Who To Follow In This Year's Grand National

There is a noticeably more relaxed air about Aintree than 12 months ago, when the anxiety was palpable after two fatalities in each of the two previous Grand Nationals.

Adjustments to fences, the start and jockey instructions seemed to pay dividends, and everyone came back safely.

However, no one will be relaxed come 4.15pm on Saturday at the start of the first £1m National, neither here nor on millions of sofas around the world.

What might you back? Here are a few of the big contenders.


If lightning striking twice is your thing, this is for you.

Sky Bet's Dale Tempest tipped Aurora's Encore last year on Saturday Sport on Sky News. Hardly anyone else did, and it won at 66-1.

Mr Moonshine comes from the same Yorkshire stable of Sue and Harvey Smith, has the same jockey in Ryan Mania, and has been schooled over the same special National-type fences at Malton.


While Aurora's Encore has been retired, last year's third-placed horse is back for more.

Teaforthree is making the long trek from Pembrokeshire on the day, so much does he like his own bed.

Great chance of being involved in the finish. Odds too short to be attractive for me.


Clear the front pages if this wins - and it could. Royal connections for the Princess Royal to present the trophy to.

Dude used to be a dud jumper, much more sound after regular Monday sessions with Zara Phillips, wife of co-owner and ex-England rugby captain Mike Tindall.


Could not have a more appropriate name for this four and a half mile slog, nor a jockey with a better record.

Amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, taking time off from running his dental businesses, has finished second, fourth and fifth in his three Nationals - and won Thursday's race over the big fences.

Owned by Sam's dad Robert, chairman of Cheltenham racecourse, where he won the 2011 Gold Cup. Interesting.

Very classy, but is he still as good?


Good jumper. Top trainer in Paul Nicholls, who won with Neptune Collonges two years ago.

Second in the Hennessy Gold Cup, and second in January to The Giant Bolster, who so nearly won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month. Definite chance.

No need to take my word for it - twice National winner Ruby Walsh (missing this year with a broken arm) fancies him too.


Trainer Martin Brassil won with Numbersixvalverde in 2006.

If he triumphs again, you'll have to listen very carefully - Brassil is as quietly spoken as trainers come, and owner JP McManus rarely talks above whisper level.

Champion jockey AP McCoy has chosen to ride this Munster National winner, which enhances his chances, but will shorten the price.


Great story if he wins. Judy Halewood, leading light of new race sponsors Crabbies, bought him in order to have a runner in "her" race.

But he only just scraped in as one of the last of the 40 runners, and when I sat next to trainer David Pipe at a recent lunch, he did not exude confidence that he can make this fairytale come true.


I think this is a much likelier winner for David Pipe. Quite well backed, especially after a good third place at Cheltenham. Class act.

Pipe says he has jumped well over National-style fences at home.

Unseated his rider here four years ago but he is more experienced now and the fences more forgiving.

Hankies needed if he wins - he still runs in the colours of the late David Johnson, owner of Pipe's 2008 National winner Comply Or Die.


What's in a name ? This one means "fill the gaps". In case you were wondering.

More relevantly, winner of the 2012 Irish National - the right sort of pointer to possible Aintree joy.

Older than most at 12, but no falls over fences. Very decent each-way option.


Love it or hate it, the National always delivers a story. How about Brendan Powell following his dad 26 years ago in riding the winner?

There is the irritating fact that Battle Group has yet to complete a race this winter (and actually refused to start Newbury in November).

But he has come good in April before.

So which of those 10 will actually win ? If only it were that simple. I could give you good reasons to back at least half the remaining 30.

But here goes, in 1-2-3-4 order: The Package, Rocky Creek, Teaforthree, Mr Moonshine.

Others to consider include Long Run, Monbeg Dude, Double Seven and Pineau de Re; and at longer odds Hawkes Point, Walkon, and Alvarado.

In the latter category I mentioned Mon Mome in 2009. It won at 100-1.

I can stop dining out on that if The Package wins this time.

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