The Grand National: Seven rides for seven punters

Love or money: Ian Davies canvasses opinion among the new romantics and old realists in the annual search for a National winner
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The Independent Online
The trainer

Steve Brookshaw

THE trainer of Lord Gyllene, who won last year's Grand National by a record margin, is without a runner this year but has identified a successor to the crown. "Some people say he's not the best of jumpers but Samlee proved himself over those daunting fences when winning the Becher Chase at Aintree in the autumn. Samlee stays really well - he ran a couple of good races behind Lord Gyllene last season - and he ran two good races when third in the Welsh National and the Eider Chase at Chepstow and Newcastle respectively. He is effective on any type of going, won't have much weight to carry and has Richard Dunwoody, who's won two nationals, in the saddle."

The jockey

Tommy Stack

RED RUM'S partner in the 1977 National, the year of the horse's historic third triumph, says: "Challenger Du Luc is an extremely enigmatic individual who often finds nothing under pressure but there's no escaping the fact that he is incredibly talented and, if he decides to take to those massive fences at Aintree, he's just the sort who could amaze a lot of people by going and running a really big race. Temperamental horses often run surprisingly well in the Grand National. Last Suspect was an excellent example in 1985. Despite swishing his tail throughout the closing stages, he came from fourth to first on the run-in to spring a surprise."

The professional gambler

Eddie Fremantle

THE well-respected professional punter, who specialises in National Hunt racing, will not be staking too much on the race. "The Grand National isn't normally my sort of race - I prefer the minor jump meetings (during Cheltenham I was at Sedgefield and Newton Abbot and on Grand National day I'll probably be at Hereford) - and, now the fences have been made easier, it's a lot harder to sort out because bad jumpers can now win. The logical choice is Him Of Praise. He jumps and stays well, can race up with the pace and keep out of trouble, and is a young, improving horse who is reasonably handicapped despite being a few pounds out of the handicap."

The Voice

Sir Peter O'Sullevan

FOR the first time in years Peter O'Sullevan will not be at the microphone but the "Voice of Racing" will be taking a close interest. "At this stage, my inclination would be toward Rough Quest, who didn't have a hard race last time for the simple reason that the poor chap fell in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. That was very uncharacteristic of him because he's normally a very good jumper. He has the advantages of experience of Aintree - he won the National in 1996 - and a jockey [Mick Fitzgerald] who knows him well. Like me, he's getting on a bit now and I think that, since they modified the race and made it less arduous, it is now more of a younger horses' race."

The astrologer

Teri King

FOR punters who believe the result is written in the stars, Teri King, the respected astrologer, advises: "Jupiter, the planet of good fortune, will be in Pisces throughout this year so 1998 is going to ge a good year generally for Pisceans. Therefore the trainer Charlie Brooks, a Piscean born on 3 March, could easily win the race with Suny Bay, who will be ridden by Graham Bradley, a Virgo. No grey horse has won the National since Nicolaus Silver in 1961, but Suny Bay, who did not run too badly in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last time out, performed really well to finish second to Lord Gyllene last year and the stars suggest he might go one better this time around."

The vicar

David Seymour

THE Rev David Seymour, vicar of Christ Church, Bradford-on-Avon, says: "Earth Summit showed what a useful staying chaser he is when winning the Welsh National at Chepstow last December. I know he didn't exactly cover himself with glory on his most recent venture but he will stay the four-and-a-half miles better than most and would have a major chance if the heavens open and we get some rain. However, the weather is my concern. I know they're saying it's on the soft side at Aintree at the moment, but then they said that before Cheltenham and it turned out to be fast I've got a feeling it will actually be fast ground on the day."

The housewife

Mrs Merton

BRITAIN'S favourite housewife believes the female race can come out on top. "I have to stick with my old friend Jenny Pitman, who saddles Mudahim. He won the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse last season and the word up our street is that he has been laid out for the race. My son, Malcolm, thinks Mrs P's other runner, Nahthen Lad, is the one but, when it comes to placing a bet on the day, he'll do what his mother tells him. Mrs P has a fantastic record in the National - she won with Corbiere in 1983 and with Royal Athlete in 1995 - and her TV interviews with that dishy Des Lynam have made her almost as big an Aintree institution as Red Rum was in the 1970s."