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Guide to the 40 runners in today's Aintree Grand National

Updated: Saturday, 06 Apr 2013 16:29 | Comments

Katie Walsh and Seabass finished third in 2012. Can Katie Walsh be the first lady rider to win the Aintree Grand National?
Katie Walsh and Seabass finished third in 2012. Can Katie Walsh be the first lady rider to win the Aintree Grand National?

JOHN SMITH'S GRAND NATIONAL - PINSTICKERS' GUIDE 4.15pm

1. IMPERIAL COMMANDER (Nigel Twiston-Davies)

Grand performer and former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who very nearly produced an amazing comeback from almost two years off when just beaten in the Argento Chase. Was being prepared for the Gold Cup again but missed out with a lung infection. Rating (out of 10) 7

2. WHAT A FRIEND (Paul Nicholls)

Once of Gold Cup standard but did not appear to take to the National last year and has become increasingly erratic. 2

3. WEIRD AL (Donald McCain)

Capable on his day, but looks rather caught between two stools as he has not proved quite up to open races but too high in the weights for handicaps. Easily overlooked 3

4. QUEL ESPRIT (Willie Mullins)

Bold-jumping grey who won last year's Irish Hennessy and should shape a lot better than his comeback in the same event. Stamina might be a concern but this class act could well enter calculations at a rewarding price. 9

5. BIG FELLA THANKS (Tom George)

Has contested the last three Nationals, managing fourth at best but always among the first home. Has been in decent form for his latest trainer during the winter but is looks unlikely he'll be able to post a higher placing. 4

6. SEABASS (Ted Walsh)

Campaigned tremendously well by his shrewd trainer to win three in a row before last year's National, where he looked for a long way like he might provide a fairytale success for jockey Katie Walsh. Jumped like an old hand, still has few miles on the clock and goes on the shortlist after a decent build-up. 8

7. ROBERTO GOLDBACK (Nicky Henderson)

Showed useful Graded form in Ireland before making a winning debut for his Henderson at Ascot in November. Has long been targeted for the race by likely champion trainer but has plenty of weight and stamina a concern. 4

8. SUNNYHILLBOY (Jonjo O'Neill)

Had been a frequent disappointment when fancied in big races before finally getting it right in last year's Kim Muir. Went on to finish an agonising whisker behind Neptune Collonges in the National and while his trainer will have him peaking here, this season's performances have not been encouraging and his new weight could stop him. 7

9. BALLABRIGGS (Donald McCain)

The 2011 winner had a light campaign in a bid to defend his crown but weight took its toll and he faded to sixth after looking dangerous. Showed promise on his most recent start at Kelso and comes alive over these fences but is now 12 and still looks overburdened. 5

10. TEAFORTHREE (Rebecca Curtis)

Confirmed stayer as a winner of the four-miler at Cheltenham who more recently finished second in an epic Welsh National. Not as good next time at Haydock and while a fine advertisement for his yard, has had several hard races this season and is passed by on this occasion. 4

11. ACROSS THE BAY (Donald McCain)

Showed his well-being with a good win over hurdles recently but has yet to really reach the same heights in chases. Moderate in the Welsh National and this will be just as demanding. 3

12. JOIN TOGETHER (Paul Nicholls)

Ran very well over the National fences in November and has been targeted at the race but was a failure in the Grimthorpe Chase, when pulled-up. Must shake off that showing and may just be a little inexperienced at this stage but not inconceivable he bounces back. 6

13. COLBERT STATION (Ted Walsh)

Arrives as a similar candidate to stablemate Seabass a year ago, chasing his fourth win on the bounce and with proven attributes for a big staying chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. Question mark is whether he has enough experience at fencing for such a demanding challenge, but highly respected. 7

14. FORPADYDEPLASTERER (Tom Cooper)

The 2009 Arkle hero has spent his career over two miles and would be causing an enormous shock. 1

15. ON HIS OWN (Willie Mullins)

Expensive purchase from the point-to-point field always looked like being a chaser and will once again be a big fancy for his top connections. Fell in last year's race and is still rather inexperienced but a likely stayer and won very nicely over hurdles at Navan on his comeback. 9

16. JONCOL (Paul Nolan)

Giant chaser won the 2010 Hennessy but failed to hit those heights ever since. Could just take to the fences and give a show at a big price but not an obvious winner. 5

17. BALTHAZAR KING (Philip Hobbs)

Hero of the 2012 Cheltenham cross-country race clearly jumps well but did not make this year's running and is likely to find things happening too quickly. 3

18. CAPPA BLEU (Evan Williams)

Smart but fragile pointer ran very well to finish fourth last year and the National has been Williams' sole aim. Both his starts this season have been encouraging and he must rank as a danger with confidence high. 7

19. OSCAR TIME (Martin Lynch)

The 2011 runner-up is able to run off exactly the same handicap mark as his greatest effort so would be theoretically competitive but missed last year through injury and has not shown enough this term to suggest he's the same horse. 7

20. ALWAYS WAINING (Peter Bowen)

Remarkable Aintree performer who pulled off an unprecedented third consecutive victory in last year's Topham Chase. Loves the fences but stamina clearly an issue and now a little long in the tooth. 3

21. TATENEN (Richard Rowe)

Unseated his rider early on last year, is a doubtful stayer and cannot enter the reckoning. 1

22. TREACLE (Tom Taaffe)

Useful staying chaser on his day who perhaps arrived at last year's race, when he got no further than the 10th, with better form than he has managed this time. Won a small race at Down Royal but age is catching up with him at 12. 4

23. LOST GLORY (Jonjo O'Neill)

Represents a good stable for the race and entered a fruitful period in the summer but has been off a long time and even his own trainer has a more worthy candidate. 3

24. SWING BILL (David Pipe)

Likeable grey has run well over the fences before, but that has been in the Becher and never really looked like getting home in the vanguard. A bit hit-and-miss this term and others are preferred. 2

25. SAINT ARE (Tim Vaughan)

Won well over the Mildmay fences here last year but surely too young to make much of an impact. 3

26. CHICAGO GREY (Gordon Elliott)

In good hands with bang-in-form National-winning trainer, he showed ready stamina in the four-miler at Cheltenham in 2011 and had no luck in last year's race when brought down. Brought through carefully this season, the 10-year-old showed he was coming to the boil by winning the Red Mills at Navan and ranks as a leading contender. 10

27. QUISCOVER FONTAINE (Willie Mullins)

A hint of confidence can be taken by his excellent effort on a rare attempt at such a trip in the 2011 Irish National but fell last year and a victory would be one of the finer achievements of a trainer who is admittedly capable of pulling off miracles. 3

28. RARE BOB (Dessie Hughes)

The subject of market support after really catching the eye on his latest outing in the Leinster National. Now on his third attempt at the National and while he had no chance when brought down last year, he made mistakes on his previous visit and does throw in more than his fair share of weak efforts. 4

29. THE RAINBOW HUNTER (Kim Bailey)

Sneaked in for a guaranteed start by winning at Ascot in November but out of sorts since then and hard to recommend. 2

30. BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE (Noel Glynn)

Forgiven an unlucky fall in last year's race but still prone to mistakes. While capable of giving his supporters a run for their money, it is hard to see him carrying the cash over the line first. 5

31. HARRY THE VIKING (Paul Nicholls)

Far from the horse he was as a novice last year and too inexperienced. 2

32. MR MOONSHINE (Sue Smith)

Has never developed from being such a bright novice prospect and cannot be taken seriously here. 1

33. MUMBLES HEAD (Peter Bowen)

Perth summer specialist will fare better when he returns to his favourite haunt. 1

34. NINETIETH MINUTE (Tom Taaffe)

A little optimism in his most recent outing at Down Royal but not the most polished jumper and has won just once over fences in his entire career. 1

35. AURORAS ENCORE (Sue Smith)

Ran a fine second in last year's Scottish National but has shown nothing approaching that form since. 1

36. TARQUINIUS (Gordon Elliott)

Quite an experienced grey who has made good progress for his capable young trainer. Just touched off in a superb finish for the Thyestes Chase before running badly at Naas. Must improve from that but could be the biggest lurker at the bottom of the weights. 7

37. ANY CURRENCY (Martin Keighley)

Unseated rider over the fences in the Becher and never shone in smart company. Dismissed. 1

38. MAJOR MALARKEY (Nigel Twiston-Davies)

No stamina concerns about this Midlands, and more recent London, National runner-up but well over two years since his last win and that is unlikely to change here. 1

39. SOLL (Jo Hughes)

Filled connections with high hopes when arriving from Willie Mullins' stable this term but has mustered one minor win so far and this is too much, too soon. 2

40. VIKING BLOND (Nigel Twiston-Davies)

Went off at 80-1 a year ago only to fall at the first and not much to say he'll make a major improvement on that here. 2

Verdict:

CHICAGO GREY was unfortunate to be brought down at the fifth fence last year after arriving at Aintree with the right sort of profile. Trained by a man who knows what it takes in Gordon Elliott and a winner over four miles at Cheltenham, he has been coming to the boil nicely during the season and comes here off the back of the win. In a renewal where a fair few can be discarded, the nicely-weighted 10-year-old is capable of leading home an Irish dominated finish. Willie Mullins' pair On His Own and Quel Esprit are capable of giving him most to do, with last year's fourth Cappa Bleu the best chance for another home victory.

1 CHICAGO GREY

2 On His Own

3 Cappa Bleu

4 Quel Esprit

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