FROM the long-odds outsider to the gambled-on good thing, Aintree Racecourse provides the setting for all manner of results in the unique four-and-a-half-mile John Smith’s Grand National.
One certainty is that the 2010 race, run this Saturday, with a total prize fund of £925,000, will be no different from the previous 151 renewals.
Once again local hopes are carried by 11-year-old Cloudy Lane, trained by Donald McCain in Cholmondeley.
The gelding has had the National as his target since unseating at The Chair in the race 12 months ago.
Four outings this season began at Kelso in December resulting in a third behind the odds-on favourite Money Trix.
Cloudy Lane has been far from disgraced in the early months of 2010, finishing in mid-division in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock when the 2009 National winner Mon Mome was 10 lengths in front of the local horse.
A pleasing run over hurdles followed in February before Cloudy finished fourth in the Grimethorpe Chase at Doncaster five weeks ago.
He is currently priced at 40-1 with the major bookmakers in the antepost market.
The latest update from McCain is: “Jason (Maguire) worked him last Saturday morning. It’s easy to say but he’s flying, he’s in great nick. We can’t wait for the National!”
‘Luck in running’ is what National winners need – and that was a phrase often uttered by Donald’s father Ginger McCain, who was a recipient of the new Aintree Legend award this year.
Ginger famously trained three-time winner Red Rum in the 1970s before enjoying further success with Amberleigh House in 2004.
With a maximum field of 40 facing 30 obstacles that includes Becher’s Brook and the Canal Turn, the hurly-burly of the race can have an impact on the race result.
Given that essential luck, our local hope is anticipated to run into a place.
The 11-stone weight barrier was broken in recent years by Hedgehunter in 2005 and the first four horses home in 2009 all carried 11 stone or more and reflects the better class of horse that now runs in the National.
Horses at the top of the weights this year include Mon Mome, who has shown steady improvement through the season and occupied third place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month.
Many horses that raced at Cheltenham frequently do not run to expectations at Aintree three weeks later, and this factor should be taken into account when making selections when a horse has had a hard race.
Other horses with an ‘Aintree’ profile that could provide some value in the market on Saturday include State Of Play, who was fourth last year, and Snowy Morning, who was third to Comply Or Die in 2008 and ninth last year.
Maljimar comes to Aintree a fresh animal. His last outing was over the cross-country course at Cheltenham when occupying third place behind the highly-rated Garde Champetre. Stamina will not be an issue and he is one of a strong contingent travelling across the Irish Sea.
Black Apalachi features on many National shortlists but he had to settle for second place at Fairyhouse in February.
The winner was Vic Venturi, the 2010 National selection, available at 16-1 with Skybet.
No stranger to Aintree and the National fences, Vic Venturi landed the Becher Chase by five lengths in November when carrying 11st 12lbs and that experience will prove invaluable on Saturday.
The three-day Grand National meeting gets underway this afternoon. Big Buck’s should land the opener, the BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle. He powered home at Cheltenham last month and has the class to extend his sequence of victories.
Imperial Commander, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, holds an entry in the Totesport Bowl Chase. He may be opposed by course specialist Monet’s Garden and Albertas Run when final declarations are available.
Peddlers Cross gave Donald McCain the first leg of his Cheltenham Festival double. This was the hardest race of his career and he looks to retain an unbeaten record in the John Smith’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle on Saturday.
Drier weather conditions are forecast but this should not inconvenience Peddlers Cross, the top-rated horse in the race.