Grand National 2018 Preview

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Randox Health Grand National 2018 preview – (Grade 3) – (4m2f)

Last year’s winner – One For Arthur (8y) – SP – 14/1
Trainer – Lucinda Russell
Jockey – Derek Fox

Here we are, one year later for the greatest jump race of the National Hunt calendar. As always, this race is full of drama with plenty of excitement and I am going to try and repeat last year’s success following our heroic 1-2 having tipped up both One for Arthur and Cause of Causes, who pulled off possibly my greatest achievement at Tipsters Empire. This year’s renewal looks very hard and having been banging on about last year’s winner in advance from one year earlier, this time around I haven’t had the same feeling but I do feel as though there are a few who can land us back-to-back winners in the race. Let’s go in detail on some of this year’s leading contenders and ones who could possibly cause an upset at double-figure odds. My own ratings will be advised, going from 1-10, enjoy.

TOTAL RECALL (10/1)

Trained by Willie Mullins and most likely ridden by Paul Townend, TOTAL RECALL has improved leaps and bounds since joining the yard, winning three times in a row. Firstly when landing the Munster National in great style off 129 and then the Ladbrokes Trophy off 147, where he was given a peach of a ride by Townend. He reverted to hurdles off a well-handicapped mark and duly obliged despite doing everything wrong in the race. That performance alone showed us he has stamina in abundance but what did he actually beat that day is the question. Connections then give him a crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup and he was staying on in 6th place when falling three out. In all honesty, he probably would have finished 3rd or 4th but it is never ideal going into a race like this on the back of a fall in which you don’t have much time to recover. However, he didnt have a hard race and is sure to have recovered and be 100% ready for this test because this has been his target for a very long time and I think there is still further improvement to come. He has a great chance with a clear round. RATING: 8/10

BLAKLION (12/1)

BLAKLION, a tough, little horse who is a great jumper and has a touch of class. He loves these fences and ran a fine race to finish 4th in this last year. Many were quick to criticise Noel Fehily, saying he probably went a bit too early which is why he got tired from the last fence to the winning post. However, I think he rode the perfect race and to me I just didnt think he stayed the full distance. On the other hand, he has had a great season and is one year older which means he could be a much stronger horse this time around and his Becher chase win was impressive. Nigel Twiston-Davies has compared him to Red Rum which is interesting and he does come into the race this time around on the back of a Wind Operation, which could bring out further improvement. He is rock solid over these fences and course form is a plus. The only thing that worries me is if he actually stays the trip because last year he didn’t prove that at all and is 9lb higher! However, connections are very confident on his chances and with Sam Twiston-davies in the saddle, this little terrier will give 110% effort and try to win the prize for the twistons. RATING: 7/10

TIGER ROLL (12/1)

TIGER ROLL comes into the race in the form of his life with a very similar profile to Cause of Causes, who finished second in this race last year for the same connections following success in the Cross country chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He is a superb jumper, who stays really well and handles a variety of conditions. He is sure to be popular for Gordon Elliot who is confident on his chances but the difference, is the fact Cause of Causes already had form over these fences before his brave run last year, whereas this is Tiger Roll’s first attempt and he did have a very hard race at Cheltenham. Also, he is a Cheltenham specialist (3 time festival winner) and his form anywhere else is just way too inconsistent for my liking. I can see why he is well-supported but for me he still needs to improve and I wouldn’t be surprised if he failed to get around. RATING: 5/10

MINELLA ROCCO (16/1)

Now this is where it starts to get interesting. Jonjo O’neill has a solid record with his runners in this race and although he carries 11-10, MINELLA ROCCO is the class horse in the race and a better horse than Don’t Push it, who won this race a few years ago. His form doesn’t match up his actual ability and his jumping can be an issue but this lad has it all to win this in my opinion if he gets a clear round. He finished second in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and actually beat Native River in the 4 miler at the Festival two years ago who went on to win this year’s blue riband. That is easily the best form on offer and it proved to me actually how good this horse is when things go his way. He is proven at the highest level and it’s interesting they have given him a wind operation before this race, which to me means that connections will have him absolutely spot on for the race. That could bring out further improvement and he is still lightly raced for an 8 year old. He is top rated in the line-up and usually the Grand National winner needs to stay and have a touch of class. Minella Rocco has both those in his attributes and I am sure he will have had plenty of schooling beforehand. I really do believe that if he can get around with luck in-running and be within striking distance over the last fence, he can show his class and beat these but my only concern is if the ground is soft, he won’t be at his best. RATING: 8/10

ANIBALE FLY (11/1)

ANIBALE FLY put in a career best effort last time when a solid, staying on third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but to me I think he is way too short for this race with no course experience and unproven over this distance. He had a hard race last time out and it would be an almighty training performance to see him win this after that gruelling race. Also, his best form has came on ground either soft or worse so if its quicker ground, if might catch him out early on. He isn’t the most fluent of jumpers either and the only reason he is so short in the betting is because of his third at Cheltenham, otherwise he would be a lot bigger in the betting and that race fell apart. Overlooked. RATING: 3/10

THE LAST SAMURI (16/1)

When it comes to plodders, THE LAST SAMURI is at the top of the list. He is a horse who is one paced but will keep galloping for 100 miles and is a superb jumper. He is the most experienced horse in the race over these fences, running some brave races in defeat such as in the Becher chase and finishing second in this race two years ago. I know he was down the field last year but there were plenty of excuses, yet he still got around and completed under a massive weight. He is ground versatile and comes into the race on the back of a brilliant third in the Cross country at the Cheltenham Festival at his first attempt over those fences. David Bass rides, who always gives him every assistance in the saddle and although he will probably find one or two too good, there is no doubting he will be thereabouts towards the end of the race and is a solid each-way contender to place once more at decent odds. RATING: 7/10

LORD WINDERMERE (66/1)

We now go into the massive priced section and LORD WINDERMERE offers extreme each-way value at 66/1. Yes, this horse is now at his veteran stage but he is a former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, so has always been a classy horse and he ran a brilliant race in this 12 months ago when 7th of 40 runners. He wasn’t given a hard time but it was a pleasing effort at his second attempt and he jumped and travelled really well throughout the contest. Connections have obviously targeted him back at the race again and his only start since this race last year was when he was going strongly in the Becher chase before falling at the 10th fence. He has been kept fresh for this which is interesting and there is no doubt he can improve on last year’s 7th with that experience under his belt now. I’m not saying he is going to win at the age of 12, but there is no reason why he won’t be thereabouts if getting around again for the second year in a row. Overpriced. RATING: 7/10

BUYWISE (50/1)

Sometimes jumping has been the issue in the past but BUYWISE is a class horse when things actually go right for him, such as when landing a Veterans chase at Sandown earlier in the season. His only previous attempt at this race was when a respectable 12th of 40 in 2016 and he was ridden just to basically get around. We know Evan Williams has an extremely good record at getting his horses to reach the frame at massive odds in this race, which bodes well for Buywise who will definitely improve on his previous effort. He’s been an unlucky horse over the years in some very hot handicaps and I am sure he has been trained for this race again. His preparation has gone smoothly according to the yard and with a clear round, I can see him being strong at the finish and picking rivals off late on, which has helped him to many good results down the years. Each-way player if proves his stamina. RATING: 6/10

We could be here all week going over every other runner and as always, this is a difficult puzzle to solve but I am more than hopeful I can provide back-to-back winners of the race. There are a few others at decent odds that have chance. However, at this moment, I am going provide you my shortlist horses where I believe the winner will come from below and quickly mention most of the other runners.

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SHORTLIST SO FAR

MINELLA ROCCO (Ground dependant, good will give him great chance, soft leaves question marks) 8/10

LORD WINDERMERE (valuable course form, interesting preparation, kept fresh) 7/10

REGAL ENCORE (eye-catching race last year, better form this year) 7/10

SHANTOU FLYER (unlucky last year, will handle the ground and in very good form) 7/10

TOTAL RECALL (open to more improvement and could be tailor made for this) 8/10

SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT (will handle the ground, jumps well and nicely treated) 7/10

MILANSBAR (Will like the ground, stays well and has Bryony Frost on board. Looks the type that will love these fences and could run well for a long way, especially with the fact his win at Warwick was similar to last year’s winner One for Arthur) 7/10

GAS LINE BOY (5th last year. In very good form this year though and could be a surprise package to sneak in the frame at decent odds) 7/10

ALPHA DES OBEAUX (classy hurdler and chaser, unexposed over this trip and jumps well. Massive turnaround at the weights with Total Recall on their Munster National clash) 8/10

THE REST

UCELLO CONTI (Well supported again but has blown two good chances in this already in 2015/16 and I doubt it’s third time lucky) 4/10

GOLD PRESENT (Open to more improvement but ground gone against him and ran a lifeless race last time) 4/10

I JUST KNOW (Stays and jumps well but simply doesn’t look good enough to win this) 2/10

THE DUTCHMAN (Won well two starts ago but ran awful last time and needs to bounce back which is unlikely) 3/10

CAPTAIN REDBEARD (In great form this season and will handle the ground but is another who looks out of his depth against some of these) 4/10

VIEUX LION ROUGE (Ran well twice in this without staying each time, can’t see that changing here but should run well) 5/10

VICENTE (Dual Scottish National winner but needs good ground and that is unlikely now) 3/10

PLEASANT COMPANY (9th last year and would have been closer but for a bad mistake late on. However, shown little this season and hard to recommend) 2/10

VINTAGE CLOUDS (Stays all day, will handle the going but in my opinion he doesn’t jump well enough and I doubt he will complete) 4/10

WARRIORS TALE (could be interesting representing Nicholls and Hemmings but doesn’t shape as though he wants this extreme distance) 4/10

HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (the more rain the better his chance. Ran well for 10th in this last year on ground quicker than ideal and could easily improve on last year’s effort with ground to suit) 6/10

FINAL NUDGE (Could love these fences, handles the ground and stays well but ran so poorly last time and I doubt he will bounce back in this much tougher race) 3/10

CARLINGFORD LOUGH (Former Grade one winner, loves cut in the ground and has been aimed at this race for a while but he isn’t getting any younger and hard to believe he will win at the age of 12) 5/10

SAINT ARE (Twice reached the frame in four attempts, but I think he is the shadow of his former self nowadays) 4/10

The remainder of the field don’t look good enough at all so I have eight for the shortlist.

CONCLUSION

So who are betting on then? My eight horses who made my shortlist can all be given some sort of chance but there isn’t a chance I will be tipping up all of them, so I will pick out the four most solid and possibly one more if the ground is suitable for that specific horse. In total I will be using 5 points.

So my first selection is TOTAL RECALL, who is still improving and has won three lovely races for Willie Mullins already this season including the Ladbrokes Trophy. He is very well treated off this mark because he would have been rated much higher if he didn’t fall three out in the Gold Cup. That means he comes here pretty fresh and Paul Townend will ride. He reminds me a lot of a former winner called Papillon and this race could be tailor made for him. I think with a clear round, he won’t be far away at all and is the most solid of the market leaders.

My second selection is REGAL ENCORE, who ran so well in this last year when a strong finishing 8th at his first attempt over the fences, coming from miles back at one stage. His whole campaign has been built around another shot at this prize and his form this year has been pretty exceptional. He is a rock solid jumper and there is no reason why he won’t be much closer this year, especially with Richie Mclernon on board who will want to win this more than anyone having been narrowly denied on Sunnyhillboy a few years ago.

My third selection is ALPHA DES OBEAUX, who I still can’t believe is 40/1 for this race. He was only just short of top-class over hurdles behind the likes of Thistlecrack but developed into an even better chaser, winning a Grade two race earlier in the season. I have always believed he is a very good horse and he ran a brave race in last year’s RSA chase to finish fourth behind Might Bite considering he broke a blood vessel. Interestingly, he was immediately stepped up to 3m5f in the Irish Grand National just one month later and he ran a nice race to finish 8th staying on having had little time to recover from his injury. Since then he has gone from strength to strength because his last six runs have either been in Grade one or Grade two company and he has run well in every single one, showing he has a lot of class and ability.

Don’t forget, he was only 7 lengths behind Total Recall in the Munster National when second and attempting to give that horse 15lb! He is 16lb better off with him in the National yet that horse is 10/1 whereas Alpha Des Obeaux is triple the odds. Mouse Morris knows what it takes to win this race having won it with Rule The World but there is no doubt Alpha Des Obeaux is a better horse than that one. My only slight concern would be inexperienced national course rider Rachel Blackmore being in the saddle but she is a class jockey over in Ireland and her mount for this is a brilliant jumper. In all honesty, i believe Total Recall has a great chance in this but then surely Alpha Des Obeaux has an even better chance with that massive weight pull. With most bookmakers paying down to six, I think he is a cracking each-way bet and if he does get around and stay the distance, there is every chance he can win this.

My fourth selection is a surprise one and it’s LORD WINDERMERE, who was a creditable 7th in the race last year despite having a poor preparation according to connections. He didn’t exactly jump the best and was hampered badly at one point but his old class got him home in the end and it was an eye-catching performance. This time around he is 3lb lower and has only had one start since which was in the Becher chase. He was travelling so well and I am almost sure he would have at least been in the frame until taking an unfortunate fall when getting competitive. It’s really interesting connections have kept him fresh since and I can see why because he has a fantastic record on the back of a break. We know he has valuable course form and Andrew Lynch is a nice jockey booking. I am not saying he will win this but with a fresher campaign this time around, I can see him improving on last year’s position with luck in-running.

Finally, my fifth selection is based on the ground so hold fire at the moment and that horse is MINELLA ROCCO, who looks tailor made for this. He is the classiest horse in the race and he beat Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River over 4 miles before finishing second one year later in the Gold Cup. He is a proper stayer and Jonjo O’neill rates him much higher than their former winner Don’t Push it. He’s also coming into the race on the back of a Wind Operation, which seems a smart move. My only worry is that he needs ground described with good but either way of he is thereabouts turning into the home straight, he will keep galloping. I won’t play my cards on him just yet but he could well be my extra selection come Saturday.

TOTAL RECALL – 0.5 PTS E/W (11/1) generally paying 5/6 places at 1/4 and 1/5 odds.
REGAL ENCORE – 0.5 PTS E/W (33/1) generally paying 5/6 places at 1/4 odds and 1/5 odds.
ALPHA DES OBEAUX – 0.5 PTS E/W (40/1) generally paying 5 places at 1/4 odds.
LORD WINDERMERE – 0.5 PTS E/W (66/1) generally paying 6 places at 1/5 odds.
MINELLA ROCCO – 0.5 PTS E/W (20/1) available paying 5 places (WILL BE A NO BET IF GROUND IS SOFT)

Let’s win this two years in a row!

Best of luck and I hope you enjoyed my Grand National Preview. Please feel free to leave any comments below, it would be greatly appreciated.

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