It’s time. If ever there was a need for the Narrow The Field grid to stand up and be counted, it’s now. It’s the Grand National – 39 horses, 30 fences and a whole lot of chaos – we need all the help we can get.
We’ve broadly taken the standard approach of our grid, except on this occasion we’ve benched the ‘Going’ element. It’s likely to be Good To Soft – if you’re a horse that doesn’t like that, you probably shouldn’t be aiming for a Grand National. Given the race that’s in it and difficulty of those famous fences, we’ve subbed in ‘Reliable Jumping’ as a category, ruling out any horse that has ever fallen or unseated the jockey. EVER! That’s a lot and still that leaves half the field. Whatevs. We did what we could. Hope it helps.
4.15 Aintree – Grand National
It’s a massive puzzle and with 26 of the remaining 39 runners ticking at least two of the boxes, it’s easy to see why. Luck has its part to play as well, so you can never truly rule out any runner in the National, but we’ll certainly be focusing most of our attention on those horses in the middle.
Shutthefrontdoor, Rocky Creek and Balthazar King are the top three in the betting and their credentials are rock solid. They’ve all got proven stamina, they’re all solid jumpers and they’re all in form that is something approaching their best. If you want to piss on their parade, they all carry 11 stone 2 pounds or more and in the last 30 years or so, horses carrying that sort of weight land the Grand National relatively infrequently. Plus, if we’re going to win a National, we’d like it to be at odds of more than 10/1.
There’s a very interesting group of contenders in the middle of the grid who will get significantly less attention tomorrow. Al Co, Oscar Time, Court By Surprise and Royale Knight are all horses with the stamina, reliable jumping and current form to get into the frame. Ignore Bob Ford in the middle there. He’s a woeful jumper and how he hasn’t had a fall so far in his professional career is a miracle of ‘how are so many people watching Mrs. Brown’s Boys’ proportions.
Even horses only ticking two of the boxes can’t be ruled out. A couple that are particularly notable are Godsmejudge (won the Scottish Grand National in 2013, was second in 2014, has been a bit crap this season), Spring Heeled (Kim Muir Chase winner 2014) and Rubi Light (who was a quality chaser over about two and half miles, but is going about a mile and a half further than he’s ever gone before). If you can forgive those minor flaws, they’ve got the talent to get into the frame.
Just because we need to nail our colours to the mast to give ourselves the feeling we’ve actually reached a conclusion, we’ll go for Al Co – not just because it reminds us of a humourous subject line incident that resulted in a colleague getting fired. His performances this year haven’t been great, but they’ve kept him ticking along, clearly with the National in mind.
Verdict: Al Co
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