Can Oscar Time win the National or will Big Fella Thanks progress - our full preview
This really is looking like it could be a vintage Grand National. The trends that we usually follow for our winner have thrown up a number of good horses, and it's hard to separate them. However, I really do like the look of Oscar Time - and amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen is looking for a unique treble - the King George, the Gold Cup and the National. Now that really would be something.
Oscar Time may not have seen the National fences before, but he's got the stamina, he's nicely weighted, and he's done well on this kind of ground before. He's a good jumper and with a jockey whose Aintree pedigree is unquestioned on his back, he's probably going to have a real impact. That's not forgetting Big Fella Thanks, who we picked out two years ago as one to watch for this year - as a seven-year-old, he put in a sterling race to come 6th, and then came 4th last year behind Don't Push It. He's progressing every year, and loves going round Aintree - he'll probably finish, and he could well steal this, but only if he's improved his stamina - as 9-year-old, he ought to be there, but you may have to take that on faith.
Another you cannot discount is Niche Market - a classy horse who fits every single National trend we can find. Paul Nicholls has never won a National, having entered 48 horses, but that seems more like a freak stat, and it has to change one day. Niche Market could be the one to do so - a brave jumper who knows the fences and is equally nicely handicapped.
Ballabriggs is a beast, and he's going to love this trip - a few have questioned his stamina, but he's challenged Denman in the past and won impressively with top weight at Cheltenham. He's a battler who fits the Grand National profile, and if your money is on him, then you've got every chance of getting something back. In fact, the more we look at this horse, the fewer doubts we have that he's a National winner in the making.
Further down the list, one horse whose odds have been a little too long is West End Rocker. He would probably have loved a bit of rain - and it remains to be seen how much of a watering the course will get overnight. That said, he's one of those horses who looks like a National horse, and he should go off well.
I have my doubts about The Midnight Club, and I'm not entirely sure why. The Ruby factor may be dragging his odds down, although he looks to be within the handicap and that will help him - I'd just have preferred him to have more experience. Talking of experience, the excellent State of Play is back for another stab, and he's fresh as a daisy - just how he likes to be. He's a National regular, and will get round - a really good each-way bet. Comply or Die is another with great National experience (you can't get better than winning it), and finds himself back at the age of 12 with a nice weight - another very good each-way chance.
I've dismissed the chances of Don't Push It mainly because nobody has taken 11st10lb around Aintree and won - Red Rum did it with 11st8lb, and he was extraordinary. Don't Push It is good, and has been primed for this, but not even Tony McCoy can do this - can he? Equally, I've overlooked Hello Bud, who has National pedigree, but at the age of 13, would be only the fourth-ever 13-year-old to win this race.
Further down the list - much further - is Grand Slam Hero, a 100-1 shot who handles good ground nicely, and looks like a half-decent jumper. If you're one of those who likes to pick out a good each-way punt, then this, for me, is the pick of them, alongside Surface to Air, whose class before injury was undoubted. Now 10 years old, he's back and would otherwise have had much shorter odds.
Our pick: Ballabriggs to win it from Oscar Time, just, with Big Fella Thanks, West End Rocker, Niche Market and Grand Slam Hero following home.
published: 8th April 2011 by Free Bet Bookmaker
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