arrive here in top shape.
Alvarado is a National type who has been placed fourth in the last couple of seasons and he is lightly campaigned between races but he does get too far back and it is hard to see him having the racing style to be effectively competitive.
Similar to last season, Alvarado has had only the one run this season at Newbury, where he was hunted around in rear and never got involved in the race. Others from last year’s race who are strongly fancied again are the Druids Nephew and Shutthefrontdoor.
The Druids Nephew jumped super last year and was going strongly in front when he fell five out. He needs to overcome a higher mark this season but looks to have been trained specifically for the race, so should go well. Shutthefrontdoor didn’t have the best preparation last season but travelled well in the race for a long way before his stamina ebbed away.
With the Jonjo O’Neill stable in much better form now, he should be in the mix again. Of those running in the race for the first time, Silviniaco Conti is by far the most interesting runner. Here is a proper grade one horse who has been given a good chance at the weights by the handicapper.
This dual King George winner suffered training problems in the early part of the season but last time in the Ascot Chase, he pulverized his field, giving the impression that he was over his problems.
A really sound jumper of Fences, Silviniaco Conti will be a big danger to all if taking to the unique fences of the Aintree Grand National Circuit.
Another of the newcomers, The Last Samur1, has been winning staying chases in a progressive fashion. His jumping is very solid and every time he steps up in trip, the performance gets better. He looks a real staying prospect in the making but will have to progress again to be involved in the finish.
The same owners also have Kruzhlinin who has been touted for the race but it doesn’t look to be as progressive a staying prospect, although his win at Kempton in January suggested he might be a stayer.
In summary, the Grand National is not the lottery it once was.
The high quality horses towards the head of the weights have sufficient class and ability to cope with the demands of the race.
So it is best to support the two class acts in the field, Many Clouds and Silviniaco Conti. With Silviniaco Conti getting weight, he will be hard to beat as it would be difficult to think of Many Clouds as a King George winner.
But then you know he has all the stamina attributes to complete the Grand National course.
More info here: www.thecrabbiesgrandnational.co.uk
The Grand National runs 7th – 9th April 2016.