Grand National 2018 preview
It’s the biggest day on the British horseracing calendar on Saturday as the 2018 Grand National takes place at Aintree.
In the ultimate test of horse and rider, a field of 40 horses will take on the world-famous 4 miles 514 yards steeplechase for the 171st running of the race.
Last year, One For Arthur jumped clear at the last fence and stormed to victory by 4 ½ lengths. The Irish thoroughbred won’t be back to defend his title due to injury, so leaves the field open for a new winner to write their name into the history books in 2018.
The main contenders…
Last year’s race was incredibly tight until the last, with Cause of Causes, Saint Are, Blaklion and Gas Lion Boy all running One For Arthur close. Cause of Causes is now enjoying a well-deserved retirement, but the latter three are back for another stint around the famous Aintree track, with Blaklion looking in particularly impressive shape ahead of the big race. Sam Twiston-Davies takes the ride and will be hoping the nine-year old can replicate his form in winning the Becher Chase in November.
One horse looking to bounce back with a strong run at Aintree is Total Recall, who suffered a fall three fences from the finish at the Cheltenham Gold Cup but looks capable of making a real impression here. A lack of knowhow over Aintree fences may count against him, but he ticks most of the boxes that make up the stereotypical Grand National winner.
Another Gold Cup alumnus hoping to make the step up to Grand National glory is Anibale Fly. Trained by Tony Martin, Fly finished a more-than respectable third in that race and looks fresh after skipping the Irish Grand National earlier this month.
The chasing pack…
Could Bryony Frost become the first female jockey to win the Grand National? She rides Milansbar on Saturday, and the 11-year-old may just be able to follow in the footsteps of One for Arthur by following up victory in the Classic Chase at Warwick with a winning run around Aintree.
An eight-year-old won the National last year, can I Just Know repeat the trick in 2018? If you’re looking for a horse in a similar mould to the classy One For Arthur, he could fit the bill. Trainer Sue Smith also has recent Grand National pedigree, helping smooth Auroras Encore’s path to victory in 2013.
If you like to lean heavily on previous Aintree history in making your selection, Vieux Lion Rouge is one horse that has proven he loves to stay the distance over the notoriously challenging Aintree fences. Vieux lines up for a third assault on the National after seventh and sixth placed finishes in the last two years. Can he go a step further on Saturday?
The value options…
Old romantics everywhere will be hoping wily veteran Lord Windermere can add to his 2014 Gold Cup win with a fitting epitaph to his outstanding racing career here. Age may well count against him, but he finished a more than respectable 7th in this race in 2017 and has enough in the tank to feature in the final shake-up if he can stay the course.
A look at the history books suggests Virgilio has all the hallmarks of a long shot Grand National winner. At 10st 7Ibs and nine years of age, the traditional winner’s profile matches nicely with this Dan Skelton-trained horse. If conditions unexpectedly dry up in the run-up to the race, he could perform well.
Finally, the predicted damp conditions may be just the tonic for Raz De Maree, who won the Welsh National at Chepstow in muddy conditions at the back end of last year. At the ripe old age of 13, he would have to rip up all the record books to win at Aintree, but if there’s one thing we’ve come to learn about this unpredictable race – as Foinavon, Mon Mome demonstrate – it’s that we should come to expect the unexpected.
All image sources from PA Images