STUDYING the roll of honour for Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National (5.15pm) is proof enough that virtually none of the 40 runners can be totally discounted.
Since Mon Mome sprung a 100/1 shock back in 2009, we’ve had a 66/1 winner, two at 33/1 and another couple at 25/1.
The very nature of a 40-runner race over more than four miles with 30 fences means this is simply the equineequivalent of playing the lottery.
Anibale Fly currently heads the majority of lists since finishing a gallant third in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
He shapes as if the trip will suit, but has to shoulder 11st 7lbs – only Many Clouds (2015) has carried more since Red Rum back in 1977.
Last year I headlined Blaklion who ran such a gallant race to finish fourth behind One For Arthur before running out of puff late on. Life will be a bit tougher this year with 8lbs more in the saddle, but recent wind surgery may help and he will be ridden with more constraint.
Tiger Roll cannot be ruled out either after landing the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and will go close if his jumping holds out.
All of those mentioned above along with Irish raider Total Recall, who fell when still in contention in the Gold Cup, have chances but are all currently vying for favouritism.
I have learnt over the years not to be afraid of big prices and the fact that my main fancy, HOUBLON DES OBEAUX, is a 50/1 shot with Ladbrokes doesn’t put me off.
Venetia Williams’ team have bounced back to form in recent days and this 11- year-old is seriously well-handicapped on the best of his old form.
He was second in the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2014 and third to Native River in the 2016 Coral Welsh National.
Having once been rated close to 160 by the handicapper, his mark has slipped down to 142 these days and he ran better 12 months ago than his 10th place finish implies.
The similarly named ALPHA DES OBEAUX was also very classy on his day, finishing second to Thistlecrack in the 2016 Stayers’ Hurdle.
He was a distant fourth to Might Bite in last year’s RSA Chase and even though he has been a bit disappointing since winning at Navan in November, he has the class to go well at 40/1 with Coral.
SHANTOU FLYER was pulled-up after being badly hampered 12 months ago, but arrives here in great form having finished a gallant second at Cheltenham.
He was staying on really well that day and is another overpriced at 40/1.
My last pick goes to the unexposed stayer I JUST KNOW who sneaks in here towards the foot of the weights.
His trainer Sue Smith knows how to ready one for this contest, having landed the race back in 2013 with Auroras Encore, and will relish the marathon trip.
For the first time ever this year’s Grand National will be available to watch in the skies and on the seas.
Racecourse Media Group (RMG) will deliver full global coverage of the race and it will be shown live on selected aircraft and ships on 11 airlines and nine cruise lines via the Sport 24 channel.
Bill Esdaile’s Grand National 1-2-3-4
- Houblon Des Obeaux
- Alpha Des Obeaux
- Shantou Flyer
- I Just Know