Gunner homes in on top billing at National

Click to follow
The Independent Online

This is the week when it never rains but it pours. Thus the bookmakers are predicting that the steady flow of money for Carrie Ford's mount Forest Gunner could turn into a deluge that will sweep them to favouritism for Saturday's Grand National. The weather forecasters, meanwhile, are expecting an unsettled week that could bring enough rain to rule out fast-ground performers from consideration for the Aintree race.

This is the week when it never rains but it pours. Thus the bookmakers are predicting that the steady flow of money for Carrie Ford's mount Forest Gunner could turn into a deluge that will sweep them to favouritism for Saturday's Grand National. The weather forecasters, meanwhile, are expecting an unsettled week that could bring enough rain to rule out fast-ground performers from consideration for the Aintree race.

The big three bookmakers, Coral, William Hill and Ladbrokes, all chopped the odds of Forest Gunner yesterday and the growing expectation is that Ford could become the first woman rider to partner a Grand National favourite. The 11-year-old is now an 11-1 chance with all three firms.

Being written off by the four-time National-winning trainer Ginger McCain - "women don't win Grand Nationals" - has proved no disincentive to punters. "Unlike Ginger, plenty of punters think a lady rider can win the National and are backing this horse accordingly," David Stevens, of Coral, said.

Often in the week before the National, and even on the day itself, one horse tumbles as dramatically in price as many contenders do in the race itself, with Ireland's Bobbyjo and Papillon, 10-1 winners in 1999 and 2000, prime examples. William Hill's representative is rather less caught up with the Ford/ Forest Gunner bandwagon, and reports strong support for two of the Irish party this time: "While the support for Forest Gunner has been solid over the last week, punters have latched on to the chances of Hedgehunter [now clear 8-1 fav from 9-1] Colonel Rayburn [20-1 from 33-1] and backed them accordingly."

Today's five-day declaration stage should spark another flurry of betting activity as the picture clears as to which 40 horses will make the cut for the race. François Doumen's Innox, who is 45th in the list of runners at the moment, should make the final 40 with some comfort, but the trainer's Cheltenham Festival winner Kelami, who languishes in 75th spot, stands little chance of having the opportunity of taking advantage of a favourable handicap mark.

Strong Resolve also needs a few to come out of the race to be guaranteed a run but, currently in 51st position, should make the final field and give those who have backed him to 16-1 a run for their money.

"I think he will run a good race and I think conditions will suit," Lucinda Russell, his trainer, said yesterday. "He coped with heavy ground better than the others last time but ideally he wants it good to soft or soft."

Russell looks likely to get the desired conditions as the going is good to soft on the National course and is expected to get boggier by the Aintree clerk of the course, Andrew Tulloch.

"There is some rain coming in tonight and showers and rain are forecast for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so the ground is going to ease," he said.

That report will concern Paul Nicholls as he is seeking good ground for the Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth Royal Auclair.

"If it rains all week and goes soft he won't run," Nicholls said. "We'll wait for the Scottish National or Betfred Gold Cup. If the ground was on the good side he would have a leading chance, but if you've got a big weight you don't want to be humping it round in soft ground."

Grand National (Aintree, Saturday): Coral: 9-1 Hedgehunter, Clan Royal, Amberleigh House, 11-1 Forest Gunner, 14-1 Joly Bey, Take The Stand, 16-1 Kelami, Royal Auclair, Strong Resolve, 20-1 Lord Atterbury, Spot Thedifference, 25-1 others. William Hill: 8-1 Hedgehunter, 9-1 Amberleigh House, 10-1 Clan Royal, 11-1 Forest Gunner, 14-1 Joly Bey, 16-1 Strong Resolve, Take The Stand, 20-1 Lord Atterbury, Longshanks, Colonel Rayburn, 22-1 Innox, Kelami, Monty's Pass, 25-1 others. Ladbrokes: 8-1 Hedgehunter, 9-1 Amberleigh House, 10-1 Clan Royal, 11-1 Forest Gunner, 12-1 Take The Stand, 14-1 Joly Bey, Strong Resolve, 20-1 others. Totesport: 8-1 Hedgehunter, 9-1 Amberleigh House, 10-1 Clan Royal, Forest Gunner, 12-1 Take The Stand, 14-1 Joly Bey, Strong Resolve, 16-1 others.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Fulvio

(Wolverhampton 5.20)

NB: Cashel Mead

(Wolverhampton 3.20)

Comments