2017 Aintree Grand National published April 5th 2pm
I was hosting my tenth birthday party the day Foinavon won the Grand National. Every partygoer even then had to watch the race, indeed most of the nation did. Is it the same race fifty years later? Certainly not. The fences and the drops back then were brutal. Many of the horses and jockeys competing then would not have a hope of getting within a bus ride of Aintree these days. Through my formative years the proven way to get a financial return from the Grand National was to find a horse that was a safe jumper, didn’t need soft ground, had a touch of class, could stay over four miles but had the speed to win over two and a half miles. Add to that a large dollop of luck and you were home and hosed. Much of that still holds true except probably more class less luck, more of a stayer less of the speed. It used to be hunt round the first circuit, race round the second circuit! Many jockeys may still get those orders this April but it is my firm opinion that the Grand National is now the most valuable, most competitive 4m 2f handicap chase on the calendar. I think you need a horse that definitely stays 3m 4f+, the Melling Road to the line you’ll have to take on trust. I think you need a horse that can race prominently, get in a rhythm and jumps cleanly. I think you need a horse that has form in a top staying chase in the not too distant past preferably on ground no worse than soft. I think you want a jockey who can think in the saddle, a real horseman and with b*lls of steel!
So let’s not mess about here in reverse order are the first five home in the 2017 Randox Health Grand National!
(Prices as of 2pm Wednesday 5th. Suggest you wait until Saturday am for best prices and terms!)
5th CAUSE OF CAUSES 10st 13lbs (Gordon Elliott) Mr JJ Codd
Won the Cross Country race at Cheltenham Festival three weeks ago and that race can produce contenders, for example Balthazar King. He also has Cheltenham Festival wins in the Kim Muir and the 4mNH chase on his CV so clearly no problem with ground, trip and the different obstacles and he clearly is a class act. Can “The Coddfather” keep him close enough to the leaders to be competitive over the last three fences? One star* win 14/1
4th THUNDER AND ROSES 10st 7lbs (Mouse Morris) Mark Enright
Two years ago this horse won the Irish Grand National when he beat Rock the World, the winner of this race twelve months ago, at level weights. His form since then has at best been patchy but his second to Pleasant Company in the Bobbyjo Chase two runs back suggests that master trainer Mouse Morris may have rekindled the fire and in the safe hands of Mark Enright Thunder and Roses could be spot on to give Gigginstown back to back Grand Nationals. One star* e/w 33/1
3rd STELLAR NOTION 10st 9lbs (Henry de Bromhead) David Mullins
And before you ask, yes I do think the Irish have the best staying chasers! This is the selection that could be the most exciting. Stellar Notion will be ridden from the front and could give us a run for our money for a very long if not all the way! He has finished 2nd, 4th and 2nd in three of Ireland’s most competitive staying chases on his last three runs and has struck up a real understanding with jockey David Mullins who did of course win this race last year. Young Mr Mullins is a brave, clever and ridiculously good looking jockey and although if Stellar Notion jumps Valentines leading second time around the petrol gauge could be heading towards red but if there is one person who could coax the horse home it is young David! One star* e/w 66/1
2nd MEASUREOFMYDREAMS 10st 9lbs (Noel Meade) Donagh Myler
At some stage tis horse is surely going to deliver on the big stage! He is the horse that finished third in that stellar 2016 4m NH Chase behind Minella Rocco and Native River, second and third in this seasons G1 Cheltenham Gold Cup! Behind him that day were Vicente (won Scottish National), Vieux Lion Rouge (Becher Chase and National Trial winner), Pleasant Company (BobbyJo Chase winner) pulled up whereas Noble Endeavor (Won Paddy Power Chase) and Definitly Red (Won Charlie Hall + Grimthorpe) both fell. On that bit of form he is thrown in here off just OR146. Trainer Noel Meade issued a positive bulletin recently ““Measureofmydreams is in good form and travels over….went to the Curragh last week for a school over the Aintree fences…couldn’t have gone better…jumped brilliantly..Measuremydreams was probably going to finish sixth or seventh until he got stopped in his tracks two out in the Ultima at Cheltenham. Stamina is his forte and he just got outpaced coming down the hill before he stayed on. The further he goes the better he gets.” I am amazed no senior jockey has grabbed this ride. Love it to be Sean Flanagan but Jonathon Moore claiming 3lbs would be fine. One star* e/w 40/1
1st DEFINITLY RED 10st 12lbs (Brian Ellison) Danny Cook
I believe Definitly Red is the best staying handicap chaser in training and certainly the most improved and is a confident selection. His fourteen length demolition of The Last Samuri in the Grimthorpe chase at Doncaster last time out was a huge statement of intent. Even the Official handicapper thinks he is 9lb well in. He started the season winning the G3 Rowland Meryck at Wetherby with the likes of Blaklion and Yala Enki trailing in his wake. I believe he would have finished a staying on second to Bristol de Mai in the Peter Marsh at Haydock had he not been hampered three out and unseated when picking up the leaders. He’s the right age, 8yo, has a racing weight, is bang in form, the yard is among the winners and my only miniscule concern is the riding style of jockey Danny Cook. He is AP-esque in that he rides the ears off them which he just can’t do here in this race on this horse. The ride I want is “Held up in touch. Progress 4 out, led 2 out, kept on well”!
Ideally suited to flat left handed tracks Brian Ellison has brought Definitly Red on steadily since taking over training him from Steve Gollings and this strapping chestnut has gone from the promising 5yo in the Cheltenham Champion Bumper to leading fancy in the Grand National. Three star*** win. 11/1
It’s time for the North to jump back on the big stage. This is one Red that’ll Definitly be welcome back in Yorkshire!