It's the big day at Aintree and Kevin Blake has a pair to play including, of course, an each-way bet for the National...
"Any Second Now was trained for the Grand National last year and looked to be coming to the boil very nicely until the race was cancelled. He has again been trained with one race in mind this season and impressed when winning the Webster Cup at Navan last time."
Happy to back this Cheltenham runner-up
The Betway Handicap Chase (16:15) is the curtain raiser for the main event and it will hopefully see what would likely be a popular result for the Kim Bailey-trained Happygolucky. The seven-year-old was lined up for the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and was a heavily-backed favourite on the day, but he found the veteran Vintage Clouds too good for him on the day.
Happygolucky went through the race very easily and indeed may have been a little bit too exuberant for his own good in the middle part of the race on what was his first start in three months. That run is likely to have shaken off some of that freshness and it wouldn't be a surprise if he raced in a more efficient manner in this as a result. The way he shaped at Cheltenham also suggested that this lesser test of stamina at the trip will play to his strengths too.
Having been raised just 2lb for his excellent run at the Cheltenham Festival, Happygolucky looks to be a very strong favourite in what is a weaker race at Aintree.
Ted has targetted this
The main event of the entire meeting is the Randox Grand National (17:15). Everyone knows the score with this race, one could pick three or four selections and not have anything in contention with a circuit still to run. Backing the Grand National winner will of course always be about winning a few quid, but there is something deeply fulfilling about achieving it. There is no greater puzzle in horse racing than the Grand National and there are few greater pleasures than watching your selection prove itself to be the solution to that puzzle.
Unfortunately, I can't claim any great track record in solving this particular puzzle. I have to go back to Ballabriggs in 2011 to find the last occasion that my first-choice selection got the job done. My memories of the race have also been scarred by deeply frustrating defeats for my selections, with the most painful being Clan Royal in 2004 (the elbow, Liam, turn right at the fecking elbow!!) and Sunnyhillboy in 2012 (I still think it was a dead heat), but that won't deter me from having a crack at it every year.
There is no question that it's a notably different race since they changed the fences prior to the 2013 renewal and I find myself looking for a different type of horse now, particularly with regard to jumping technique. Solid and safe jumpers were the ones to look for pre-2013, but nowadays horses with low jumping techniques tend to prosper.
The one I have landed on is the Ted Walsh-trained Any Second Now. He has been target trained for much of his career over fences and was delivered to win the Kim Muir Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in great style in 2019. Any Second Now was trained for the Grand National last year and looked to be coming to the boil very nicely until the race was cancelled. He has again been trained with one race in mind this season and impressed when winning the Webster Cup at Navan last time.
Any Second Now gives every impression of being a potentially high-class horse, but he has had his handicap mark preserved with a view to this race. He has the right type of jumping technique for the modern Grand National and while his stamina is unproven, he promises to stay well based on his win in the Kim Muir.
Any Second Now is my number one pick and if I was pressed for a next best, it would be Burrows Saint.
Best of luck!