By Charlie McCann
THE weights were announced in London on Tuesday for the greatest horse race in the world the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National to be held on Saturday April 5th.
Despite carrying top-weight of 11st 10lbs Tidal Bay has been given a great chance by the handicapper having stayed on into second over a now, seemingly, inadequate 3 miles at Leopardstown at the weekend in the Grade One Irish Hennessy.
This will be the teenager’s 43rd and final race of an extraordinary career which has included a win at the Cheltenham Festival back in 2008 in the Arkle Trophy. Tidal Bay is trained by Paul Nicholls, who saddled the winner of the race a couple of years ago with Neptune Collonges, and it should be noted that four of the last five winners of the race have carried 11 stone or more with only Auroras Encore 12-months ago bucking that trend.
No teenager has won the race since Sergeant Murphy back in 1923 but Tidal Bay is an exceptional horse although he did unseat Brian Hughes in this race back in 2011 when in the care of Howard Johnson. He is currently 16/1 (Non Runner Free Bet and 5 places) with BetVictor and he is a must for any shortlist given he will bypass Cheltenham in order to be freshened up for his swansong.
The yard of Rebecca Curtis have not had the greatest of winters and there has not been a Welsh-trained winner of the race since Kirkland back in 1905, but my goodness they have come close in recent years and I take TEAFORTHREE to go two better than last year. A winner of the 4m National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham a couple of years ago he subsequently finished runner up to Monbeg Dude (13lbs worse off at Aintree) in the Welsh National and he is entitled to come on for his reappearance when back in mid-division at Chepstow over Xmas.
He has a bit to find with Tidal Bay on that effort but the yard were quiet at the time and handicapper Phil Smith has given him a chance. There is a train of thought that Nick Schofield went for glory too soon last year and he is likely to hang onto him longer if he gets the leg up although he might be claimed for one of the Nicholls-trained runners in the race. He is currently 20/1 NRFB and five places with BetVictor and he is the antepost recommendation.
Monbeg Dude put up a career best performance when scoring at Cheltenham back in December and he could run in both the National Trial at Haydock on Saturday and the Gold Cup next month before taking his chance at Aintree. Trained by Michael Scudamore the horse already has one National (Welsh) to his name and it would cap a wonderful few months for former England Rugby Union international Mike Tindall, one of the Oydunow syndicate who own the horse, whose wife Zara Phillips, grand-daughter to the Queen, gave birth to baby Mia Grace 16th in line to the throne earlier in the year.
Monbeg Dude had been previously considered a soft ground horse before his latest success and he strikes me as an ideal candidate for the race despite the lack of experience over the larger obstacles. I wouldn’t want him to have too hard a race at either Haydock or Cheltenham in preparation for the National but he could easily run into a place in the Gold Cup and he wouldn’t be 16/1 for Aintree given that scenario. There will inevitably be a strong Irish challenge and Prince de Beauchene, in the same ownership as Tidal Bay, could be the pick having missed the race for the last couple of years through injury.
Trainer Willie Mullins has long considered him an ideal type for the race and he is due to carry 10st 10lbs which looks, potentially, well treated on his best form. Sunnyhillboy went down by the narrowest of margins in the race a couple of years ago, before unseating when well held 12-months ago. He showed he was no back number when scoring over timber at Cheltenham in December and could easily sneak into a place. The last two winners of the race have been 11-years-of-age and Sunnyhillboy is one of a number likely to carry the famous colours of JP McManus at Aintree on April 5th.
Crabbies’ Grand National: EW ¼ first 5 and Non Runner Free Bet at BetVictor. Monbeg Dude 16/1 Tidal Bay 16/1 Triolo D’Alene 20/1 Rocky Creek 20/1 Teaforthree 20/1 Long Run 25/1 Colbert Station 25/1 On His own 25/1 Godsmejudge 25/1 Hawkes Point 25/1 Prince de Beauchene 25/1 33s bar
Recommendation: Teaforthree (each way 20/1 5 places at BetVictorand money back as a free bet if he fails to line up at Aintree).
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