Horses involved? Jamie’s your expert.
Horses involved? Jamie’s your expert.
Want to know more about the leading 2021 Grand National runners heading to Aintree for the world’s most famous steeplechase? Betting.co.uk can help you there with profiles of the main contenders.
As the favourite among Grand National runners, Cloth Cap has a lovely racing weight for the Aintree marathon. A bold jumper who likes good ground, he represents the joint-most successful owner of the event in Trevor Hemmings. Wins in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and Kelso’s Premier Chase show how much this horse has improved since finishing a fine third behind subsequent King George hero Frodon at Cheltenham at the start of the season. Cloth Cap has a favourite’s chance, provided the spring weather stays fine and he gets his optimum conditions.
Ted Walsh knows what it takes to train a Grand National winner. Papillon triumphed at Aintree in 2000 under son Ruby and Seabass was third for daughter Katie in 2012. Now Walsh teams up with mighty Irish owner JP McManus with 2019 Kim Muir winner Any Second Now. It might seem odd that his only victories since that Cheltenham Festival success have been over two miles, but connections have been keeping his handicap mark down for a crack at this. If Any Second Now was a live contender for Aintree last year, there’s little to suggest anything is different now.
The Grand National has been on the agenda for Burrows Saint ever since he won the Irish equivalent in 2019. He has been trained for this ever since, so it’s no wonder he’s a prominent contender in the betting. It’s hard to know what to make of his return to fences in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse where much older stable companion Acapella Bourgeois got the better of him. Mullins assured punters there would be more to come from Burrows Saint, but there will need to be to justify his place towards the head of the Grand National market.
A big ante-post gamble has taken place on one of the Grand National runners, and that is Minella Times. Also carrying the green and gold hoops of McManus, but representing the Henry De Bromhead stable, this horse looks very unexposed as a stayer and could be well-handicapped. Minella Times has run well in defeat in two graded Leopardstown handicaps this winter, and has back hurdle form which includes a third to National Hunt Chase winner Galvin. The bookmakers fear the potent combination of De Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore, who dominated the Cheltenham Festival this year.
Yet another of McManus’ Grand National runners, Kimberlite Candy has two placed efforts over the famous Aintree fences after finishing runner-up in the Becher Chase the last couple of winters. In-between those efforts, he proved his stamina with success in the Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick. One For Arthur took that en route to Grand National glory. Kimberlite Candy could put his trainer Tom Lacey on the map. His experience of the fences may give him an edge over other horses, and running here was the plan last year. Kimberlite Candy has to be on any shortlist.
Welsh Grand National winner Secret Reprieve should sneak in at the foot of the weights after back-to-back victories at Chepstow. While younger horses don’t have the best record in the Aintree showpiece, this one isn’t lacking in stamina. Secret Reprieve skipped Cheltenham and the National Hunt Chase to take his chance here. The handicapper may have taken a real chance with his rating as he had plenty in hand, so there is lots to like about his prospects. Whether this Grand National comes too soon for Secret Reprieve remains to be seen.
The 2019 Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light just hasn’t replicated her best form this season. Only one victory in her last five starts is evidence of that. She couldn’t build on an easy success around Newbury once again in the Warfield when back over hurdles and was easily dismissed by Roksana. As Magic Of Light has an official rating of just 1lb higher than when chasing home Tiger Roll but runs off an Aintree mark of 5lb more, she can’t be well-handicapped. However, the Grand National will have been her season target and that past course form remains strong.
Ignoring the bare form of Grand National runners like Potters Corner who have been out over hurdles may be wise. The 2019 Welsh National hero won the Virtual equivalent of this last year. He has been trained for Aintree ever since. A tenderly handled third on his Cross Country debut in a Cheltenham handicap in the autumn, subsequent runs over the smaller obstacles look about maintaining fitness rather than anything serious. Provided he takes to the fences, Potters Corner should give a much better account of himself on Merseyside.
One of the few horses entered in this year’s Grand National to have won a Grade 1 race in the Down Royal Champion Chase during the season, The Storyteller has mixed it really well over hurdles and fences. Since pulling up in the Galway Plate, he has looked rejuvenated and performed consistently. Despite an early winter break, the concern is The Storyteller has had a long campaign after nine starts. Few Grand National runners have seen so much racing and he is high in the weights, but there’s something admirable about this horse that marks him down as a contender.
Dual Bobbyjo Chase winner Acapella Bourgeois gave 6lb and a beating to Burrows Saint at Fairyhouse when warming up for the Grand National. He also previously went one place better than last year in the Thyestes Chase when fifth at Gowran Park. That is one of Ireland’s top staying handicaps. In relation to his rating in the Emerald Isle, Acapella Bourgeois is one of the well-in Grand National runners by 2lb. He’s run in the same prep races as last year with similar results. Acapella Bourgeois is a late bloomer who may just have one more big day in him.
If the Grand National was run at Merseyside’s other venue, Haydock, then Bristol De Mai would command respect as his course form there is superb. A three-time winner of the Betfair Chase, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies says this horse reminds him of Bindaree. That one won the Grand National for the stable back in 2002. The concern would be Bristol De Mai is zero from four previous starts at Aintree, but owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede don’t have another class horse for the race this year. He carries top-weight.
As runner-up in the 2019 National Hunt Chase, the Grand National may be tailor-made for Discorama. While Paul Nolan’s charge doesn’t win many races, he has performed well in defeat and could be well-handicapped on that basis. The yard may keep its other long-distance chase prospect, Latest Exhibition, apart from Discorama this spring. A gallant second to Milan Native in a Galway chase after placing in the Ultima at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, he should appreciate going back up in trip. Discorama could well outrun his odds, something many Grand National runners are hoping for.