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2016 Grand National tips - The expert guide to the upcoming Aintree marathon

  • Brian takes three fancies against the field for the Crabbie's Grand National in April.
Who will win the 2016 Grand National?

With the Grand National just around the corner now that the Cheltenham Festival is past, Brian Healy picks out three potential winners of the Aintree marathon in April.

The Cheltenham Festival might be done and dusted for another year, but the top class National Hunt racing hasn’t quite reached the end of the road just yet, and the Crabbie’s Grand National is the next big jumps race in the calendar to loom over just over the horizon.

The Aintree marathon is the world’s most famous race, and always represents a hugely competitive affair with a large field of 40 entrants going to post to tackle the unique demands of the race around the Liverpool venue and its fearsome fences in what is the ultimate test of both horse and rider.

Many Clouds will return in a bid to become the first back-to-back winner of the race since Red Rum back in 1973/74, while jockey Leighton Aspell will be going out to become the first rider to win three consecutive Grand Nationals.

Oliver Sherwood’s charge is bound to be a popular selection, and the classy Cloudings gelding has been running well this term, winning on his latest outing at Kelso in the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase.

However, while he has to shoulder top-weight of 11st 10lbs for this latest renewal, he is justr 1lb higher than when beating last year’s runner-up, Saint Are who was beaten just under two lengths.

The ten-year old has seemingly been brought along with this race in mind, and he was a last-time winner at Doncaster. Both should go well in this re-match, but there appears no reason why Tom George’s charge should go one better this time.

THE LAST SAMURAI 

A very useful novice and handicap performer for Donald McCain, for whom he won plenty over both hurdles and fences, the Flemensfirth gelding was transferred to Kim Bailey for this campaign by owners Paul and Clare Rooney, and he hasn’t looked back since his seasonal debut third behind the progressive Wakanda in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle back in November.

Since that run, he has notched up successes at Kempton in December, where the sharp nature of the Sunbury track wasn’t ideal, but he ground out a notable success to get the better of Viva Steve with a good turn of foot having looked one paced and in trouble for a time.

That run was bettered when he ran out a convincing ten lengths’ winner over The Druids Nephew in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster, where he was always travelling well and jumping soundly. Having got to the front over the third-last, he powered clear from his rivals in decisive fashion and won eased down in the manner of a horse who could yet have better still to come.

The Druids Nephew has since run well at the Cheltenham Festival, and Kim Bailey’s charge was handed a weight of just 10-8 when the Grand National weights were issued, thanks to his rating of 149.

Now rated 161 following those successes, he is very well treated now at the weights and his sound jumping will stand him in good stead around these demanding fences. He has looked a strong stayer, and he must surely go close to giving Bailey a first National winner since Mr Frisk.

BALLYCASEY 

Trained by the ever-formidable Willie Mullins, the grey Presenting gelding hasn’t quite fulfilled the promise he hinted at during his novice career, which included a defeat of Gold Cup winner Don Cossack at Leopardstown prior to a solid fourth in the 2014 RSA Chase.

Since then, he hasn’t looked the most straightforward, although he had looked to take well enough to these unique fences when contesting the Grand National twelve months ago where he got no further than the eighth fence before being brought down by the fall of Balthazar King.

Fourth on his final start last term, he wasn’t seen out this season until shaping as if very much in need of the run behind My Murphy in the Theystes Chase, and although he ran a shade disappointingly in the Red Mills Chase next time when third of four runners, he shaped much better at Cheltenham when keeping on to finish fifth to Empire Of Dirt.

He might have finished closer had he not been badly hampered four from home, but he seemed much more at home on the quicker ground at Prestbury Park than the softer surfaces he had encountered in Ireland on both previous starts.

His allotted weight of 10-6 certainly catches the eye as a good racing weight for a horse who claimed notable scalps as a novice. Of course, he has to prove he stays this far, but he makes plenty of appeal on these terms and has the requisite class to run a big race at huge odds if he does see out the trip.

BISHOPS ROAD 

Prior to hacking up in heavy ground to land the Haydock Grand National Trial, Bishops Road was considered a doubtful stayer. However, Kerry Lee’s charge quashed that notion in no uncertain terms when putting rivals to the sword despite the awful conditions.

The rookie trainer has enjoyed a fantastic first season, winning a Grade One chase earlier with Kylemore Lough, and while her Heron Island gelding would need a few of those above him in the handicap to come out, he can run a big race in the event he does make the cut.

A winner in the point-to-point sphere in Ireland, he spent much of his time with Henry de Bromhead, for whom he won three times, including a Leopardstown handicap chase early last year.

He joined Lee after finishing third to Upazo at Tramore in August, and the rookie trainer has placed him with expert efficiency to win both starts at Sandown, where he ran out an easy wide-margin winner over Mr Muddle; and then at Haydock, where he claimed the scalp of Broadway Buffalo, and also Welsh National winner Mountainous amongst others. 

If he were to get in, he’d be racing off 10-3, and the trainer believes he’ll be a better horse on a quicker surface and won despite his dislike for the ground. He jumped with aplomb at Haydock, and despite a few moments where he appeared under pressure, he picked up well when he got to the front to run out a nine-length winner.

He’s been raised 10lbs in the official ratings to 154 following that Haydock success, so he is 10lbs well-in on his allocated weight, and if he makes the final field of 40 runners he could go very well. 

2016 GRAND NATIONAL SELECTION – THREE AGAINST THE FIELD


THE LAST SAMURAI

BALLYCASEY 

BISHOPS ROAD 


Countdown to Grand National

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Join millions of fans preparing to celebrate the build up to the world's most famous race - the Aintree Grand National.


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2016 Grand National tips - The expert guide to the upcoming Aintree marathon

With the Grand National just around the corner now that the Cheltenham Festival is past, tipster Brian Healy picks out three potential winners of the Aintree marathon in April.

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