Free Bet Bookmaker’s Grand National Preview 2012

Selecting this year's winner of the Aintree Grand National is very much a process of elimination. In fact, the more you eliminate, the more you begin to think that at least one of the trends that we use to pick winners has to be broken this year. In fact, by pure application of trends, you're left with a couple of 50/1 shots - are we really looking at a long-odds winner?

It's certainly worth an each-way on the two horses that pop up consistently each time you look at trends - I know that Rare Bob was a disappointment back in December at Aintree, when he finished 5th from 6 finishers, 60 lengths behind the winner, West End Rocker. However, on the plus side, he's a stayer and connections have tilted him at this race with the right preparation. The fact that he's seen the National fences is a plus, so he has to be considered for an each-way bet at the very least.

Here's the list, anyway - and scroll down below the runners and riders for our ultimate preview...

Horse Odds FBB Rating FBB "Final Say" Bet
Synchronised 15/2 **** It will be tough for Synchronised, probably too tough, given that Red Rum was the last horse to carry this much weight around the Grand National Course, and Gold Cup winners generally don't win the National. Not worth 15/2, but a good each-way if the odds were longer. £20 free with Paddy Power
Ballabriggs 14/1 **** 11st9lb is a lot of weight for anyone. Ballabriggs was our easiest pick for many years last year, but this year he'll be good each-way money. The last three last year all carried over 11st, so a place is on the cards for Ballabriggs. £200 free with Bet365
Weird Al 50/1 ** Tough, this - 11st8lb is proof that he's been caught by the handicapper for some decent finishes - a 3rd to Kauto Star at Haydock, and was nowhere in the Hennessy off the same mark. £25 second bet free from Blue Square
Neptune Collonges 33/1 *** A lovely horse and an exquisite jumper, but he never seems to fit the National. We'd love to see him pull something off, and 33/1 is good for the each-way pickers. £20 free with Boyle Sports
Calgary Bay 33/1 ** An early faller last season, but jumping is not so suspect - it's stamina that's under question. £20 free with Paddy Power
Alfa Beat 50/1 **** Surprisingly over-priced in my view - this is a horse that has two Kerry National victories, has bags of stamina, and has already seen the fences, falling in the Topham despite a decent race. Things may be different here so cannot be ignored for a place pick. £200 free with Bet365
Planet of Sound 40/1 ** Has had breathing problems, and there remain questions over his stamina - but... a recent second in the Hennessy and some good finishes can't rule him out completely, but maybe not in the same class as the rest. £25 second bet free from Blue Square
Black Apalachi 50/1 **** A National campaigner who, at the age of 13, may have seen better days. However - he's a brilliant each-way pick because he knows his way round the course. Denis O'Regan picked him ahead of younger horses, so a really good each-way chance. £20 free with Boyle Sports
Deep Purple 100/1 *** Another one you can't ignore for an each-way chance as his stamina has surprised many - even his trainer. If the ground goes good and the rain holds off, he may have a good each-way shot. £20 free with Paddy Power
Junior 14/1 **** Aimed at the National with the right sort of preparation, he's now under the tutelage of David Pipe and is on an upward curve. He won last year's Kim Muir at Cheltenham by an absolute mile, which is why he's so fancied here. Different race, though, and different fences, so not as fancied as others. £200 free with Bet365
Chicago Grey 16/1 **** Stamina - and plenty of it - can this grey be that rare thing? A grey National winner... out of sorts this season, though, and will really need to step up in class to win this. £25 second bet free from Blue Square
Tatenen 100/1 * You want a National winner to have form (and at least one win) over 3 miles. So you can discount Tatenen. £20 free with Boyle Sports
Seabass 22/1 *** Seabass has caught the eye lately, winning a handicap chase at Leopardstown, and has a 3 mile victory in point-to-points. However, stamina is still a question mark - not a negative, just an unknown. £20 free with Paddy Power
Shakalakaboomboom 20/1 **** When connections worry about a trip being too short for a horse, you have to consider him for the National. We can't be sure he's ready for it this year, but we can't entirely rule out Shakalakaboomboom, who will be getting plenty of pin-sticker attention. Improving quickly, has class on his side, as well as Nicky Henderson's stable. If not this year, then definitely next year. £200 free with Bet365
West End Rocker 14/1 ***** Our tip earlier this week, but we're having second thoughts as he hasn't run since late last year. Equally, he's 12lb up on the mark that saw him crush his Becher's Chase opposition. That said, he was going nicely last year before being brought down unluckily, and he has every chance in this wide-open National - so yes, he hasn't run much, but he's fresh, he's got stamina, and despite the firming ground, he's still an excellent pick. £25 second bet free from Blue Square
According to Pete 33/1 *** The ground might no longer be soft enough for him, but he's in great form and therefore cannot be ignored. He's a hardened horse with plenty of stamina, the only worry is that the fences will be just too much for him this Saturday. £20 free with Boyle Sports
On His Own 16/1 **** The Ruby Walsh effect has seen On His Own's odds take a tumble from what would have been realistic odds of 30/1 or so. At eight years old, he may be too inexperienced for this race, but then again - Ruby Walsh in the saddle will add a year or so. He's got a great future, and has some impressive victories under his belt already. Same stable as Hedgehunter, and they know what it takes to win - so cannot be discounted. £20 free with Paddy Power
Always Right 33/1 **** Third in last year's Scottish National brought Always Right to everyone's attention, and he'll compete well at Aintree given his profile. One of the best each-way bets out there, should be in the mix. £200 free with Bet365
Cappa Bleu 16/1 ***** As the ground hardens a little, Cappa Bleu comes more and more into the reckoning. He ran a brilliant third to Le Beau Bai in the mud of the welsh national, and he's from the same stable as State of Play, who gets round every year. They know a thing or two, and the bookies are running scared of this one. Well weighted, and one at the top of the shortlist. £25 risk-free with Blue Square
Rare Bob 50/1 *** A poor performance in the Becher's has to be taken into consideration here - however, contrast that with a fourth in the Irish National as well as decent runs in the John Smiths Handicaps of 2010 and 2011, and you have a conundrum. Rare Bob could be a rare thing, but it's hard to back a horse that was beaten by 60 lengths over these fences. £20 free with Boyle Sports
Organisedconfusion 28/1 ** Irish National winners have a great record, but lady jockeys sadly don't. Still, if anyone's going to do it, Nina Carberry certainly can, but age is against Organisedconfusion - seven year olds very rarely win Nationals, and he needs more experience under his belt. One to watch for the next couple of years, though. £20 free with Paddy Power
Treacle 20/1 ** Third place in the Hennessy, when believed to be a rank outsider, brought Treacle to the attention of the bookmakers, and connections have always said he's a National horse in the making. He's 11 now so it's now or never, and there's nothing to say he's not a good each-way bet. We just don't have much evidence that he'll take on the National fences with such ease. £200 free with Bet365
The Midnight Club 40/1 **** A blunder last year was recovered by Ruby Walsh, and Midnight Club went on to finish a respectable sixth. Since then, he's gone on to earn some excellent places and comes back to Aintree without the spotlight of favouritism that he received last year. 40/1 for a horse that came sixth last year - after a blunder - is an absolute steal. Jumping may be an issue based on last year, but he got round, finished the race, and can certainly do better this year. £25 risk-free with Blue Square
Mon Mome 66/1 *** Always respect past winners, and always respect past finishers. Mon Mome was both. After a surprise win at 100/1, he finished again last year, and while this may represent his last opportunity to do so, a place is not out of the reckoning for Mon Mome. Still a good horse, with plenty left in the engine - just probably not a winner. £20 free with Boyle Sports
Arbor Supreme 100/1 ** A faller last year, and his star has waned somewhat after many thought he was a potential winner last year. Won't mind the ground, and he's been primed for this race with the perfect preparation. Connections are clearly hopeful, but it's hope more than anything. £20 free with Paddy Power
Sunnyhillboy 25/1 **** Winner of the Kim Muir at Cheltenham, in some style - but is that enough? We like Sunnyhillboy, and 25/1 is great for a place bet. This is a step up in class, distance and also difficulty - but why not. He's good, potentially very good, and well weighted. £200 free with Bet365
Killyglen 16/1 **** Ran a decent race last year before coming down at the fourth from home - so this year, his pedigree and stamina have put him among the second tier of favourites. He's got every chance in 2012, having plenty of stamina, good form, a sight of the Aintree fences before - no doubt that he'll run a good race. £25 second bet free from Blue Square
Quiscover Fontaine 50/1 ** We usually avoid French-bred horses - but Mon Mome proved an exception. The handicapper has dropped him in weight so he's nicely weighted, nicely rated and nicely positioned for those who are looking for a long-shot place. 50/1 is as good as you'll get. £20 free with Boyle Sports
Tharawaat 150/1 * Would be a shock if this one got further than 3 miles. £20 free with Paddy Power
Becauseicouldntsee 20/1 *** Likes to be prominent, and keep an eye on the odds because he's got stamina and a year's extra experience since falling last year at the second fence. Another one potentially worth an each-way shout (there are too many, aren't there...) £200 free with Bet365
State of Play 50/1 *** The old campaigner keeps on going - three places in three years. Can he make it a fourth? There's nothing to suggest that he can't other than age, and the fact that others are catching up on him. His time has probably come and gone, unfortunately. £25 second bet free from Blue Square
Swing Bill 100/1 * Will find it difficult. End of story. £20 free with Boyle Sports
Postmaster 150/1 * See above. £20 free with Paddy Power
Giles Cross 16/1 **** Strange to see him so low in the weights after his National trial victory, and other sterling showings. There's every chance that Giles Cross will be involved in the mix at the end. More rain would have helped his cause, but two Welsh National places mark him out as a National type of horse. Every chance, and must be considered. £200 free with Bet365
Midnight Haze 80/1 * Let's hope he has fun, at least. £25 second bet free from Blue Square
Vic Venturi 100/1 * Squeezed in at the bottom of the weights - but two Nationals and he's only cleared a handful of fences, so it hasn't worked for him so far. 100/1 is long, though, and he's found himself bang in form of late - and has recorded classy victories over the National fences in the past (Becher's anyone?) If you're looking for a real outside each-wayer, Vic might be your one. £20 free with Boyle Sports
In Compliance 150/1 * Needs a step up in class and stamina if he's going to compete. £20 free with Paddy Power
Viking Blond 100/1 * See above. Same goes for Viking Blond. £200 free with Bet365
Hello Bud 100/1 * Hello Bud is getting on now, and it would be fantastic to see him get something out of the Grand National. It's just too little too late I'm afraid. £25 second bet free from Blue Square
Neptune Equester 150/1 * A trainer in form but he's trying his luck here. Right at the bottom of the weights with 9-9 on his back, he has been primed for this race, he's just not got the class of all the other horses, unfortunately. Would be a fairytale victory. £20 free with Boyle Sports

Sunnyhillboy won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham, and won it with some style. He's another who, at long odds, meets the trends - the problem is that he doesn't seem to match the quality of higher weighted horses. That said, the length of the race is something of a leveller, and he stands another each-way chance.

We still like the look of West End Rocker, although his lack of racing is a worry. In fact, the extra 12lb that the handicapper has strapped on his back is another worry, but then his win in the Becher's was indicative of the fact that he was ahead of the handicapper in that instance, and made a mockery of it. Another worry is that he has the odd bad race in him - with some poor performances mixed in with great ones. It takes a bit of faith, but a horse that is well weighted, with a victory over these fences has to be respected.

Chicago Grey also gets a look-in, despite being... grey. I don't believe that greys don't win Nationals - I just believe they don't enter it very often. He looks to have the right profile and the right preparation for the National, and comes here almost flying under the radar, what with the AP McCoy / Ruby Walsh gamble going on. Well worth a pop.

Cappa Bleu is another that we can throw in with the same description - he looks like he's going to have a good race, and bookies have been cutting his odds all week, despite him not having run in the last 50 days. Let's add the lightly weighted Giles Cross to that list of horses who haven't run in the last 50 days and would have to break that trend. His recent win in the National trial, as well as some good places, puts him in a good position.

A faller last year, yet still a course winner, is the Irish Killyglen, who would have to break the trend of not having won a major race with a large field. I'm inclined not to hold that against him because of the quality of some of the opposition he has beaten in the past. He comes here with good preparation, just question marks over his ability to handle a race this large.

Question marks remain over On His Own, too, but the Ruby Walsh gamblers will have their money on him anyway. He looks to have stamina and jumping problems, but then again - he's got such a good jockey on board, he could get round and get round well. Remember last year, Walsh had to adjust Midnight Club after a horrific jump - he got round in 6th.

And I'll add to all of this that Synchronised and Ballabriggs would both have to carry round record weights if they were to win the National, and that would be a super-equine effort.

Something's got to give - otherwise Rare Bob really could win the Grand National. So many questions, so few answers... here's our top 6 as we see it:

  1. West End Rocker
  2. Cappa Bleu
  3. Chicago Grey
  4. Rare Bob
  5. Killyglen
  6. Ballabriggs

published: 13th April 2012 by Free Bet Bookmaker

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