Ten horses to watch out for in 2016 Grand National
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | April 8, 2016
Around two-thirds of the British adult population have a bet on the Grand National.
Here at Coral, we’ve provided punters with a fun sweepstake and runner profiles on all 40 runners in Aintree’s showpiece race, but what about the main contenders?
We’ve summarised some of the talking points about 10 market leaders and horses you may want to back in the Grand National below:
There’s a rare race outside Ireland for Tony Martin’s Gallant Oscar, but he is seldom sent over to the UK by his powerful connections on a whim.
Winner of last season’s prestigious Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase at the Punchestown Festival, Gallant Oscar has had far from ideal preparation for the Grand National, but he rose to the occasion on home soil and could be one that sneaks under the radar.
A prominent performance in the 2014 Mildmay Novices’ Chase when scoring by 10 lengths from reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup champion Don Cossack, Jonjo O’Neill gelding Holywell‘s most notable outing since was as runner-up behind Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap Chase.
Having won at the Cheltenham Festival twice, as well as at Aintree, Holywell certainly has the pedigree, but is admittedly lacking consistent and recent displays of his qualities.
Last year’s winning horse has been a long-time favourite in the ante post market to retain his Grand National crown. Jockey Leighton Aspell is looking to steer Many Clouds to back-to-back successes, and aiming for a third consecutive personal victory, having previously partnered Pineau De Re to Aintree glory in 2014.
Trainer Oliver Sherwood shot to mainstream media attention following Many Clouds’ triumph 12 months ago, and the fact the handicapper has been very kind to the defending champion only solidifies this horse’s status as a market principal.
If a horse with more than one clear round in the Grand National takes your fancy, then Rocky Creek fits the bill. Pulled up in last year’s renewal, he finished fifth in the 2013 running.
Rocky Creek’s career profile shows he is best on soft ground, and conditions are set to favour him at Aintree this time. The big price means a small investment could be worthwhile, especially as he is carrying just 10st 13lb, which is the lowest weight on board since his debut.
Runner-up to Many Clouds in the 2015 National, Tom George’s Saint Are thus makes for a serious each-way bet again. Although far from fluent after taking up the lead early when last seen in action at Aintee in the Becher Chase, don’t let a seventh-place finish fool you.
Saint Are has come out and since won a veterans’ handicap at Doncaster. Two career wins at the Grand National venue also count in his favour, alongside a couple of other placings.
Fifth behind Many Clouds and Saint Are 12 months ago was the JP McManus owned Shutthefrontdoor. Also hailing from the yard of O’Neill, that means an each-way wager is alluring.
Being pulled up when last seen in action during the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury, Shutthefrontdoor should find a longer trip much more his thing here.
Dual Betfred Bowl winner Silviniaco Conti leads the Paul Nicholls contingent looking to capture Grand National glory this year, and comes into the Aintree showpiece with a dominant 20-length success in the Ascot Chase back in February.
One of Nicholls’ undoubted stable stars, Silviniaco Conti bypassed the Cheltenham Festival with this very race in mind. He commands respect with three course wins from four outings on Merseyside.
Sir Des Champs
One of three entries from powerful Irish connections Gigginstown House Stud, Sir Des Champs is trained by Willie Mullins, who is targeting a first-ever British National Hunt Trainers’ Championship.
It’s an Aintree debut for Sir Des Champs, but the continual booking of Ruby Walsh in the saddle suggests how seriously the owner and handler are treating the French gelding.
The Last Samuri
Doncaster’s Grimthrope Chase held in early March has long been viewed as a trial for the Grand National, so if that adage proves true 2016 victor The Last Samuri will be a contender on Merseyside.
Romping to victory by 10 lengths in that race, Kim Bailey’s chestnut gelding took up the lead three out and was clear before going over the final flight. Formerly trained by Donald McCain, all three of The Last Samuri’s winning runs since last March have been over 3m, so he has the staying power.
The Druids Nephew
Runner-up to The Last Samuri in the Grimthorpe, Neil Mulholland gelding The Druids Nephew raced prominently from the start of the second circuit in last year’s National, actually taking up the running when clearing Valentines for a second time, but then fell at the fifth last.
Had he stayed on his feet, all signs indicated The Druids Nephew would’ve at least finished in the frame. He thus holds major claims if granted a clear round.