Below is my preview and tips for the 2018 Aintree Grand National. If you want my best bets everyday, then check out my Premium Advisory Service, which is +1,779 Points, for an ROI of +20.5% since launch in October 2013. That’s +€44,475 at €25 a point, and with a recommended starting bank of €3,500, that’s a remarkable +1,270% bank growth in just four and a half years.
If you’re that way inclined it will be easy find dozens of trends articles, that will rule in, or out, plenty of this years National field, but they will be based on tiny sample sizes, and in most cases, little logic. Some will just use winners for their analysis, and come to definite conclusions about what it takes to win the National, but all they are doing is back-fitting noise, and claiming they’ve found something valuable. The fact the National fences have been made easier in recent times, as well as the compression in the weights, means any data from more than five years ago isn’t as relevant too.
It can help to look through previous results to see is there any more general trends, and in recent times less exposed horses have been doing well, with plenty of placed finishes. Horses with previous experience over the fences continue to account for plenty of the top six, indeed five of the top six last year, had previous experience over the Aintree fences, but the figures in the previous three years was two, three, and three, and given such horses account for a good portion of the field, that is nothing overly significant.
You wouldn’t want to rule a horse out that has run here before, and either not completed or got well beaten, as horses like Pineau De Re, the 2014 winner, only lasted seven fences on his only previous start at the track, while the second home that year, Balthazar King was only fifteenth in a previous National run. One For Arthur and Cause of Causes were also showing improved form on their respectable first efforts over the fences, when coming first and second last year.
Indeed while previous experience can be a plus, and plenty of horses have multiple top six fences to their name, showing some horses really do take to the place, it is very hard to win the race having been placed over the fences previously. Despite numerous horses coming back here again and again after a placed effort over the fences, and often they run well again and again, but they seem to fill the minor placings rather than the first two, indeed the last horse to win the National having previously been placed over these fences, was Silver Birch in 2007, and his placing had come when winning the Beecher three years earlier. The last horse to win the National after a previous place in the event, was Amberleigh House in 2004, having come third off three pounds lower the previous year.
Using just the winners for those stats does limit the sample size, but in this case there is plenty of logic to back it up, as with the handicapper taking it upon himself to add an ‘Aintree factor’ into the weights, were he penalizes horses who have run well over the fences before, it stands to reason, that although such horses tend to run their race again quite often, their new mark means there rarely well enough handicapped to win a forty runner valuable handicap. When Amberleigh House won in 2004, he was only three pounds higher than when third the previous year, and he had also come a short head second in the Beecher Chase that year. It is only in more recent running’s that the handicapper started penalizing such horses.
The going for this years National is currently (Thursday afternoon) described as soft, but the going stick reading of 4.3 suggests it is probably leaning towards heavy, and with a some rain due to fall Thursday night, it’s likely to be soft at best on Saturday, so a stamina test seems assured.
Anibale Fly has only had two handicap chase starts so far, winning the second of those at Leopardstown over Christmas, in the valuable Paddy Power. He was strongest at the line that day over three miles and half a furlong, and was again strongest at the finish when third in the Gold Cup last time. He was only beaten just over eight lengths, and was only four behind Might Bite at the line, and while there was an element of him staying on when the race was over, as the first two had it between them from a long way out, he again suggested that there may be more to come over a trip like he will get in the National. He is only eleven pounds higher than for that seven length win in the Paddy Power, has put up a career best in the Gold Cup since, goes on the ground, should stay, and may even improve for the trip, so his chance is obvious. The one question mark is what effect that Gold Cup run had on him, as although he was never in the heat of the battle it was still a pretty attritional race.
Total Recall has done what plenty have done before him, and that’s improve massively for the move to the Willie Mullins yard. He won off 129 on his debut for the yard, but after another chase and a hurdle win, and a fall in the Gold Cup, he races off 156 in this. That’s only nine pounds higher than when winning the Hennessy (or what used to be the Hennessy) at Newbury in December, so he is fairly treated on that. A worry would be he pulled very hard when winning over hurdles next time, and although he settled better last time in the Gold Cup, he made one or two mistakes before falling at the third last, and although he didn’t appear to hit the fence hard, he did get a hard fall, and he needs to show his confidence isn’t effected. He is three pounds better off with Anibale Fly here, but that one looked to have his measure at Cheltenham when he fell, and I don’t think Total Recall would have finished in the first four, and it’s highly unlikely he’d have beaten Anibale Fly.
Blaklion looked like he might win last years National for a long way, indeed he was matched at 1/2 in running, but a combination of his jockey kicking for home too soon, and probably not quite seeing the trip out, meant he faded from the last into fourth. If the trip was an issue last year on good to soft, then you’d imagine it will be again on softer ground this year. He looks to have improved in the interim, winning the Beecher impressively here in December, but is eight pounds higher for that, and finished legless when a well beaten second in his most recent run in February at Haydock, which is hardly an ideal prep. He will likely run well again, but looks too short at just 12/1 to win the race.
Tiger Roll won the NH Chase at Cheltenham in 2017, but was pulled up four weeks later in the Irish National off a mark of 151. He’s only had four runs since, the last two in cross country races, and although he won that novelty event at Cheltenham last time, I don’t see what he’s done this year to suddenly make him look well handicapped off 150 for this. You have to respect his connections, but the market looks to be given them too much respect with a top price of just 12/1.
Seeyouatmidnight is a ten year old, but has only had nine chase starts, and only two in handicaps, coming a fine third off his National mark of 149, when third in the Scottish equivalent back in 2016. He looked like winning jumping the second last that day, and only gave best after a mistake at the last. Given his inexperience you would be entitled to expect improvement from that, but he has only run three times since, with one of those over hurdle’s. Last time back from a years absence, over a trip much too short, he ran as well as could be expected to come third at Newbury, and while he does need to prove he’s as good as he was, if he is then he would hold a very good chance, and he showed enough at Newbury to suggest he probably retains that ability. He did have quite a hard race though, as they went quick, so he was always out of his comfort zone, and finished tired, so needs to show he’s fully recovered from that just three weeks later.
Baie Des Iles stays well, goes on this ground, and has some solid handicap chase form to her name. She is also lightly raced enough to have some improvement to come, and is a good jumper who could well take to this place. She is coming up against a few much classier types in this than when third at Punchestown last time though, and I’d want bigger than the current 16/1 to be interested.
Ucello Conti ended up beating beaten around thirty seven lengths when sixth in the 2016 National, but a bad mistake soon after halfway would have knocked the stuffing out of him a bit, so fading from the second last doesn’t mean he didn’t stay. He was off a mark of 149 that day, and off the same mark in last years race, he was travelling well, and making ground when an awkward jump at Becher’s second time seen him unseat his rider. He has only had two runs since, looking as good as ever when second to Anibale Fly, who franked the form since, in the Paddy Power, before running poorly last time. He is generally consistent though, and has had nearly three months to get over whatever ailed him last time, and off a mark of just 147 this time, looks to have a solid chance.
Pleasant Company is a ten year old, but hasn’t had much racing for his age. He went off just 11/1 for last years National off a mark of 149, and although only finishing ninth in the end, he was still bang there coming to the second last, and it’s likely a bad mistake at Valentines cost him plenty of gas, which he could have used in the latter stages. He jumped and traveled well apart from that, and although his two runs since have been below par, it’s likely this has been the aim.
The bookies tend to fall over themselves offering extra places for this, but Thursday afternoon is unlikely to be the time to place a bet, as the markets will likely be more competitively priced on Friday evening, or Saturday morning, so rather than recommend bets now, I’ll give the ones I’m interested in and the minimum price to take.
Anibale Fly (min price 12/1, would be worth smaller bet at current 11/1, but is around 12/1 on the exchanges, add the place part if you can get 1/4 the odds, 6 places or better)
Seeyouatmidnight (min price 20/1, only 16/1 currently but you may get bigger, back each way as long as you get at least 5 places 1/4 the odds)
Ucello Conti (min price 20/1, is currently 20/1, but again waiting might be best, as you may get more places or bigger price, or both, back each way as long as you get at least 5 places 1/4 the odds)
Pleasant Company (min price 33/1, is currently 40/1 with William Hill, but is 50 on the exchanges so you may get bigger, back each way as long as you get at least 5 places 1/4 the odds)
For staking back them all to return a similar amount, depending on your own betting bank.