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Lydia Hislop's Grand National guide: Shrewd operator sure to have Second primed

By Lydia Hislop@LydiaHislop
Sat 10 Apr 2021

All rise. This Court is now in session. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we hereby call the case of the People vs. Finding The Winner of the 2021 Randox Health Grand National.

Here is a guide to the evidence you will hear:

A most credible testimony– Beyond reasonable doubt, a likely winner

Of good character – Worth weighing in the balance

Call the next witness – Because they might do better

Statute of limitations – The evidence suggests you should look elsewhere

Members of the jury, you are instructed to disregard this evidence – No chance

So help me, God – A menace to society


Click HERE to see all of the runners and riders in this year's race, along with the latest live odds from Oddschecker


"Demolition job" - Bristol De Mai wins the 2020 Betfair Chase

BRISTOL DE MAI

Case for: Top-class, relentless staying chaser at his best. Suited by a flat track. Model jumper of mainstream fences. Generously treated on a fistful of form-lines at the weights.

Case against: Not since the legendary Red Rum wielded 12st to victory in 1974 has any National winner carried this much weight – albeit Many Clouds made light of 11-9 in 2015. Large field an unknown. Modern National fences less rewarding of jumping flair. Most effective in muddy conditions.

Exhibit A: 2020 Betfair Chase: flat-track, heavy-ground demolition job.

Judgment: Of good character


CHRIS’S DREAM

Case for: A shade below top class at his best over fences. Will find this trip more suitable than when outclassed and run off his feet in the Ryanair last time out.

Case against: Best form on deep ground. Prone to jumping right under pressure.

Exhibit A: 2019 Troytown Handicap Chase - his best form has a layer of dust on it these days.

Judgment: Members of the jury, you are instructed to disregard this evidence


YALA ENKI

Case for: Reliably consistent marathon chaser, third in the last three Welsh Nationals. Likely to feature prominently for much of the race. Well suited to usual rider Bryony Frost.

Case against: Below form when out of his depth last time. Prefers far more testing ground. Checked out at the first on his sole previous encounter with these fences.

Exhibit A: 2021 Welsh Grand National: textbook attacking style, rallying bronze-medal finish.

Judgment: Call the next witness


BALLYOPTIC

Case for: Feasibly handicapped on his best form. Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has won this race twice previously.

Case against: Operating below his peak so far this season. Error-prone. Twice fallen over these fences.

Exhibit A: 2019 Grand National: already beaten when underlining the point four out.

Judgment: So help me, God


DEFINITLY RED

Case for: Talented veteran. Capable over these fences.

Case against: No more than a faint glimmer of hope last time after two poor runs. Best in small fields. His moment has passed.

Exhibit A: 2017 Grand National: saddle slipped after hampered at Becher’s, a long time ago.

Judgment: Statute of limitations


LAKE VIEW LAD

Case for: Took the notable scalps of Santini and Native River on Aintree’s sister Mildmay Course in December. Not as his best, probably with excuses, the last twice. Operation to correct breathing and cheekpieces applied since latest start.

Case against: Jumped too uprightly when ultimately pulling up in the 2019 National, but new headgear might help. Prefers more testing ground.

Exhibit A: 2019 Grand National: a reticent display, so unsuited to Liverpool.

Judgment: Call the next witness


BURROWS SAINT

Case for: Unexposed as a marathon chaser following 2019 Irish Grand National success. Ideal run style and jumping technique for Aintree’s modern task, except...

Case against: Raced almost exclusively on right-handed tracks for Willie Mullins. Jumped right at Auteuil and also when runner-up last time out, also hanging right when tired. That habit will erode his chance over 30 fences.

Exhibit A, for the Defence: 2019 Irish Grand National: he jumps efficiently and stays well.

The exhibit for the defence as Burrows Saint wins the 2019 Irish National

Exhibit B, for the Prosecution: 2021 Bobbyjo Chase: jumping right three out is not a one-off.

The exhibit for the prosecution as he can't get to grips with Acapella Bourgeois

Judgment: Statute of limitations


MAGIC OF LIGHT

Case for: Second in this race two years ago, despite running too freely and jumping scrappily. Got torched in the new Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival but still unexposed as a marathon chaser.

Case against: Hard to imagine her doing better than in 2019, from a higher mark and at a much shorter price.

Exhibit A: 2019 Grand National: ploughing on, including through The Chair.

Judgment: Call the next witness


ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS

Case for: Reformed hothead who’s won the last two editions of the Bobbyjo Chase. Better equipped to deal with the demands of a marathon chase now than when third in the 2019 Irish National.

Case against: Still likes to press on from the front and will encounter plenty of competition for that role.

Exhibit A: 2021 Bobbyjo Chase: faces the same four rivals again, three of whom will probably beat him.

Judgment: Statute of limitations


TALKISCHEAP

Case for: Impressive winner of the Bet365 Gold Cup. Unexposed over marathon trips. Nimble jumper. Strong traveller, who should be able to hold a good position readily.

Case against: Poor form since that success, twice prompting an operation to augment his breathing. Jumps right. Campaigned exclusively right-handed on his last six starts over obstacles.

Exhibit A: 2019 Bet365 Gold Cup: even while dotting up on a right-handed track, he jumps right.

Judgment: Statute of limitations.


TOUT EST PERMIS

Case for: Made a creditable start to the season. Capable of placing over hurdles at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, wearing the cheekpieces that are reapplied here.

Case against: Form has tailed off. Failed to take advantage of his easiest opportunity for several seasons last time out, falling instead. Unremarkable profile. Doubtful stayer.

Exhibit A: 2019 Irish Grand National: unable to get involved, an all-too-frequent story.

Judgment: Members of the jury, you are instructed to disregard this evidence


ANIBALE FLY

Case for: Twice placed in the Gold Cup. Creditable fourth and fifth in Tiger Roll’s Grand Nationals, typically caught in traffic on both occasions. On a lower mark this year. Target trainer to be respected.

Case against: Thumped last season until promising hurdles prep for last year’s abandoned National. Weakened when the pace lifted in his sole start this season. Run style unsuited to this contest.

Exhibit A: Naas handicap hurdle March 2020: in Tony Martin, they trust.

Judgment: Statute of limitations


MISTER MALARKY

Case for: Back to form at Kempton last time out. Stays three miles strongly. Pedigree also strongly suggests potential for improvement over further. Versatile enough in terms of ground. Tongue-tie added to cheekpieces, probably to positive effect.

Case against: Inconsistent. Best recent form exclusively right-handed, to the extent that he’s been tailed off or failed to complete his last three starts left-handed. Prominent run style makes him vulnerable.

Exhibit A: Third in Kempton’s Close Brothers Handicap Chase: keeping on in a strongly run race.

Judgment: Statute of limitations


KIMBERLITE CANDY

Case for: Open to further improvement as a marathon chaser. Twice second in the Becher Chase, over a shorter course of these fences.

Case against: Prefers deeper ground. Risks losing his position on a quicker surface when the tempo increases, prior to rallying late. No switching-up of headgear.

Exhibit A: 2020 Warwick Classic Chase: jumping securely and staying on strongly.

Judgment: Of good character


ANY SECOND NOW

Case for: Authoritative winner of a Cheltenham Festival handicap two years ago. Unexposed as a staying chaser since. Trained with this race in mind by a shrewd operator.

Case against: Stamina for marathon purposes unknown. No form this season until winning last time out, arguably in a race in which his opposition turned up in body only.

'Comprehensive' - Any Second Now wins the 2019 Kim Muir

Exhibit A: 2019 Kim Muir: comprehensive victory in a competitive race, promising to stay further.

Judgment: A most credible testimony


BALKO DES FLOS

Case for: Former classy chaser, winning the 2018 Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival and enjoying one of his better days when third in a Grade One at Aintree’s sister track two years ago.

Case against: No feasible form since. Well-backed but unseated his rider with a flat-footed landing over Cheltenham’s cross-country course last time out. Doubtful stayer.

Exhibit A: Thurles January 2021: futile attempt to match strides with Allaho, finishing legless.

Judgment: So help me, God


ALPHA DES OBEAUX

Case for: Enjoyed himself when third in the 2019 Becher Chase, probably doing too much too soon and then rallying late on after losing his pitch. Clear chance on that form. Overpriced.

Case against: Well below his best in all starts since. Disappointing finishing effort when fourth in Cheltenham’s Cross-Country Chase last time. Plunged through The Chair in 2018 edition. Needs to hold his pitch.

Exhibit A: 2019 Becher Chase: if retains ability and ridden with restraint, could reward each-way backers at a massive price.

Judgment: Of good character


OK CORRAL

Case for: Relatively lightly raced and unexposed chaser. Plenty of potential, on pedigree and run style, to improve for this task. Jockey Derek O’Connor has got the best out of him in the past.

Case against: Returning from more than a year on the sidelines, jumped awkwardly from the very first fence at Cheltenham last time out – albeit he finished lame.

Exhibit A: 2020 Sky Bet Handicap Chase: strong chance if returning to this level of form.

Judgment: Of good character


TAKINGRISKS

Case for: 2019 Scottish Grand National winner, who produced a career-best as a veteran when winning at Doncaster last time out. Course debutant but sound jumper and suited by flat tracks.

Case against: No 12-year-old has won this race since Amberleigh House in 2004. This requires him again to take his form to another level.

Exhibit A: 2021 Sky Bet Chase: determined success, wearing down talented rival.

Judgment: Of good character


SHATTERED LOVE

Case for: Best form at 2m4f when shaping as if she’d improve for further – such as her stout third behind duelists Colreevy and Elimay in Cheltenham’s new Mares’ Chase last time out.

Case against: Runs poorly whenever she’s stepped up in distance, such as when pulled up behind Burrows Saint over 3m5f at Fairyhouse two years ago. Suspect she’s trip-less.

Exhibit A: 2019 Irish Grand National: frustratingly never involved.

Judgment: Members of the Jury, you are instructed to disregard this evidence


JETT

Case for: Perennially highly tried chaser. Mark theoretically feasible on graded form. Cheekpieces – in which he’s run his best races – back on, replacing ineffective blinkers last time.

Case against: Best handicap efforts not viable from this mark. Well below best this season. First-time blinkers no help last time. Prominent run style and keen nature risks burn-out. Prefers small fields.

Exhibit A: 2020 Becher Chase: too keen, not fluent, well beaten.

Judgment: So help me, God


LORD DU MESNIL

Case for: Thorough stayer. Resolute, career-best victory under positive tactics last time out at Haydock – going one better than the previous season. Case against: Prefers the mud. Came to jump carefully and lose position over these fences in December, but faced a wholly inadequate trip. Likely to be taken on for the lead.

Exhibit A: 2021 Grand National Trial: keeps finding but jumping might be too deliberate.

Judgment: Call the next witness


POTTERS CORNER

Case for: Won 2019 Welsh Grand National – well-positioned towards the fore, travelling well and jumping efficiently. Handicap mark protected, over hurdles and cross-country, for this target since. First-time blinkers applied to concentrate his mind.

Case against: Withdrawn from intended Cheltenham Festival cross-country target last time out due to an inflammation. Best form on deep ground. Cheekpieces didn’t work on first wearing.

Exhibit A: 2020 Virtual Grand National: won it. No pressure.

Exhibit B: 2019 Welsh Grand National: ideal technique if translating heavy-ground form to quicker surface.

Judgment: Of good character


CLASS CONTI

Case for: Placed in last two editions of the Thyestes. Unsuited by dawdle in Leinster National last time. Relatively lightly raced for Willie Mullins.

Case against: Habit of getting behind in his races fundamentally unsuited to this task. Unproven over marathon trips. Quicker ground a doubt.

Exhibit A: 2021 Thyestes Chase: mark up for racing in different part of track to the principals.

Judgment: Statute of limitations


MILAN NATIVE

Case for: Jogged to victory at last term’s Cheltenham Festival, seeing out a new longer trip strongly. Started this season well, putting up a fight against future Gold Cup winner Minella Indo at Wexford.

Case against: Form tailed off subsequently, prompting an operation to correct his breathing. Disappointing at the Cheltenham Festival since, jumping poorly early on – causing jockey Jack Kennedy to reject him here – and scarcely rallying later.

Exhibit A: 2020 Kim Muir: strong claims if bouncing back to this form.

Judgment: Call the next witness


DISCORAMA

Case for: High-class handicapper at best, placed three times at the Cheltenham Festival. May well find improvement for stepping up to marathon distances. Had operation to augment his breathing.

Case against: Limited win strike-rate compared with ability. May find winning difficult. Ran too freely when upped in trip last November. Not sighted since.

Exhibit A: 2020 Ultima: mark up for staying on from further back than the other principals.

Judgment: Of good character


VIEUX LION ROUGE

Case for: Course specialist, albeit particularly adept over a shorter version of this race as a dual Becher Chase hero. Completed on all four previous National starts, doing best when sixth in 2017.

Case against: Why should he improve on that at the age of 12? Doesn’t stay this far on extensive past evidence.

Exhibit A: 2020 Becher Chase: rolling back the years. But that’s all, folks.

Judgment: Call the next witness


CLOTH CAP

Case for: Well-handicapped on this season’s progressive form, even if you don’t take his latest Kelso success literally. Sound jumper. Likely to improve again over marathon trips.

Case against: Risks doing too much, too soon under Tom Scudamore in a race with a breadth of competition for the lead.

Jonjo O'Neill tells us about his hopes for Cloth Cap

Exhibit A: 2020 Ladbrokes Trophy: exhibition jumping, but mustn’t force the issue like this.

Judgment: A most credible testimony


CABARET QUEEN

Case for: Unexposed as stayer on paper.

Case against: May prefer to dominate and faces tough competition for that role. Quickly backed out of the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham last time, soon pulling up. May do the same here.

Exhibit A: 2021 Thyestes Chase: too free, disengaging once unable to retain the lead.

Judgment: So help me, God


MINELLACELEBRATION

Case for: Well suited by the National’s sister course, producing a career best here on seasonal debut in October. Can be forgiven lesser efforts going right-handed the last twice. Also a wind operation.

Case against: Made a series of small errors when well beaten over these fences in the 2019 Becher Chase. Not to blame for jockey unseating in the same race 12 months later.

Exhibit A: 2020 Aintree veterans’ chase: can run creditably if translating this form to these fences.

Judgment: Call the next witness.


CANELO

Case for: Improved for the application of cheekpieces this season. Consistently gives his running. Would have finished closer last time bar for being inconvenienced at the final fence.

Case against: Careful jumper, who may lose time in the air. Although unfortunate last time, perhaps too easily put off his stride? Never faced a field of comparable number.

Exhibit A: 2021 Grimthorpe Chase: unfortunate or irresolute when inconvenienced at the last?

Judgment: Call the next witness


THE LONG MILE

Case for: Improved form this season, winning in deep ground at Limerick over Christmas and a staying-on third behind Acapella Bourgeois last time out. Unexposed still.

Case against: Unproven at marathon distances. Can jump deliberately. Might struggle to hold his position on a quicker surface.

Exhibit A: 2020 Limerick success: authoritative success in deep ground, more required.

Judgment: Call the next witness


GIVE ME A COPPER

Case for: Likes a flat track and soundish surface, which he gets here. Shapes like thorough stayer but unexposed over marathon trips. Career best second on his penultimate start.

Case against: Struggles to hold a handy position whenever the pace lifts. Most at home when racing on right-handed tracks.

Exhibit A: 2019 Bet365 Gold Cup: losing his pitch, then staying on when it’s all over.

Judgment: Call the next witness


FARCLAS

Case for: Former Triumph Hurdle winner, steadily improving over fences. Another best-yet effort last time out when second at the Cheltenham Festival. Well suited by a soundish surface. Chosen by Jack Kennedy.

Case against: Stamina utterly unproven. Yet to win over further than 2m4f, let alone further.

Farclas makes late gains at Cheltenham last month

Exhibit A: 2021 Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase: staying on over 2m5f, into the unknown here.

Judgment: Call the next witness


MINELLA TIMES

Case for: Improving chaser, staying on resolutely in two competitive Leopardstown handicaps over shorter trips of late. As all season, aided and abetted here by Rachael Blackmore.

Case against: Stamina unproven. Yet to actually win even at three miles. May lack the acquired grit for this task, accreted over time in competitive staying events.

Exhibit A: 2021 Dublin Racing Festival: travelled and stayed strongly, this task a new frontier.

Judgment: Of good character


SUB LIEUTENANT

Case for: Veteran who was formerly quite a classy chaser for Henry de Bromhead. Second over a short course of these fences two years ago.

Case against: Stays three miles but doesn’t shape like a thorough stayer. New trainer is yet to saddle a winner under Rules. May ultimately struggle to keep up.

Exhibit A: 2019 Topham Chase: requiring chivvying along from at an early stage.

Judgment: So help me, God


HOGAN’S HEIGHT

Case for: Standout item of form when taking to a short course of these fences with poise two seasons ago, recording a wide-margin success. Handles a soundish surface.

Case against: Has run poorly since, including when soon tailed off in Cheltenham’s Cross-Country Chase last time. Stamina totally unproven, possibly doubtful. Large-field debut.

Exhibit A: 2019 Grand Sefton: possesses the right technique but can he sustain it over this far?

Judgment: Call the next witness


DOUBLE SHUFFLE

Case for: High-class handicap chaser at best. Likes a flat track.

Case against: Didn’t take to fences on previous attempt. Doubtful stayer. Not at best this season, despite winning two starts back. Withdrawn on veterinary advice with an irregular heartbeat, though subject to same pre-race checks here.

Exhibit A: 2019 Topham: engaging reverse after two flights.

Judgment: So help me, God


AMI DESBOIS

Case for: Slightly improved form of late. Reliable type.

Case against: Failed to stay on his previous attempts beyond three miles. Might prefer the mud. Prominent run style hard to sustain in this environment.

Exhibit A: 2018 three-and-a-half-mile Haydock handicap chase: picked off and then weakening.

Judgment: Call the next witness


BLAKLION

Case for: Twice handled these fences well, winning the 2017 Becher Chase. Improved with each start for new yard following long time on sidelines. Might repay each-way backers at a big price if utilising enhanced place odds.

Case against: Mark only feasible on dusty form. Didn’t stay when fourth, as beaten favourite, in the 2017 National. Why should he do better, aged 12?

Exhibit A: 2017 Becher Chase: career-best effort, well-handicapped if rediscovering old ability.

Judgment: Call the next witness


The Final Verdict:

1 Any Second Now

2 Cloth Cap

3 Minella Times

4 Kimberlite Candy

5 Discorama

6 Alpha Des Obeaux

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