Grand National Countdown – Weekend Review
Aintree Grand National
Last weekend was awash with news surrounding next month’s Grand National at Aintree, where a number of connections declared their runners in fine fettle ahead of the big day.
Nicholls’ Rebel With A Cause
One such runner was Paul Nicholls’ big-race winner from Newbury, Rebel Rebellion, who won a decent handicap over 2m4f. It was a victory that made Nicholls think about the National, and having already won the valuable Grand Sefton Chase at Aintree last season, Rebel Rebellion looks an interesting contender at 33/1.
Nicholls does have a couple more contenders, including the current second favourite, Rocky Creek, who was last seen winning a valuable Grade 3 Chase at Kempton over 3m last month. That was an improved effort from the 9yo, who will be looking to go four places better than when fifth to Pineau De Re (beaten 19l) in last year’s Grand National.
Pineau De Re Back For More
As for Pineau De Re, then his trainer Richard Newland reported him to be in good form on the gallops at the weekend, and is expecting a big race in defending the crown. Given just the one outing this season when beaten 19l in the exact same race at Cheltenham he was third in prior to winning the 2014 National, it will take a mighty performance if becoming the first back-to-back winner since Red Rum in 1974. At 20/1, others make more appeal at this stage.
Balthazar For King?
Beaten only five lengths into second by Pineau De Re last year was Philip Hobbs’ Balthazar King, who has been punted into 14/1 to go one better this time around. Hobbs also made good noises about his runner at the weekend, saying his only run this season (when winning at Cheltenham in November), has been a ploy to keep him fresh, as Balthazar King goes well after layoff.
Another who made the frame in last year’s National was Alvarado, who was around 16l in fourth for trainer, Fergal O’Brien. Despite being 51st in the weights at present, O’Brien is confident his 9yo will get into the race, and reports him in good form at home.
McCoy For ‘Grand’ Exit?
Tony McCoy looks to hold the ace in the National pack on the JP McManus-owned, Shutthefrontdoor, who currently heads the market on 8/1.
McCoy’s last hurrah could well be one for that fairytales are made of, especially as his ride has the right pedigree, having won last year’s Irish Grand National, and McCoy hinted at the weekend that he may retire if coming home in front – a tip perhaps?
Also at Aintree will be Rock On Ruby, who has recovered from the poor scope which ruled him out of the World Hurdle, but is now set for the Aintree Hurdle, in which he was beaten just a head 12 months ago. However, two absentees from Aintree will be jockeys, Barry Geraghty and Davy Russell, who were injured at the weekend.
The Flat Is Back!
While most thoughts are on Aintree, there is the small matter of the Flat starting this weekend, when both the Lincoln and Irish Lincolnshire take place. Many oceans away, though, will be the richest race in the world, the Dubai World Cup, in which last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome, will look to justify his 7/4 odds.
Third in November’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, California Chrome, looks set to go close, despite his owner’s concerns that the Tapeta surface will be different to the dirt he has faced back home. However, his trainer reported him to have worked well on the surface at the weekend, which will come as good news to his backers