Ok, yes, it is very early days. The National Hunt season has not even got into full swing yet, but this is the time of year to find the best value on the most valuable steeplechase in the world. Here we will look at some of the main contenders for the big race at Aintree next April to try and point readers in the right direction for an ante-post wager.
According to Betfair, the early favourite for the 4 miles 3 ½ furlongs contest, run over 30 fences is Shutthefrontdoor, trained by Jonjo O’Neill. The seven-year old (who will be eight on the day of the race) shot to the head of the ante-post market with a decisive win in the Irish Grand National back in April. Owned by JP McManus – who has already tasted victory in the race with Don’t Push It back in 2010, the son of Accordion could be a lively contender.
An indication to the merits of Shutthefrontdoor may well lie with Holywell – who beat its stable mate by 3 ¼ lengths at the Cheltenham festival last March, in receipt of 4lbs. Holywell has since climbed to the head of the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting after winning at the Aintree meeting, and the horse’s further improvement this season would only boost the form and hopes of Shutthefrontdoor.
Last years’ winner, Pineau De Re will look to buck the trend that goes back to the legendary Red Rum who was the last to record back-to-back Grand National wins in 1973-74. A five-length success over Balthazar King, the Dr Richard Newland trained 11-year old proved too good for the rest of the field and returned a 25/1 winner. The major concerns for Pineau De Re are the facts that no horse has retained the National for 31 years, and he will be 12 years old come April – Amberleigh House is the only 12 year-old to win since 1996 – which must be another negative.
He will also be in the firm grip of the handicapper also after such a convincing performance that is likely to make it a much tougher task. Records are there to be broken however, but the statistics are surely against Pineau De Re this time around.
A couple of horses who ran with promise in the 2014 race that will hope for improvement are Double Seven, trained in Ireland by Martin Brassil and Paul Nicholls’ Rocky Creek. Double Seven ran a very creditable third place finish back in April under the champion jockey AP McCoy, finishing 6 ¼ lengths behind the winner. Providing that Shutthefrontdoor turns up at Aintree, McCoy will have a serious headache in deciding of which JP McManus horse to choose from, but Double Seven has the course form in the book, which is an obvious plus.
Rocky Creek was touted as a potential Gold Cup horse in the not too distant past, but those lofty aspirations have since faded with some mediocre performances at that level. A fifth-place finish back in April was a very decent effort on the 8-year olds’ first time over the National fences and a crack at the 2015 renewal could well be the gelding’s main target this term.
One to keep an eye on at a fancy price is the Jim Dreaper trained Goonyella. The seven year-old son of Presenting narrowly missed the cut for the 2014 race, but will surely be aimed again in 2015. Some reasonable performances in last years’ Welsh National and the 2014 Irish National without causing too much noise could well be a benefit this time around especially if the ground turns out softer than good.
It is obviously a very difficult task to pick the winner of the 2015 Grand National with over seven months to the race, but hopefully some of these horses could well be picking up a piece of the prize money come April. There is value to be had at this time of the year in placing a small stakes wager on the event, good luck in finding it!