Top broadcaster Mike Cattermole reveals his Randox Health Grand National pick and top six selections with Willie Mullins fancied to win the race for a second time.
RATHVINDEN is taken to land a wide-open Randox Health Grand National for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh and thereby give the master jockey a third success in the great race.
Rathvinden had promised much as a young horse when third to Faugheen in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham way back in 2014 but injury forced him off the track for just over 1000 days.
To see him do so well since then is a testament to his trainer and the horse’s resolution and he has since shown the speed to win chases over two and a half miles (in testing conditions) before landing the National Hunt Chase over four miles on soft ground at last year’s Festival.
His reappearance win in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February has shown him to be as good as ever and that was the same race used by Mullins for Hedgehunter before he took the National in 2006.
With Ruby on board, proven in the conditions and suited by the stamina test, he only needs luck in running to go close.
Tiger Roll is already a chaser who has reached legendary status after winning this race (on heavy ground) a year ago and gaining four successive wins at the Cheltenham Festival. His latest win in the Cross Country was one of his best ever and he must have good prospects of “doing a Red Rum” and defending his title.
Last year Davy Russell committed for home at the elbow and went clear but their lead was eaten into late on by Pleasant Company (well below his best in two starts this season) and he just held on by a head. Expect Davy to hang onto him a bit longer this time.
Back in fourth was Anibale Fly who warmed up for this with an excellent staying-on third in the Gold Cup and another prominent showing should be expected, although he is 5lb higher this time.
The JP McManus colours will also be carried by Minella Rocco (ground has gone for him) and Regal Encore, whose eye-catching eighth in this behind One For Arthur in 2017 still intrigues me. He ran well at Ascot last time but looks a bit too high in the weights now.
Last April’s Scottish National at Ayr – on good - is worth a look with Joe Farrell beating Ballyoptic by a nose with Vintage Clouds four lengths behind in third.
Joe Farrell looked in good shape when warming up for this with a second at Newbury last month and the rain this week will do him no harm, either. He has to make the shortlist.
Ballyoptic has been disappointing since and fell here over these fences in December’s Becher Chase, while Vintage Clouds has had a wind operation and bounced back to his best when a gallant second in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month.
Back in third was Lake View Lad, another grey owned by Trevor Hemmings who shaped like a stayer there, jumps nicely and has no issue with the mud flying.
Another sound jumper is Go Conquer who has been hovering around the 50-1 mark even though he comes here in the best shape of his life after an emphatic win at Doncaster. However, I have always thought him better on good groud and will he stay?
One that has gone under the radar a bit is Walk In The Mill who landed the Becher Chase over these fences in December on his favourite soft ground (from Vieux Lion Rouge) and has ben deliberately kept over hurdles by Robert Walford since to protect his handicap mark.
There is a niggling doubt about him staying but it would be some double for his owner, Baroness Harding, who won the Gold Cup with Cool Dawn in 1998. He appeals at around 25-1 as an each-way player.
Finally, a mention about the in-form David Pipe and his duo. Vieux Lion Rouge tries again in his fourth National and will give Tom Scudamore a nice ride but he is a blatant non-stayer.
The other one, Ramses De Teillee will be suited by the rain that has fallen this week and since having a wind operation last summer he has gone from strength to strength, with good seconds in the Welsh National at Chepstow and Grand National Trial at Haydock.
The trouble is his age – no seven-year-old has won the great race since 1940. Maybe next year?
Grand National Verdict
1. RATHVINDEN, 2. Tiger Roll, 3. Joe Farrell, 4. Vintage Clouds, 5 Ramses De Teillee, 6. Walk In The Mill
GET THE FULL PICTURE: Don't miss out on FREE video replays and our fantastic My Stable tracker. Log in now and become a Sporting Life Insider.