Pinstickers' guide to the Grand National

Chris McGrath wades through the field of 40 to help you separate the Aintree crackers from the knackers

Aintree

Top fancies

QUEL ESPRIT 50-1

Looks excellent value, representing Ireland's No 1 stable and taking a drop in class after setbacks intruded on his emergence as a potential Gold Cup horse. Must prove that he has the brute stamina as well, but certainly has the raw ability.

ON HIS OWN 7-1

What's not to like? Top trainer, top jockey, top horse. The outstanding candidate since his unfortunate exit last year, still tanking, at Becher's second time. His powder has been kept dry since but he even managed to win what was supposed to be a prep spin over hurdles.

RARE BOB 25-1

Ridden by the rising star Paul Townend (the more experienced Bryan Cooper gets the ride this time), he took well to these fences on an early visit - jumping well but fading late in heavy ground - and was unlucky to be brought down early in his first crack at this race. Stayed on nicely in his rehearsal and both the going and weight look right.

CAPPA BLEU 12-1

Finished strongly for fourth last year and might have got closer still but for losing his position when hampered on the first circuit. His trainer, Evan Williams, excels in targeting this race, making the frame with one in each of the last four runnings, and the last 12 months have been all about today.

CHICAGO GREY 14-1

Failed at first to build on the promise of his success at the Cheltenham Festival a couple of years back but appears to be back on song, winning his rehearsal easily after a wind operation. Unlucky to be brought down early last year, and has a lenient weight.

Each-way fancies

TEAFORTHREE 14-1

Showed all the necessary attributes when winning a marathon steeplechase at Cheltenham last year. Will be making a dawn start from his stable near Fishguard, having proved too homesick to go near his manger when disappointing after an overnight stay at Haydock last time.

LOST GLORY 66-1

Looks a big price for a horse entering his prime, winner of four of his last five starts and very much suited by the drying conditions. His trainer is especially able with long-distance chasers, with a National winner and photo-finish runner-up in the last three runnings.

SEABASS 9-1

History seemed to beckon his rider, Katie Walsh, at the final fence last year but he faded into third on the run-in. Horse and rider had both demonstrated their relish for the challenge, however, and his every move since has been designed to bring him to a fresh peak today.

IMPERIAL COMMANDER 16-1

Has the best CV in the field, a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in his prime, and while he has proved fairly fragile since it might prove premature to assume that he is over the hill just yet.

COLBERT STATION 9-1

Trained by the remarkable Ted Walsh, who has a son and daughter riding against each other today and has won many top races from a small stable. This one remains short of experience over fences but arrives on a similar roll to Seabass last year and is Tony McCoy's choice over Sunnyhillboy.

Possibles

SUNNYHILLBOY 16-1

Caught on the line last year after going clear on the run-in, and there could be no more deserving winner this time. More or less disappeared since, and faces a stiffer task at the weights, but adored the challenge and his artful trainer, Jonjo O'Neill, is sure to have him primed.

JOIN TOGETHER 16-1

Reunites last year's trainer and jockey and made an auspicious reconnaissance when an excellent second over these fences in December. Had an unfortunate rehearsal, badly hampered, but few miles on the clock and that could work either for or against him.

ACROSS THE BAY 33-1

Another from the legend-making McCain stable, and not hard to see him featuring prominently with his bold, front-running approach to the job. But his best form hitherto has been in the mud and he must prove he can achieve the same rhythm on this drying ground.

QUISCOVER FONTAINE 40-1

Could go rather better than the odds imply, having only twice ventured over long distances - finishing fourth in the Irish National and going nicely when coming down at halfway here last year. Promisingly purposeful look to a light campaign for his top trainer.

SOLL 33-1

Has the physique to have been admitted to the care of Ireland's champion stable, and did pretty well as a novice. Has since been allowed to leave but did win over the stiff Sandown fences when dropped in class last time and remains entitled to better again after a very light career to date.

ALWAYS WAINING 33-1

An extraordinary animal who normally sleeps through the alarm clock but leaps up for a run and cold shower as soon as he spots these fences. Has won over them three years running, over shorter distances, but this is his first crack at the big one and he must prove his stamina.

BALTHAZAR KING 16-1

Has been well backed in recent days, coming here fresh and with the ground drying out in his favour, and showed an aptitude for quirky obstacles when becoming a rare English winner against the Irish cross-country specialists at the Cheltenham Festival last year.

ROBERTO GOLDBACK 33-1

This is one of the few races to have eluded trainer Nicky Henderson and it's feasible to make a case for his latest candidate, a recruit from Ireland who made a good start for the stable in the autumn before drowning in muddy ground since.

TARQUINIUS 100-1

Represents a trainer who knows what it takes to win this race and worth a second look - if not necessarily a third one - on his photo-finish defeat in a good race in January. That was a career best but he must put behind him a poor run in the meantime.

HARRY THE VIKING 40-1

One of two runners part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson and was shaping up like a plausible National prospect this time last year, but has rather lost his way since. Things could yet fall into place on this better ground but at the moment his career is more Macheda than Welbeck.

Unlikely

AURORAS ENCORE 66-1

Unlikely, perhaps, but not totally impossible. Has been struggling in the mud this winter and fell on his penultimate start, so little to recommend his recent efforts, but was beaten only in a photo on this kind of going in the Scottish National last spring.

BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE 66-1

Has seemed well named in failing to complete the first circuit in two attempts, and has a poor career strike-rate. But he can jump superbly on his day and ran an interesting race at Cheltenham last month, still going great guns two out before fading on the hill. No half measures, you suspect.

OSCAR TIME 66-1

Best supporting actor a couple of years ago when second to Ballabriggs, but subsequently sidelined by injury and under the cosh with a circuit to go in his rehearsal. He does at least benefit from the assistance of a swashbuckling amateur with a brilliant record over these fences.

BIG FELLA THANKS 40-1

Looks as good as ever for his latest trainer and his jumping has proved equal to these fences in three previous visits. On each occasion, however, the gauge soon entered the red and even a record of long service round here hardly entitles him to sit out the first lap.

BALLABRIGGS 20-1

The 2011 hero returned for an honourable sixth last year but has given little hint that he can halt a depressing sequence - extending over a decade - of National winners subsequently incapable of winning a race of any kind, never mind this one again. Does have a fair weight now, mind.

TREACLE 33-1

Well backed last year but things already didn't seem to be happening for him when he came down on the first lap. Nonetheless the veteran returns for another go with a fair weight and after a light campaign.

JONCOL 50-1

Once threatened to break into the big time but has gone into reverse since, and best on softer ground anyway. At least riding arrangements look purposeful: Ireland's champion jockey was originally booked, and has been replaced since injury by a previous National winner.

SAINT ARE 50-1

Another member of a strong Welsh team, and has won at this meeting in each of the past two years - albeit this is his first experiment over the National fences. He has not always looked a natural jumper, and has shown very little this season. But then the same was true last year.

THE RAINBOW HUNTER 66-1

Aims to roll back the years for his trainer, Kim Bailey, who had one of the top stables in the land when he won this race with Mr Frisk in 1990, and it would be good to see him back where he belongs. Little obvious sign that this one has the requisite class to find that crock of gold.

WHAT A FRIEND 50-1

Sir Alex Ferguson's second runner once had Premier League pretensions but more recent form would merit a free transfer to Stockport County. And even at his best you would have doubted whether he had the resolution for this kind of test.

In your dreams

SWING BILL 66-1

Has jumped these fences well in the past without ever threatening to win and must discover a new peak in the evening of his career, having looked more inclined for the pipe and slippers at Cheltenham last month.

WEIRD AL 50-1

Would be a deeply weird result. Represents a top trainer, son of the man who gave us Red Rum, but seems in steep decline. Easier to make some sort of case last year, but even then he never got involved and ultimately fell.

FORPADYDEPLASTERER 66-1

A class act in his time, and conceivable that this exotic environment could rekindle his interest, but deteriorating for a while now and even in his pomp would have been counted a very doubtful stayer at this extreme distance.

TATENEN 66-1

Didn't get far enough to explore his stamina reserves last year, discarding his rider on the first circuit, and seems unlikely to find them adequate if contriving to last longer this time.

MR MOONSHINE 66-1

One of two runners trained by Sue Smith, wife of showjumping legend Harvey. Has often been treated like a good horse, and from time to time run like one, too, but cannot be soberly fancied on his overall profile.

MUMBLES HEAD 100-1

Least eligible of the Welsh challengers, and fell at the first when previously trying these fences, but will at least like the ground and comes here fresh for a trainer whose horses flourish in spring.

NINETIETH MINUTE 66-1

Trying to turn his career round in injury time here, having won at the Cheltenham Festival in his youth but seeming to lose heart or interest since. Only possible straw to clutch is that better ground might suit nowadays.

ANY CURRENCY 66-1

Did take quite well to these fences in December, and will enjoy the better surface today, but those seem flimsy grounds to excuse such a tame effort at Cheltenham last month.

MAJOR MALARKEY 100-1

Hit-and-miss profile and corresponding odds, but trainer predicts a hit this time with the ground drying in his favour. He does stay well, but surely biting off more than he can chew.

VIKING BLOND 80-1

Looked to have potential when starting out over fences but very patchy form since, looking a tricky ride and disappointing in big fields. All in all, very difficult to see this Blond ambition paying off.

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