This year’s John Smith’s Grand National promises to be the usual mix of thrills and spills, triumph and disaster, but does appear to have attracted a very good quality field on a par with anything seen in the race for some years, writes Elliot Slater.
After giving the matter a great deal of thought and working on the assumption that there will be decent ground at Aintree on April 9, I recommend Ballabriggs as the horse they all have to beat. Trained by Donald McCain, son of Aintree living legend ‘Ginger’ (the man who saddled the mighty Red Rum to three wins in the race in the 1970s and also sent out Amberleigh House to win in 2004), Ballabriggs has been aimed at this ever since winning at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival, landing the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase in tremendous fashion after a ding-dong battle with Faasel. He is one of the favourites in the horse racing odds, and will take some beating.
A winner of his first two starts this term (both over hurdles), the 10-year-old was returning to fences for the first time in a year when narrowly outpointed by the capable Skippers Brig at Kelso. Most people were disappointed in that defeat, but not McCain who it appears left ‘something to work on’ going into the Kelso contest. A horse who stays well, is invariably a good jumper, and will go on the ground, 14/1 shot Ballabriggs is my idea of this year’s Grand National winner.
My other suggestion at much bigger odds is the Henrietta Knight-trained Calgary Bay, a horse with more than a touch of class who is a very rare runner in the race for his famously anxious handler. Fourth to Poquelin at Cheltenham in December then a good second to the useful Wishfull Thinking back at the Prestbury track in January, the 33/1 shot could surprise many pundits by proving he stays the marathon trip and to my mind represent fine each-way value.