The Grand National 2013 (Saturday, April 6, 4.15pm) is an interesting puzzle for punters to solve. It will be marginally less of a marathon with ‘safer’ fences than in previous years. Watering has already started to ensure that the surface will be no faster than the soft side of good for safety reasons. Mud seems extremely unlikely so we preview some of the high class contenders likely to prevail in a bid to unearth a nice each-way Aintree tip.
On His Own (7/1 in the Grand National betting odds) was propelled to the head of the Grand National betting market as soon as the news of Prince De Beauchene’s absence was announced. Last year this nine-year-old son of Presenting was patiently ridden and appeared be going well when he fell at Bechers second time when in third place. It was his only fall in eleven starts over obstacles.
It seems likely that he will be partnered by one of the best Grand National jockeys, Ruby Walsh. Trainer Willie Mullins has form in the Grand National, winning it in 2005 with Hedgehunter (ridden by Walsh). More importantly, if the Cheltenham festival is any indicator, Mullins’ horses are flying.
On His Own was last seen in the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle run over two miles five furlongs at Navan in February. He surprised connections by winning at 10/1 under Paul Townend whilst his stablemate, Thousand Stars, the 1/2 favourite under Walsh could only finish a distant sixth. It was his only outing since the 2012 National. He has posted wins on both good and heavy ground. He has yet to get home in a four mile contest, falling in the National and pulling up in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in 2011. Currently rated 148, he has to be one for the shortlist.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has said that his 2010 Gold Cup hero, Imperial Commander (20/1), will be there on the day provided the going is not too deep. One concern for punters is the after effects of the lung infection that prevented him from lining up at Cheltenham in a bid to reclaim his crown. Another is his age. At 12-years-old he is slightly longer in the tooth than is ideal for the National. On the positive side, he is a class act who has not fallen in his 20 runs over obstacles.
Twiston-Davies also has National form, sending out Bindaree to win in 2002 and Earth Summit in 1998. Last year Neptune Collonges demonstrated that winning under a considerable weight (11 stone 6 pounds) was achievable. Imperial Commander is a similar, strongly built classic chaser type who can probably shoulder a burden better than some of his more lightly framed rivals. Imperial Commander showed that he had lost none of his enthusiasm for racing on his only outing since his physically damaging run in the 2011 Gold Cup. He reappeared at Cheltenham in January after a year’s absence. He finished a creditable second to Cape Tribulation in the Argento Chase on unsuitably heavy ground.
Gordon Elliott trained Silver Birch, the Paul Nicholls chuck out, to win the 2007 Grand National. Could Chicago Grey (14/1) give him his second winner? This son of Luso is now a good age for the race at 10-years-old. He is generally a sound if unspectacular jumper, only falling twice in 33 starts over obstacles. His 2012 National hopes under Paul Carberry were cut short when he was brought down at the fifth. Having hit the deck pretty hard, Chicago Grey picked himself up and gamely rejoined the field, riderless. He was obviously undaunted by the National fences and continued with the field for some time, negotiating Bechers with ease.
His form since has led the handicapper to drop him seven pounds but, in his latest run on 19 February, he was the surprise winner of a Grade Two chase at Navan over two miles four furlongs. He started the 25/1 outsider in a field of four. He had not managed to get his head in front for nearly two years. His previous victory was at the Cheltenham festival in 2011. He beat Tim Vaughan’s Beshabar to win the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup (for amateur riders) under Derek O’Connor. Back then he carried 11 stone 6 pounds over four miles to victory. He will have significantly less to carry on Saturday.
Elliott claims that a successful wind operation was the reason Chicago Grey posted his recent win. If he has got this horse back on track he could have a very good chance. He has proven stamina (if he can get enough air into his lungs) and his loose jumping display over the big fences last year has to be a positive.
Owner JP McManus goes into this year’s race with two fancied horses. The Jonjo O’Neill trained ten-year-old, Sunnyhillboy (16/1), was second by the shortest of margins last year. He looks to be up against it with a massive hike in the weights this time. Colbert Station (12/1) seems to be JP’s best chance of a winner.
Trained by Ted Walsh, who sent out Papillon to win the National in 2000, this nine-year-old is relatively unexposed over fences and looks progressive. This will be just his sixth chase start but he has proven himself over three miles and in large fields. He has never fallen in his eighteen starts over obstacles. He comes into the race on the back of two victories over three miles on soft and heavy going. The manner of those wins suggests that he has every chance of getting the extra mile on less testing ground.
Regaining a lost National title is a rare feat but Donald McCain is bred to achieve it. His 2011 winner, Ballabriggs (25/1), has been trained with this race as his target. He ran well to get sixth, shouldering 11 stone 6 last year. He is more favourably treated by the handicapper this time and McCain will be hoping that the watering is kept to a minimum.
At 12-years-old Ballabriggs has another statistic to overcome. McCain’s father Ginger managed that twice with Red Rum and Amberleigh House. Stable jockey Jason Maguire has chosen to partner Ballabriggs rather than Weird Al (66/1). Ballabriggs’ third place in his latest outing in a two mile seven furlong chase at Kelso on March 2 on unsuitably soft ground suggests he has been successfully primed for this contest.
Grand National 2013 Tips Conclusion
The combination of Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh is tempting but, at 7/1, On His Own seems too short to appeal. Similarly, Chicago Grey (14/1) has been slashed rather too heavily on the back of his surprise win over a much shorter distance. Imperial Commander (20/1) would be very attractive if not for his recent lung problem and soundness issues. I would not be surprised to see him go wrong in this race. Our tip for the race and recommended bet has to be an each way punt on BALLABRIGGS at 25/1.