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Thursday, 3 April 2014

Crabbie’s Grand National Preview

The quality of the entries for the Crabbie’s Grand National has risen in recent years, such that fifteen of the runners in this year’s renewal, due off at 4.15 p.m. on Saturday, are officially rated 147 or higher. However, the increase in quality hasn’t prevented horses at 33/1 (twice), 66/1 and 100/1 from winning the Aintree marathon since 2004, so we’ve thrown our hat into the ring with three or four we think could go well at fanciful odds.

Of course, Sue Smith won the National last year with the now retired Auroras Encore, but the West Yorkshire trainer has realistic chances of landing a notable double with Mister Moonshine (50/1) or Vintage Star (50/1).

Mister Moonshine is the choice of last year’s winning jockey, Ryan Mania and, although pulled up four out behind stable companion Auroras Encore in last year’s National, can reasonably be expected to do better this time around. He stayed on well from the elbow when third, beaten 2¾ lengths, in the Becher Chase, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, on the National Course in December and has won two of his three starts since. He’s gone up 16lbs in the weights as a result, but the way he rallied when second in the Premier Chase, over 2 miles 7½ furlongs, at Kelso last month suggests he remains competitive off his revised handicap mark. He has his stamina to prove, but likes to race on, or close to, the pace and should go well for a long way.

Stable companion Vintage Star weakened in the closing stages when only sixth, beaten 13½ lengths, behind Mountainous in the Welsh National, over 3 miles 5½ furlongs at Chepstow in December on his one and only attempt at a marathon trip. However, that performance came on heavy going and, unlike Mountainous, he’s also won on good and good to soft going, so he may be capable of better granted faster underfoot conditions. Like Mister Moonshine, his stamina for the extreme distance of 4 miles 3½ furlongs is a complete unknown and he comes into the race on the back of a fall, which isn’t ideal but, at 50/1, he may be worth chancing.

It’s disappointing that, of forty runners (forty-four, including reserves), not one is on offer at odds longer than 100/1 in the ante post lists. However, One In A Milan is available at 100/1, in a place, so by way of cocking a snook at the skinflint bookmakers, we’re putting up Evan Williams’ 9-year-old as our third and final National pick. In fact, the Milan gelding ran well when fourth in the Welsh National and should be spot on for this after two ‘sighters’ over hurdles at Chepstow, so is by no means a forlorn hope. Vale of Glamorgan trainer Evan Williams saddled Cappa Bleu to finish second in the National last year and fourth the year before so, even on ground probably faster than ideal, One In A Milan is worth including, if only for pure devilment.

In summary, our three against the field in the Grand National are, in no particular order, Mister Moonshine (50/1 with Boylesports and Ladbrokes), Vintage Star (50/1 with Boylesports and Sporting Bet) and One In A Milan (100/1 with Boylesports). Fill your boots boys.

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