While local horse racing is on a three-week hiatus, fans of the sport still have a lot to get their teeth into with the 2021 running of what some claim to be the greatest spectacle of sport, the Aintree Grand National slated to be run off on Saturday at the Mersey track in the United Kingdom.
With the 2020 edition falling victim to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, most eyes will be focused on Aintree as 40 horses tackle 30 fences (there are 16 fences in total with 14 of them jumped twice) over 4 miles and 2 furlongs. The five most iconic fences are named in tribute to the race’s heritage – Becher’s Brook, the Chair, Foinavon, the Canal turn and Valentine’s Brook. The first running of the race in 1839 was appropriately enough won by a horse named Lottery, and quite frankly, in every year since then, many intrepid punters would have required that sort of luck to pick the winner.
While the fences have gotten softer overtime, 40 horses jumping 30 fences usually require lots of luck to come out on top since horses travelling very well could be inadvertently impeded by so many other horses and/or riders.
For the 2021 edition, there is an overwhelming favourite – for a race of this nature – in the nine-year-old gelding, Cloth Cap. Cloth Cap has been at the head of the betting since his impressive win in another iconic handicap, the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury. Equally importantly, he was a close third in the 4 mile Scottish Grand National in 2019 and he is a horse that races close to the lead or on the lead so should avoid any carnage associated with fallen runners.
His trainer has won the race in the past and he is to be ridden by Tom Scudamore, whose family is steeped in the racing tradition but whose much more illustrious father, Peter Scudamore, never won this race. It would certainly be an occasion for the family to celebrate, were he to win, but at 4/1 and with 39 horses and 30 fences to drop, his odds are skinny enough.
He is also certain to be taken on for the lead by numerous no-hopers and other runners who like to be close to the pace so his stamina will be surely tested.
Next in the betting are two Irish trained runners, Any Second Now and Burrows Saint at 10/1 and 12/1 respectively. Given the dominance by the Irish at the famed Cheltenham meeting a few weeks, few would be surprised to see their dominance extended in this handicap. It is difficult to understand the support for Any Second Now other than he has been tipped up by the legendary Ruby Walsh with the gelding being trained by Ruby’s father Ted. Ruby was a great jockey but his tipping skills might not be at the same level.
Despite showing a return to some form with a win in a two-mile race over modest opponents, Any Second Now has not done enough to indicate that he can be a serious contender. Burrows Saint has done even less in recent times, with his claim to fame being his win in the Irish Grand National over 3 miles and 5 furlongs in April 2019. He is easily overlooked.
One who definitely catches the eye is the 14/1 shot Kimberlite Candy. This nine-year old has tackled the Grand National fences in two of his last three starts in December 2019 and December 2020. On both occasions he was staying on second over 3 miles and 2 furlongs, giving every indication that he would have no problem in staying the extra mile.
He has also proven that he can jump these difficult fences and Aintree’s Grand National course is a challenge in which horses who have shown form at the course often return to do so again.
Another one to catch the eye at big odds is Yala Enki, who is currently listed at 40/1. Although this gelding fell at the first fence in his one attempt at the Grand National fences, any horse can be easily forgiven a fall and it was the first time this horse had fallen since February 2018.
In the positive column, he is a horse that stays all day, has been third in the last three Welsh Grand Nationals under welterweights, has a touch of class about him and has winning form over nearly 4 miles.
He is another one that likes to race prominently and if he can navigate the first couple of fences and get into his jumping rhythm, he could give backers a nice run for their money. The third horse that catches my eye at a very big price is the nine-year-old Talkischeap. This horse is currently 66/1 in the betting but that is large because he has not been seen very often in the last two years.
In fact, he has raced just five times since an impressive 10 length win in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown Park over 3 miles and 6 furlongs in April 2019. He stormed to victory that day, and it is noteworthy that of his five starts since then, two have been on the flat (both in 2021) as connections got him ready for this event.
He will love the good going likely to be on offer and is another that can surely outrun his odds.
In what will once again prove to be an enthralling spectacle, I like the chances of Kimberlite Candy (14/1), Yala Enki (40/1) and Talkischeap (66/1) in the field of 40 horses.
In the end though, whether your selection is based on form (present or past), name, number, jockey, jockey silks, trainer or the dream that you had on Friday night, what we all want is for all of the horses and their riders to return to their respective stables and homes in one piece at the end of this sporting event. Good luck to all!