BallaBriggs at the double?
BallaBriggs is the confident selection to complete back to back Grand National wins when he tackles 39 high class opponents, 30 daunting fences and four and a half gruelling miles at Aintree this afternoon.
Consecutive National victories don’t happen too often, but BallaBriggs’ trainer Donald McCain does have some insight into how it can be achieved – the last horse to do it was the great Red Rum, trained by Donald’s father Ginger!
BallaBriggs has been laid out for the race since last year’s triumph, and the stable is delighted at the horse’s preparation for this year’s race. Ballabriggs carries ten pounds more than he shouldered to victory last year, but the ground is right, he’s proved he can handle the Aintree fences, he’s fit, he’s fresh and he’s improving – everything points to a repeat success.
Aintree’s fences have been modified for safety reasons and they are not as formidable as they once were. Perhaps for that reason this year’s Grand National has attracted handicappers of the highest quality and the field for this renewal is the strongest there has ever been. Proof of this is the participation of this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised. Admittedly this year’s Gold Cup form is questionable – both favourites ran well below form at Cheltenham – but Synchronised is a top class chaser and it’s great to see him taking his chance against handicappers.
In AP McCoy, Synchronised has perhaps the greatest ever jockey on his back but the top weight is giving lumps of weight to a field of good handicappers – he may be top class, but humping an 11st10lb burden over four and a half miles may just find him out. No horse has completed the Cheltenham/Aintree double since the legendary Golden Miller back in 1935 – history is against Synchronised.
In this year’s high quality field there are many horses you can make an argument for – perhaps twenty have realistic chances of making the frame. There is a particularly strong Irish challenge this year, and closer to home previous National winner Mon Mome is reportedly in good form at home and could run well at a big price. Jonjo O’Neill’s Sunnyhillboy is another who comes to Aintree from Cheltenham with an impressive win under his belt and could run a big race.
The Grand National always produces a fairytale, and this year will be no different. The first lady jockey winner perhaps? Maybe – both Seabass and Organisedconfusion hold decent chances.
However a bust of the late Ginger McCain looks down on the Aintree winner’s enclosure – and I get the feeling that Ginger will be smiling down on son Donald when he leads his BallaBriggs into that same winner’s enclosure this afternoon.
If you are having a wager on today’s race, take early prices as odds will shorten on fancied horses before the off. But bet sensibly – horses are not machines, jockeys can make mistakes and the winning combination needs an awful lot of good fortune just to complete the course, let alone win the race. Don’t stake more than you can comfortably afford to lose. But betting or not, do enjoy the spectacle and drama of the world’s greatest steeplechase.
3. Mon Mome
John Smith’s Aintree Grand National is at 4.15pm today