BetVictor’s Pin Stickers’ Guide to the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National

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BetVictor are betting ¼ odds 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 places on the John Smith’s Grand National the greatest horserace in the world and below are the thoughts of their racing guru The Sussex Express’s resident BetVictor columnist, Charlie McCann, takes you through the runners:

Grand National Pin Stickers guide 2013:

1. Imperial Commander

Former Gold Cup winner who is bidding to become the first horse to win the Gold Cup/National double since L’Escargot back in 1975; trainer Nigel-Twiston-Davies has saddled the winner of the race twice previously and, whilst no top-weight has won the race since Red Rum, the last three winners have carried 11 stone or more to victory.

2. What A Friend

Part-owned by United boss Sir Alex Ferguson but pulled up in the corresponding race in 2011 and only got as far as the 2nd last year; the drying ground will suit but likely to be the bookies friend rather than punters pal if he wins.

3. Weird Al

More letters next to his name than numbers of late and behind when coming down in the race last year; has talent but rarely shows it these days.

4. Quel Esprit

Another Mullins Irish raider and not yet confirmed as a runner; looked a potential star earlier in his career but hasn’t quite fulfilled that promise and doesn’t look in the stables A team for the race.

5. Big Fella Thanks

Has finished placed in the race in the past but doesn’t quite stay the marathon trip; looked an ideal type for the Topham Trophy twenty-four hours earlier but connections have confirmed in recent days he will run in the National.

6. Roberto Goldback

Trainer Nicky Henderson looks like he will arrest the Champion Trainers Title from Paul Nicholls this year, but he has yet to saddle the winner of the National and looks unlikely to in 2013 with this 11-year-old who looks a doubtful stayer.

7. Seabass

Finished third in the race last year when he travelled like the best horse for much of the race but his stamina gave way half-way up the run-in; set to carry at least another 8lbs this year and suggestion his chance has been and gone.

8. Ballabriggs

Winner of the race in 2011, sixth last year and showed he was no back number at Kelso last time; handicapper has given him a chance but now a 12-y-old and would be surprised if there weren’t at least a couple better handicapped.

9. Sunnyhillboy

Went down by a nose to Neptune Collonges in the race last year and, although 10lb higher, will have his supporters and rightly so; reported to have scoped badly on the morning of the Gold Cup where his absence allowed jockey AP McCoy to ride Sir Des Champs. The Champion jockey, who rode the winner in 2010, is likely to be back on board as he bids to go one better.

10. Teaforthree

Runner up in the Welsh National back in January and must have a leading chance of giving Wales their first winner of the race since Kirkland in 1905; a former Cheltenham Festival winner who must go close if adapting to Aintree’s unique test.

11. Across The Bay

Owned in partnership by the local Aintree dentist and was a game winner over hurdles last time; well beaten at Chepstow in the Welsh National previously but connections convinced he was not right on that occasion. Trained by Donald McCain whose family will be forever associated with the race.

12. Join Together

Trainer Paul Nicholls broke his National duck in 2012 and this has been laid out for the race since finishing second in the Becher Chase back in December; disappointed last time but best to put a line through the form and it may be folly to dismiss his chances.

13. Colbert Station

Improved at a rate of knots on soft ground this winter in Ireland but this represents another step up in class and stamina a concern; wouldn’t want the ground to dry out too much and others preferred.

14. Forpadydeplasterer

Has been a wonderful servant for connections and won his first race since the 2009 Arkle when winning an ordinary event at Thurles over 3m back in November; another who also holds an entry in Irish National on Easter Monday and stamina to prove.

15. On His Own

Was still tanking along when coming down at Bechers on the second circuit last year and has only been sighted once so far this term when winning a Grade 2 Hurdle at Navan back in February; likely mount of Ruby Walsh but was it was too far out to suggest he was sure to play a part in the finish last year?

16. Joncol

Irish challenger who has never quite fulfilled the promise he showed earlier in his career but is well handicapped on his best form but that was a couple of seasons ago now; soft ground clearly suits and wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the history of the race if Aintree galvanised him.

17. Balthazar King

Needs good or faster ground to be seen at his best and trainer Phil Hobbs will be hoping for a dry spell in the lead up to the race; if he got good ground he would have to enter calculations as a former winner of the X-Country race at the Cheltenham Festival

18. Cappa Bleu

Fourth in the race last year when never closer than at the finish; has a touch of class, his season has been geared with one race in mind all season, stays the trip and granted a bit of luck you always need in the race a must for any short-list.

19. Oscar Time

Finished runner up to Ballabriggs back in 2011, when trying to give amateur jockey cum professional dentist Sam Waley-Cohen a famous Gold Cup/National double following the Cheltenham success of Long Run earlier in the year. Has finished last in his two prep races and will need a comeback of Lazarus proportions to take a hand; but didn’t we say the same thing about Mon Mome in 2009?

20. Always Waining

Wonderful old stick who loves it at Aintree and has won the Topham Trophy over the National fences for the last three years; that said wouldn’t stay nearly four-and-a-half miles in a horsebox and I’m not convinced he is going for the right race.

21. Quinz

Satisfactory comeback from a long absence but best form going right-handed and readily overlooked.

22. Tatenen

Unless he can join the rest of the field on the second circuit his stamina must be taken on trust and only got as far as the eight in the race last year when a 100/1 shot.

23. Treacle

Went through the tacky ground sweet enough at Down Royal last time; bidding to become the first 12-y-old to win the race since Amberleigh House in 2004 but only got as far as the tenth last year when coming to a sticky end in 2012.

24. Lost Glory

Hasn’t been seen since winning a decent race at Chepstow back in the autumn but represents powerful connections who won the race in 2010 with Don’t Push It and finished runner up with Sunnyhillboy twelve months ago; no forlorn hope.

25. Saint Are

Would not want the word soft to appear in the going description as all his best form on good ground; if the ground dries out would enter calculations and two of his three career wins have come at Aintree although not over the National fences.

26. Swing Bill

Nearly old enough to vote, doesn’t stay extreme distances and unlikely to make it back-to-back winning greys following the success of Neptune Collonges in 2012.

27. Chicago Grey

Bounced back to his best at Navan last time on ground (heavy) softer than ideal; only got as far as the fifth when brought down last year but trainer Gordon Elliot has already saddled a winner of the race with Silver Birch in 2007 and connections are confident of a big run although too much rain would be a concern.

28. Quiscover Fontaine

Behind when coming down at the 17th last year; represents powerful connections and drying ground will suit but others preferred.

29. Becauseicouldntsee

Has failed to complete the course in the last two Nationals, could easily be front rank when they past the stands for the first time but doesn’t stay extreme distances and little to recommend.

30. Harry The Viking

Another Paul Nicholls-trained horse owned in partnership by Sir Alex Ferguson and yet another who wants the ground to dry out ahead of the race; has bits of form that give him an each way chance but more rain very much a concern.

31. Rare Bob

Has a touch of class and has attracted each way support in recent days after a smashing prep race over an inadequate trip last time; I would be surprised if there weren’t at least a couple better handicapped but certainly has each way claims.

32. The Rainbow Hunter

Trainer Kim Bailey saddled the winner of the race back in 1990 when Mr Frisk broke the track record; that winning time stands to this day and the Rainbow Hunter is unlikely to be troubling the judge or the timekeeper this year.

33. Mr Moonshine

I thought he might be a potential star when winning at Carlisle as a novice but hasn’t quite fulfilled that initial promise; best watched.

34. Mumbles Head

Was in great form last summer but only got as far as the first in the Becher Chase over these unique fences back in December; if there is to be a first Welsh winner of the race in over 100 years this is unlikely to be the one.

35. Pearlysteps

Last win came in January 2011 at Hereford and hardly the ideal National profile; hard to fancy

36. Auroras Encore

Has been beaten an aggregate of 99 lengths in his two completed starts in 2013 and hard to make a case for although he did finish second in the Scottish National 12 months ago.

37. Ninetieth Minute

Beaten by stablemate Treacle last time and has only won once since March 2009; might need at least a couple of added minutes to trouble the judge.

38. Tarquinius

A thorough stayer who has improved since joining Gordon Elliot in Ireland but needs the ground almost unraceableto have any chance in this class.

39. Any Currency

All wins going right-handed but was going well enough when coming down at the Chair back in December; finishing fourth in the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick does not usually translate to Grand National winner but there is a first for everything I suppose.

40. Major Malarkey

It would be a Major shock if this slow old boat were good enough although he is a thorough stayer whose stamina is guaranteed.

41. Poker De Sivola

Few miles on the clock for one of his age and his jockey played his cards close to his chest when pouncing late on in a valuable chase at Sandown nearly two years ago; hard to say how much ability he retains as he has only been seen out twice since and another who would like conditions to dry out.

42. Backstage

Well beaten in the corresponding race in 2011 when strongly fancied; not at his best when pulled up at Cheltenham and another who would be inconvenienced by further rain.

43. Soll

Formerly trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins and returned to form for new connections when scoring at Sandown on soft ground; shapes like a thorough stayer and no forlorn hope.

44. Romanesco

Finished third at Cheltenham last time and represents powerful connections but needs significant improvement to take a hand.

45. Viking Blonde

Thorough stayer who will need soft or heavy ground to be seen at his best; has bits of form that suggest granted a thorough test he could sneak a place at a big price.

46. Cloudy Lane

Not the force of old and, if making the line-up, would be running bin the race for the fourth time. Went off favourite for the race in 2008 but could only finish sixth behind Comply Or Die.

47. Pentiffic

Trainer Venetia Williams saddled Mon Mome to win at 100/1 four years ago; can lightning strike twice? I think not.

48. Gullible Gordon

It would be naive to think this one was the best of the Peter Bowen-trained runners and he needs the ground to dry up to have any chance.

49. Mortimers Cross

Now very much in the in the veteran stage but stays forever and a sound jumper; unlikely to be doing anything quickly, however, and hard to see him as a serious player in this class of race.

Conclusion:

On His Own was my original selection for the race when the weights were announced but the price has gone and he looks likely to go off about 5/1 the same price that both Hedgehunter and Clan Royal were when they finished 2nd and 3rd to the well-backed Numbersixvalverde back in 2006. It has been a wonderful year for Welsh sport, however and Teaforthree must go close but my own particular pin has come down on Cappa Bleu.