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Horse Racing

Assessing the 2018 Grand National Runners for the Value Selections

There are less than 24 hours to go until this year’s edition of my favorite horse race in England. The 2018 Grand National takes place at Aintree tomorrow and I can’t wait. It promises to be an absolute treat.

The field this year is as competitive as I can ever remember. There are four horses currently hovering around 10/1, and a further six with odds shorter than 20/1. That’s a total of ten horses the bookies are giving a realistic of winning.

Each one of these horses is appealing in some way, and I particularly like the look of Anibale Fly. But, as always, backing one of the favorites in the Grand National is a risky business. The race has been won by the favorite just five times in the last 25 years.

Why is that? Well, this is the world’s most demanding steeplechase and there is so much that can go wrong for horses during the tough 4 ¼ mile run.

We can’t simply try to pick the “best” horse here, as even the most talented jumpers are liable to falling when there are 30 fences to navigate. Especially when we’re talking about some of the hardest fences in National Hunt racing!

A lot of bettors I know don’t tend to bet on the Grand National for this very reason. However, I personally can’t resist the challenge the race presents. So let’s take a closer look at the horses involved and see where the value lies this year.

All odds referenced in this article were taken from Betway at 11:00 am EDT on April 13th. Odds may have changed since this time.

The Top Favorites

The four horses that are widely available at around 10/1 are as follows:

  • Blaklion
  • Anibale Fly
  • Tiger Roll
  • Total Recall

At the time of writing this post, Blacklion is slightly ahead of the other three in the betting. He’s available at exactly 10/1, while the others are all 11/1. We can’t read too much into that, though, and any one of these four horses could end up being the outright favorite by the time the race starts.

Here are some brief assessments of these four horses and their chances of winning the 2018 Grand National.

Blaklion

Blaklion put in a great performance in last year’s National, which was eventually won by the Scottish-trained One For Arthur. He looked like the most likely winner with just two fences to go, but then faded fast and dropped back into fourth.

The experience of that race will help Blaklion’s chances, and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies will perhaps employ slightly more conservative tactics this year.

He’s obviously had one eye on this race all season as he’s only raced the horse three times. That should ensure Blacklion is fresh and ready to go, so he definitely can’t be discounted.

Anibale Fly

This year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup was a good indicator of Anibale Fly’s chances in this race. The McManus-owned Thoroughbred came third behind Native River and Might Bite, but was running on well at the end. That’s a great sign that he’ll be able to handle the longer distance of the Grand National.

There are slight concerns about the jumping style of Anibale Fly, and he’s liable to give his backers at least a couple of scares during the race. He definitely has what it takes, though, and I think his pure strength will see him round the course.

Trainer Tony Martin has admitted he’ll need some luck on his side to win, but the same could be said of any horse in this race.

Tiger Roll

A Grand National rookie; be surprised by Tiger Roll’s position among this year’s top favorites. He’s only eight-years-old, too, which is a little on the young side for this race.

However, he’s in good form having won the Cross Country at last month’s Cheltenham Festival. The handicappers have been kind and given him a relatively light weight, so he has to be considered in with a chance.

Total Recall

This Willie Mullins trained nine-year-old is the pick of many horse racing experts. Although he fell in last month’s Gold Cup, he was running well at the time and would have been in contention had he stayed on his feet. If he can avoid getting into trouble around Aintree, he’s very likely to be among the front-runners.

There’s no doubt that Mullins will have been giving the horse some extra schooling over the last few weeks, so Total Recall is definitely a leading contender.

Six More Short-Priced Runners

Odds of 20/1 or lower can be considered a relatively short-price for the Grand National. There are six more horses that meet that criteria this year, as follows:

Seeyouatmidnight12/1
Baie Des Iles14/1
Captain Redbeard16/1
The Last Samuri16/1
I Just Know18/1
Ucello Conti18/1

Seeyouatmidnight came third in the Scottish National back in 2016. He may have won but for some scrappy jumping and a slight lack stamina. The bookies seem to think he’s improved based on his current odds, although that may have more to do his favorable weight.

There’s no value for me here really, as he’s only raced once this season and I don’t think he’s well enough prepared.

The mare Baie Des Iles is a more interesting proposition. She’s young for the race at seven-years-old, but she’s strong and has proved her staying capability. She also favors the soft ground, and this could help put her right in contention.

Captain Redbeard is having an excellent season so far. He’s consistent, but I fear the National will be too much for him. It’s a stronger field than he’s used to, and there are question marks over his jumping ability.

Although I know many would disagree with me, I don’t see any appeal in The Last Samuri. He’s not won since his ratings went up after finishing second in this race two years ago, and last year he was well off the pace when finishing 16th. It would be a big surprise for me if he did much better this time around.

I Just Know has consistently proved he has plenty of stamina, and that’s a useful trait for the Grand National. He’s been harshly treated by the handicappers, though, and I think his weight will prove too much for him tomorrow.

Ucello Conti is another runner with proven stamina. He’s a solid jumper too, and his trainer Gordon Elliot is in great form this season.

There are doubts about whether this horse has enough pace to beat the field here, but I don’t think that’s too much to worry about. He can gain over the fences if he’s at his best, and that could prove far more important than his top speed.

Long-Odds Contenders

It’s fair to say that pretty much any horse has at least SOME chance in the Grand National. After all, this is a race that has seen several horses win at very long-odds. As recently as 2009 we had a 100/1 winner in Mon Mome, and just five years ago Auroras Encore won at odds of 66/1.

This means it’s a little foolish to overlook the horses that are longer odds to win on Saturday. There’s every chance we could see another big priced winner this year, especially if the ground is as heavy as it’s expected to be.

Here are three long-odds contenders that I think are worth looking at:

Raz De Maree25/1
Pleasant Company28/1
Chase the Spud33/1

Raz De Maree appears to like the mud. He’s run some good races on heavy ground and could well do the same at Aintree tomorrow. His age is against him at 13-years-old, but I certainly wouldn’t rule him out.

Two of Pleasant Company’s four wins have come in heavy conditions. He came a respectable ninth in this race last year and is carrying a similar weight this time around. I give him a very reasonable chance in this race, especially if his jockey can hold back his natural aggression until the later stages.

Chase The Spud also has four wins to his name, and they’ve all been on ground that is either soft or heavy. His consistency is not great, but he’s capable of running a good race on his day. He should definitely be one to consider at 33/1.

Finding the Value

I don’t usually like backing more than one selection in a horse race. The Grand National is an exceptional case, though. Backing multiple selections is the right thing to do here, as I think it’s the best way to maximize the value that’s available.

To spread my risk as much as possible, I’ve picked a selection from each of the three categories covered above. First up is my selection from the top favorites. Backing one of these gives me a good chance of winning, even if the odds are a little on the low side.

PICKAnibale Fly11/1

Next up is my pick from the six other short-priced runners. I’m tempted by Baie Des Iles for this one, and I won’t be at all surprised if the young mare puts in a good performance.

However, her age does put me off a little so I’ve gone in a different direction.

PICKUcello Conti18/1

Picking one of the three long-odds contenders I’ve identified is not easy. I think they all represent pretty good value and I can make a solid case for backing any one of them.

Three selections are enough for me, though, so I’ve had to choose just one in this category. This is actually my preferred pick for the race based purely on value.

PICKPleasant Company28/1

Although I’m happy with my picks here, don’t feel like you HAVE to follow them. Part of the fun of the Grand National is making your own selections, and I wouldn’t want to deprive you of that.

Almost all of the horses I’ve mentioned here are worthy of a bet, so you should carefully consider all the options before making your own decision.

Whichever way you decide to go, I wish you the best of luck!

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