Willie Mullins hoping to make it a Gold Cup-Grand National double
Come 5.15pm on Saturday, most of us will have had some sort of flutter on the world’s most famous race. Given that it is still quite a lottery of a race, we’ll probably have had more than one bet by the time the field cross the Melling Road for the first time. It’s the Grand National and while we don’t expect to back the winner if we’re being honest, from a betting point of view, it’s the taking part that counts.
Some 40 horses will take to the most famous fences in the sport and it’s still a great spectacle to watch. So, who’s going to win Saturday’s big race? Here are the four that I’ve narrowed it down to.
The most likeliest winner in my book and it’s safe to say that he’s been perfectly set out for this race. Not only that but he ticks every single box as well. He stays the extensive trip, as he proved at last year’s Cheltenham festival, while he comes into the race after a stylish win in the Bobbyjo Chase, a recognised Grand National trial. He’s classy too as four of his five runs last season were in the highest company and while he’s an 11-year-old, he’s only had 19 runs and has disgraced himself in only one of those runs.
The likely mount of Ruby Walsh, he’s only carrying 1lb more than Tiger Roll did 12 months ago yet he’s rated 4lbs superior. He’s a got a huge chance of giving Willie Mullins his first Cheltenham Gold Cup – Grand National double in the same year so take the 12/1 while it’s available
We’ve yet to have an US-trained runner in the Grand National but we’ll have the next best thing on Saturday when American Champion Hurdle winner Jury Duty lines up. Gordon Elliott’s charge was sent off favourite for last year’s National Hunt Chase dominated by Rathvinden and Ms Parfois and while he ran below par then, his form since has been somewhat better.
His victory in Far Hills last October mightn’t be anything to get too excited about but his more recent success at Down Royal is one to take very seriously. Having his first run for five months, he beat some decent stalwarts while giving them all weight as well. A horse just short of Grade 1 class, running off 10st11lbs on Saturday gives him an outstanding chance of giving Gordon Elliott his third Grand National. He should not be a 25/1 shot for National triumph.
WALK IN THE MILL
If you’re backing, or have backed, Walk In The Mill for Saturday’s big race, then you’re going to need a lot of luck before the race even starts. As of now, he’s not certain to get into the race but with most bookmakers going non runner–no bet, it’s worth taking a chance with Robert Walford’s fine chaser.
Most will remember his gutsy win in this season’s Becher Chase and what stood out on that occasion was the combin-
ation of his will to win and his abundance of stamina. Two pipe-openers over hurdles will have him spot-on for Saturday’s assignment and he looks like one of the very few in the race who’s guaranteed to stay the trip. He's already proven himself over these fences so he's a real solid option at 33/1.
TEA FOR TWO
First of all, I’d like to go on record by saying that I’ve yet to fancy Tea For Two for any race he’s run in during his 32 race career. However, that might change on Saturday.
A horse who’s been made famous because of his association with Lizzie Kelly, you don’t have to go back too long when the 10-year-old was considered a solid Grade 1 horse. His two wins at the top level sprouted him to a career high mark of 164 just a couple of seasons ago and remember, he’s also a horse who’s run brilliantly in two King Georges behind Thistlecrack and Altior.
Now, it is safe to say that he’s not the force of old but on the back of his last four runs, which includes an unseated rider in the Cross Country Chase when he was travelling very well at the time, he’s now down to a mark of 149.
That’s just two years after beating Cue Card in the Aintree Bowl. It’s surely only a matter of time before a female jockey wins this great race and while this lad might be 66/1, he’s by no way a forlorn hope.