Almost one in four adults in the United Kingdom will place a bet on the Grand National on Saturday, attracted by the romance of the World’s most famous steeplechase and the prospect of picking a winner at long odds.
Normally I’d tell you which horse to back, but every newspaper, every blog and broadcaster, will be doing the same: this one’s the housewife’s choice; that one’s ridden by the best female jockey ever (and won the race last year); these ones are all owned and trained by the same people that aren’t giving Tiger Roll a shot winning the race for a third time; etc, etc.
It doesn’t seem much of a challenge – so instead I’m going to give you the winners of the first six races on the card: Taragrace, Costly Diamond, Daranove, Dawn Raider, Dedanser and Spirit Of Regulus.
Oh, hang on – those are the first six winners at Bangor-on-Dee. It’s an easy mistake to make because that’s where Brian Hughes, the Champion Jockey elect, has decided to ride instead of going to Aintree. Determined to break the 200 barrier before the end of the season, Brian will go to whichever track he’s more likely to win races. And with a strike rate of 18%, he’s better at riding winners than most professional tipsters are at selecting them.
A £1 accumulator bet on all six of Brian’s rides at Bangor could yield £4,200, which makes the odds on some of the Grand National runners look really quite small.
Even so, I can’t resist having a £1 each-way accumulator on the first six races at Aintree too. And if you think that’s silly, consider for one moment the 45-million to 1 odds of scooping the National Lottery jackpot – in comparison to the odds of the six selections below, which are a mere million to 1. The potential prize is roughly the same: more Champagne than I could drink in a lifetime – so which is the better £2 spent?
We’ll start with Winter Fog in the 1.45pm, followed by Nells Son (winner of the Premier Hurdle at Kelso), Third Time Lucki, Thyme Hill and Empire Steel.
By 5.15pm it’ll be time for the Grand National. You can discount all the horses set to carry more than 11 stone – which conveniently rules out three of the likely favourites for the race (last year’s winner Minnella Times, Delta Work and Any Second Now). Normally I’d look for horses with alliterative names, like previous winners Red Rum and Party Politics. But there are so many to choose from: Class Conti, Brahma Bull, Poker Party, Dingo Dollar, Death Duty and Good Boy Bobby.
But there’s one horse that stands out from all the rest. Favourite for the race last year at 4/1, he’s been backable this week at ten times those odds – the horse with the perfect weight, the perfect name and the perfect opportunity to win us all a million pounds: this week’s selection is Cloth Cap.