Grand National 2017 odds: Five tips for this year's race
Vicente, The Young Master and Shantou Flyer are among the runners to back in the Aintree marathon this year
The biggest race of the year takes place at Aintree on Saturday with 40 horses and jockeys aiming to secure a place in history by winning the Grand National.
More than a quarter of British adults are expected to place a bet on the race, which begins at 5.15pm. But who should they be backing?
This year's favourite is Definitly Red [sic], and would become the fourth horse called Red to win the race if it triumphs on Saturday.
However, picking a winner is a complicated business, and as Marlborough of the Daily Telegraph notes, favouritism is not always a good guide. "The past five winners have started at 33-1, 25-1, 25-1, 66-1 and 33-1 - so the moral is, if you fancy a horse do not worry about the price," says the tipster.
So who are the horses to watch this year? Here are the The Week's top picks of the experts' picks:
The eight year-old, carrying 10st 10lb, won the Scottish Grand National last year and ticks most boxes. Even better than that are the long odds he has been given.
"If we forgive Vicente his form this season, and there is every reason to believe we can as he likes decent ground and there has been very little of that about during a wet winter, then last year's Scottish Grand National winner is definitlely overpriced at 25-1," says Marlborough of the Telegraph.
Also in his favour are the fact that he is "lightly raced, open to improvement and trained by top National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls", says the Grand National website.
But if he won the story would not be about the horse, the trainer or even the jockey, Brian Hughes, but the owner, says Sky Sports. "Eighty-one-year-old former Pontins owner Trevor Hemmings is hoping for a record-breaking fourth National winner. He bought Vicente after his 2015 hero Many Clouds died after a race at Cheltenham in January. The fairytale could happen."
The Young Master: 20-1
Frank Keogh of the BBC reckons "The Young Master can prove the master here", and he's not the only one.
"The Young Master has the not inconsiderable advantage of amateur Sam Waley-Cohen in the plate, has been trained very much with this race in mind and warmed up nicely at Cheltenham. He has the combination of class and weight to win," says Marcus Armytage of the Telegraph.
The "classy" eight-year-old is also tipped as one to watch by Sky Sports.
Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Blaklion looks a popular pick and is Lydia Hislop's top selection for Sporting Life. "Back to his best when a promising second to Vieux Lion Rouge in Haydock’s Grand National Trial," she says. "Arrives here fresh. Strong chance of providing his yard with a timely boost to an attritional season."
Bill Esdaile of City AM also fancies his chances. "He seems to be at his best in the spring and I love the fact that his connections opted to bypass Cheltenham and come here fresh," he says. "I love the fact that he has bundles of stamina and, as his name suggests, has the heart of a lion. That toughness will stand him in good stead and, granted the usual luck required, he should go close."
Grand National icon Bob Champion, who beat cancer to win the race in 1981, also likes Blaklion's chances. "His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies knows what’s needed to win a Grand National and he will be ridden by Noel Fehily who is a fantastic horseman," he tells the Telegraph.
Vieux Lion Rouge: 11-1
Yet another eight-year-old carrying less than 11st, Vieux Lion Rouge "looks tailor-made for the race", says Frank Keogh of the BBC. Who notes that his name translates as Old Red Lion, and that he "could be the toast of hostelries up and down the land".
The bookies seem to agree, which means that David Pipe's entry is vying with Definitly Red for favouritism.
He may also have got one over on the handicappers, says Chris Cook of The Guardian. "Highly rated since his career began five years ago and 11 wins from 21 starts is an impressive record," he says. "Better than ever this season, finishing powerfully to win the Becher Chase here in December and Haydock’s trial for this race in February... [which] came after the weights were set for this, so he looks leniently weighted."
Shantou Flyer: 66-1
If you are looking for an outsider then why not back Shantou Flyer to become the first seven-year-old to win the race since 1940. He is "starting to realise his early promise after joining Rebecca Curtis’s yard earlier this season," says Lydia Hislop of Sporting Life, and he looks like a "thorough stayer". And 66-1 is a "massive price given his known ability and hinted potential".
He has "gone in under the radar" agrees Sky Sports. He was "a faller in last year's four-miler at Cheltenham when still going well, though he does have stamina to prove".
He has a "big engine", agrees Chris Cook of the Guardian, and "has significant scope to be better than he has so far shown if relishing this marathon distance as his running style suggests he may".
Going aginst him are his age, weight and the fact that no horse trained in Wales has won the national for over a century.
Grand National 2016 odds: Five tips for this year's race
8 April 2016
It's the biggest race of the year and the Grand National promises to be another punter's paradise.
The bookies' favourite is Many Clouds, who was unfancied last year but is being heavily fancied to become the first horse to win back-to-back Nationals since Red Rum in the 1970s.
His jockey, Leighton Aspell, is looking to go one better after winning on Pineau De Re in 2014 and piloting Many Clouds to glory last year.
Understandably, they have dominated the build-up to this year's race, which starts at 5.15pm on Saturday at Aintree. But who should the intelligent punter get behind ahead of this year's race? Here are the The Week's top five picks from the experts' picks:
The Last Samuri 10-1
Probably the most attractive of the leading contenders - if you can look beyond the romance of a win for Many Clouds - and he has the backing of several tipsters.
"He's a young improving horse," says Chris Cook of The Guardian. "We haven't seen the best of him yet."
The race is a "big step up", but Cook believes he will "cope".
The Last Samuri will also benefit from the handicap, says the Grand National Guide website. "This horse must have a great chance as his weight for this race was published before he pulverised a good field at Doncaster. Likely to improve even further over this demanding distance."
Trainer Kim Bailey is looking for a second national winner after Mr Frisk in 1990 and The Last Samuri has every chance. The eight-year-old is rated four out of five by Newsboy in the Daily Mirror and eight out of ten by Sporting Life, which dubs him a "big player".
The nearly man:
The Druids Nephew 16-1
Last year, the Neil Mulholland-trained The Druids Nephew was leading the National and looking good when he fell five from home. He could make amends tomorrow.
"He has been trained for this race alone," says Marcus Armytage of the Daily Telegraph, who picks him for his shortlist of four.
"A few horses - like 2005 winner Hedgehunter - have returned to land the National the following year after a mishap," says Chris Wright of the Liverpool Echo. "At eight last year, he was probably just a little young to go all the way... [He] looks to hold a decent chance of at the very least completing this time. And with a bit of luck may do even better."
The Druids Nephew also has the backing of Sky Sports tipster Alex Hammond. "[He] ran really well behind The Last Samuri at Doncaster in the Grimthorpe last time out. It was a satisfying prep and I think he can reverse those placings," she tells Metro.
The Aintree specialist:
Saint Are 16-1
Second last year to Many Clouds, Saint Are is tipped by Chris Wright of the Guardian to "go well again" this time out.
Trained by Tom George, the ten-year-old will be carrying slightly less weight this time out, notes Sporting Life. "Looked as good as ever in a veterans' handicap chase at Doncaster last month and has to make any shortlist," says the website.
He also has a liking for the course and has a good record at Liverpool. Marcus Armytage of the Telegraph picks him as one to watch, noting: "He loves Aintree's spring meeting, where he's won twice before."
The comeback kid:
Morning Assembly 25-1
There is a lot of support for this Pat Fahy-trained nine-year-old, who was out of action from May 2014 until January this year. That absence has put him under the radar, which may explain his odds.
Daily Mirror tipster Newsboy makes him the one to watch, with a five-star rating. "Went well before mistake three out back at Cheltenham last month, but kept on up the hill and likely stayer has a good chance of glory," he says.
Morning Assembly was regarded as "one of the best staying novice chasers of his generation" before missing last season, says Sporting Life. He "looks the most unexposed horse in the field and can give his supporters a good run for his money".
He is "a classic old-fashioned steeplechaser, who jumps and gallops," Sporting Life's racing editor Will Hayler tells Metro. "There is plenty of hope to be taken from the formbook that this gruelling test of stamina won’t pose a problem."
Rule the World 50-1
The Grand National wouldn't be the Grand National without a punt on an outsider and Rule the World looks the best placed of those at long odds. He has finished second in the Irish Grand National and has a "shrewd" coach in Mouse Morris. "Despite his 50-1 price tag he is no forlorn hope," says Rob Wright of The Times.
Drier ground will suit him, says Grand National Guide, which notes Rule the World is "much more effective on a sounder surface".
He has never won over fences, but has seven second-place finishes. "On the nose backers will probably avoid this runner but each way punters could lap up his big odds," says website Grand National 2016.
Grand National 2016: Many Clouds favourite for Aintree glory
The line-up for this year's Grand National has been confirmed, with last year's winner, Many Clouds, installed as the favourite.
Victory would see Many Clouds become the first horse since the legendary Red Rum to win two Nationals in succession.
Other leading contenders include The Last Samuri and two-time King George VI Chase winner, Silviniaco Conti.
The 2014 winner, Pineau De Re, is among those to have missed out on a place in this year's race. With a maximum of 40 riders, the 13-year-old needed a number of late withdrawals on Thursday to get a run, but there were no drop-outs. Bishops Road, who won the Grand National trial at Haydock in February could only secure a reserve spot after being rated 41st of the entrants.
"The National is a handicap chase, with each runner allotted a different weight to carry by the official handicapper Phil Smith," says the BBC. "Some trainers are faced with the tricky task of trying to ensure their contenders perform well enough to get a rating which guarantees a run, without landing a big weight that hampers their chances."
The Grand National festival got underway on Thursday in windy conditions, notes the Daily Mail, which casts its eye over the outfits worn by racegoers.
"Efforts to smarten up standards at Aintree seem to have produced mixed results," sniffs the paper. "The low-cut dresses, tight fitting skirts, bare legs and platform shoes that have become a Grand National staple in recent years were still out in force as revellers arrived for the first day of racing at the Liverpool course."
There was a huge security operation in force, notes the Daily Mirror. "Racegoers were subjected to body frisks and baggage checks, while cars were also scanned by metal detectors," it reports. "Merseyside police insist the security in place this year is no different to last year, despite the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris which have taken place over the last 12 months."