Northern Echo Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson with his guide to the runners and riders in the 2019 Grand National at Aintree

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo: Grand National Star Ratings

1 ANIBALE FLY 12-1 ****
Barry Geraghty
Finished fourth last year despite a safety-first ride from Barry Geraghty, and proved his class when finishing second to Al Boum Photo in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. Hasn’t had long to recover from his Festival exploits, and is bidding to become the first top-weight to win the National since Red Rum in 1974. Even so, will line up with every chance of success.
2 VALTOR 50-1 **
Daryl Jacob
One of the less exposed runners, having only had two runs in England since joining Nicky Henderson’s yard from France. Failed to finish one of those races, but impressed when winning over three miles at Ascot in December. Will have appreciated this week’s rain, but looks to be carrying plenty of weight given his lack of experience on this side of the Channel.
3 TIGER ROLL 7-2 *****
Davy Russell
Last year’s winner, and looks certain to start the race as the shortest-priced favourite for at least two decades. Is nine pounds higher than he was 12 months ago, but looked better than ever when retaining his Cross-Country Chase crown at Cheltenham last month. Has every chance of emulating Red Rum, who was the last horse to win back-to-back Grand Nationals.
4 OUTLANDER 100-1 *
James Bowen
One of 13 runners trained by Gordon Elliott, but looks to be one of the Irish handler’s least likely chances of success. Has plenty of miles on the clock at the age of 11 and finished last in February’s Irish Gold Cup, fully 45 lengths behind the winner. Finished an underwhelming fourth on his most recent outing in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.
5 DON POLI 66-1 *
Patrick Mullins
Another Gordon Elliott-trained veteran who has lost his way markedly in the last few years. Was a superstar in his youth, finishing third in a Cheltenham Gold Cup, but has not looked the same horse since suffering an injury in 2017. Was pulled up in two of his recent outings this year, which included an unsuccessful spin around the Aintree fences in the Becher Chase.
6 GO CONQUER 33-1 **
Sam Twiston-Davies
Formerly with Donald McCain and Jonjo O’Neill, but now in the hands of Nigel Twiston-Davies. Boasts snippets of form that make him interesting, most notably when finishing third over three miles one at the Cheltenham Festival in 2017. Isn’t always the most reliable, but looked as good as ever when he won on his most recent start at Doncaster in January.
7 MALA BEACH 50-1 *
Jamie Codd
Will be praying for even more rain as his chance would improve markedly if the ground was to really cut up. As it is, he could well be outpaced, although he should be plodding on in the closing stages when some of his opponents have cried off. Has only run twice in the last 12 months, and couldn’t land the odds as a short-priced favourite on his most recent outing.
Richie McLernon
Can claim to be the classiest horse in the race, having finished second to Sizing John in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup. His form has dropped off a cliff since then though, and he was pulled up at an early stage of last month’s Ultima Chase at Cheltenham despite having attracted strong market support. Jonjo O’Neill has revitalised horses in the past, but he will have to work the oracle here.
9 LAKE VIEW LAD 14-1 ***
Henry Brooke
Ticks a lot of boxes, having won or been placed in 11 of his 12 chase starts. A reliable jumper who has never fallen over fences, he has won two of his three starts this season. His stamina at this marathon distance remains unproven, but he wasn’t stopping when finishing third in the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham last month. Has to enter each-way calculations.
Paul Townend
Finished second in last year’s National as he only narrowly failed to collar Tiger Roll on the line. Jumped boldly all the way round, and proved his stamina as he charged home to make the frame. Has disappointed on his two outings this season, but his form ahead of last year’s race was similarly uninspiring. Looks to be an Aintree specialist and has to be considered.
11 BALLYOPTIC 28-1 ***
Tom Bellamy
Has long been touted for a race like this, and came within a nose of winning last year’s Scottish Grand National as he was edged out by Joe Farrell. Ran well in December’s Welsh Grand National when the ground was probably too soft, but fell on his one outing over the Aintree fences in this season’s Becher Chase. Needs to brush up his jumping to be a factor at the finish.
12 DOUNIKOS 33-1 **
Jack Kennedy
Had been in dreadful form for a year, failing to finish four of his six races, but stepped forward in dramatic fashion when winning the Grand National Trial at Punchestown in February. If he was to reproduce that form, he would be a factor, but he’s hard to trust given his previous flops. Has probably risen high enough in the weights on the back of his last success.
13 RATHVINDEN 8-1 *****
Ruby Walsh
Has been laid out for the race, and looks the pick of the Willie Mullins contingent. Won the National Hunt Chase over four miles at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, and has been hidden away since to protect his handicap mark. Confirmed his wellbeing with a warm-up win at Fairyhouse in February and looks to have an awful lot in his favour with Ruby Walsh on board.
14 ONE FOR ARTHUR 25-1 ***
Derek Fox
Looked to have the world at his feet when he won the 2017 National, but was unable to defend his crown last year because of injury and has not looked anything like his old self since returning to the track. Failed to complete in both of his outings this season, and will have to improve significantly just to get round. Hard to conclusively rule out though given his previous triumph.
15 ROCK THE KASBAH 16-1 ***
Richard Johnson
Has long been a factor in some leading staying chases, but took a major step forward when he won over three-and-a-half miles at Cheltenham in November. Ran well enough over a slightly shorter trip on the same track in December, and will appreciate the softening ground. Will be bidding to give champion jockey Richard Johnson his first win in the race.
16 WARRIORS TALE 50-1 **
Harry Cobden
Paul Nicholls’ only runner in the race, having pulled up with two fences to go when fading out of contention 12 months ago. Won over the National fences in December, but that was in the Grand Sefton Chase over two miles five and this is a markedly different test. Would have preferred much better ground, and is far from certain to get home.
17 REGAL ENCORE 66-1 **
Mark Walsh
Has never really looked a natural contender for this race, but ran reasonably well two years ago as he finished eighth. That proved he can jump round, but his preparation for this year’s race has been somewhat unusual, with one of his two outings this season coming over hurdles at Aintree’s November meeting. Is flying under the radar, but it’s hard to see him getting involved.
18 MAGIC OF LIGHT 50-1 ***
Paddy Kennedy
It remains relatively rare for a mare to run in the National, but she has been reasonably consistent for a while now. Finished seventh in this year’s Ultima Chase at Cheltenham when she was carrying a fair bit more weight, and looked good when winning a mares’ chase at Newbury in December. Unproven at this trip and probably lacks the class to win.
19 A TOI PHIL 50-1 **
Denis O’Regan
One of the hardiest runners in the field as he will be making his eighth outing of the season this afternoon, having combined chasing with hurdling over the last few months. Hasn’t won since January 2018, but tends to get round and is generally consistent. Has never run beyond three miles though and is easy enough to overlook.
20 JURY DUTY 16-1 ****
Robbie Power
One of the more interesting of Gordon Elliott’s runners, having won the American Grand National over hurdles in October. Followed that up with an impressive success over three miles two at Down Royal in March. Has previously finished second in a Champion Chase at Gowran Park and looks to have got in at a fairly lenient weight. Could well produce a big run.
Mark Enright
Missed last year’s race through injury, so this year’s renewal has always been the plan. Had a spin around the National fences in December’s Becher Chase, finishing ninth, and was also in mid-division in last month’s Ultima Chase at Cheltenham. Has some strong form in the book, but needs to step forward from his last few runs.
Sean Bowen
Looked a rising force last season, but hasn’t been as good this term. Stamina won’t be an issue, but he could find himself outpaced early on despite the recent rain, which should be in his favour. A reliable jumper who should get round, he has an each-way shout, although it would be a major surprise if he didn’t find a few too good.
David Noonan
The youngest runner in the field at the age of just seven, but has plenty of experience in big staying chases. Finished an impressive second in the Welsh National behind Elegant Escape, and also filled the runner-up spot in Haydock’s Grand National trial. Could still be open to more improvement and looks to be David Pipe’s best hope of a National winner.
24 TEA FOR TWO 40-1 **
Lizzie Kelly
An admirable veteran who has run well in the Gold Cup in the past. Hasn’t been at anything close to that level for a couple of years though, and unseated in the Cross-Country at Cheltenham on his last outing. Will have plenty of supporters given that popular female jockey Lizzie Kelly is on board, but it’s hard to see why he will suddenly spark back into life.
25 JUST A PAR 66-1 *
Aidan Coleman
Was promoted to the line-up when Mall Dini pulled out on Thursday night, and has competed in two previous renewals, finishing 15th in 2016 and 14th a year later. Also completed in December’s Becher Chase, so the fences shouldn’t pose a problem, but is unlikely to be getting any quicker at the age of 12 and shouldn’t be good enough to trouble the places.
26 STEP BACK 25-1 ***
Nico de Boinville
Burst into the Grand National picture when he ran away with the Bet365 Chase at Sandown at the end of last season. He jumped his rivals into submission that day, and is likely to be right up with the pace again as he tackles Aintree for the first time. A lack of experience is a concern given this will only be his eighth outing over fences, but he should make a bold show.
27 ULTRAGOLD 50-1 **
Tom O’Brien
Is tried and tested over the Aintree fences, having won two Topham Chases. Those successes came at two miles five furlongs, but his third place in December’s Becher Chase gives hope that he could see out the trip. That has to be a concern though, and he didn’t exactly set the pulse racing when he was pulled up in the Cross-Country at Cheltenham.
28 BLOW BY BLOW 66-1 **
Andrew Ring
Looked a potential star when he won over hurdles at Cheltenham in 2018, but hasn’t kicked on as hoped since converting to fences. Pulled up in two of his last three outings, and finished sixth out of six in the other, so doesn’t head into the race in any kind of form. Looks an out-and-out stayer though so should be ploughing on late if his jumping holds up.
29 UP FOR REVIEW 25-1 ***
Danny Mullins
Owned by North-Easterner Graham Wylie and has struggled with injuries throughout his career. Won two useful novice chases last season to highlight his potential, but has only run twice in open company. Finished in mid-division after coming in for strong market support in last month’s Ultima Chase, and could be open to a fair bit of improvement. One of the livelier outsiders.
Paddy Brennan
One of the most infuriating horses in training given that he has racked up four second-placed finishes since his last win in 2016. Has performed creditably in plenty of big races, although tends to save his best for Cheltenham. His record suggests he doesn’t really relish a battle, and there has to be a chance he will down tools if he doesn’t take to the Aintree fences.
Tom Scudamore
Will be making his fourth appearance in the National, having finished seventh in 2016, sixth in 2017 and ninth in last year’s renewal. Looks a good bet to get round again, and proved that plenty of his talent remains intact as he finished second in December’s Becher Chase. However, he hasn’t been good enough in the past, and his best chance of success has surely been and gone.
32 VALSUER LIDO 66-1 *
Rachael Blackmore
Finished eighth in last year’s National and will be carrying considerably less weight this time around. Hasn’t won since 2016 though, and most of this season’s performances have been a disappointment. Couldn’t land a blow running over two-and-a-half miles in his most recent outing at Cheltenham, and it would be a big surprise if there weren’t a few too good for him here.
33 VINTAGE CLOUDS 12-1 ****
Danny Cook
Yorkshire’s best chance of a National winner, and looks to have a lot in his favour. A proven stayer, having finished third in a Scottish Grand National, and confirmed his current wellbeing when he finished an impressive second in last month’s Ultima Chase at Cheltenham. A strong traveller who is generally reliable over his fences, he should go close.
JJ Slevin
Another of the Gordon Elliott-trained contingent that have done well in similar races in the past.  Has won or placed in eight of his 19 chase starts, with his stand-out performance coming when he triumphed in the Irish Grand National in 2018. Pulled up at Cheltenham last time out, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him bounce back to form.
David Mullins
Was a decent hurdler, and has shown patches of good form since switching to fences. Ran well when finishing second at Leopardstown in February, but that was over two-and-a-half miles, and his form hasn’t really held up when he has gone beyond three miles. Is carrying a featherweight, so that should help, but wouldn’t want the ground to get too soft.
36 WALK IN THE MILL 25-1 *****
James Best
Looked like he would be balloted out a couple of weeks ago, but has sneaked in at the bottom of the weights and should have a great chance. Proved he handled the course when he won the Becher Chase over the National fences in December, and has warmed up with a couple of low-key spins over hurdles. Handles any going and looks to have a lot in his favour.
37 FOLSOM BLUE 50-1 **
Luke Dempsey
Is the second-oldest runner in the race at the age of 12, but proved he retains some ability when he finished fourth in last year’s Irish Grand National. Hasn’t look as good since though, whether competing in chases or staying hurdles. Disappointed when starting as favourite in the Midlands Grand National last time out, and looks to have plenty on his plate.
Sam Coltherd
A Scottish raider who blundered and unseated his rider at the Foinaven fence 12 months ago. That hardly inspires confidence, although he has run reasonably well this season, finishing ninth in the Grand Sefton Chase over the National fences and beating Definitely Red in a match at Kelso. Doesn’t carry much weight, but shouldn’t be good enough to win.
39 BLESS THE WINGS 66-1 **
Robert Dunn
The oldest horse in the race at the age of 14, but finished with a flourish to claim third place 12 months ago. Has been competing in cross-country races since then, and threw in a disappointingly poor run when he failed to complete in the Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham last month. Looks as though time might finally have caught up with him.
40 JOE FARRELL 16-1 ***
Adam Wedge
Last year’s Scottish Grand National winner, and only secured a run in the race when Pairofbrowneyes pulled out on Thursday morning. Is not without a chance though, having run impressively when finishing second at Newbury a couple of weeks ago. That should have tuned him up nicely for this.