Grand National: A-Z guide
Will Hayler and Ben Coley provide an A-Z guide to the 84 horses entered for the John Smith's Grand National.
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Across The Bay (D McCain): Prominent racer whose winning form has all been on testing ground. That said, ran well on good ground on sole visit to Aintree so drying conditions not too much of a concern. Modest run in Welsh National though and will need to improve dramatically for a first try over the National fences.
Albertas Run (J O'Neill): Four-times Grade One winner who owns a fine record at Aintree and loves nothing more than bouncing off spring ground. Trouble is, he's now 12 and hasn't been seen since a fair run in the Melling Chase last spring. Trip has to be a concern, too, and it's a bit late in the day for this in all honesty.
Alfie Sherrin (J O'Neill): Relatively lightly-raced horse who has always looked capable of popping up in a valuable staying handicap. Judge him on his good-ground form and the picture looks better still, the highlight a third in the Irish National, but sole try beyond four miles saw him pulled up in the Midlands equivalent so hard to fancy at this stage.
Always Waining (P Bowen): If horses-for-courses are your bag, then this one might be for you for he's won the last three renewals of the Topham Chase, a race contested over the National fences. However, surely history beckons for him in that contest, especially with the shorter trip much more to his liking. Here's hoping he wins it again but as far as this feature goes we move on.
Any Currency (M Keighley): Stout stayer who has been tried in a variety of appliances and with some success, too. Bounces off spring ground and gets three and a half miles and maybe more, but made a shuddering mistake on sole try over these fences and it's anyone's guess as to how he responds to that.
Auroras Encore (S Smith): Prolific in the spring and sprang a 50/1 surprise over hurdles at this meeting many moons ago. Beaten just a head in last year's Scottish National to advertise his love for this type of stamina test but efforts since suggest that effort has very much left its mark and little chance of an encore.
Backstage (G Elliott): Two tries in the National have seen this one run well, most recently when 10th behind Ballabriggs in 2011. Since then he's been prolific in point-to-points but the most recent of his 12 victories in that sphere came in February 2012, so his well-being is known to very few. Unlikely to be cast in a leading role.
Ballabriggs (D McCain): Brought the house down when a well-backed winner of this race in 2011, before returning last year to finish a gallant sixth when a late mistake may have cost him a slightly better finish. Pulled up in the Becher when last seen but campaign geared around his attempt to become the first horse since Red Rum to win back his crown. He'll struggle to do that, but should run his race.
Balthazar King (P Hobbs): Prolific good-ground horse who landed the Cross Country Chase at last year's Cheltenham Festival. That will doubtless be his target once more and bringing his best here after that race won't be at all easy, but he does look a thorough stayer who is at his best in the spring while experience of unique Cross Country fences will stand him in good stead. On balance, wise men may swerve.
Becauseicouldntsee (N Glynn): Not unfancied when falling in the 2011 renewal and similar comments apply to last year's effort, which saw him take a tumble at the Canal Turn. Prior to that had shown what he's capable of when a fine second at the Festival - behind subsequent National runner-up Sunnyhillboy - but has serious questions to answer as to the suitability of this contest. Can't see it.
Beshabar (T Vaughan): Eleven years old and yet we've only seen him 12 times - Beshabar has certainly had his problems. A win in the Scottish National and a second in the National Hunt Chase says four miles and beyond seems to suit him well, but unless we see him prior to the big race it would be bold to expect a winning performance on the back of an absence stretching back to 2011.
Big Fella Thanks (T George): Now in the care of Tom George, this one has had his chances at Aintree, but simply doesn't seem to stay the trip. It's a shame, because he jumps the fences well and previous finishes of seventh and fourth are not to be sniffed at. Can he find extra reserves of stamina now 11? It's not beyond the realms of possibility, nor is it likely.
Bob Lingo (T Mullins): Winner of the 2012 Galway Plate but offered nothing on his sole start of this season. Looks too high in the weights, a doubtful stayer, better on soft ground and yet to leave Ireland. Next.
Bostons Angel (Mrs J Harrington): Winning the 2011 RSA Chase seemed to knock the stuffing out of this galloper, as it has so many before him. However, he could have been rejuvenated by an excellent pair of runs in the Cross Country sphere and on his best form he'd be a fascinating contender as he's classy, he looks like he'll stay and he's well treated on his very best. Whether this or the Festival will be the aim remains to be seen but wherever he goes, keep him in mind.
Calgary Bay (M Channon): At least completed last year having fallen in the 2011 National, but that's about the only positive to come from a perfomance which saw him beat just one fellow finisher and lose sight of the leaders from some way out. Hasn't beaten a rival in two starts since, weighted to his best and frankly has no chance.
Call The Police (W Mullins): Likeable enough type who pays his way in Graded races in Ireland. Career highlight to date came when third in a good renewal of the RSA Chase last season and is unexposed over trips beyond three miles, but doesn't look to be crying out for this sort of test nor spring ground.
Cappa Bleu (E Williams): Fourth at 16/1 last year, beaten 12 lengths, and trainer thinks he's capable of another big effort this time around granted slightly better fortune. Certainly has a touch of class about him and off a similar mark to that which he ran off in 2012, he'd look a big player especially as he's lightly-raced for one of his age. Shortlisted.
Chicago Grey (G Elliott): Winner of the 2011 National Hunt Chase and hasn't perhaps had ideal conditions since. Brought down in last year's National when sent off a 20/1 chance and, having caught the eye over hurdles last time, he's being brought along nicely for another go. Will have to put last year's experience behind him but if doing so the feeling is that he has a big run in him. A recent wind operation won't have done his prospects any harm either.
Cloudy Lane (D McCain): Backed down to 7/1 favouritism when sixth in the 2008 renewal and hasn't bettered that effort in two subsequent starts. Won the Hunter Chase at the Grand National meeting last year and will be a contender should he bid to defend that crown, but it looks most unlikely that he'll get into the feature and his shot at glory has surely gone.
Colbert Station (T Walsh): Trainer knows what it takes to win this having done so with another well-backed nine-year-old in 2001. There are definite similarities between Papillon and this horse, who improved to run out a ready winner of a good staying contest in Ireland over Christmas and would certainly be one to look out for if getting a run off what would likely be a featherweight, especially if Ruby chose to ride.
Cross Appeal (N Meade): The last seven-year-old to win the Grand National? Bogskar in 1940. Not all that many try but this one probably won't be able to given his current rating and he makes less than no appeal.
Fabalu (D McCain): A tired faller in the Becher Chase, this front-running type looks unlikely to get a run and if he does, he'll need to prove that these fences and this trip is to his liking. Evidence so far suggests he's in love with neither, even though his canny trainer has long reckoned him the right sort of horse for the race.
Forpadydeplasterer (T Cooper): Ended a losing run stretching back almost to the Stone age when scoring at Thurles in November and undoubtedly has the class to take his hand. Unblemished jumping record another plus but surely has no earthly chance of taking this.
Frisco Depot (C Longsdon): Bought with this race in mind when joining Charlie Longsdon last summer, but fell on first start for new connections and blighted chance with series of errors before being pulled up in Hennessy last time out. Still time to show his true colours for talented trainer but at this stage the Grand National hardly seems the most logical target.
Gullible Gordon (P Bowen): Led the field to the second-last fence in the Becher Chase before Christmas and clearly handles the Aintree obstacles effectively enough, but a very poor run since and unlikely to get into the final line-up from his lowly rating in any case.
Harry The Viking (P Nicholls): One of two possible runners for Fergie, so sure to get a lively reception on the day at Liverpool. Put two stinking efforts behind him when producing something better in the Hennessy last time out, but possible he will bounce back on spring ground and stamina certainly not an issue judged on NH Chase second to Teaforthree. Not unfeasibly weighted and not to be ruled out despite questions over his wellbeing.
Imperial Commander (N Twiston-Davies): Came back from almost two years off with a gutsy display when second to Cape Tribulation in the Argento Chase, but owners report that he is a doubtful starter and fact that he is so much better when fresh suggests that he would be up against it even if turning up after the Gold Cup.
Jessies Dream (G Elliott): Nearly two years since last seen on track, but trainer reports that he is nearly ready for his return now after leg problems. Interesting to see which route connections ultimately choose to take with this classy performer (trainer hinted that Cheltenham might come soon enough) and couldn't be backed until the picture becomes clearer.
Join Together (P Nicholls): Struggled in the very highest grade previously, but still has stacks of decent staying form to his name and arguably slightly unlucky not to overhaul Little Bud in the Becher Chase last time. Everything points to this trip proving no problem and now that we know his jumping can hold up over the famous fences he must be considered a leading player.
Joncol (P Nolan): Memories of his 2010 Irish Hennessy success becoming increasingly hazy, but most recent efforts over inadequate trips far from dreadful and not impossible that he can cash in on gradually-declining handicap mark at some stage. Just doesn't really appeal as a Grand National type though.
Katenko (V Williams): Plenty of size to him and looks the sort of horse who would relish the Grand National fences rather than fear them. In the form of his life for new stable and every reason to think that his stamina can be stretched to the Grand National trip. Hard not to feel however after another rise in the weights that his chance for this race may have been compromised unless he can do something amazing in the Gold Cup beforehand. Perhaps best to wait until the trainer has decided upon plans.
Lambro (W Mullins): Trainer loves to stick a good few in the race each year and this looks one of the stable's lesser chances given that he lacks experience over fences and hasn't been seen on track for some time.
Lion Na Bearnai (T Gibney): Stepped up on anything achieved before by a long, long way when winning the Irish National last season. Only subsequent appearance saw him pulled up in the Hennessy and anyone's guess whether he is capable of repeating that form.
Little Josh (N Twiston-Davies): Not as yet qualified to run in the race as he is still to finish in the first four over three miles or more, but trainer likely to have something in mind which will enable that box to be ticked in time. However, despite his tidy success over the fences in the Grand Sefton Chase being an obvious plus for his prospects, the fact remains that his chances of getting home over four and a half miles look negligible.
Lost Glory (J O'Neill): Struck a rich vein of form in the summer and good ground would definitely be in his favour. Not seen since toughing it out at Chepstow in October and has fallen off the radar to some extent, but interesting to see his name in this line-up and despite his Flat pedigree he hasn't appeared to be lacking in stamina before.
Magnanimity (D Hughes): Flashes of form in the book, including when beaten only narrowly (behind Bostons Angel) in the RSA Chase two years ago. Handles really testing conditions better than most and probably has the ability to take a hand if he takes to it, but suspicion must be that only Magnanimity really knows when his going days are going to come.
Major Malarkey (N Twiston-Davies): Stamina not an issue for this reliable old stick, but he will struggle to get a run against higher-rated rivals and in any case probably wouldn't have the class to keep up. Easy to rule out despite his trainer's record in the race.
Matuhi (D Pipe): Another who is not yet qualified to run having failed to make the frame over three miles-plus and his first fence-fall in last year's Topham Trophy hardly increases confidence. Connections clearly think he can still cut it over the fences. We can all dream.
Midnight Chase (N Mulholland): Gutsy frontrunner at his best and form of last year's Argento victory over Tidal Bay is good, but simply doesn't look the same so far this season and hard to see a revival coming in this big field. Furthermore connections have expressed reservations about running here in previous years.
Mister Hyde (J O'Neill): Three wins in four starts since headgear was applied and better than ever in bottomless ground at Kempton on latest start. Might not be the most straightforward and still some stamina reservations despite most recent win over three miles.
Mortimers Cross (J Needham): Winner over four miles in bottomless ground at Kelso but unlikely to be in touch for more than a few fences if he manages to get a run. Act of God required.
Mr Moonshine (Mrs S Smith): Highly-regarded novice a couple of seasons back who seems to have lost a yard or three of pace in recent times, but latest second to Cape Tribulation was clearly no disgrace and there are far fewer worries over his stamina than most. Not the most absurd longshot in the line-up.
Mumbles Head (P Bowen): Trainer can get them ready for this meeting, but balance of recent form suggests he won't be good enough. First-fence faller on his only previous attempt at these famous obstacles.
Ninetieth Minute (T Taaffe): Still to convince as a steeplechaser and jumped poorly in a big field last time out. Flashes of fair form on his day and trainer's desire to run him here must be respected but recent efforts suggest that he will never match his best hurdling form over fences.
Odysseas (Y Porzier): Experienced French handicap chaser, who has a better chance of taking to these fences than some. Hard to be sure he isn't good enough, but latest domestic form appears to have reached a plateau.
On His Own (W Mullins): Big, good-looking chaser who has very few miles on the clock and hasn't been seen this season as connections wait for the weights before showing their hand. Everything looked to be going to plan until coming down at Becher's on the second circuit last year. This, as they say, has been the plan ever since.
Organisedconfusion (A Moore): Decent effort in a three-mile handicap hurdle over Christmas confirmed that he hasn't lost the plot and it probably wasn't his fault when unseating Nina Carberry in a melee at the Canal Turn last year. Irish National winner of 2011 encouraging for his prospects and his overall profile ticks plenty of boxes.
Oscar Time (M Lynch): Gallant runner-up to Ballabriggs two years ago but ruled out of attempt to go one better through leg injury. Two runs this season have suggested that the ability is still there - although it clearly wasn't ideal that he failed to complete the course last time - and despite his rising years it wouldn't be a surprise to see him right on the premises again jumping the final fence.
Outlaw Pete (J Halley): Former point-to-pointer turned cross-country specialist, who is bound to have the cross-country race at Cheltenham on his agenda in March. Stamina probably not an issue and evidently able to navigate his way around tricky fences, but he looked mulish in the Thyestes last time out, tailing himself off before plodding past rivals late on. Clearly has a mind of his own, but he wouldn't be the first quirky character to relish a challenge such as Aintree.
Pandorama (N Meade): Beset by injury problems in recent times but his staggeringly good 9-from-13 strike-rate tells you just what a good horse he can be on his day. First start for nearly two years when well behind in the Lexus last time but hard to believe his trainer would be persevering if he thought he was a hopeless case and decision to put the horse in this race is a fascinating one.
Pearlysteps (H Daly): Jumping went to pieces at the end of last season, but second in the Peter Marsh Chase shows what he is capable of when it all clicks. Stable in better nick this season but it takes a brave man to recommend a dodgy jumper in the National.
Pentiffic (Miss V Williams): Another who will need plenty of non-runners to come out above him if he is to get a run and also needs to prove Musselburgh success earlier this month was no flash in the pan. Never easy to put a line through from one from this stable. Apart from now.
Planet of Sound (P Hobbs): Happily bowled along in front for a long way in last year's race and clearly enjoyed the challenge but looked a spent force from the second-last fence and hard to see how his stamina will last out this time even if ridden less aggressively.
Poker De Sivola (F Murphy): Tricky customer who seems to enjoy picking rivals off over marathon distances but Aintree didn't seem his cup of tea in the Becher Chase when given a first try over the track. Interesting to see what his trainer has in mind in the months ahead but suspect that a repeat bid at the Bet365 Gold Cup might be the ultimate aim.
Prince De Beauchene (W Mullins): Another rock-solid Irish contender. Well fancied for this race last year until a late injury scare and handicapper is now able to take his Bobbyjo Chase victory into account, meaning that he is less well treated than would have been the case 12 months ago. However although latest hurdles victory means nothing in the context of this contest, it did at least prove his wellbeing and no surprise to see him go very close having been pointed towards this race and this race alone since the start of the season.
Problema Tic (D Pipe): Not done with when falling in the Becher Chase and had looked to be enjoying himself until that point. Interesting horse who has done well since leaving Nicky Henderson and still not exposed - might have preferred him to have had a little more experience for this though.
Quel Esprit (W Mullins): Had his jumping issues in the past but got it all together when winning Irish Hennessy last season. Gives the impression that he doesn't want too much racing so perhaps not a negative that he hasn't been seen yet this season although will be at the top end of the weights and his profile doesn't quite fit.
Quinz (P Hobbs): Game winner of big Kempton handicap in 2011 and consequently well fancied for this race but looked to hate every minute of the experience and may still have been carrying the scars when pulled up twice subsequently. Off the track since and trainer perfectly capable of getting the engine firing again, but surely unbackable for the time being.
Quiscover Fontaine (W Mullins): Seen only once since falling when sent off 50/1 in this race last year, and that effort over two miles did little to help us assess his prospects here. However, he's yet to win outside of handicap company and shouldn't be considered a major player should he make the line-up.
Quito De La Roque (C Murphy): A fascinating possibility, should he run. This horse has class - he's won in Grade One company over fences and has beaten Sizing Europe off levels - stays all day and loves spring ground. Fits the bill from an age perspective, returned to form in the Kinloch Brae last time and as a big, bold jumper he could just take to these fences. Sadly, we may have to wait another year to find out.
Rare Bob (D Hughes): Brought down at the fifth last year so will have to put that behind him, but has put in a clear round over these fences in the Becher Chase so granted better luck he could run a fair race. Classy a few years ago but probably on the downgrade now and will have to find improvement for the trip, which really is the only hope for backers.
Roberto Goldback (N Henderson): The sole Seven Barrows representative after Shakalakaboomboom was ruled out of the race due to a setback. Impressed on his debut for these connections when comfortably winning a decent Ascot handicap off 150 and providing he's not overburdened there's hope he could be a factor here. Negatives are that he's 11, has run poorly since the aforementioned win and has stamina to prove, but victory for him wouldn't be a total shock.
Roi Du Mee (G Elliott): Progressive eight-year-old who likes to sit close to the pace and went down fighting behind Quito De La Roque last time. Suspicion is his chase rating is a tad flattering and that this trip will stretch him, but at the right end of the age scale in terms of scope for further improvement and certainly in good hands.
Romanesco (G Elliott): French-bred who has improved for a switch to this yard and put in a career-best when chasing home Colback Junction last time. Never nearer than at the finish that day so this sort of stamina examination could just what he needs, however he's most unlikely to get a run and will need to keep improving to hold any chance of getting in next year's race.
Saint Are (T Vaughan): Game winner of the John Smith's Handicap Chase here last spring and arguably still improving, having bounced back from a fall in the Hennessy to finish a staying-on fourth at Cheltenham last time. With spring ground more to his liking and a record of 1-2-1 at Aintree, he could surprise a few, although this may come a year or two too soon.
Seabass (T Walsh): One of the best-backed horses in the race last year and for much of the contest it looked a case of job done as he travelled and jumped well. Having led at the elbow lost nothing in a five-length third and, a year older, it's easy to see money coming for him again for a trainer who has been there and done it. Hasn't been seen since and will need to improve again to defy a likely stiffer mark, but that's entirely possible and clearly a contender.
Shakervilz (W Mullins): Looked a potential star in his younger days before eventually finding his level, one shy of top-class. Has been tried in Cross Country races and with some success, but while well-treated on his past hurdle form it's fanciful to think he'll run, let alone win.
Soll (J Hughes): Started just 8/1 for the National Hunt Chase at last year's Festival but was brought down on what proved to be his final start for Willie Mullins. Now with Jo Hughes and has only fared satisfactorily in two runs for her, and while he's beginning to look well-treated he's also fallen to a rating which makes it seem unlikely that he'll get a run.
Summery Justice (V Williams): Did well to win at Perth when last seen given the blunders made but will have to have improved in that department to complete here. Not seen in the best part of a year and this by some way his toughest task, so it'll be more shocking than when 100/1 chance Mon Mome won for this trainer should Summery Justice land the spoils.
Sunnyhillboy (J O'Neill): A nose away from landing a Cheltenham Festival - Grand National double when just touched off in this race last year. Wouldn't read too much into both starts since as redemption will have been firmly in the minds of connections, and while the inclination would be to think his best chance has gone, that he clearly relished the unique test offered cannot be overlooked. Still only 10, it's far from impossible to imagine this one defying a tougher mark with conditions likely to be right up his street. Fits 'The Bill'. Geddit?
Swing Bill (D Pipe): Gave Conor O'Farrell a lovely spin round these fences when 10th last year and when last seen finished fourth in the Becher to demonstrate that he has what it takes to complete. However, he's now 12 years old and while this Cheltenham specialist will give you a run for your sweepstake 50p, you'll still be left to rue the fact that someone who has less ability than you but is paid considerably more got a much better ticket. Life isn't fair.
Tarquinius (G Elliott): Called some names in the past, this is another horse whose switch to Gordon Elliott's base has seen an apparent change in attitude. A nose defeat in the Thyestes will go some way to helping him make the cut here and he is the type who could just take to the test, but while likeable enough he lacks a touch of class for this level of competition.
Tartak (T Vaughan): Finest hour came here a couple of years ago and does relish a sound surface. Those are the positives. Negatives? Probably won't stay, on the downgrade, beaten from here to Haydock on his sole try over the National fences. Requires a particularly vivid imagination.
Tatenen (R Rowe): Smart to the extent that he was once sent off favourite for an Arkle but has generally been on an arc of steady decline since and is now in the care of Richard Rowe. Has popped up and won a couple of valuable handicaps for the yard and for that he deserves credit, but unseated his rider when sent off 100/1 for this last year and if he completes, that's a victory in itself.
Teaforthree (Miss R Curtis): Likely to be popular with punters having won the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and finished a game second in the Welsh National, when the subject of an almighty gamble. That defeat once again highlighted his staying credentials and as something of a left-handed track specialist, there's no reason to doubt that he'll take to Aintree. Will he take to the fences? Time will tell, but if he does then he's a major player.
The Package (D Pipe): Unseated his rider when 14/1 for the 2010 renewal and will certainly need to jump better if he's to get round. However, it's close to impossible to fault any of his subsequent runs over fences while it's equally easy to forgive a flop over hurdles last time, so there's a case to be made for him at a price. Will need a career-best but the feeling is that he deserves another crack at this race.
The Rainbow Hunter (K Bailey): Steadily progressive nine-year-old prior to being pulled up at Chepstow in December. Whether that shows that he's reached the limits of his ability of simply that he got bogged down in attritional conditions remains open to debate and there's a case to be made for giving him another chance on better ground, but not in this race.
Tidal Bay (P Nicholls): Fascinating contender. A Grade One winner over two and three miles, this horse has a serious engine and while he's rightly been called some names in the past, he's been brought back to his best by Paul Nicholls who goes for back-to-back wins in this race. You'd want to know that Ruby Walsh is on board - or at least a jockey who knows the beast well - but in the right circumstances he'd make some appeal here as he could relish creeping his way into contention providing the fences can be overcome. How hard a race he has at Cheltenham must also been taken into account on the day, but no horse has a flawless profile and few - if any - have his latent ability.
Tofino Bay (D Hughes) Classy novice chaser who landed a deserved Grade Two success at Naas in January. With entries in three of the novice chases at Cheltenham it's hard to fathom exactly why he's been given this entry, because asking him to run in both at this stage of his career would be, well, a little much. That said he is old for a novice - this one is 10 - and should he come out of the Festival buzzing then connections will surely be tempted. Hard to weigh up.
Treacle (T Taaffe): Found stones of improvement last season and was sent off just 22/1 for the Grand National as a result. A faller at the 10th, he has to leave that behind and it's a slight concern that he's not been seen since, but such was the rate of his progression last term that it's hard to rule him out. Stays all day and goes on any ground.
Viking Blond (N Twiston-Davies): Bold-jumping front-runner who is more than able on his day, but equally tends to throw in the odd shocker. Latest effort in the Welsh National was appalling which now leaves him with something to prove, and the more I look at his form the more I think he's best left.
Weird Al (D McCain) Dual Grade Two winner who has shown glimpses of promise since, such as when beaten only seven lengths in the Betfair Chase on his return at Haydock. Has since flopped badly at Cheltenham but heavy ground perhaps to blame and he does seem to go best fresh, so it may just be that he wants some time in the sidelines and some better ground.
What A Friend (P Nicholls) Talented but enigmatic, and not dissimilar in profile to stablemate Tidal Bay, albeit probably a couple of pounds inferior. Mistakes cost him any chance in this race in 2011 but it's possible that the race came too soon after a fine fourth in the Gold Cup, especially as he's another who has often produced his best after a break. Should he skip Cheltenham, this enigmatic 10-year-old could figure.
Wyck Hill (D Bridgwater): Improving horse whose defeat of Katenko at Ascot reads better with each passing week. While his progress this year has coincided with testing conditions, he's got form on better ground too and has only one blemish on the CV since being switched to fences. Definitely one to keep an eye on moving forward, but the trip and fences pose questions to which he must find answers. On balance, it's likely he'll fail the exam.