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Grand National Tips 2019

2018 Grand National Star-Rating Guide

Our expert has put together this star-rating guide for Aintree’s seasonal showpiece, which takes place on Saturday 14th April.

Millions of racing fans, sports enthusiasts and punters from around the world will tune into their television sets on the final day of the Aintree Festival, as a field of 40 staying chasers fight for the right to be crowned 2018 Grand National winner. Some of the sport’s greatest names have claimed victory in this most famous of races and a high quality army of challengers will be battling for the famous trophy in just over a weeks’ time.

Our expert has put together this star-rating guide for the Aintree Grand National – taking a look at 20 of the top contenders for the title and rating their chances of claiming victory out of five stars.

2018 Grand National Star Rating Guide



After some impressive results during the first half of his novice campaign, Noel Meade’s charge was backed into favouritism for the National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. A couple of jumping errors meant Jamie Codd’s mount could finish no higher than fifth, but A Genie In Abottle was much more assured on his final start at Punchestown, passing the post third as Disko won the Champion Novices’ Chase.

Victories over Mala Beach and Tiger Roll was the perfect way to begin the new season, but Meade’s charge couldn’t carry that winning form into either the Ladbrokes Trophy or the Thyestes Handicap. A runner-up finish on his National prep-run in the Bobbyjo Chase was made to look much better when Bellshill travelled like the winner for 95% of the Irish Grand National.

A Genie In Abottle has never been to Aintree, which is a slight negative to his chances. Yet, he has proven, since switching to chasing, that he’s a worthy challenger in races of this ilk and his current ante-post price looks extremely inviting.

A Genie in Abottle rating ⭐ 4.5 ⭐


Much was expected of Alpha Des Obeaux when he followed the imperious Thistlecrack home in the 2016 Stayers’ Hurdle and Mouse Morris’ charge looked tailor-made for chasing. Alpha Des Obeaux managed to win two of his first three starts over fences, but after pulling up in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase, the eight-year-old endured a rather forgettable Festival season.

Alpha Des Obeaux’s 17/18 campaign can best be described as “consistent, yet unspectacular”. The eight-year-old finished second to Total Recall in the Muster National, beat A Toi Phil to a Grade Two at Clonmell and finished sixth in both the Leopardstown Christmas Chase and the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Despite recent failings, there’s plenty to suggest Alpha Des Obeaux could run above his lengthy odds. He’s appeared at Aintree on several occasions, won two Graded prizes over fences and recovered well from a severe hampering to pass the post eighth in last season’s Irish Grand National. Alpha Des Obeaux is certainly one to watch.

Alpha Des Obeaux rating⭐ 4.5 ⭐


Anibale Fly has suffered with inconsistency throughout his jumping career and this season has been no different. AJ Martin’s chaser was left 30 lengths behind the winners on his first two seasonal starts and fell when well out of contention in the Irish Gold Cup. Yet, the eight-year-old managed to carry 11-8 to victory in a hugely competitive running of the Paddy Power Chase Handicap and won the race for third place in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

It must be very frustrating for Martin to watch his charge switch between a chump and a champion on any given day. Anibale Fly will have to produce a performance worthy of Red Rum and Many Clouds if he wants to carry 11-7 into the Aintree winners’ enclosure, but if you catch him on a going day, he’s perfectly capable of winning a race of this magnitude.

Anibale Fly rating ⭐ 4 ⭐


Blaklion was my selection in last years’ Grand National and I was already planning what to do with my winnings when he hit the front with four to jump. A coming together with One For Arthur upon jumping the third-last didn’t help his cause, but I doubt he would have had the staying power to complete the job had the pair not clashed in mid-air.

This season, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has looked good. A runner-up finish to Bristol De Mai on his reappearance was followed by a magnificent display in the Becher Chase. After a fine effort in terrible conditions in the National Trial at Haydock, connections decided a wind op would enhance his Aintree aspirations. History tells you horses don’t win the National on the second attempt, but Blaklion is too classy to be ruled out.

Blaklion rating ⭐ 4 ⭐


Fergal O’Brien was jumping for joy at Uttoxeter last spring, as Chase The Spud timed his late charge perfectly to pipe Mysteree to the Midlands Grand National crown. Following an excellent victory on his reappearance at Haydock, the ten-year-old’s results have dipped – failing to complete the course in both the Welsh Grand National and the Eider at Newcastle.

Paddy Brennan has struck up a fine partnership with this hardy stayer and the pair have tasted victory in several quality handicap chases. However, this will be Chase The Spud’s Aintree debut and he has his work cut out challenging for a place off a career-high mark of 147. The handicapper looks to have his number.

Chase The Spud rating ⭐ 

Blaklion (red) jumping his way to fourth in last year's National.



Despite carrying little in the way of form and a 50/1 price tag into last years’ National, Ian Williams’ teenager produced a spirited effort to claim the fifth and final place. That finish seemed to give Gas Line Boy a confidence boost and the experienced chaser has looked in the form of his life during the 17/18 campaign.

The 12-year-old was traveling towards a certain victory before falling at the last on his reappearance, a mistake he rectified in style when winning the Grand Sefton here in December. Brian Hughes’ mount then gave away weight to several quailty rivals and did well to claim third in the Veterans’ Chase Series Final last time out. 

Horses over the age of 11 have a poor record in the National and he will go to post with three pounds more on his back than last year, but Gas Line Boy still has genuine each-way chances.

Gas Line Boy rating  3.5 ⭐


After excellent victories over Warrior’s Tale and Frodon in prestigious handicaps at Newbury and Ascot, Gold Present went into the Ultima Handicap Chase as the hot-favourite. Sadly, Nicky Henderson’s charge couldn’t find a jumping rhythm at Cheltenham and Nico De Boinville was forced to pull his mount up well before the end.

Henderson discovered his charge broke blood vessels during that defeat, which put his National participation into questions. The Seven Barrows maestro has a terrible track record in Nationals of any kind and Gold Present is comfortably the most inexperienced horse on this list. 2018 is unlikely to be Henderson’s year.

Gold Present rating ⭐ 3 ⭐


Sue Smith’s chaser won’t be considered a contender by many scanning through the Aintree entries. However, if you look at the key trends for the Grand National, the eight-year-old ticks the majority of the boxes. 

I Just Know has won four of his ten outings over fences – most of which have come in staying handicaps – finishing outside the places just twice. On his first start of 2018, Smith watched her chaser secure a 15-length victory in the North Yorkshire National, before warming up for Aintree with a decent second in a novices hurdle.

The only drawback with I Just Know is that he lacks a little in class. This will be his first appearance in a Graded contest of any kind and the eight-year-old will have to produce a career best display just to challenge for the places. 

I Just Know rating ⭐ 3.5 ⭐


The ride Bryony Frost gave Milansbar in the Classic at Warwick was nothing short of superb. Neil King’s charge went into that handicap on the back of nine straight defeats, but Frost made the front-runner attack each fence with such vigour, he jumped his Warwick rivals into submission.

Milansbar travels to Aintree for the first time after securing respectable finishes in both the Eider and the Midlands Grand National. The quick turnaround between those races should be no problem for Frost’s experienced mount, but King’s charge will have to show remarkable progression to get involved in this race and, at the age of eleven, that’s highly unlikely to happen.

Milansbar rating ⭐ 2.5 


Like his fellow JP McManus flagbearer Anibale Fly, Minella Rocco has struggled to find consistency throughout his career. Anyone who watched his tremendous victory over Native River in the 2016 National Hunt Chase thought Jonjo O’Neil had a future star on his hands, but the eight-year-old has failed to find another victory in eight starts since.

Minella Rocco’s best result during this winless run was in last season’s Gold Cup, where Noel Fehily’s mount came from the clouds to snatch second behind Sizing John. A niggling injury forced O’Neill to skip the Cheltenham Festival this year, but the team have used the time wisely, visiting jumping guru Yogi Breisner either side of a wind operation.

I’ve long thought Minella Rocco was a National type and he certainly has enough quality to succeed. However, only two horses have carried 11-10 or more to victory since the war and the field Minella Rocco faced is stacked with quality. This year’s top-weight will have his work cut out.

Minella Rocco rating ⭐ 4 ⭐

Minella Rocco (third left, white cap) finishing second to Sizing John in the 2017 Gold Cup.



Willie Mullins’ charge enjoyed an eventless trip around Aintree last season and looked to be travelling well enough to challenge the leaders. When Ruby Walsh asked his mount to get a little closer, Pleasant Company stumbled badly on landing the 25th fence and could only recover well enough to finish ninth.

Mullins has only managed to get two runs under his chaser’s belt since then, with the ten-year-old finishing 14th in the Paddy Power Chase Handicap, before pulling up well before the end in the Thyestes. It would be a massive ask for Pleasant Company to contend on the back of two dismal seasonal runs, especially on his second crack at this historic handicap.

Pleasant Company rating ⭐ 2.5 


Despite carrying more letters into last year’s Grand National than numbers, Regal Encore ran a blinder to complete the course and finish eighth. It’s been a similar story of ups and down during the 17/18 campaign for Anthony Honeyball’s charge, but he did manage to claim a much-needed victory on his most recent outing in the Keltbray Swinley Chase at Ascot.

Honeyball’s ten-year-old has run well on all three of his spins around Aintree and handled the fearsome National fences really well last year. A glance through his form card would suggest he won’t be able to back up that Ascot triumph with another strong performance, but Regal Encore is a confirmed stayer and is rated high enough to be a contender - his fans will just have to hope he gets out of the right side of his horse box on the morning of the race.

Regal Encore rating ⭐ 3.5 ⭐


Sandy Thompson has only managed to get her charge out on the track three times since a third place finish in the 2016 Scottish Grand National. The ten-year-old beat Bristol De Mai in a match race on his reappearance last season, before having a crack at the Betfair Chase, where he was pulled up after struggling for much of the trip.

After a decent second at Kelso’s March meeting, Seeyouatmidnight spent the best part of a year on the side-lines. Thompson was satisfied enough to declare her charge in the National after he finished third on his reappearance at Kelso last month, but Seeyouatmidnight’s inactivity over the past two seasons makes him fairly difficult to back.

Seeyouatmidnight rating ⭐ 3 ⭐


Richard Hobson has been left cursing his luck on plenty of occasions this season, as Shantou Flyer has recorded four successive second place finishes. His most recent near miss came at the Cheltenham Festival, where James Bowen’s mount was eating into Coo Star Sivola’s lead with every stride before the finishing line arrived to save the tiring leader.

Bowen will be in Shantou Flyer’s saddle again at Aintree and there will be plenty of attention around the teenage sensation as he makes his Grand National debut. Hobson’s charge was pulled up well before the end in last year’s renewal. Given he will return to Aintree one pound higher in the ratings, his task doesn’t look any easier this time around.

Shantou Flyer rating ⭐ 3 ⭐


Under the stewardship of Sandy Thompson, The Dutchman enjoyed a consistent campaign as a novice chaser. A summer switch to Colin Tizzard’s stable was expected to bring about some improvement and the King’s Theatre gelding ran well on his stable debut as Sam Spinner powered to victory in the Grade Three Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle.

Following an underwhelming showing in a winnable handicap hurdle, The Dutchman returned to chasing with a bang by winning the Peter Marsh at Haydock by 13 lengths. He, like many, struggled on the horrible ground in the Grand National Trial at Haydock. The Dutchman certainly looks progressive, but his inexperience over fences - and over three miles trips - has to count against him.

The Dutchman rating ⭐ 3 ⭐


This will be The Last Samuri’s third crack at National Hunt racing’s most famous race - having finished second to Rule The World in 2016, before crossing the line 14th carrying top weight in last year’s renewal. Kim Bailey’s charge has looked in good form all season and went into his first visit to the Cheltenham Festival on the back of a decent fourth in the Cotswold Chase.

Despite never tackling a Cross Country layout before, The Last Samuri ran brilliantly to claim the third and final place. It would take a performance of biblical proportions for Kim Bailey’s stable star to win the Grand National on his third attempt, but The Last Samuri is running as well now as he ever has and he will carry five pounds less to post than he did 12 months ago.

The Last Samuri rating ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

Tiger Roll leaps an obstacle en-route to winning the Cross Country Chase.



Tiger Roll was fancied by many – myself included – to win the Cross Country last month. Despite a slight drift in the betting on the day, Gordon Elliott’s charge delivered in style, jumping beautifully from the front of the field and powering down the home straight to capture his third Cheltenham Festival crown.

The former Triumph and National Hunt winner has tackled trips in excess of three-and-a-half miles on four occasions, with both his victories coming at Prestbury Park. Tiger Roll is an extremely tidy jumper and has experience here at Aintree to fall back on, having run in the Gaskells Handicap at this Festival back in 2016.

When searching for a winner of the Grand National, Tiger Roll fills every criterion you can throw at him. Stablemate Cause Of Causes finished second in the National after winning the Cross Country and, with just 10-10 to shoulder around the marathon trip, who’s to say Tiger Roll won’t go one better a week on Saturday.

Tiger Roll rating ⭐ 5 ⭐


It is quite incredible to see the progression Total Recall has made since moving to Willie Mullins’ yard. 12 months ago, the nine-year-old had just one career victory over fences under his belt. Yet, Total Recall will travel to Aintree having won the Munster National, the Ladbrokes Trophy and a huge handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Mullins decided his charge deserved a tilt at the Gold Cup after that Leopardstown triumph. He and Paul Townend were travelling as well as most entering the final mile, but a fall four from home brought his momentum crashing to a fall. 

Total Recall has just five runs over three miles to his name and it’s unknown how badly that fall at Cheltenham has affected him. Yet, it’s hard to ignore the sensational progression Mullins’ charge has made this season and he simply cannot be discounted.

Total Recall rating ⭐ 4.5 ⭐


Since moving from France to Gordon Elliott’s stable, Ucello Conti has carried a short price into some of Britain and Ireland’s most prestigious handicap chases. Elliott has watched his charge finish second twice in the Paddy Power Chase Handicap, second in last season’s Thyestes and both his outings in the Grand National have ended in disappointment.

Despite several strong performances over the past couple of seasons, the ten-year-old is still searching for his first victory outside his homeland and it would be a big ask for Ucello Conti to break his duck on the grandest of all stages.

Ucello Conti rating ⭐ 3 ⭐


Sue Smith will need 12 horses to defect from the current top 40 if Vintage Clouds is to get into the National. However, should that happen, the Trevor Hemmings’ owned chaser has several strong seasonal performances to back up his claims for a place.

The eight-year-old stormed to an excellent 13 length victory on his reappearance here at Aintree. He’s failed to find another win since, but Vintage Clouds has finished inside the places in the Welsh Grand National, the Towton Novices’ Chase and the Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival. 

Despite still holding novice status, Vintage Clouds has plenty of form over fences and three mile trips to bolster his chances. He could be a sneaky contender for the places, should he make the final field of 40.

Vintage Clouds rating⭐ 3.5 ⭐

Full Star Rating Guide


⭐ Tiger Roll - 5 
*
Alpha Des Obeaux - 4.5
A Genie In Abottle 4.5
Total Recall - 4.5
*
Anibale Fly - 4
Blaklion – 4
Minella Rocco - 4
*
Gas Line Boy - 3.5
I Just Know - 3.5 
Regal Encore - 3.5
The Last Samuri - 3.5
Vintage Clouds - 3.5
*
Chase The Spud - 3
Gold Present - 3.5
Seeyouatmidnight - 3.5
Shantou Flyer - 3
The Dutchman - 3
Ucello Conti - 3
*
Pleasant Company - 2.5
Milansbar - 2.5

*Odds correct as of 5/4/18*
The Grand National is the world's most famous steeplechase and every year millions of people flock to their local bookies to place a bet on their leading fancies.

The four-mile war is the most daunting punting puzzle on the calendar and finding the winner for Saturday's race is almost as challenging as the National course itself.  Every year, horse racing fanatics spend hours on end ploughing through the form on offer trying to get an edge on the layers in the ante post market only to see their horse shirk away from the gruelling marathon and the unforgiving Aintree fences.

The bookmakers estimate that over £100 million will be gambled on the world’s most famous contest. 

aintree tips

GRAND NATIONAL TRENDS

No race captures the imagination of the general public year after year quite like the Grand National.
Run over a gruelling 4 miles and 514 yards, with 30 intimidating fences to jump, it provides a spectacle like no other, with around 40 runners each year bidding for glory. The date of the first ever Grand National is widely debated, but generally accepted as being 1839, when it was won by the aptly named ‘Lottery’. 

Part of the appeal of the National is the seemingly never-ending supply of fairy stories regarding winners of the race. One of the most famous winners was Bob Champion in 1981, when he rode Aldaniti to victory. Two years previous to the win, Champion was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and given just months to live by his doctors. He defied them to be passed fit to ride Aldaniti (a horse that had suffered chronic leg problems through his career), and the pair went on to a victory that would later be immortalised in the film ‘Champions’ starring John Hunt.

There have been many 100/1 winners of the National down through the years, including Tipperary Tim in 1928, who won the National when every single one of his 41 rivals fell during the race. In 1967 Foinavon took advantage of a pile up at the 23rd fence to win at 100/1 (he was over 100 yards behind when the pile up occurred, but the distance allowed him to anticipate the trouble ahead and steer clear of it).


Red Rum is the most famous horse in the history of the National. Trained by Ginger McCain, he won the race an incredible three times (in 1973, 1974 and 1977), and finished second in the two years between (1975 and 1976). In more recent times, Ginger McCain’s son Donald won the race with Ballabriggs in 2011.

Another major component of the races appeal are the obstacles the horses cross during the race. The thirty fences are unique to the Aintree course, made of spruce instead of the birch found at all other racecourses. Many of the fences have names, and no two fences are identical on the course. Becher’s Brook is jumped twice during the Grand National, and stands at five feet on the take-off side of the fence. The landing side is notorious, as there is a drop of between six and ten inches more there. Modifications to the fence through the years have seen the fence made easier for the horses to jump, with the brook being filled in, and the drop being reduced by five inches on the landing side.

The Chair is the tallest fence on the course, at five feet six inches. The landing side is actually higher than the take-off side, and the fence is so called because a judge used to sit at this fence during the early days of the race. Ironically, Foinavon’s fence (where the big pile up occurred in 1967) is one of the smallest on the course, standing at just four feet six inches.

The course record for the National is held by Mr Frisk, who took just 8 minutes and 47 seconds to complete in 1990. Given the unbelievable spectacle that the field of 40 horses create charging down to the first fence, many are surprised to find out that an incredible 66 horses took part in the 1929 running.
Stamina is the number one requirement when looking for a National winner, as the trip is longer than the vast majority of races held throughout the jumps season. Solid jumping is also a must, and with such a big field, luck in running also plays a big part. The last mare to win the race was Nickel Coin in 1951. In recent times, the trends have changed regarding weights in the National. Historically, light weight was deemed essential for a winner, but the trend towards a classier type of animal competing means that winners since the turn of the millennium have carried weights in excess of 11 stone (including Many Clouds who shouldered 11st 9lbs).  

An estimated 600 million people tune in to watch the Grand National in over 140 countries, as the horses chase a prize fund of £1,000,000. Year after year, the Grand National is the favourite race for the ‘once a year’ punters, and the betting turnover is huge. The race becomes stronger and stronger every year, and there are few that racing fans anticipate more eagerly each season.

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