On Tuesday, the weights for the 2018 Randox Health Aintree Grand National were revealed, with Definitly Red topping the list with his rating of 165 (2lb lower than his official handicap mark). The next six in the line up – Bristol De Mai and Edwulf (164), Outlander (163), Minella Rocco (162) and Blaklion (161) all pretty much run off of their official marks, with just Bristol De Mai getting in just 1lb lower.
Of those mentioned, Blaklion would be the most interesting as he has already beaten Definitly Red once this season giving him 4lb and he would be in receipt of 4lb this time (Has also beaten him giving 7lb in a 3m Grade 2 Novice Chase). His record over these fences is pretty smart too, with his fourth in last years National as an eight-year-old being followed up with an impressive display in this season’s Becher Chase. He gets just a 6lb rise for that and will run in the Grand National Trial at Haydock this weekend, a race he finished second in off of top weight last year. If he runs well or wins at Haydock, his price will surely contract further from the current 10/1 as he’ll effectively be “well in”. He hit the front far too soon last year and if held on to longer the 2016 RSA Chase winner could be a class above these.
Minella Rocco would be an interesting contender if his jumping held up. He is very much a spring horse and the better ground at Aintree could see him improve bundles on his four runs this term. Of those four races, his best performance came when he finished fourth in the Grade 1 Christmas Chase on yielding ground behind Gold Cup contender Road To Respect. A winner of the National Hunt Chase and runner-up in the following years Gold Cup, he arguably has the strongest form of all entered and is a best priced 25/1.
Of those rated in the 150s, the 2016 runner-up The Last Samuri (159) 20/1, Ladbroke Trophy winner Total Recall (156) 12/1, Noble Endeavour (154) 33/1 and last years runner-up Cause Of Causes (153) 20/1 are all of obvious interest. The first and last mentioned have been there and done it over course and distance and the other pair have solid handicap chase form. This has likely been the plan for all four and they have been campaigned appropriately throughout the season.
Despite news breaking in the week that Total Recall would be heading to the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival first, he would still need to be considered with his chance dependent on how hard a race he has.
Vicente (151) got no further than the first in this last year, but again, looks like he has been campaigned with this in mind. As a dual Scottish Grand National Winner, he is a proven sort on decent ground and if putting it all together on the big stage he would have serious claims. He is prone to a few jumping mistakes but at around 33/1 he is certainly worth taking a chance with just 5lb higher than his second Scottish National win.
Last year’s eighth, Regal Encore (150) 66/1, comes here racing from the same mark as last year and could improve on it without winning. He gets 9lb more from Blaklion and an extra 3lb from Cause Of Causes and given a slightly more positive ride he could easily be on the premises at a big price as he fits a lot of the required criteria. The same sort of thing can be said for last year’s sixth Vieux Lion Rouge (150) 40/1, who also finished seventh the year before. He has a good record around these fences and has only had twelve runs over fences so could still improve now that he is a nine-year-old and back on decent ground. He was well beaten by Blaklion in the Becher Chase in December but that was on heavy ground and the stable had been relatively quiet.
Seeyouatmidnight (149) 33/1 is lightly raced for a ten-year-old and has just eight starts over fences, but they include a win over both Blaklion at Cheltenham (Grade 2 Dipper Novices Chase) and Bristol De Mai at Carlisle (Listed Intermediate Chase). He is yet to be seen out this season so a prep race would ideally be needed for him to be considered but his third in the Scottish Grand National answers a few questions regarding whether he would stay the trip. A slight concern would be that all of his wins have come where he “Made All” or pushed the pace which is difficult in a race of this nature. He gets in with a fantastic weight compared to what he has achieved so far though.
A progressive type that has been bought by Trevor Hemmings specifically for this is Warrior’s Tale (149) 50/1. His last two runs behind Wakanda and Gold Present read very well and he has a good profile for this. His stamina needs to be confirmed but on his last two efforts, it doesn’t look as if he is lacking in that department. He could turn up at Kempton next weekend or head to the Festival for one of the three-mile-plus handicaps where he would likely have a fantastic chance.
There are then quite a few who should just squeeze in and get a run including Gas Line Boy (148) 33/1, Pleasant Company (148) 40/1, The Dutchman (148) 33/1, Saint Are (147) 50/1, Vyta Du Roc (147) 33/1, Carole’s Destrier (147) 66/1 and Raz De Maree (146) 50/1.
Of that bunch, Gas Line Boy may be twelve but he has run three solid efforts in a row and they have been his best runs to date. He has plenty of form over the fences, including a fifth in this last year and he won this season’s Grand Sefton Chase over two miles five furlongs. The trip may just stretch him but he will likely run his race after a nice break. Vyta Du Roc looks to be Nicky Henderson’s best chance this year but he can race a little lazily and if he gets too far behind early on he will find it difficult. He is an out-and-out stayer though and that long run-in will be where he puts in all of his best work.
The rest may need a little bit of luck to get a run, but of those lurking just outside, Abolitionist (146) 33/1 would look to hold a huge chance. His third to Our Duke in the Irish Grand National and second to Empire Of Dirt in the Troytown Handicap Chase read very well and he has joined Grand National-winning trainer, Dr Richard Newland. Ideally, he would need to make an appearance over the next week or so just to blow away any cobwebs as he hasn’t run since August. Off a potential light weight of 10st 4lb he would be very interesting if getting to take his chance – he needs at least 11 to come out.
Blaklion @ 10/1 (Bet365) 5pts WIN (1/4 1-2-3-4-5) NRNB (BOG)
Abolitionist @ 20/1 (Bet365) 5pts EW (1/4 1-2-3-4-5) NRNB (BOG)
Noble Endeavour @ 25/1 (Bet365) 2pts EW (1/4 1-2-3-4-5) NRNB (BOG)
Cause Of Causes @ 20/1 (Bet365) 2pts EW (1/4 1-2-3-4-5) NRNB (BOG)
The following horses meet certain criteria of previous winners and will be narrowed down come race day for combination tricasts:
(5) Minella Rocco 20/1
(6) Blaklion 10/1
(9) The Last Samuri 20/1
(10) Mala Beach 40/1
(13) Total Recall 12/1
(16) Noble Endeavour 33/1
(19) Cause Of Causes 20/1
(21) Carlingford Lough 66/1
(26) Vicente 33/1
(29) Regal Encore 66/1
(37) Warrior’s Tale 50/1
(40) Gas Line Boy 33/1
(41) Pleasant Company 40/1
(44) Saint Are 50/1
(46) Vyta Du Roc 33/1
(47) Carole’s Destrier 66/1
(50) Raz De Maree 50/1
(51) Abolitionist 20/1
Plenty of horses make the grade at this point, although thirty-three of the fifty-one have been crossed off. Still, it suggests that it is looking like a very good renewal this year and others will be dependent on race day conditions.