The Grand National isnâ€™t my favourite race but like the Boat Race and FA Cup Final, it is one of those televised events that takes a sport way beyond its usual public, so I somehow feel obliged to convey my thoughts on the contest to my adoring PB public and help those who would punt to do so with a little more chance of success, and those who would not with at least a little more understanding and enjoyment.
Since Phil Smith, the BHA Head Handicapper, first began to tinker with the official ratings for this race, the quality of horses participating has improved substantially. As a result, it is no longer possible for the shrewder punters to delete half the field as no-hopers, as it once was. Nowadays, one would be hard-pressed to nominate more than six such animals, and as for producing a shortlistâ€¦.well, it was only with some difficulty that I got it down to seven. For what itâ€™s worth, I give you:
On His Own 15/2 – Was travelling beautifully last year before falling.
Seabass 11/1 – Last yearâ€™s third.
Cappa Bleu 12/1 – Fourth last year, and possibly improved since.
Colbert Station 12/1 â€“ Progressive nine-year-old.
Chicago Grey 14/1 – Unluckily brought down last year.
Join Together 18/1 – The pick of the Paul Nicholls bunch.
Across The Bay 40/1 â€“ Bang in form and appears to have been aimed at the race.
The shorter-priced horses I would rule out are Imperial Commander and Ballabriggs (both too old), Teaforthree (ran a stinker at Cheltenham) and Balthazar King (cross-country form does not compute for Aintree.)
If you want to gamble on a longer shot, all of the following are likely to outrun their price: Rare Bob, Roberto Goldback, Soll, Quel Esprit and Joncol.
At very long odds, Tarquinius has a squeak, but like many on this Site, nothing would persuade me to support Gullible Gordon.
The professional punter in me warns that this is really a â€˜no-betâ€™ race, and I would probably have skipped it had I not been alerted by Tim (of this Parish) to a possible plot. When legendary owner and gambler JP McManus lines up with almost as legendary trainer, commentator and sire of jockeys Ted Walsh, you have got to suspect something. The price of Colbert Station has been quietly shortening and I donâ€™t believe this is wholly down to speculation that champion jockey McCoy will ride. As conspiracy theories go, Iâ€™ve heard worse and my money is down.
Of course, some will regard any suggestion from Tim, even a racing tip, as politically tainted, so in the interest of balance I will also nominate a horse of a different colour, Cappa Bleu.
Those of a coalition mind set will no doubt wish to support both, each way.
Peter Smith [Peter the Punter]