The 2019 Aintree Grand National is fast approaching, and the latest declaration stage has whittled the contenders down to about 80 racehorses.
Only half of that number can go in the maximum field at 40 on Saturday, 6 April. Those who sit just outside the cut-off point now face a nervous wait to see if any more horses forfeit their entries.
Horses between 41 and 50 in the Grand National weights can feel reasonably confident of getting a run. With that in mind, here are some that could still sneak into the world’s most famous steeplechase and are therefore well worth considering from a betting perspective.
Sue Smith and Trevor Hemmings were unlucky to miss out last year with Vintage Clouds, but he only needs five horses above him to be scratched to get a run this time. After being well supported to win the Welsh Grand National over Christmas and getting pulled-up, he bounced back to form when he came in second in another valuable graded handicap at the Cheltenham Festival.
Both owner and trainer are no strangers to Grand National success, with handler Smith saddling Auroras Encore to Aintree glory in 2013. Hemmings, meanwhile, is the most successful racehorse owner in modern Grand National history.
Vintage Clouds has been allotted a weight just 2lb below that of one of Betfair’s tips for Grand National 2019 in Singlefarmpayment. Smith’s charge is a much shorter price with bookmakers at 12/1 than the 50/1 for Singlefarmpayment, who needs just one of the top 40 to come out to run.
Walk In The Mill
At one point, it looked as though Becher Chase hero Walk In The Mill wouldn’t make the cut. This Robert Walford-trained nine-year-old is now close to getting into the 2019 Grand National and may return to Aintree off another light weight.
The Becher is as a close to a trial for the big race as you can get as it’s a staying chase over the same fences. While the difference in distance is more than a mile, there is no substitute for the experience of the National course and those spruce-covered obstacles.
Lady Luck may smile upon Walk In The Mill again and, if he is guaranteed a run, the top price of 33/1 about him with Betfair is well worth looking at each-way. Connections have saved him for an Aintree bid, and their gamble to only run him over hurdles since the Becher to preserve his rating may well pay off.
Bless The Wings
Last year’s winning Grand National trainer Gordon Elliott looks sure to have many irons in the fire again. Defending champion Tiger Roll is chief among them, but the County Meath handler has plenty of his horses also entered in the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse just a couple of weeks later.
Some of his massive team will surely stay at home in the Emerald Isle and miss Aintree, so that gives hope that last year’s third Bless The Wings may just get one final crack on Merseyside. Although now in the twilight of his career as a 14-year-old, he rolled back the years 12 months ago when he was best of the rest behind Tiger Roll and Pleasant Company.
Bless The Wings isn’t open to further improvement like many younger rivals but seems to run well over extreme trips, particularly in the spring. You can’t read too much into him pulling up in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham last time out because he failed to complete in last year’s Irish Grand National before running a stormer at Aintree. The odds of 80/1 are huge, especially as Betfair pay six places.