But no longer. In a general sense, the changes which have been made to the National course since a series of particularly unpleasant fatalities towards the end of the 1980s have been essential, since the race was coming to be seen as unnecessarily bloodthirsty. From the long-range punter's point of view, though, the state of the going on 5 April is now by far the most important variable, and since recent National fields have faced both fast and bottomless ground, few would blame us for saving any bets until sticking plasters have been applied to the wounds of Cheltenham.
A further imponderable is the possibility that the weights could easily not rise at all - if Dublin Flyer lines up under 12 stone - or alternatively shoot up by a stone or more. Tim Forster, Dublin Flyer's trainer, was typically non-committal yesterday, and insisted that "no decision will be made until after the Cheltenham Gold Cup". Even if Dublin Flyer makes it to Liverpool, however, he is still essentially a two-and-a-half miler, and the old belief that stamina can be hoarded on the first circuit has vanished along with the potency of Becher's.
Of more interest - not least because the odds are longer is the remaining three entries from Forster's string, which has provided three previous National winners. Again, the trainer refuses to be drawn, but Maamur, winner of the Ritz Club Chase at the Festival last year, may prove to be the best of them. "Maamur has been waiting for some decent ground and if conditions are suitable, he will run at Warwick on Saturday," Forster said. "As for the Grand National, it is too early to say, though I will try and find a race for him at Cheltenham."
Fast ground might rule him out, but since he is effectively just 8lb higher for a seven-length win at the Festival, Maamur is both fairly weighted and, with his seasonal debut imminent after recent rain, one of the few whose odds could contract significantly. For those who want to step in at this stage, the 25-1 offered by Ladbrokes deserves a small investment.Reuse content