Following the announcement of the Grand National weights, Tony Calvin runs his eye over the field and recommends an interest in one at a big price...
"if his trainer can keep him sweet – he has been off with a ligament problem - then he has the necessary class and stamina to make his presence felt come the big day in April"
Tony Calvin on Seeyouatmidnight
Blaklion ticks all the boxes
There looks to have been minimal tinkering with the weights for this year's National, with most horses running off their "correct" marks, so it is no-excuses territory.
And I don't think anyone would argue with Blaklion being installed as the favourite for the Aintree showpiece, even though the Betfair Sportsbook have put their head above the parapet with their stand-out 12/1 quote about the horse. He is as short as 8/1 in places.
You can easily see why some layers are defensive about him, as he ticks all the boxes, as they say.
I don't think I will see a more bizarre piece of handicapping this season than Blaklion being dropped 2lb for his reappearance second in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby in October.
He ran a screamer to finish second to the subsequent Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai there, and Definitly Red was 23 lengths away in third. The latter is now a feasible Gold Cup candidate after two Grade 2 wins since, so I suppose it was little surprise that he was all the rage for Becher last time, going off at 7/4 and beating The Last Samuri by nine lengths.
He is favourite to follow up off an 8lb higher mark in the Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday, and that 12/1 would evaporate if he obliged there.
And, of course, many thought he could have won the big one last year had Noel Fehily not kicked for home so far out, including the in-running punters who supported him at a low of [1.52] in running (he also traded at [1.26] when second at Wetherby).
The question punters have to ask themselves now though is what price will he be on the Saturday morning of the race even if he dots up at Haydock - Grand National morning is an aggressive and competitive marketplace for bookmakers - and of course it wouldn't be a surprise were some firms to offer seven places again.
Samuri could go one better for Bailey
The top of the market predictably features the likes of the Ladbrokes Trophy winner Total Recall (who bolted in off an advantageous hurdles mark last time), last year's runner-up Cause Of Causes and likely lads like The Last Samuri.
I reckon the latter has a lot going for him and, at 20/1, he would be the one towards the top of betting that interests me most.
Runner-up in 2016 (when he traded at evens in the run), he disappointed when a 16/1 chance in the race last season, but he has shaped with ominous promise in his two chase starts in this campaign, when following home Blaklion in the Becher and Definitly Red in the Cotswold Chase.
He has now finished placed in two Bechers and I thought he shaped tremendously well from off the pace at Cheltenham last time. Off a mark of 159, it is not hard to envisage him playing a leading role once again on April 14th.
There was a bit of money around for Cause Of Causes before the embargoed weights became public yesterday, with the 33/1 soon disappearing- there was about an eight-hour window between some of the media getting them and the public announcement at 7.30pm - and that has continued this morning.
He is a horse that appears to have been around forever - I remember him winning the old Ladbroke for the Timeform Betfair Racing club in 2012 - and he must have solid claims off just a 2lb higher mark than his second to One For Arthur last season.
Seeyouatmidnight can make his presence felt
Gold Present is favourite for a 3m Ascot handicap chase on Saturday and his previous defeat of Frodon at that course doesn't look bad now - Nico de Boinville certainly thinks he is a National type - but if you are looking for one at a bigger price then maybe Seeyouatmidnight may interest you.
The Sportsbook are ducking him at 33/1, with quotes of 50/1 available in the marketplace, and I think they are right to be cautious (though he trades at [50.0] on the Exchange).
He has a "flakier" profile than the likes of the market leaders, and hasn't been seen out since running in a Kelso handicap hurdle in 2017 or over fences since pulling up in the 2016 Betfair Chase won by Cue Card.
But a measure of how highly-regarded he was back then can be gauged by the fact that he went off at 4/1 at Haydock - though that was a crazy price, admittedly - after beating Bristol De Mai 12 lengths off levels in a Carlisle match.
He has clearly had his problems since and looks a fragile horse - he is a 10yo with only 15 runs under his belt - but he showed he wasn't just a mudlark when third in a Scottish National off this mark, on good to soft ground, in 2016. And he also beat Blaklion in the Dipper at Cheltenham that year.
Apparently, the plan is for him to reappear at Kelso next month en route to Aintree (the Premier Chase on March 3, and he has to run over fences before Aintree to be allowed to run in the race) and, if his trainer can keep him sweet - he has been off with a ligament problem - then he has the necessary class and stamina to make his presence felt come the big day in April.
And a wind operation since we have last seen him will hopefully help, too. He looks worth a small nibble at [50.0] on the Exchange.
His trainer is having a good season, with 12 winners coming at a strike rate of 20 per cent, and here is hoping that it gets a whole lot better in mid-April.