With a maximum field of 40 set to go to post and the bottom weight likely to be above the minimum ten stone this looks like another wide-open renewal of the great race. 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere tops the handicap on 11st 12 lb adding a touch of class to the world’s most famous steeplechase which also included plenty of high-class staying chasers, notably Hennessy Gold Cup victor Many Clouds, top Irish chaser First Lieutenant, the Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Rocky Creek and Unioniste plus last year’s Irish National winner and final Grand National ride of 19-time champion jockey Tony McCoy, Shutthefrontdoor.
PROBABLE FINAL FIELD
1.Lord Windermere – High class Irish chaser who boasts a Cheltenham Gold Cup and RSA Chase on his cv but not at his best this season ( pulled up in attempt at second Gold Cup last month ) and unlikely to become the first top weight to win since Red Rum in the 1970’s. 40-1 Generally.
2.Many Clouds – Has developed into a top class staying chaser this season with victories in Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup and Betbright Chase at Cheltenham. Finished just a respectable sixth behind Coneygree in Gold Cup last time and may have had one hard race too many and will do well to bounce back carrying 11st 9lb. 33-1 Betfred
3.Unioniste – A lot to like about Paul Nicholls’ grey who will be fresher than most after just three runs this season including when running out an impressive winner at Sandown in January. On the minus side has been raised 11lb by the handicapper and no seven-year-old has won the race since Bogskar in 1940. 25-1 Generally.
4.Rocky Creek – Leading contender based on his fifth place behind Pineau De Re 12 months ago and recent impressive victory at Kempton, making the nine-year-old 9lb well-in compared to future handicaps. Seemed to not quite get home last year and more restraining tactics likely to be used on this occasion so if able to see out the trip better the most likely winner. 10-1 Generally.
5.First Lieutenant – This high-class Irish chaser would create history if successful as will be partnered by Nina Carberry and the best finishing position by a woman to date is that of Katy Walsh who finished third on Seabass in 2012. Would have a chance if taking to the fences on best form but has done little this season to suggest that may be possible. 33-1 Generally.
6.Balthazar King – Last year’s runner up has been trained all season with a repeat bid in mind and ticks just about all of the boxes. 3lb Higher than 12 months ago but looks certain to have favoured ground, has won six of last eight starts and is sure to have trained to the minute. Hard to fault claims. 10-1 Generally.
7.Shutthefrontdoor – Would be one of the most popular winners in the race’s long history and a potential disastrous result for bookmakers with Jonjo O’Neill’s eight-year-old being the final National ride of 19-time champion jockey Tony McCoy. Winner of Irish Grand National last April and on seasonal reappearance at Carlisle but possible to pick holes in form of both races and is sure to go off at a false price. Would be a fitting end to a great career for national hunt racing’s greatest jockey but easily passed over from a value perspective. 7-1 Generally.
8. Pineau De Re – Easy five length winner last year and an extra 8lb not too harsh but in nowhere near the same kind of form this season and, while respected, unlikely to break the poor record of previous winners attempting to follow up, Red Rum being the last in 1973/74. 25-1 Generally.
9.Ballycasey – Only runner for powerful Willie Mullins stable but has disappointed since winning on seasonal reappearance at Gowran Park. Decent novice last season and lightly-raced so could play a leading role if taking to the fences but plenty of questions to answer. 40-1 Ladbrokes and William Hill.
10.Spring Heeled – Winner of last year’s Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival before finishing fifth in Bet365 Gold Cup. Two respectable runs this season and has been trained with this race in mind but going into the unknown where trip is concerned but can’t be discounted if getting home. 20-1 Generally.
11.Rebel Rebellion – One of four possible runners for the Paul Nicholls’ stable and in decent form this season as well as winning over the fences in December 2013. Never been further than 3m however so big question mark over marathon trip. 40-1 Generally.
12.Dolatulo – Has been kept over hurdles since winning Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby over Christmas but made mistakes when eighth over these fences in Grand Sefton prior to that and another who is going into the unknown trip wise. 40-1 Generally.
13.Mon Parrain – Least fancied of the Paul Nicholls’ quartet but was second in 2011 Topham off 1lb higher mark and good winner at Cheltenham in January. Hard to see this ex-French-trained gelding winning but a top six finish would not surprise. 50-1 Generally.
14.Carlito Brigante – 2011 Coral Cup winner when trained by Gordon Elliott but mixed form over fences for Keren McClintock and hard to see this one being there at the finish. 66-1 Generally.
15.Night In Milan – Consistent chaser ( excellent record at Doncaster ) who looks the type to take to the Aintree fences and this prominent racer looks sure to give his supporters a good run for their money and one of the most interesting outsiders. 40-1 Ladbrokes.
16.Rubi Light – Irish chaser with plenty of decent form to his name. Last run outside his own country was when fifth in 2012 Ryanair but hard to imagine improvement at first try over marathon trip. 100-1 Coral.
17.The Druids Nephew – 10lb Well-in following easy win at Cheltenham Festival and although yet to race over this kind of trip was not stopping at end of extended 3m 3f when clear second in Cheltenham handicap behind Sam Winner last November. Good chance of giving Aidan Coleman a first National victory. 14-1 Generally.
18.Cause Of Causes – Proved ability to act over an extreme trip when winning the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham Festival last month but that didn’t look the strongest of renewals and managed only 12th in last year’s Irish Grand National. Closely matched with Spring Heeled on 2014 Kim Muir form and fair chance if taking to fences. 20-1 bet365 and Ladbrokes.
19.Godsmejudge – Plenty of form over marathon trips including in Scottish Grand National ( winner in 2013 and runner-up in 2014 ) and when third in Bet365 Gold Cup last April. Nicely weighted on 10st 8lb but little encouragement in three runs this season, the latest being when failing to beat a rival over hurdles at Bangor. 20-1 Generally.
20.Al Co – 2014 Scottish Grand National winner and closely matched with runner-up Godsmejudge. Has run well on last two starts, both over hurdles, and no surprise to see Peter Bowen’s ten-year-old run a big race. 33-1 Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill.
21.Monbeg Dude – Looked the ideal type for Aintree when getting up close home to win the 2013 Welsh Grand National and ended that year with two cracking runs at Cheltenham, the first when finishing a close fourth behind fellow rival Alvarado with Godsmejudge and Spring Heeled behind before running out a cosy winner of a three mile one and a half furlong handicap at the Open meeting. Fourth in this season’s Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National and off a 4lb lower mark can improve upon his seventh place in last year’s National despite making a couple of serious errors. Recent disappointing run at Cheltenham Festival was put down to the fitting of a tongue strap and could prove good value at a big price. Will be ridden by Liam Treadwell who has already won one National courtesy of Mon Mome. 40-1 William Hill
22.Corrin Wood – Good novice before having limitations exposed when tenth in RSA Chase and little encouragement in three runs this season although better ground will help and always dangerous to discount anything from the McCain stable. 66-1 Paddy Power and William Hill
23.The Rainbow Hunter – Quietly fancied for last year’s race after winning Doncaster’s Skybet Chase but unseated rider at 9th when in touch, as was the case 12 months earlier. Only one run this season when pulled up behind Rocky Creek at Kempton but well in with Unioniste on Town Moor form so no forlorn hope. 66-1 Generally.
24.Saint Are – Ninth behind Auroras Encore in 2013 and good third behind Oscar Time in Becher Chase last December but badly off with that horse in weights and unproven over this kind of trip. 40-1 William Hill.
25.Across The Bay – Was bowling along in the lead 12 months ago when carried very wide by loose horse after 16th but still managed to finish in 14th place. 5lb Less but has shown nothing in four runs this season. 50-1 Generally.
26.Tranquil Sea 160-Rated chaser at peak in 2011 but a thirteen-year-old now and best form over much shorter. Sixth in 2013 Topham but hard to see this one playing a leading role. 100-1 Generally.
27.Oscar Time – Outstanding Aintree record, 2nd and 4th in 2011 and 2014 Nationals respectively and winner of Becher Chase last December. A fourteen-year-old now though and no horse of that age has ever won the race, although 1853 winner Peter Simple was 15 and two thirteen-year-old’s, Why Not ( 1984 ) and Sergeant Murphy ( 1923 ) have been successful. A good bet to finish in the first 10 but an unlikely winner. 50-1 Generally.
28.Bob Ford – As the saying goes ‘ stays longer than the mother-in-law ‘ as was the case when only horse to complete in West Wales National. Didn’t seem to take to the fences last December but capable of running well if getting into a decent rhythm, as when making all at Ffos Las. 100-1 Paddy Power and William Hill.
29.Super Duty – Good chaser when trained by Donald McCain and narrowly beaten in 2013 Kim Muir. Is better than two runs for new stable but needs to show a lot more than when well beaten at Doncaster in February but may be a spring horse so can’t totally dismiss. 66-1 Generally.
30.Wyck Hill – Expensive purchase for leading owner JP McManus after winning valuable Ascot handicap in December 2012. Has not made the expected improvement but was easy winner of Newcastle’s 4m 1f Eider Chase last season and had taste of National fences when ninth in 2013 Becher Chase. Appeared to need further than that 3m 2f trip and not many miles on the clock for an eleven-year-old. A possible surprise package. 50-1 Generally.
31.Gas Line Boy – Looks in grip of handicapper after winning a couple of races at beginning of season and nothing to suggest he is up to making his mark at this level. 100-1 Paddy Power.
32.Chance Du Roy – Excellent record over National fences including when winning 2013 Becher Chase but appeared to find the trip too far when sixth behind Pineau De Re last year and likely to find several too good once again. 40-1 Generally.
33.Portrait King – Marathon trip no problem as ran out easy winner of 2012 Eider Chase but a well beaten ninth in that 4m 1f contest back in February. Good second over an inadequate 3m latest and if able to keep tabs on leaders capable of putting stamina to good use at the business end of race. 66-1 Generally.
34.Owega Star – Decent run when second in Navan’s Troytown Chase last November and capable of plenty more improvement over extreme distances as still only eight. Interesting outsider. 66-1 Generally.
35.River Choice – This French-trained twelve-year-old is hard to fancy and connections appear to have come for the day out rather than having realistic expectations. Easily passed over. 150-1 Generally.
36.Court By Surprise – Decent staying chaser who was awarded Badger Ales trophy on latest start after winner The Young Master was disqualified on a technicality. Runner-up over Sandown’s extended 3m 5f trip in December 2013 so possible trip could be within his capabilities but has to defy a career-high mark. 50-1 Generally.
37.Alvarado – A never nearer fourth last year and 1lb lower this time. Has been trained with this race in mind and just the one start this season when fifth in a Veterans’ chase at Doncaster. Obvious chance but this may turn out to be a better contest than 12 months ago. 20-1 Generally.
38.Soll – Has shown improved form since being transferred to David Pipe stable winning both starts. 7lb Well-in and form over fences ( 7th in 2013 National and 11th in last year’s Topham ) but needs to continue improvement to give trainer second National following Comply Or Die. 20-1 Generally.
39.Ely Brown – Smart staying hurdler/chaser but with just the four starts over fences this may be a step to far for Charlie Longsdon’s ten-year-old. 100-1 Generally.
40.Royale Knight – Stablemate of last year’s winner Pineau De Re and has improved out of all recognition for the step up in trip, progressing from a mark of 85 to 139 since joining Dr Richard Newland. Impressive winner of Kelso’s 4m Borders National and the 3m 6f Durham National at Sedgefield on last chase start. Providing the King’s Theatre gelding has the pace to keep within hailing distance of leaders a possible second winner for the good doctor. 33-1 Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill.
41.Possible 1st Reserve – Baileys Concerto – Won five races off the belt in 2014 but appears in the grip of the handicapper off a mark of 139 and plenty of question marks regarding trip. 100-1 Generally.
42.Possible 2nd Reserve – Duke Of Lucca – Form has deteriorated since winning over Aintree’s Mildmay fences last April and hard to fancy. 66-1 Generally.