Donn McClean Previews The Grand National

9 min

Donn McClean gives his two best bets for the National!

There seems to be a lack of clarity surrounding the number of horses you are allowed to back in the Randox Health Grand National. Or how many you are compelled to back. Nobody seems to know what the rule is, or, indeed, if there is a rule. Definitely one anyway.

Everybody has to back at least one horse in the National.

Maybe two. Two at least. Or at most. Nobody is certain.

Jury Duty is probably one anyway. He is one of the Gordon Elliott eleven, and he is one of several horses in the race who are ahead of their new handicap ratings.

The Sideways Syndicate’s horse stayed on nicely last time to get the better of his stable companion Mala Beach over three and a quarter miles at Down Royal. Baie Des Iles fell at the third last fence when she was travelling well that day, but Jury Duty was also travelling well at the time in behind. It is impossible to know how he would have fared if the mare hadn’t fallen. Even so, it was a good performance, to concede 10lb to a talented 155-rated rival, giving him 10lb.

As well as that, it was the Well Chosen gelding’s first run since he won the Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills in America last October. It is probable that that run will have brought him forward with the Grand National in mind.

Jury Duty has certainly caught Donn’s eye.

The British handicapper raised him by 6lb for that win but, because the weights for the Grand National closed in February, he gets to race off his old mark of 151. That is a mark that could under-rate him quite significantly. Even his new (6lb higher) mark could under-rate him.

He is a progressive eight-year-old, the type of horse who has done well in the Grand National since the modifications were made to the track. Eight-year-olds have won three of the last four Grand Nationals, and have filled six of the 12 places available in the last three.

Jury Duty’s stamina for four and a quarter miles is not proven, and he did look like a tired horse when he unseated at the second last fence in the National Hunt Chase last year. However, he was only seven years old then, he should be a stronger horse this year as an eight-year-old, and he stayed three and a quarter miles well at Down Royal last time.

He is a classy individual, he beat Shattered Love and Presenting Percy in the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Chase last season as a novice, and he has the potential to go beyond the handicap rating of 151 off which he will race. Gordon Elliott’s horses are in top form, he had two more winners at Aintree on Friday with Three Musketeers and Felix Desjy, and Robbie Power is a top rider who goes into the race with confidence high, after winning on Supasundae at Aintree on Thursday and on Lostintranslation on Friday. There are lots of positives.

Anibale Fly is probably another. True, Tony Martin’s horse has a significant burden to carry but, if the handicapper could do it again, he would actually give him 8lb more.

Top weight of 11st 10lb is a fair weight, but Anibale Fly has the class to carry it. He finished third in last year’s Gold Cup and he finished second in this year’s Gold Cup, and he proved that he could operate at Aintree and over these big fences when he finished fourth in the Grand National last year.

He is only 5lb higher this year than he was last year, and he looks like an even better horse this year. As well as that, JP McManus’ horse has had an ideal Grand National preparation this year.

He has raced just three times this season. He started off in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork over an inadequate two miles, then he ran a cracker in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park to get to within two lengths of the classy Monalee over two and a half miles, again an inadequate trip. It looks like his entire season was geared towards the Gold Cup and the Grand National.

Following another Cross Country win at Cheltenham Tiger Roll is going for back to back Grand Nationals.

He ran a massive race in the Gold Cup, he stayed on strongly over the last two fences to get to within two and a half lengths of Al Boum Photo, nearest at the finish. He left the impression that he would improve for the step back up to this extreme trip. He is a big player.

Tiger Roll, of course, sets the standard. Last year’s National hero, you would love to see him and Davy Russell do it again, win another Grand National and become the first horse since Red Rum to do so. He is such a likeable horse. It would be a great story. And he also looks like a better horse this year than he was last year. His Boyne Hurdle win and his Cross Country Chase saunter tells you so.

Like Anibale Fly, Tiger Roll is 8lb well-in. He is the correct favourite but, from a betting perspective, he is very short.

Rathvinden is a player and Joe Farrell is a player and A Toi Phil could out-run big odds.

But if you are only allowed two, then it’s Jury Duty and Anibale Fly.

Live from the press box at Aintree your host Tom Stanley is joined by Sam Turner and Rory Delargy to preview the big one while Matchbook’s Sully is back at base to give the latest prices on the National. The lads also look at the Ryanair on Saturday.