SportRacing

Our racing expert picks his Grand National top four

RacingBy Michael Fortune
Blaklion on the gallops at Nigel Twiston-Davies' yard last month
Blaklion on the gallops at Nigel Twiston-Davies' yard last month

The Grand National is an institution in the world of racing.

First run in 1839 when it was won by Lottery, it has featured some fantastic stories, but the four-miles-and-three-furlong marathon is now a much different race. 

Through modifications to the course it is getting more and more like a park race but the “Lottery” element has survived due to the 40 runners which go to post and the inevitability of many incidents through the distance. 

Current indications are that the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge will start favourite but there will be the usual late gamble and prices will change dramatically before race time. 

Vieux Lion Rouge finished seventh in last year’s race behind the Mouse Morris-trained Rule The World and he has won his only two outings this year, in the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree in December and then the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock in February. 

It can be argued that he is “well in” on the 10-1 mark and he deserves to be included in any shortlist. 

A group of horses make appeal. For instance, you have the first two in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, Pleasant Company and Thunder And Roses. 

Both look reasonably handicapped but Thunder And Roses has a second claim for consideration. 

Back in 2015 he won the Irish Grand National from Rule The World and, of course, the latter went on to win this race last year. 

Thunder And Roses has since joined Morris, who won the race last year, and he is still only a nine-year-old, which is the most successful age for a National winner. 

Gordon Elliott first came to fame by winning the National with Silver Birch 10 years ago and he has two very contenders in Cause Of Causes and Ucello Conti. 

The latter is probably the best prepared of his team for the race but it is difficult to ignore the claims of the amazing three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Cause Of Causes. 

Others I like are Brian Ellison’s Definitely Red, Paul Nicholls’ Vicente and my outright fancy, Blaklion. 

The latter has had a great preparation for Nigel Twiston-Davies. 

He hasn’t run since finishing second behind Vieux Lion Rouge in the Grand National Trial at Haydock and, as winner of the RSA at Cheltenham last year, he has that touch of class.

He gets my vote to land the prize. 

MY NATIONAL TOP FOUR 

1 BLAKLION
2 THUNDER AND ROSES
3 CAUSE OF CAUSES
4 DEFINITLY RED