Few sporting occasions in Britain capture the public imagination like the Grand National at Aintree, with almost half the UK adult population having a flutter on the big race. The race this year is massively ground dependent with weather conditions up and down this week like an umbrella.
In fields with forty runners it can pay to have a few horses onside and with the jockeys mostly agreeing the ground was good on the opening day and selective watering set to take place, the two I fancy are Killyglen and Chicago Grey. Killyglen was outperforming odds of 66-1 in last year’s race, bang in contention, before falling four from home. Killyglen likes to run from the front which is an advantage in this bustling field and trainer Stuart Crawford is capable of giving Northern Ireland their first Grand National winner.
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Chicago Grey knows how to ready a National runner having won the big one in 2007 with Silver Birch. Nine-year old Chicago Grey is on a decent handicap mark and if he can overcome previous jumping lapses we could see a grey coloured horse back in the winner’s enclosure for the first time in over fifty years.
Should the clouds blacken down Aintree way, both West End Rocker and Giles Cross love to get their hooves dirty and would be two for the shortlist.
The supporting Aintree card on Saturday is simply wonderful. In the opening two races Nicky Henderson has every chance of getting his day off to a flyer. Firstly with Simonsig in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle though I wouldn’t be opening the wallet if the ground does turn soft. In the following 2.15 Maghull Novices’ Chase it shall be a privilege to watch Sprinter Sacre strut his stuff. The Aintree Hurdle at 2.50 is a corker of a race and I suggest you don’t leave Zarkandar out of calculations. In the Champion Hurdle at Aintree the five-year old was given too much to do by jockey Daryl Jacob, noticeably staying on strongly all too late. Zarkandar wasn’t 100% on the day either with many horses in the yard at that time being under the weather. The Nicholls’ team believe Zarkandar is back to his Triumph Hurdle winning form of last year and go for him to beat Champion Hurdle winning stable-mate Rock On Ruby and other luminaries such as Oscar Whisky, Overturn and Thousand Stars. In the last, Population from the John Ferguson yard can win the bumper.