Grand National Tips

Tony Calvin: Guaranteed Grand National runners likely to stand their ground

Betfair tipster Tony Calvin
Tony takes a brief look at Saturday's Grand National

Tony Calvin takes a brief look at Saturday's Grand National, and argues that not many of the guaranteed runners are likely to come out of the race based on ground and weather conditions...

  • Lack of going stick readings is frustrating

  • Testing conditions likely for Saturday's big race

  • 51 runners left in vying for 34 starting spots

  • Read our Ultimate Guide to the 2024 Grand National

  • Bet safely on Aintree Grand National Festival - read more here


The Grand National market has been pretty static for a while now, and it is pretty much as you were after the five-day confirmation stage at midday on Monday.

The out-of-form outsider Fury Road, 17th in the list, was the only horse guaranteed a run to be taken out, and he was joined by Empire Steel, Fantastic Lady and Angels Dawn.

There are 51 left in the race fighting for 34 spots.

Where are the going stick readings?

Before I touch upon the betting and likely make-up of the final field in this brief update piece, let's bring up the subject that needs addressing.

Why are we only five days away from the biggest betting race of the year, and 72 hours shy of the start of the Grand National meeting, and yet we still have no going stick readings?

This is on the back of a similarly poor communication process with the ground at Cheltenham.

The going is currently officially soft on the Mildmay track, and soft, heavy in places, on the National course.

The going stick would give these descriptions far more context - as we saw at Bath on Sunday with their readings, a basic ground update can hide a multitude of sins, and depth of ground - so why aren't we being provided with them for the biggest public stage of all?

I have just double-checked Turftrax just before this went live, as well as both BHA sites, and nothing.

Now, not for one minute do I believe this is because of an oversight or laziness on anyone's part.

And if it is because of "optics" - people worried about how it looks to have horses racing possibly over an extreme trip on very deep ground - then some heads need knocking together.

The race is probably as "safe" as it has ever been, no-one can control the weather, and common sense will be the watch-phrase drilled into the jockeys, by raceday officials and stewards, if it is indeed heavy on Saturday.

I'm fully aware plenty of people don't think this is a big deal, but there is no downside to providing punters with as much information as possible.

For example, Leicester updated their going stick reading for their planned Friday meeting (surely a million to go ahead) at 7.30am on Monday, and that was an astonishingly low 2.5, presumably supplied by a frogman...

The Aintree forecast suggests the ground is only going to get worse before the three-day meeting starts on Thursday.

The course has had 2.4mm today so far, with maybe another 2mm to arrive through the day, and 15mm more combined for Tuesday and Wednesday.

And that is actually a much-improved forecast from the one I saw on Sunday night.

On the plus side, it looks decent weather from Thursday onwards.

Heavy ground can aid those not guaranteed a run

So what hope do any of the connections of horses out of the top 34 (remember, we are down from a maximum field of 40 to 34 for the first time this year) have of getting in?

Ronnie Bartlett, owner of Stattler and Galvin (currently 10th and 14th in the weights), said on Sunday that "unless the going starts with good to soft, I'll not be running them."

That gives a ray of light for those with horses currently not guaranteed a run - though let's hope Bartlett doesn't leave a decision until the very last minute as apparently there are no reserves this year - so I thought I'd go through the rest of the top 34 in the weights to see if I could envisage other no-shows in the advent of soft ground or worse.

And you'd struggle to think it could be any better than soft at the moment given the forecast rain for the next 48 hours, even if it is a quick-draining track and some decent temperatures of 16-18 degrees on Thursday to Saturday.

The ground probably won't be ideal for the favourite Corach Rambler (5/16.00 favourite with the Betfair Sportsbook, paying five places, and 7.413/2 win-only on the exchange) but he handles soft perfectly well and he will run, come rain or shine.

Aintree big field at fence.jpg

And I suspect nearly everything else will too, having gone through the field.

In fact, the aforementioned Stattler has handled heavy well in the past, and likewise Galvin with soft, so I imagine Bartlett's trainers may have had a word with him today.

Ones that would possibly prefer better ground than the current description of soft, heavy in places, as their optimum are Galvin, Eldorado Allen, Run Wild Fred, Latenightpass, Mac Tottie, Chemical Energy and The Goffer.

But it'll take a brave call to take any of them out on anything other than heavy ground, so the owners not assured of a run will be hoping the forecast Aintree rain extends into Thursday and beyond.

No tips yet... but there will be

I'll keep my current fancy to myself for now, especially as he isn't assured of a run.

There are six horses currently on 10st 6lb and that will surely be the cut-off point, perhaps with a random ballot required by the sounds of it (another new one on me).

More of the Grand National late on Thursday afternoon probably, maybe Friday morning - that depends on editorial deadlines - and I'll be back with a Day One assessment early on Wednesday.

A brilliant three-day meeting is in store but it is powder-dry time for now - especially as Monday now sees an extended, free, child-care service from myself - but health, wealth and happiness until then.

And if you have two of those three, to paraphrase a song - and maybe that random ballot - you are probably on to a winner already before Aintree starts.

Go well.


Now read more Grand National previews and tips here.


Profit and loss

Nov 1 onwards; 2023-24 NH season:

STAKED: 109

RETURN: 135.8

P/L: +26.8

April 16-Oct 31; 2023 Flat season

STAKED: 202

RETURNS: 168.9

P/L: -33.1

March 26 2022 - April 15 2023

Staked: 436

Returns: 643.6

P/L: +207.6

April 14 2021 to March 25 2022:

P/L: +183.1


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