Grand National 2016
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Nicholls goes in heavy-handed

Frank Monkhouse | 8 April 2017

Somerset trainer a favourite with casual punters

Paul Nicholls experienced one of the real highs of an illustrious career when winning the Grand National with Neptune Collonges in 2012 off a 33/1 SP. The popular 54-year-old, based in Ditcheat, plays the numbers game in an attempt to double up, sending six into Saturday’s renewal.

We have picked out two of his representatives that strike us as livewires, with both expected to go off at big prices, meaning punters can back a Grand National winning yard for small stakes. It’s worth having one or two of his in your final list.

Paul Nicholls has his team in terrific form at the moment, making Saphir Du Rheu odds very tempting.

Just A Par ticking boxes

One of the bigger prices in that half-dozen is Just A Par, who goes into the morning as a 40/1 outsider with Coral traders. He is one of a few who arrive at Aintree as a winner last time out, getting home in front of a decent field at Newbury last month to sharpen the tools for this one. Campaigning over three-miles one-furlong, he beat No Duffer into second, despite going off at double-figure odds.

Did nothing but impress that day, timing his assault on the leaders to perfection, before hitting the front when it mattered and staying on to stamp the deal. He appeared to have plenty left in the tank at the end, and had the look of a winner who was enjoying the task at hand. Saturday’s trip should present backers with no worries, and they can have their stake money down with confidence, as he’ll line up with fitness to burn.

What lies ahead on Saturday won’t catch Just A Par, ridden by Harry Cobden, by surprise either, as he went around here in 2015, finishing 15th. He was never in the contest that day, and seemed to throw the towel in when it was obvious it wasn’t his day, but he would’ve learned much from the occasion and goes as a better horse for it. Ticks a couple of the right boxes and is sure to attract plenty of each-way attention at a nice price.

Sandown Park Races - Bet365 Jump Finale Day

Saphir Du Rheu deserves respect

Saphir Du Rheu has been afforded a lot more respect by the odds compilers, and is a 22/1 option at present, which will leap off the page at value-hunters on Saturday morning. He famously fell in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury late last year, but that has been his only real jumping error, and I’d be surprised if he makes any further mistakes here.

The eight-year-old had no trouble getting back on track, finishing second at Cheltenham back in January behind Foxtail Hill, and looked like he could do with the extra distance that day. He’ll certainly get plenty of that here. Last win came on his penultimate start when doing as expected at Kelso, the race looking nothing more than a tune-up to keep his mind right. Saphir Du Rheu was written off in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month but gave a decent account of himself and will go into this race with spirits high in the camp. Another at a generous price.

A couple of others at bigger prices for Nicholls and Regal Encore trades 40/1, but punters would probably be after more. He has made a bad habit of pulling up in races, which is strange as he does have natural talent. Le Mercurey can be had at 66/1, already on the drift. The trip looks to be the major stumbling block here, but if he can get around I’d make him a better chance of a winner than Regal Encore.

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