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Tony Calvin on the Grand National: Back Le Mercurey and O'Faolains Boy

The weights have been announced for this year's Grand National
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The Grand National Weights were officially unveiled in London last night so we asked Tony Calvin to scour the market for value and he found two to back at big prices on the Exchange...


"He announced himself as a serious novice when beating Bristol De Mai by seven lengths in a Grade 2 at Aye last April – Otago Trail was 22 lengths away in third – and has since posted two performances that mark him out as very well-handicapped off a mark of just 151."

Tipping in the Randox Health Grand National at this stage is fraught with dilemmas - not least the fact that firms like Betfair Sportsbook usually offer enhanced place terms in the lead-up to the race, so competitive is the marketplace for big meetings - but you bet when the price compensates.

So, straight into it. Look to back Le Mercurey at [46.0], and O'Faolains Boy at [40.0], or bigger on the Exchange. Both have a fair bit of potential to shorten, for different reasons.

Let's start with my main fancy at the current odds, Le Mercurey, though it was more than a touch annoying that the 66/1 available this morning disappeared by midday.

The big problem with backing him is his stamina is unproven - indeed, he has never raced beyond 3m1f - but Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls was in pretty confident mood when asked about this aspect of the horse's chances at the Grand National Weights launch on Tuesday evening.

Nicholls said that every jockey who has ever sat on the horse has said he wants further - something that isn't massively borne out by the evidence of my eyes, admittedly, but we won't know for sure until April 8 - and there is no doubt that Le Mercurey is one of the better handicapped horses in the race.

He announced himself as a serious novice when beating Bristol De Mai by seven lengths in a Grade 2 at Aye last April - Otago Trail was 22 lengths away in third - and has since posted two performances that mark him out as very well-handicapped off a mark of just 151.

He finished a three-and-a-half length second to Many Clouds in first-time blinkers over 3m1f at Aintree in December but arguably a better effort was his second to Native River in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday, where Bristol De Mai was six lengths away in third.

He was only getting 1lb from both horses and he looked a very serious threat to the winner at one stage - he traded at [2.66] in the run - before the impressive Native River kicked into overdrive.

You can question the merit of the form but the winner went into the race rated 168, and the third 166, so the handicapper has clearly done Le Mercurey's connections a massive favour by leaving his mark unchanged, however much you think the winner didn't have to run up to his best at the weekend.

I spoke to one of the joint-owners on Tuesday night and the plan is to bypass Cheltenham with him and go straight to Aintree - though he does have an entry at Kempton a week on Saturday - and if Native River or Bristol De Mai run big races next month then his price is only going to go one way.

The stamina is a big nagging doubt but at the end of the day he has never been tried at beyond 3m1f, so we don't know, and the price is adequate compensation anyway.


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O'Faolains Boy has a lot more questions to answer, as he hasn't been seen since finishing down the field in the Gold Cup in March.

He is a horse who has had more than his fair share of problems since beating Smad Place in the 2014 RSA but trainer Rebecca Curtis said she is very happy with the horse at the moment, and is in the best shape she has had him for a while. The plan, she added, is to run him at Ascot on Saturday if the ground remains suitable.

As with Le Mercurey, there is no doubt the handicapper has given him a huge chance at the weights - indeed, Timeform have him top-rated - and he is now 8lb lower than at his peak. And it was only last season he was beating the 150-rated Sausalito Sunrise by 15 lengths off levels at Newbury.

If he comes out and runs a big race at the weekend, then he has the potential to shorten dramatically. Connections would clearly prefer soft ground for him but he did win his RSA on good going, and he has always shaped as though an extreme trip would hold no fears for him.

Of course, there are no end of more solid horses at the top of the market, but Le Mercurey and O'Faolains Boy are my two against the field at this stage.


Recommended Bets
Back Le Mercurey at [46.0] or bigger in the Grand National
Back O'Faolains Boy at [40.0] and bigger in the Grand National

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Aintree may be on the horizon but the small matter of Cheltenham is now just weeks away. Tony will be here in the run-up to the Festival and throughout the week with Cheltenham tips and betting previews

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