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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Greg Wood

Grand National 2023: horse-by-horse guide to all the runners

Forty runners will line up in Saturday’s Grand National, with this view at the start.
Forty runners will line up in Saturday’s Grand National, with this view at the start. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA

1) ANY SECOND NOW (age 11, weight 11st 12lb)

Desperately unlucky in running behind Minella Times in 2021 and put up another huge performance under a big weight to finish second 12 months ago, when he led until just over a furlong from home. Has clearly been laid out for this again by the super-shrewd Ted Walsh, but is 8lb higher in the ratings and giving weight away all round. An Aintree stalwart for sure, but at 11, his time may have passed and at least one of the less exposed runners will probably have his measure.

2) GALVIN (9yo, 11st 11lb)

Seen as an Identikit Aintree type in his novice days, with bottomless stamina and a Grade One engine in a classically strapping steeplechaser’s frame, but lines up for his first attempt at the famous fences as the apparent second-string in Gordon Elliott’s big squad for the race. That is due in part to a habit of coming up a little short in the very best company, and also the fact that his stable companion, Delta Work, was two-and-a-half lengths in front of him last time out and is now 7lb better off. Talented, resilient and reliable – and probably not quite good enough at the weights.

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3) NOBLE YEATS (8yo, 11st 11lb)

Emmet Mullins’s stable star was the first seven-year-old to land the Grand National since 1940 last year, and unlike several recent winners that went backwards after winning at Aintree, he has built on that success this season. Found a remarkable turn of foot to win over the Mildmay course at Aintree in December and came from a different county to finish fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last time out, but is also no fewer than 19lb higher in the weights this time around. Red Rum was the last horse to win with 11st 11lb or more on his back when he went in for the second year running in 1974, and while Mullins’s runner has a better chance than most to buck the trend, it will require yet another big career-best to do so and a single-figure price makes little appeal.

Noble Yeats and Sam Waley-Cohen win the National last year.
Noble Yeats and Sam Waley-Cohen win the National last year. Photograph: Andy Watts/

4) FURY ROAD (9yo, 11st 6lb)

A Grade One winner over three miles as a novice back in December 2021, but while some horses are obviously crying out for a marathon test, this one has often raced as if he is trying to get in touch with his inner two-and-a-half miler. Elliott dropped him back to that trip at Cheltenham last month and it will be a real surprise if he is still on the premises as they cross the Melling Road for the final time.

5) CAPODANNO (7yo, 11st 5lb)

Mixed it with the very best in his first season over fences last year, finishing a 12-length fourth in a strong renewal of the three-mile Grade One at the Cheltenham Festival. Was seven lengths adrift of Gaillard Du Mesnil in that race, though, and carries 5lb more than that rival now, so hardly qualifies as the best handicapped horse in the race, and also tends to throw in the odd sloppy jump along the way. Not completely out of it, but not a long way into it, either.

6) THE BIG DOG (10yo, 11st 5lb)

Bottomless stamina, as he showed when finishing a close third in the Welsh National in December, and was in the process of running a fine race, despite starting as a 33-1 shot, approaching the second-last in the Irish Gold Cup in February. His habit of making the occasional bad mistake at an unfortunate moment kicked in at that point, however, and an “F” last time out has never been much of a signpost towards a likely National winner. Seems at his best on very testing ground too, so probably best to look elsewhere unless Aintree receives a drenching.

7) DELTA WORK (10yo, 11st 4lb)

The pick of Elliott’s huge team according to the betting, and arrives in peak form having landed the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham last month. Elliott’s previous National winners – Silver Birch and Tiger Roll, twice – used that race as their Aintree prep so that is clearly a positive sign, but Delta Work won it last year as well and then finished only a distant third in the National. He is 1lb lower in the weights now but a year older too and his moment may well have passed, as far as top honours are concerned at least.

Owner Michael O’Leary kisses Delta Work after victory in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeplechase at Cheltenham last month.
Owner Michael O’Leary kisses Delta Work after victory in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham last month. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

8) SAM BROWN (11yo, 11st 4lb)

A runaway winner of a handicap chase over the regulation fences at Aintree an hour before last year’s National, and while he is winless in four starts since, the first three were Graded events and the fourth was over hurdles. Soundly beaten behind Noble Yeats in December’s Many Clouds Chase, but has often shaped as though the step up to a marathon trip would suit and anyone looking for a runner with an each-way squeak at a massive price – 80-1 at the time of writing – could do worse.

9) LIFETIME AMBITION (8yo, 11st 3lb)

Has acquitted himself well in strong company this season without managing to add another win to his record, including a 14-length third behind Galopin Des Champs – last seen running away with the Cheltenham Gold Cup – back in December. He has previous experience over the National fences too, having finished fourth in the Grand Sefton Chase in November, but his stamina for this trip is a big question mark and Thursday’s Topham Chase might have been a better option.

10) CAREFULLY SELECTED (11yo, 11st 1lb)

It is nine years since Pineau De Re became the last 11-year-old winner, but this one has the racing profile of a much younger horse having spent nearly three years on the sidelines after unseating his rider in the 2020 National Hunt Chase. He has been busily making up for lost time and landed the valuable Thyestes Chase on very deep ground in January, but did not seem to enjoy a faster surface at Fairyhouse last time. One to bear in mind only in the unlikely event that the ground turns heavy.

11) COKO BEACH (8yo, 11st)

Looked very much like a bit-part player in Elliott’s “run everything bar the stable cat” strategy last year, but actually went quite well towards the head of affairs before fading to finish eighth. Doubts still remain about his stamina for the full National trip, although he did see out three-and-a-half quite well on good-to-soft ground at Punchestown last month, and he will need to ridden with a little more restraint if he is to improve on last year’s placing from a 5lb higher mark. Significant rain would also be a big negative and on balance, he is one of the less appealing 33-1 shots in the field.

12) GAILLARD DU MESNIL (7yo, 11st)

A springer in the market over the last 10 days, probably as a result of punters trying to second-guess Paul Townend’s likely ride from a multitude of Willie Mullins-trained runners. Like Delta Work and Corach Rambler, he was a winner at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, but looked a little fortunate to pick up the pieces after the strong-travelling Mahler Mission fell two out. Noble Yeats ripped up the long-standing negative stat about seven-year-olds in the National last year but he did not arrive on the back of a hard-fought victory at Cheltenham and a price of around 14-1 looks fairly thin in the circumstances.

13) LONGHOUSE POET (9yo, 11st)

Fancied last year – your correspondent’s pick to win, in fact – and took to the challenge of the big fences like a natural under a brave, ground-saving ride against the inner rail. He was a bit too free from the off as well, though, and it told in the final half-mile as he faded to finish sixth. Place prospects if his jockey can keep a lid on him, but it’s quite a big if and the run from the Elbow could still be a furlong too far.

Longhouse Poet (nearside) clears the Water Jump in last year’s race.
Longhouse Poet (nearside) clears the Water Jump in last year’s race. Photograph: Paul Greenwood/Shutterstock

14) DARASSO (10yo, 10st 13lb)

Joseph O’Brien has been saddling big-race winners both on the Flat and over jumps almost since the moment he handed in his jockey’s licence and started training instead, so this one’s chance can’t be dismissed out of hand. There is no evidence that he will get the trip, however, and several runs on his record which suggest that he won’t. O’Brien may well become the first trainer ever to win both the Melbourne Cup and the Grand National, but it is highly unlikely to be this year.

15) LE MILOS (8yo, 10st 11lb)

One of just three horses from a British stable at 33-1 or shorter in the betting, and a live contender to give Dan and Harry Skelton their first National success having joined the yard at the start of the season. Successful on his first two outings this term, including Newbury’s biggest handicap chase of the year in November, but beaten at odds-on when sent for home a little too soon at Kelso in early March. That turned into a bit of a scrap but he has had 42 days to recover and looks to be arriving at Aintree on the right sort of weight and at just the right moment in his career.

16) ESCARIA TEN (9yo, 10st 10lb)

NON-RUNNER after found to be lame on Saturday.

17) THE BIG BREAKAWAY (8yo, 10st 10lb)

They say you should always forgive a horse for one bad run, but then they say all sorts of things that don’t stand up to serious analysis and this one’s last run – behind Corach Rambler in the Ultima at Cheltenham – was very bad indeed. Had he skipped the Festival and arrived at Aintree as a fresh horse after his close second in the Welsh National at Christmas, he would be a good deal shorter in the betting, but he didn’t and he isn’t, and his habit of clouting a fence or two along the way is also a concern.

18) CAPE GENTLEMAN (7yo, 10st 8lb)

The strict entry requirements for the National came in for some criticism earlier this year when Iwilldoit, the 2021 Welsh National winner, failed to qualify for Aintree, and it seems even stranger that he did not make the cut when this one has managed to scrape in. He earned his place by finishing fourth (of six) in a minor race at Fairyhouse in early February, but there is very little in his overall form, much of which is over much shorter trips, to suggest he has even an outside chance of glory.

19) ROI MAGE (11yo, 10st 8lb)

Patrick Griffin’s gelding was the only one of four reserves that failed to get a run in last year’s race, so he has at least cleared one obstacle this time around. He is also quite an interesting outsider on a strict reading of his form at Down Royal last month, when he gave 10lb to Longhouse Poet and went down by a length-and-a-quarter, since he will be getting 6lb from the same horse on Saturday. A broader inspection of his form, though, offers far less encouragement that there is any wriggle-room in his handicap mark, and there is great deal of it to inspect, as he had 44 starts for five different trainers in France before joining Griffin’s stable in 2021.

20) DIOL KER (9yo, 10st 8lb)

Has shown a liking for big-field handicaps in the past, and his form this seasons includes a close second in an ultra-competitive event at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting. He took a step backwards in the Punchestown Grand National Trial last time out, however, finishing a distant last after making a bad mistake at the 15th, and it requires a big leap of faith to see him rounding the Elbow anywhere close to the lead on Saturday afternoon.

21) A WAVE OF THE SEA (7yo, 10st 6lb)

The second-string in O’Brien’s two-horse team, and the comments on his more fancied runner, Darasso, apply here too, only more so. Had an unusual warm-up, to say the least, when sent to Cheltenham’s Festival meeting for a run in the two-mile Grand Annual, and showed nothing at all before being pulled up after the fourth-last. As unlikely a winner as there is in the entire field.

22) MINELLA TRUMP (9yo, 10st 6lb)

Fifty years on from the first of Red Rum’s three wins, Donald McCain’s hopes of rekindling his family’s love affair with the National rest on a chaser with plenty of winning form but none at a trip beyond three miles. In all, he has won nine of his last 11 starts, a run that takes in both hurdles and chases, but the bulk of his wins came on the less competitive summer jumping circuit and have given the handicapper plenty to work with when assessing his mark. The step up to beyond four miles could eke out a little more improvement, but it will take a huge dollop of McCain magic to get him home in front.

Donald McCain, trainer of Minella Trump, in front of the Red Rum plaque in the old winner’s enclosure at Aintree.
Donald McCain, trainer of Minella Trump, in front of the Red Rum plaque in the old winner’s enclosure at Aintree. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

23) VANILLIER (8yo, 10st 6lb)

Joined an illustrious roll of honour that includes two subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winners when he powered 11 lengths clear in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle in March 2021, but took a while to find his way over fences after a switch to the bigger later the same year. A Grade Two win as a novice in November 2021 remains his only chase success, but there have been highly promising signs more recently, including a half-length second to the high-class Kemboy in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February when he was giving the winner 8lb. He is arguably as well-handicapped as anything in the field on that form, with the possible exception of Corach Rambler, but widely available at around 20-1. Gavin Cromwell has enjoyed a number of significant successes at the Cheltenham Festival in recent seasons and will have high hopes for a horse with proven Grade One quality and a very fair racing weight.

24) VELVET ELVIS (7yo, 10st 6lb)

His performances seemed to be very much in a downward spiral in the early part of the season but have picked up a little since Christmas, including a seven-length second to Saturday’s top-weight, Any Second Now, in a Grade Two event at Navan last time. That was over two-and-a-half miles, however, and there is nothing in his back catalogue to suggest that a sudden jump to four-and-a-quarter will suit, never mind prompt the improvement required to make the frame.

25) AIN’T THAT A SHAME (9yo, 10st 5lb)

A potential springer in the market as punters back Rachael Blackmore to repeat her heroics aboard Minella Times two years ago, but there is much more to his chance than just a very talented jockey. Like two recent winners, he is still a novice over fences, and did not get off the mark over the bigger obstacles until the seventh attempt, in a minor contest at Gowran Park last time. He had already acquitted himself really well in a series of valuable handicaps, however, and looked like the best horse at the weights in a fierce contest at Leopardstown in December until a minor mistake at the last saw him drop back to a close fourth. His stamina is unproven, however, and he looked very tired in the closing stages when only 13th in the three-and-a-quarter mile Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir at Cheltenham last year. A live chance, but not as live as his odds might suggest.

26) CORACH RAMBLER (9yo, 10st 5lb)

Has almost everything you could wish to see in a potential Grand National winner, including a heartwarming back story which involves a bargain-basement purchase at the tail end of lockdown and an ownership syndicate who bought their shares via trainer Lucinda Russell’s website. The market leader since his second successive win in the Ultima Handicap Chase last month, and the clear leader of the home team’s challenge against a multitude of Irish-trained opponents. Unproven at a marathon trip, however, and another slight concern at the likely odds is a come-from-behind running style that is thrilling to watch but not generally favoured in the National. Russell’s 2017 National winner, One For Arthur, manage to pull off a similar trick but the likelihood was factored into his double-figure price. Well done to anyone who got 16-1 when the weights came out, but any value in his price is long gone.

27) ENJOY D’ALLEN (9yo, 10st 5lb)

Useful at his best, though without a win in a dozen starts over hurdles and fences since January 2021. Sent off at 20-1 last year, when he was racing off a 2lb higher mark, but got no further than the first, where he unseated his rider. He was a long way behind several of Saturday’s rivals in the Bobbyjo Chase last time out and is one of the easier runners to dismiss.

28) MR INCREDIBLE (7yo, 10st 4lb)

Has been more like Mr Unreliable since his first – and still only – victory over fences in November 2021, and refused to race two starts later. A switch to Willie Mullins’s stable has produced a little more consistency, but he still looked reluctant to get into a battle when third at Cheltenham last month. The big fences can sometimes fire the interest of a quirky type, and Mullins is an undoubted master of his craft. On balance, though, the risk that his eccentric streak will get the better of him is too much of a chance to take at relatively short odds.

29) MISTER COFFEY (8yo, 10st 4lb)

The latest horse to attempt to fill the only obvious gap on the CV of trainer Nicky Henderson, who has been at the top of his profession for nearly 40 years but has a miserable record of zero from 42 in the Grand National. His failure to saddle a winner is all the more remarkable given that his first runner, Zongalero, finished second as long ago as 1979, but the simple fact seems to be that he has not had many runners with a realistic shout and the type of top-class chasers that Henderson trains so expertly don’t tend to get into the National with a decent racing weight. His latest contender, meanwhile, has yet to register a single win over fences, and while he was a commendable 15-length third in a Grade Two at Cheltenham last month, his appetite for a struggle in the closing stages has often been open to question.

30) CLOUDY GLEN (10yo, 10st 4lb)

An operation to correct a breathing problem saw an immediate improvement in his form back in November 2021, when he won Newbury’s big November handicap at 33-1 when returning from 231 days on the sidelines, but his form has been patchy, to say the least, ever since. He ran quite well first time up this season in Haydock’s Grand National Trial but then took several steps backwards in the Ultima at Cheltenham, where he was pulled up with three to jump. If he follows the recent pattern, his next run will be even worse, so very much one for the super-optimists out there.

31) HILL SIXTEEN (10yo, 10st 2lb)

Has the odd piece of form that at least suggests he deserves his place in the field, and Sandy Thomson’s gelding was running quite well in last year’s Scottish National until he unseated in a melee caused by a faller four out. Has yet to win a chase in nine attempts for his current stable, however, and a close second over these fences in the Becher Chase in December 2021 now feels like it was a very long time ago.

Hill Sixteen (left), finishing second in the Becher Chase over the National fences in 2021.
Hill Sixteen (left), finishing second in the Becher Chase over the National fences in 2021. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA

32) GABBYS CROSS (8yo, 10st 2lb)

Ran an eye-catching race at Naas last time, when he was short of room two out and finished with some running left to give. Runs off the same mark here, which gets him in on the bottom weight of 10st 2lb, but yet to race over an extended trip and Blackmore has opted for stable companion, Ain’t That A Shame, instead.

33) RECITE A PRAYER (8yo, 10st 2lb)

Another member of the extensive Willie Mullins squad, and the one that is least likely to trouble the judge, according to the betting at least. Showed little aptitude for the big fences in the Becher Chase in December and beaten out of sight at Leopardstown later the same month. Even at 150-1, it takes a huge leap of faith to even think about backing him, and the prayer his backers need to recite is one to St Jude, the patron of hopeless causes.

34) EVA’S OSKAR (9yo, 10st 2lb)

Proved his ability to stay extreme distances in the Eider Chase at Newcastle in February, but was still no better than 18 lengths behind the winner and is effectively forced to race from a 1lb higher mark here as the minimum weight for the National is 10st 2lb. A huge improvement is required to even begin to trouble the top six, and there is no obvious reason why he might find it.

35) OUR POWER (8yo, 10st 2lb)

Sam Thomas won the Gold Cup as a jockey aboard the magnificent Denman and has made a fine start to his second career as a trainer with a series of big handicap chase wins, including the 2021 Welsh Grand National with Iwilldoit. This one could prove to be a very able deputy, however, and arrives on the back of two straight wins at three miles which strongly suggest he could have more improvement to come over further. Runs in the colours of Dai Walters, who is still recovering from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash in November and has serious hopes of receiving a significant mood-booster at around 5.25pm on Saturday afternoon.

Our Power soars to victory in the recent Coral Trophy at Kempton.
Our Power soars to victory in the recent Coral Trophy at Kempton. Photograph: Hugh Routledge/Shutterstock

36) DUNBOYNE (8yo, 10st 2lb)

Has the notorious “squiggle” – the racing equivalent of an Asbo – against his Timeform rating having put up a long series of half-hearted performances including a point-blank refusal to race as recently as November. His attitude has improved slightly since and he finished fourth in a big field at the Cheltenham Festival last month, but that is nowhere near the wholesale transformation required to have any kind of chance in the most demanding contest of them all.

37) FRANCKY DU BERLAIS (10yo, 10st 2lb)

Has set off at 100-1 and 80-1 twice for his last three starts, including the Cross Country at Cheltenham last month when he ran fairly well – until deciding he had seen enough and refusing at the last. He might have finished third but would have been a long way behind Delta Work, and was also soundly beaten over these fences in the Becher Chase in December. The only boxes he ticks for this much sterner test are the ones marked “four legs” and “a pulse”.

38) FORTESCUE (9yo, 10st 2lb)

Creeps in at the bottom of the weights for the second year running but there’s no obvious reason why he should fare any better than in 2022, when he was struggling to go the pace from an early stage and eventually unseated his rider four out when he was already adrift towards the rear.

39) BACK ON THE LASH (9yo, 10st 2lb)

Twice a winner over the cross-country course at Cheltenham, where the Aintree great Tiger Roll prepped for his two National victories, but is a long way short of the Tiger in terms of class and consistency and ran a desperately poor race over the same circuit – for the second year running – at the Festival last month. Should get the trip but needs much, much more for even a top-10 finish.

40) BORN BY THE SEA (9yo, 10st 2lb)

Arrives with just two wins from 19 starts over fences and on a losing streak of 12 races at a variety of trips. Soundly beaten at 150-1 in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap at Cheltenham last month and looks completely out of his depth.

Grand National verdict:
2) Le Milos
3) Our Power
4) Delta Work
Best outsider: Sam Brown

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