Grand National Outsider Options
The Aintree meeting that takes place from Thursday 7th – Saturday 9th April is one of the highlights of the racing calendar and this year promises to be no exception. After an incredible Cheltenham Festival, the National Hunt focus moves to Liverpool, with the main event being the world famous Grand National steeplechase. Raced over four miles and three and a half furlongs, the 30 fences provide the stiffest test in the jumps calendar. The race takes roughly nine minutes to complete and stops the nation for its duration.
Many Clouds – ridden by Leighton Aspell and trained by Oliver Sherwood – won last year’s race, and is the current bookmakers’ favourite to become the first horse to win back-to-back Nationals since the great Red Rum back in 1974. Admittedly, 42 years is a long time, so it could prove profitable to look beyond the market leader on this occasion, and below are some alternative options who could make the winners’ enclosure in 2016.
Legendary trainer Nicky Henderson has three entries for the National, and his best chance looks to be with Triolo D’Alene to gain Aintree glory. The nine year-old shot into many National notebooks as far back as three years ago with with victory in the Topham Chase – ran over the National fences. Triolo D’Alene jumped with such an exuberance over the obstacles that is rarely seen in a younger horse. After one National appearance two seasons ago that ended on the second circuit, Triolo D’Alene is on the comeback trail, and is a horse that shouldn’t be dismissed.
Perhaps slightly forgotten from last year, the Jonjo O’Neill trained Shutthefrontdoor is a horse that has been trained entirely with the Grand National in mind this season. Owned by JP McManus, Shutthefrontdoor was the ante-post market leader in the lead-up to the race twelve months ago, and finished in a creditable fifth place last season. After two modest outings at Aintree and Newbury in this year’s campaign, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if Shutthefrontdoor showed his true potential over the National fences, and looks to be solid each-way value at around 20/1.
After his first run for new handler, Kerry Lee, Bishops Road was stepped up in a trip at Haydock’s Grand National trial, and the son of Heron Island didn’t fail to impress. Under Champion jockey-elect, Richard Johnson, the eight year-old saw off his rivals one-by-one to claim the Grade 3 prize in impressive fashion. With a National handicap mark of 144, Bishops Road should sneak into the 40-runner field, but a slight concern could be if the going is better than soft.
The Rebecca Curtis trained O’Faolains Boy ran a fine race for a long way before fading in the recent Cheltenham Gold Cup, and with current National odds of around 33/1, the nine year-old son of Oscar is another one worthy of consideration for the Aintree marathon. Effective on all types of going, O’Faolains Boy is a former RSA Chase winner at the Festival and has never fallen throughout his career. Provided that his Cheltenham exertions haven’t had taken too much of an effect, O’Faolains Boy could give the popular Welsh trainer her finest day yet.
Irish super-trainer Willie Mullins still has the potential to catch Paul Nicholls in the British National Hunt Trainers’ Championship, and with Sir Des Champs amongst his National entries, the 10 year-old Gigginstown House Stud owned gelding could be the deciding factor for Mullins to win the training title on both sides of the Irish Sea. Sir Des Champs has dropped significantly down the weights in recent months, but if that undoubted ability can be found again by his handler, then owner Michael O’Leary could add the National prize to his Gold Cup victory with Don Cossack.