By Harvey Mayson
Many Clouds was 25-1 last year when he bounced back from a slightly disappointing run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is clear favourite at 8-1 following the latest acceptance stage with 96 horses still declared.
Many Clouds has been set to carry 11st 10lbs this season, only 1lb more than last year. He would be the first horse to win The Grand National in successive seasons since the great Red Rum back in 1973-74. Other fancied runners include Doncaster winner The Last Samuri and two-time King George VI winner Silviniaco Conti.
The last ten winners of the Grand National have returned at an average SP of nearly 33-1. Comply Or Die (2008) and Don’t Push It (2010) were joint-favourites but punters have had very little else to celebrate.
Aurora’s Encore was a shock 66-1 winner in 2013 while Mon Mome was virtually friendless at 100-1 in 2009. Given the trend for big priced winners, which horses are the best value each-way bets this year?
Saint Are on course for 2016 Grand National
The first on the short list has to be Saint Are, a gallant runner-up last year but still freely available at 25-1. Tom George has targeted the big race again this year and the ten-year-old has enjoyed a trouble-free preparation.
He was seventh in the Becher Chase over the Aintree fences in December before winning a veterans’ chase at Doncaster in February. He won his previous race before last year’s Grand National so the omens are good for another big run. Saint Are is set to meet Many Clouds on 2lbs better terms and it would be no surprise to see him finish in the frame again.
Nicky Henderson still chasing elusive Grand National victory
The victory of Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham was a testimony to the training skills of Nicky Henderson. He also produced My Tent Or Yours to finish second in the Champion Hurdle after a lengthy absence. The Grand National continues to elude the Lambourn trainer 37 years after saddling Zongalero to finish second. He has two remaining entries this year in Triolo D’Alene and Hadrian’s Approach, both high class performers.
Triolo D’Alene won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in 2013 off a mark of 147 and did not race again until the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The booking of Tony McCoy encouraged punters to back the French-bred gelding in to 10-1 but he was never a factor behind Lord Windermere. He was subsequently pulled up in the Grand National and has had his training problems since.
He has proven form over the Aintree fences having won the Topham Chase in 2013. He won over two and a half miles at Kempton in January in ground softer than he likes. He was slightly disappointing in similar conditions at Ascot behind Silviniaco Conti but will be a serious contender if Henderson can get him to the National in good form.
Hadrian’s Approach won the Bet365 Gold Cup in 2014 off a handicap mark of 146 and is only 1lb higher at Aintree. He also prefers faster ground and was pulled up on his seasonal debut at Sandown in testing conditions. He was not disgraced when finishing seventh at Kempton in the BetBright Chase in February.
Alvarado bidding to extend Grand National sequence
The remarkable run of placed horses in the Grand National for Mr and Mrs William Rucker was extended to seven successive years by Alvarado in 2015. Their good fortune at Aintree began with State Of Play in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before Cappa Bleu finished in the frame in 2012 and 2013.
Alvarado has been fourth in the last two seasons and is set to return at the age of eleven. He had a pipe-opener at Newbury at the start of March and Fergal O’Brien will be doing everything he can to maintain the sequence. Jockey Paul Moloney has been aboard each of the Rucker runners and has now negotiated 210 Grand National fences without falling.