One of the greatest sights in the sporting calendar is forty steeplechasers thundering towards the first fence of the Grand National. A contest watched the world over and laden with history as both horse and rider attempt to navigate thirty fences to take their place in racing folklore. This month I try to find the winner of “the people’s race.”
The Mersey Novices Hurdle gets National day underway and Melodic Rendezvous needs no introduction to those who go racing more than once a year being a Grade 1 hurdle winner and bringing a rating of 150 to the table. If coming here fully prepared Melodic Rendezvous sets the blueprint for the others to follow but the horse’s fitness is a major concern. Forced to miss the Cheltenham festival with a dirty scope this race may just come too soon. Puffin Billy is held in the highest regards by the Oliver Sherwood team and has been aimed at this race since a bad blunder two from home cost him any chance n the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham. Puffin Billy is expected to run well. Preference however is for Nicky Richards’ Eduard whom you can guarantee arrives in Merseyside 100% fit with this race being a long term target. The ground on the first day of the meeting is expected to be good to soft and Eduard’s record on such conditions is 121. The horse has been crying out for a step up in trip and should be supported each-way.
Alderwood won’t be a stats fans selection in the Maghull Novices Chase at 2.15 with no nine-year old ever winning the race. Alderwood however may be capable of breaking that trend. His recent Grand Annual success at the festival was a personal best, the horse always travelling well and jumping like a seasoned pro. Alderwood looks capable of making the leap from handicap to Grade 1 company. The hugely admirable Overturn runs in opposition and cannot be discounted back on his favoured good ground. His jumping however was far from bomb-proof last time out and there is also the worry Aintree isn’t his favoured track having finished fourth on his only previous outing.
At 4.15 it’s the big one itself and the adrenalin will be pumping but do remember although the race now has a classier entrant and isn’t the lottery it once used to be it’s still ferociously competitive. Keep stakes to a minimum. This year’s renewal is tremendously open but I’ve picked out two horses against the field. Evan Williams Cappa Bleu has been trained meticulously for this contest. Fourth in the race last year the horse was given a poor ride by Paul Moloney and arrives here 2lb lower in weight. Williams knows the time of day with the Grand National having gained a 4th, 3rd and 4th previously with State Of Play. Cappa Bleu’s preparation for the race last year was affected when he endured a tough Welsh National prior to the main event but arrives fresh this time around and is the headline selection at odds of 12-1 with William Hill and Coral.
Quel Esprit is a massive price at 50-1 if returning to his old form. The nine-year old was only 10-1 for last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup before being ruled out with a setback on the eve of the race. The horse likes to run from the front which is ideal for the National and off a mark of 155 is capable of running a big race. Quel Esprit has bypassed both Cheltenham and the Irish National to come to Aintree and while Willie Mullins’ charge doesn’t always find his jumping rhythm, provided he does, 50-1 is too tempting.