The Grand National – the world’s most famous horse race – is this Saturday and our man The Duke delivers his verdict on all 40 runners.
Horse by Horse guide from The Duke – Jon-Ivan Duke
Acts on any ground, he won the 2016 RSA Chase and was 4th in last year’s Grand National. He ran a big race that day and a similar effort would see him in the frame. He won the Becher Chase in December but crucially that put him up 8lbs in the weights and that makes him a full 9lbs higher in the handicap than last year. Therefore it’s hard to see him improving on last year’s positioning
Third in the Gold Cup and technically 9lbs well-in as the weights had already been allocated prior to the Cheltenham Festival. This step up in trip could well suit and he’s got a chance, however he has had quite a hard season
The Last Samuri
Kim Bailey’s horse is a real trier and I like him a lot. He was 2nd in 2016 off 149, 3rd in the 2016 Becher off 159, 16th in the 2017 Grand National off 161 and 2nd in this season’s Becher off 159. He will enjoy the soft ground, loves the fences and while he’s not well handicapped, you can’t deny his chances
Won Grade 1s as a novice chaser before winning the 2016 JNwine.com Champion Chase in Ireland. He took a year off and has not quite looked the same but as such his mark has dropped by 11lbs from his best rating. He could win at his best but recent form and the trip are enough to put you off
Total Recall *Duke pick
Fell in the Gold Cup but was much improved this season, including a win at Newbury in the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy). He seems to enjoy life at Willie Mullins’ yard and it’s likely he will handle the trip and ground. A big player and should go well.
Alpha Des Obeaux
Talented hurdler before switching to fences. He hasn’t always looked a natural over the bigger obstacles and he is also a bleeder. He doesn’t jump off the page
Perfect Candidate *Duke pick
He goes on any ground but pulled up in last year’s race. It was a good effort to win the Betvictor.com Handicap Chase in November at Cheltenham. He’s not run that well in two starts since then but that isn’t too much of a worry as the eye will have been on this contest. He could be one of the few horses to improve in a Grand National after pulling up the year before. Overpriced.
Runner-up in the Ultimate Handicap at Cheltenham, staying on well over 3m1f. The ground is a positive but the fact he’s raced seven times already this season is not. He is due to go up in the weights so technically he is 4lbs well-in for this race, but others are more convincing
Not too much to get you excited. He was 17th in last year’s race and there is little to suggest he’ll go much better
Possesses more natural talent than a lot of his rivals, as demonstrated with five Grade 1 wins. However, at 12 years old, is he as good as he once was? He’s well-handicapped on old form but he’s not won for two years. It is worth bearing in mind that he is owned by JP McManus who is a patient owner. I’d give him a chance where others have given up hope.
Tiger Roll *Duke pick
Three Cheltenham Festival wins including this year in the cross-country. The ground is in his favour and given the way he stays, it looks like the trip shouldn’t be an issue. He was pulled-up in the Irish Grand National last year and his jumping will need to be better than that but he has a big chance.
Failed to complete on 8 of his 17 starts over fences. That doesn’t bode well for Aintree although he did finish 8th last year. His mark is high enough too.
Vieux Lion Rouge
7th and 6th in the last two runnings of the race. He’s likely to give a good account again but it’s hard to seem him finishing much better than those positions
Chase The Spud
Won Midlands Grand National last year but his mark now looks too high and his last two runs have been poor. Needs massive improvement
I wouldn’t rule out a big run from him. He’s naturally a two-and-a-half mile chaser and bizarrely enough those horses stepping up in trip tend to do well in this race. A live Nicholls contender despite the price.
He has had a wind operation and only one run in the space of a year. He was 3rd in the 2016 Scottish Grand National, so the trip is no issue but his lack of match practice is a slight concern. The more rain the better for him.
Gas Line Boy *Duke pick
5th in last year’s race when running very well and he could have won if staying on a bit stronger. He won the Grand Sefton over the National fences in December and he is only a few pounds higher as he bids for an improved Grand National placing. It’s probably his last chance of winning the great race and he has snuck a bit under the radar of the betting firms.
Pulled up at Haydock last time in the trial. He’s still quite lightly raced so could improve but it’s hard to judge his aptitude for this marathon contest.
Not in great form this term and only 9th last year. He’s just a bit slow and while he might get round, it’s tough to back him despite a reasonably favourable mark.
Ucello Conti *Duke pick
6th in 2016 and unseated rider last year. I thought he looked pretty comfortable up to that point and he races off 2lb lower this time. I’m willing to give him another chance, despite my better judgement.
Getting on a bit but placed in two Grand Nationals and races off the same mark as last year’s 3rd place finish. The ground is too soft for him though
Raz De Maree
Won the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in January. He has never won off a mark this high and he unseated rider in this last year
I Just Know
Won the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick beating a weak field. That was a decent performance though and he jumps well. However his record in big fields is poor
Has run well at Aintree before, admittedly not over these fences. He might prefer slightly better ground and it is anyone’s guess how much improvement his wind operation will have had
Baie Des Iles
She is a young mare in a tough race but she was 6th in the Irish Grand National at just five years old. She retains potential as a stayer and they have been prepping her for this race for some time
Tenth in 2015 and won a Listed race on this card in 2016. He’s done little since then and hard to recommend
Has had a wind op and wears new headgear. He’s lightly raced for a 10 year old but will need huge improvement
Ground will be no problem having won on testing ground at Sandown earlier this year. He’s not too badly handicapped either despite a rise in the weights for that win, but he would need a career best and at the age of 11 it is hard to see where that improvement could come from
Only had four runs over fences so it will be a huge training performance from Mr Mullins if he can pull this one off. She was pulled up at Punchestown last time in a trial for this race
2013 RSA Chase winner and 2014 Gold Cup hero, but dropped off a cliff since then. He was 7th in last year’s Grand National and he is 3lbs lower this time. The ground could be a bit soft for him
Loves the mud and was second in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in January. He’s on the same mark but this is a much tougher race
Houblon Des Obeaux
Has put in strong efforts in big races before such as runner-up in the Hennessy (2014) and third in the Welsh Grand National (2016). He was 10th in the 2017 Grand National when never in the race. He would need to be closer to the action this time but he may not have the scope to improve
Bless The Wings
On a fair handicap mark but failed to complete in four of his last five starts. He was second in last year’s Irish Grand National and may have an each-way chance if getting round
Milansbar *Duke pick
Very hard to read. Occasionally throws in a big run, more often it’s not so good. He was second in the 2016 and 2018 renewals of the Midlands Grand National. More importantly he won the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick in January, which has proven to be a good trial for the Grand National. I expect him to lead and try and make all. He has a good chance on ground he will love
Third in the Welsh Grand National on bottomless ground. He will enjoy a test and the handicapper has been quite lenient on him. He would still need to be a lot better to be in the frame though
Pretty exposed and wouldn’t even be in the race if the weights were framed today (he’s dropped 4lbs in the ratings since the weights were allocated). The trip is a worry
Road To Riches
Twice a Grade 1 winner and undoubtedly on a lovely mark but that is because he hasn’t put in a good performance for two years. Chance if back to anywhere near his best
Thunder And Roses
Has not completed in his last three starts, so while his previous efforts in the Irish Grand National, including a win in 2015, are admirable, he’s got his work cut out
Not the most obvious candidate for the race, although he mostly wins at three miles or above. Would need a lot of luck to be involved
Walk In The Mill
Sam Waley-Cohen rides these fences very well, but it would take a monumental effort to win this epic race over a trip and track that are big question marks.
The Duke’s Grand National bets –
Total Recall, Gas Line Boy, Milansbar