This time last year we were ‘celebrating’ the victory of Potters Corner in the Virtual Grand National, thankfully this year as we approach the race again, the cartoon version will be replaced by the real thing.
After his simulated “win” Sky Bet priced Potters Corner at 33/1 to win the real 2021 Aintree marathon, he’s now 20/1 to do so, but the drying ground won’t aid his cause.
Burrows Saint was another of my fancies for 2020 before lockdown scuppered his opportunity and I’m hoping for better than his fictional fifth in the virtual race. He’s Sky Bet’s 8/1 second favourite behind 4/1 hotpot Cloth Cap.
So, we have a short priced favourite for the world’s most famous horse race, but does 4/1 about Jonjo O'Neill's charge make any appeal?
Tiger Roll was 4/1 favourite when he won in 2019 but winners at that sort of price are a rarity, even when you go back decades. So the stats are against him, but his form is not.
His owner has a pretty good record in the race too and Trevor Hemmings is now bidding for an incredible fourth victory in the race he prizes above all others. It would be wonderful if Cloth Cap could pull it off for his owner who is famously rarely seen without his own cloth cap.
The aim by his popular trainer was to get this horse rated high enough to get into the four miles two-and-a-half furlong handicap chase and not only has he done that, but he races from a very appealing rating of 148 (he’s now rated 162 over fences, so theoretically a stone well-in).
After a 150/1 shot won the Irish National on Easter Monday, could we see a repeat of the small handful of triple digit winners at Aintree; most recently 100/1 shot Mon Mome in 2009?
Not unless something like Sub Lieutenant can reproduce his peak form for new trainer Georgie Howell. She bought this horse back in September for £50,000 and the ex-Henry de Bromhead/Gigginstown horse has some smart form back in the day.
It would be an even more incredible story for both trainer and jockey Tabitha Worsley, with the latter already a winner over the big Aintree fences in the Foxhunters' two years ago and now bidding to be the first winning female rider in this famous race.
So, from one extreme to the other with a very short priced favourite and a supposed rank outsider (incidentally Sky Bet are paying six places if you do have a big priced fancy).
CLOTH CAP: Because you’d be foolish to leave him out just on the basis of his restrictive odds. He takes a similar route to one of his owner’s former winners, Many Clouds, who won the Hennessy (now Ladbrokes Trophy) the same season before he went on to win the Grand National. (4/1)
BURROWS SAINT: A big fancy for me last year before covid intervened. He had a couple of spins over hurdles in December/January and trainer Willie Mullins got his obligatory run over fences under his belt in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February where he finished a decent second. A return to the decent ground he’s going to get on Saturday will suit as will this marathon trip. (8/1)
SECRET REPRIEVE: He needs three horses to come out at declaration stage to get a run and it will be hugely disappointing if he doesn’t. This looks his best opportunity to get into the race from a lenient handicap mark and the way he jumped and galloped relentlessly to win the Coral Welsh National suggests he will thrive at Aintree. He’s lightly-raced and still improving. (14/1)
MAGIC OF LIGHT: I put her up as an early fancy for the race a couple of months ago and I’m not jumping ship now. She has proven form over course and distance having finished runner-up to Tiger Roll in 2019 and is 5lbs higher in the handicap as she bids to go one better. I like her, but she has nothing up her sleeve and is an each-way fancy at decent odds. (20/1)
PS: Can you imagine how despondent Tiger Roll’s owners will feel if she were to win, having chosen to bypass the race and his chance to win a third Grand National?
GIVE ME A COPPER: This horse is a huge price and one I’ve backed each-way. On the face of it, it isn’t ideal that he pulled up in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last time out, but the ground was soft enough for him there. He goes well fresh so the lack of a recent run is a positive, not a negative. He’s always been considered a National horse by trainer Paul Nicholls and he knows exactly what it takes to win this famous race. (50/1)
However you make your Grand National selections I wish you the best of luck and plenty of fun along the way. It will be wonderful to have the great race back and even better if we can shout one of our selections home.