Lydia Hislop: National guide
Using bottles of Crabbie's Ginger Beer as her gauge, Lydia Hislop assesses the field for the Grand National.
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Ginger beer scale:
5 bottles - Fiery
4 bottles - Quenching
3 bottles - Inoffensive
2 bottles - Flat
1 bottle - Dregs
0 bottles - Your round
More consistent than mercurial since joining Paul Nicholls and remains high class. An excellent third in the Welsh Grand National gives him every chance but unseated when behind in the 2011 National. May not enjoy a revisit but that could be lingering prejudice. Unexposed at marathon trips still. Veteran.
A former Cheltenham Gold Cup and dual King George winner who's been a long way below his best this season, despite winning last time. Disconcerting how much he has lost his way and prone to error, but long-suited in stamina and his UK career-long jockey boasts an inarguable record over these fences.
Formerly vastly progressive chaser, returned from an unfortunate US stint. Conjured back to nearly his best on just his second start for Nicky Henderson when fourth in the Ryanair. Appeared to stay 3m 1f at Aintree in 2012, but not so on heavy ground at Cheltenham. If little rain, perhaps wrongly dismissed.
Ran well to the eye in the Gold Cup, given he was cannoned into when in sixth at the second last, but a breathing problem reported. Odd no tongue-tie here. Won the 2013 Topham and stayed well to win the Hennessy. A lot of rain would detract from his chance. Statisticians say he's too young. Capable.
Jumps well but has twice not seen out his race when in second this season. Trainer Paul Nicholls cites lack of full fitness for both: seasonal debut in the Hennessy and having just recovered from colic in the Argento. Disappointed at this meeting last year. Good case on paper, perhaps less so to the eye.
Quito De La Roque
Very decent chaser at his best, including when winning a Grade Two novice at this meeting in 2011 and fourth in the BetFred Bowl last year. More capable than widely thought ground-wise. Pulled up last time out symptomatic of a below-par season, though. Needs to bounce back.
Blundered and unseated his rider at the Chair in this last year. Good third in the Troytown at Navan in November but below his best since, completing on only two of his last three starts. Passed over by Tony McCoy.
Second in last year's Topham over a shorter course of the National fences but has totally lost his way this season. Stamina to prove, even at his best.
An improved performer not only over his favourite cross-country course at Cheltenham, but also over more conventional fences there in October. Went off too fast in this race last year and worry that could be repeated with so many front-runners here. Shame, as likeable otherwise. Rain a negative.
Some of his very best efforts have played out on Aintree's Mildmay course and ran well in this season's Charlie Hall. Poor efforts the last twice. This will be his first sighting of the National fences and his jumping is a worry.
His Warwick win on his penultimate start was probably a career best and he managed a third over these fences in the Becher last December. Represents last year's National-winning combination of Sue Smith and Ryan Mania. Should run creditably without quite being good enough.
A popular third in this race last year, having been outstayed from the last, and returns on a generous 2lb lower mark. Showed he is as good as ever this season when second at Ascot and a creditable in-the-van eighth in the Gold Cup last time. Hard to kick out of the frame.
Across The Bay
His connections prioritise the Grand National but he begs to differ. Finished thirteenth last year and since eighth in the Becher. Will be taken on for the lead. Would prefer heavy ground.
Won five times in 2013, including the Munster National. Returned from a break below his best but probably over an inadequate trip last time. May well do better and is the choice of Tony McCoy on his first run in the UK. Versatile enough regarding ground. Not dismissed, as unexposed at marathon trips.
Many of his best efforts have come at this meeting, including a hurdle-chase double on the Mildmay course last year. Has backslid into overt sulking this season, refusing to race at Newbury. May exercise his right not to take part at some stage on his National debut. Cheekpieces back on to kid him through.
His doughty third behind On His Way, the subsequent Gold Cup second, and Mount Benbulben in a Grade Two at Fairyhouse last time has been oddly overlooked. Dismissed by statisticians for his youth and lack of three-mile win, but he didn't lack stamina there. Interesting at a big price.
Lion Na Bearnai
Won the Irish Grand National in 2012 but both British sorties ended with him pulling up, in last season's Hennessy (hampered twice early) and Scottish Grand National. An encouraging win at Fairyhouse two starts ago was followed by disappointment last time. Davy Russell still rides, though.
Prince De Beauchene
A keenly desired attendee who has missed this party at the 11th hour the last twice. Won over the Mildmay fences at this meeting in 2011. Below his best so far this season but more encouragement last time. Saddled by hugely respected connections. Couldn't be sure his time has passed.
Has the ability but not the jumping for this task, but schooled intensively by Zara Phillips. Beat Teaforthree in the Welsh Grand National last season and bettered that form with victory at Cheltenham in December, but jumped characteristically poorly last time. Even Paul Carberry can't keep remounting.
Won the 2013 cross-country at the Cheltenham Festival and improved on that when finishing third there to Balthazar King last time. Deserted by Paul Carberry for his National-fences debut but should take to the task. Likely to run well without being good enough.
Currently leagues below his best form, usually at Newbury, but dropped by the handicapper comparably. More promise last time at his favourite track with cheekpieces, in the hands of a deft target-trainer and tongue-tie added. Has run well at this meeting in the past. Jumping worry for his National debut.
Blinkered and better than his bare Kim Muir ninth at the Cheltenham Festival last time, blundering badly at the second last. Well beaten on his first attempt at marathon trips at Haydock prior to that, but has always shaped as though it should suit. National fences debut. Possibly not ideally suited by the track.
Won the Welsh Grand National last December but well held at Ffos Las last time. Suspicion he needs heavy ground. Course debut. Probably lacks the requisite pace.
The Rainbow Hunter
Had benefitted from a breathing operation prior to his career-best victory in the SkyBet Chase last time out. Prior to that, his jumping often let him down, such as when unseating at the Canal Turn in this race last year. Needs to prove his sketchy jumping is a thing of the past. May prefer softer ground.
Was an improved and largely consistent performer this season until falling early on at the Cheltenham Festival last time. His Welsh Grand National sixth may indicate marathon trips are not his bag.
Chance Du Roy
Appeared to stay 3m2f of these fences in the Becher last December, having taken second over a short course in the 2012 Topham. Haydock may have been too heavy and he attacked too soon in first-time cheekpieces at Ascot last time. On the premises.
This thorough stayer put up his best effort yet when second to Mountainous in the Welsh Grand National, but was subsequently tailed off at Haydock. May require more testing ground to slow his opponents down.
His December win at Kelso is the highlight of his career to date, but he has been below that level the last twice. You can argue this young National-fences debutante is untried at marathon trips and hails from a yard that knows what's required, but that feels flimsy.
Pineau De Re
His Exeter chase win and latest third in the fiercely competitive Pertemps Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival demonstrate that he's back to his very best for his current trainer. This 2013 Ulster National winner is poised to be a serious threat, albeit he fell over these fences in the Becher in December.
Formerly a gutsy front-runner over hurdles and fences, even placing third in a Grade Two at this meeting in 2011. Became patchy then spent almost two years on the sidelines. Won a hunter chase last time but this is hurling him back in at the deep end.
Less patiently ridden than usual prior to unseating in the Kim Muir last time and hated racing right-handed at Ascot. Consistent summer form had previously culminated in a best-ever win at Cheltenham in October. Rain a negative. Ideal run style unsuited to this race.
Stays extreme trips but has completed only once in his last three starts. Fell at the first in the Becher. Pretty much tailed off last time and may prefer testing ground.
Excellent third at the Cheltenham Festival last time, returning from a year's absence. Had pulled up on his previous two starts. Very capable stayer on his day, but unseated at the tenth following errors in the 2010 Grand National. This track may not be to his liking. First-time cheekpieces applied to help.
Raz De Maree
Won the Cork National in 2012 but below that form in four starts since and failed to complete in two of those. Arguably a glimmer of hope in first-time blinkers at Down Royal last time. First-time visor here probably a plus. UK debut, stamina-laiden and probably versatile enough with ground.
Rose Of The Moon
Likes Wetherby best, including when typically bossing lesser opposition there two starts ago. Tenth in the Becher last December, never getting into it. In too deep here. First-time cheekpieces trusted to have a positive effect, but blinkers weren't in the past.
Headed only at the second last when ultimately ninth in the 2012 Grand National, having also completed in the Topham the previous season. Off for nearly two years and returned encouragingly enough in a jumpers' bumper at Kempton. Less promise with fences added since. Cheekpieces added to help.
Ran to near this best when winning two starts ago at Cheltenham but pulled up there last time, perhaps not loving deep ground. Has been known to throw in the towel, so questionable what he'll make of his first sight of these fences. Run style far from ideal. Will be plugging on late if still going.
Last Time D'Albain
A staying-on third in last year's Topham over these fences, following distinct promise on his first try at three miles when shuffled back at a crucial stage at Leopardstown. Prepared mostly over hurdles this season, but disappointed on his sole chase start. Interesting if bouncing back.
One In A Milan
A thorough stayer whose best effort was fourth in the Welsh National, although well below his best in two starts at Chepstow since. Also placed in the 2013 Midlands National. Course debut. May prefer deep ground. A visor introduced to help him keep up.
This will be his seventh attempt at the National fences and he's only failed to complete once. Sixth last year and even better when fifth in the Becher last December. Often best fresh. Lost all chance at the start at Cheltenham last time. In the veteran stages now, though. Honourable run likely.
Crabbie's Grand National:
1 - Buckers Bridge
2 - Pineau De Re
3 - Last Time D'Albain
4 - Teaforthree