Grand National

There isn’t a horse race in Britain that can routinely attract the sort of mass attention of the Aintree Grand National and it is all set to go for 2019 this Saturday afternoon at 5.15pm.

Here’s our look ahead to the centrepiece of three days of brilliant racing action at the Merseyside course, with last year’s National hero set to be the shortest-priced favourite in many a year.

Can the Tiger Roll again?

At odds of just 4.50 Tiger Roll is going to arrive into Aintree with a massive burden of expectation on his slight frame. Gordon Elliott’s star was a popular winner last year and it is hard to know how his odds are likely to be swayed between now and post-time.

On the one hand, racing enthusiasts will insist he’s currently too short for this unmerciful four-mile-two-furlong test, with all its inherent uncertainties attached. The other side, the public opinion poll if you like, might ensure there’s an emotional landslide of support on the way come raceday. It is intriguing stuff.

As for the race itself, so much needs to go in Tiger Roll’s favour and the weight of history is firmly against him. Not since Red Rum in 1974 has a horse managed to defend his Aintree crown. On form, Tiger Roll appears to be better than ever before and he waltzed his way to Cross Country glory last month at Cheltenham with sheer ease.

His claims are clear but it remains to be seen if he can pull it off. He may be well in, according to the handicapper, but he does carry more weight than last year (6lbs) and it can’t be forgotten that he only prevailed in a photo finish 12 months ago. You can only wish him well, and it would be a racing fairytale should he do it, but from a betting perspective the value must be elsewhere.

Tizzard going for Gold

For anyone seeking to have a swing at a big price, it might prove well worth considering Colin Tizzard’s Ultragold, trading at 51.00 in the latest Grand National betting.

Course form is often a key trait for horses that will perform well in this race and Ultragold fits the bill, with figures of 3213 in his four runs at Aintree – all of which have come over the famous National fences. His most recent spin here saw him finishing third in the Becher Chase in December.

He was pulled up in the Cross Country at Cheltenham last month but that can be overlooked, given his record is so impressive when he meets these oh-so unique obstacles.

There is also a doubt over his ability to stay the four miles and more of this race but it must be noteworthy that the Tizzard team have bypassed Friday’s Topham Chase – a race in which he posted a career-best when winning last year – in favour of the Grand National itself. He could be capable of a big run at massive odds.

Team Mullins

Having won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month for the first time, Willie Mullins is seemingly on a roll, the Irish champion trainer having landed the Aintree Bowl here on Thursday with Kemboy. He was agonisingly denied as Pleasant Company (21.00) finished second in this race 12 months ago, just failing to reel in Tiger Roll. He’s back for more and is better off at the weights with the winner now.

The one that appears to have been laid out for this is Rathvinden, now 12.00 to take this out having been confirmed as the chosen mount of one Ruby Walsh – stable jockey at Mullins’ yard. He won the four-miler at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, so his stamina is certainly going to be a major asset.

Up For Review and Livelovelaugh complete the Mullins assault here, but perhaps it might be worth noting that Patrick Mullins – the trainer’s son – is instead riding Don Poli for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud. He was of course once trained by Mullins, before the fallout with Michael O’Leary, and what a story it would be should he defy odds of 101.00 to win the Grand National with a Mullins on board!

Johnson eager for Rock show

No current jockey has ridden in this race more times than the champion, Richard Johnson, without success.

Like his predecessor as champion AP McCoy, he has come close on a number of occasions and suffered his share of heartache and hard luck in the marathon race.

This time around Johnson rides Rock The Kasbah (21.00) for trainer Philip Hobbs. He’s not the most consistent of runners and does have questions over his stamina, it seems.

Of the remainder looking for key stories – the National winner always has a story – Magic Of Light will bid to become the first mare to win the race since 1951 and also give trainer Jessica Harrington a winner on her first attempt in the race – something she pulled off with Sizing John in the Cheltenham Gold Cup a couple of seasons ago. She’s 81.00 to take this prize.

The final mention goes to David Pipe’s Ramses De Teillee (26.00), who has run very well to finish second in the Welsh Grand National and the Grand National Trial at Haydock recently and is on a good mark now.