The Grand National is back this year with a heavy favourite in the form of Cap Cloth, which gives Nathan Joyes plenty to go at in his search for a bigger priced winner...
"After an 111 day break, the veteran bolted up doing handstands at Aintree over 3m1f, with Paul Nicholls favourite Sametegal 15 lengths back in third and recent Cheltenham Festival Ultima winner, Vintage Clouds, almost 40 lengths behind the winner."
It has almost been two years since we last saw Tiger Roll win the last "real" Grand National and I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I am delighted to see the race return this year.
It's always quite exciting seeing a clear favourite in the 40-plus field, because not only may we witness a superstar performance, but it also presents each-way opportunities. Here's my list to consider at different price points.
Denise Foster's Farclas was an impressive second to The Shunter in the Paddy Power Chase at Cheltenham, which is a reason to believe he may go well in the Grand National. He was well fancied at the Festival, proving how well regarded he is.
A huge positive for the seven-year-old at Aintree is that he will run off a featherweight at just 10-3, two pounds lower than Cloth Cap, which could help to spring a surprise on the day.
As well as the Cheltenham podium finish, Foster's grey placed at the Dublin Racing Festival earlier in the year. He clearly doesn't mind racing in big fields, which is certainly a big tick here.
Noticeably, he has finished these testing races strongly and, although the National is a completely different test, it will be interesting to see if Farclas, running off such a low weight, can utilise his stamina. Foster will be hopeful of, at least, a placed finish with a successful round of jumping.
If I believe Farclas has a chance of running a big race, then I certainly can't dismiss Minella Times.
Henry De Bromhead's eight-year-old has only raced once over 3m since his debut, which came off a 93-day break at Leopardstown under Rachel Blackmore.
But that run was very promising indeed. Minella Times finished second, ahead of Farclas, and although he failed to reel in Castlebrown West, the eight-year-old plugged on well at the finish.
Both runs since returning from the break have also come in races with 22 runners, racing from the front in the 3m at Leopardstown before coming from off the pace over 2m5½f at the same track.
Similar to The Storyteller, Minella Times can handle racing in a big field, but also doesn't have to be up there with the pace in order to run his race. The eight-year-old is able to sit in behind the front runners and pick them off one by one.
A clear run is required to achieve this, and luck will need to be on Minella Times' side, but at 12/1 there is belief he can create his own.
This is a huge step up in distance for him, but De Bromhead certainly isn't entering his horses just for the sake of it and that improved performance over 3m may just be a small indication that Minella Times has the required stamina to continue the Irish dominance on English soil once more.
It's hard to ignore Denise Foster's other entries and The Storyteller is very much a horse worth siding with.
Like many horses within the field, there is an unknown whether he will have the stamina for the gruelling National trip, but he has on several occasions shaped very well over three miles.
Judging on these performances, predominantly at Leopardstown, there's plenty to like. His jumping is slick and often effective - two vital ingredients required to be successful at Aintree.
Prior to his fifth in the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, you have to admire the way in which he chased home Kemboy in the Irish Gold Cup. On that evidence, there's every chance he can outrun his currently 20-1 odds in the National.
The Storyteller's handicap mark has once again increased for the National, which is why he is the price he is, but with six wins over fences to his name, this shouldn't put you off.
Katy Price's 11-year-old has had a very mixed campaign, it's safe to say.
After an 111-day break, the veteran bolted up doing handstands at Aintree over 3m1f, with Paul Nicholls favourite Sametegal 15 lengths back in third and recent Cheltenham Festival Ultima winner, Vintage Clouds, almost 40 lengths behind the winner.
This performance wasn't out of the blue, as he previously scored after a 138 day break at Uttoxeter over 3m2f.
Since that victory, however, his record reads UR-UR-7. However, regular jockey Ben Poste lost an iron and unseated on the flat before a horse fell in front of Minellacelebration, bringing him down in the process. Two races you can easily dismiss.
Another lengthy break will have done him the world of good and without the misfortune he endured in December and January, his 66-1 represents solid each-way value.
I must admit, it isn't the easiest job in the world trying to sell a 100/1 shot but if there's a race in which to do it, it's certainly the National.
The Hollow Ginge arguably couldn't be heading into this race with worse form reading PU-UR-4-UR-PU. But out of those performances, his fourth sticks out.
The winner on that occasion at Newbury, was National favourite Cloth Cap. Since, Aye Right, who finished second, placed in the Ultima at Cheltenham Festival.
The Hollow Ginge finished 17 lengths behind Cloth Cap, but only seven from Aye Right, who was one of the favourites to win the Ultima, let's not forget.
The reason I'm focusing on this performance is because of the manner of which the seven-year-old finished the race. He stayed on strongly considering he was held up in rear for the majority of the race and the fact he looked as though the tank wasn't empty, might just suit the marathon of the National.
He's previously had two runs at Aintree over 3m, finishing second of nine and fourth of sixteen, both times being held in rear.
If he does have anything left in the tank, this trip may just work out for him. At 100/1, there's every reason to take a chance on Nigel Twiston-Davies' horse.
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