The Grand National Preview by Ronan Groome

April 14th, 2023 | Ronan Groome's Racing News

The Grand National isn’t the race it once was and last year was the clearest indication of that. A seven-year-old novice chaser with just six completed starts over fences would have done well to get around the course pre 2013 (when they altered the fences) but this is a winning profile now.

Noble Yeats was only the fourth ever novice to take part in the National since the fences changed, so you can’t exactly say he was breaking trends but he was further breaking into the idea of what a typical National winner is.

The race is more resembling your general long distance handicap chase, like the old Hennessy, the Classic Chase and the Ultima to name a few, rather than the truly unique contest it once was, where you needed to jump big and bold just to stay in contention. One thing that has stayed true is that the National, although the richest handicap chase anywhere in the world, is always the most inaccurate handicap given the weights are published six weeks in advance and horses can’t be penalised thereafter. So we have a raft of officially ‘well in’ and ‘well out’ horses, hence at an advantage or disadvantage respectively.

With all this in mind, my shortlist is made up of unexposed chasers who like Noble Yeats, could explode in improvement for this longer trip. I narrowed it down to six – Corach Rambler, Our Power, Ain’t That A Shame, Mr Incredible, Vanillier and Dunboyne. I will narrow this down to three but I’d just like to touch on the three that didn’t make my cut.

Corach Rambler is 10lbs ‘well in’ officially having won back-to-back renewals of the Ultima at Cheltenham last month. He also has a lightly-raced profile which hints at more to come so you can clearly see why he is favourite. I have a slight worry about his running style. I know Derek Fox has done it before on One For Arthur but it’s probably not ideal to be that far back in the National as you need a greater slice of luck. I’m very close to backing him, but I don’t want to back more than three.

Also cut from the list is Ain’t That A Shame, who has a profile not too dissimilar to both Noble Yeats and Minella Times, but I’m just a bit worried about his stamina and he has been well backed already on account of Rachael Blackmore riding him.

Mr Incredible is a quirky sort, who can hang and run in snatches, but he is very talented and is ‘well in’ on his run in the Kim Muir officially, though the form of that contest was let down to an extent by Angels Dawn and Stumptown in the Irish Grand National.

That leaves the magic three.

Let’s start with Our Power, who is a third season chaser but remains lightly raced over fences, going two from two this season and has four wins from eight chase starts altogether. He was being trained for the Coral Gold Cup earlier in the season and went to the Bateaux London Gold Cup at Ascot for a prep, but went ahead and won that contest, staying on strongly over the 3m there.

He met a setback then so didn’t show up at Newbury, but again defied a reasonably long lay-off when winning the valuable Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton, coming with a sustained run to get the better of Flegmatik. He is officially 2lbs wrong at the weights in the National, but that Kempton win pushed his official rating forward to 147, so he’s actually 4lbs ‘well in’ and if he can prosper over this longer trip, he’ll be a big player.

Vanillier became very interesting for this after a big run in the 3m1f Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, where he just failed to give 8lbs to Kemboy, who off a mark of 157, would have been conceding him 12lbs if that Grade 2 was a handicap, so it was a big run from Gavin Cromwell’s horse.

So far he has failed to live up to expectations as a chaser, given just how impressive he was when bolting clear late on to win the Albert Bartlett as a novice. His jumping has largely been his downfall but he was better in this regard at Fairyhouse, and racing over a longer distance should give him a bit more time. He is another who is ‘well in’, although only by 3lbs, but more pertinently, you’re banking on him improving for this big step up in trip and if he does, he will be thereabouts.

I tried to find one down the market to complete the trio and Dunboyne fits the bill at the 50/1 mark, as the only novice in the race. He has only had the seven runs over fences and his second to Carefully Selected in the Thyestes was a big effort, as was his fourth in the Kim Muir next time. He is in form and improving, and there is every chance he could prosper over this longer trip. The worry for him is the drying ground but I’m sure Aintree officials will be keen to get plenty of water on the course and we’re getting plenty of compensation with the price.

Good luck with whatever you are backing in what is the most exciting race of the year. However the other two handicaps on the National card are always good betting options too and I’ve backed a horse in each of them.

In the extended three-mile handicap hurdle (2.25), I really like Jonjo O’Neill’s An Tailliur. He finished third to Shoot First in a Pertemps qualifier early in the season and was basically kept back for the Final all season on the premise that he likes good ground, so it certainly wasn’t ideal that he had to race on soft last month, with his trainer outlining that beforehand.

With that in mind he ran a huge race in sixth, with O’Neill jnr meeting significant traffic problems on his way through. It’s difficult to say he’d have won, but he was good for third in my book, and now we get a chance to back him on better ground and with race fitness on side. Prices of 8/1 looked generous to me.

Then, in the curtain raiser to the Grand National, the 3m1f handicap chase (4.15), Coconut Splash is worth backing at 12/1.

This race looks devoid of well-treated horses and you’re relying on potential as much as anything with the likes of Nassalam and Beauport. You’re relying on that too with Coconut Splash but he has a greater base level off the back of a good run to finish second to City Chief on his first start over this trip at Hereford.

He appeared to stay fine that day, and although no match for the winner, that was no disgrace as Nicky Henderson’s horse went on to win the Grade 2 Towton Novice Chase next time out. Given Coconut Splash has proven his stamina now, Adam Wedge can ride him a little more forcefully if he wants.

He was always well touted as a potentially nice horse, and though he may not have realised his potential as of yet, he still has time as an eight-year-old with nine starts over fences (hit the frame on eight of them).



Marten’s Aintree Daily Bulletin including Grand National analysis £10

Marten writes: “Read my analysis of the Grand National from 8pm on 14 April – almost 2,000 words – with my recommended forecast combination. My information for the support card, with a long-priced one for a handicap, will be available by 12 noon on Saturday 15 April.”

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Ronan Groome is a contributor to our Weekend Card. You can learn more about our weekly magazine by clicking here