Cloth Cap is the one to beat on all known evidence

Grand National preview and verdict from Timeform


Check out the Timeform view on the greatest steeplechase in the world - the Randox Grand National at Aintree.


The Top-Rated

Cloth Cap (Timeform weight-adjusted rating: 192)

Cloth Cap’s rating comes from his high-class effort in last month’s Premier Chase at Kelso, where he made all the running and jumped well on the way to beating the very smart Aso by seven and a half lengths, conceding weight to the runner-up and having plenty in hand. Crucially, that win came after the Grand National weights were published which leaves him looking very leniently treated on just 10-5. Cloth Cap wore cheekpieces at Kelso which he had worn for the first time when running out an impressive 10-length winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November, where he dominated the race throughout under an attacking ride from Tom Scudamore. Cloth Cap will have ground conditions to suit at Aintree, and he is proven over at least four miles having finished third in the Scottish Grand National as a novice two years ago, so he has plenty in his favour.

The Improver

Minella Times (183)

Minella Times won just one of his seven starts in his first season over fences, winning a handicap at Navan off a feather weight of just 9-10 on the only occasion Rachael Blackmore partnered him last term. However, Minella Times has shown much improved form in his three starts this season with Blackmore in the saddle each time. He made a successful reappearance at Listowel in September and has progressed again since to be second in two valuable events at Leopardstown. He jumped well when chasing home Castlebawn West in the Paddy Power Chase in December and went closer still in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival, when keeping on well to be beaten half a length by Off You Go. Minella Times has finished second on his only two tries at three miles, but his stamina for further has to be taken on trust.

The Timeform Flag

Burrows Saint (Hot Trainer)

Willie Mullins had eight winners over Fairyhouse’s three-day Easter meeting, though he was out of luck with his runners in the Irish Grand National. However, with Burrows Saint, Acapella Bourgeois, Class Conti and Cabaret Queen, he has a team of four for the Aintree version which he won with Hedgehunter in 2005. The first two of that quartet contested the Bobbjyo Chase at Fairyhouse last time when Acapella Bourgeois got the better of Burrows Saint to win the race for the second year running. However, that was on heavy ground which suits Acapella Bourgeois, but underfoot conditions at Aintree are likely to be much more in Burrows Saint’s favour. His best form is on less testing going, such as when putting up a career-best effort to win the Irish Grand National two years ago when he was still a novice. A sound jumper who races close to the pace, Burrows Saint looks just the type to take well to the unique test.

The Verdict

CLOTH CAP is hard to get away from and, given luck which admittedly can play more of a part in this race than most, he should win. Representing Trevor Hemmings, who has already owned three Grand National winners, he’s a worthy favourite following that Kelso win which makes him a stone well-in, while he stays well and has underfoot conditions to suit. Irish-trained horses have claimed the first three places in the last couple of Grand Nationals and another formidable challenge from that quarter is headed up by former Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint, Farclas and Any Second Now.


Timeform weight-adjusted ratings:

192 Cloth Cap
188 Farclas
185 Any Second Now
183 Minella Times
182 Lord du Mesnil
182 Potters Corner


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