Our man looks ahead to the Grand National at Aintree 'the world's greatest steeplechase' with all the stats you need

COVID stopped the Grand National once. But not twice. Today, the world's greatest steeplechase – your race, yes you the people, is back.

Twelve months ago things were very different. The Covid-19 pandemic was in full throttle. The National was cancelled. Dreams shattered. The big race halted in its tracks.

But this afternoon, at 5.15pm, the Aintree spectacular will once again capture the public's imagination as the brave of the brave – man, woman and beast – gallop for glory. 

I'm lucky enough to be there for ITV, and have the huge responsibility of interviewing the winning jockey. It's a moment and responsibility I will forever treasure. 

ITV will be on air early with an extended hour and a half morning show at 9.30am (ITV4), before the afternoon coverage on the main channel from 2.00pm and the close of play at 6.15pm. Don’t miss a hoof beat. 

This is the day when many who never have a punt end up having a flutter, with over 35m bets struck and £225m wagered. Of a world population in the region of 7.7billion, more than 600,000m will watch the event.


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A few years ago this column hit the jackpot. Of the four horses I suggested to follow, two of them, One for Arthur and Cause of Causes, finished first and second. But it's always a real challenge for punters. 

Since the marathon equine test was first run in 1839, the fences have been modified – it's a long time since one of the obstacles was a stone wall (!) – but the Randox Grand National still remains one of sport's toughest and greatest events. 

These are the facts: 

1. Nearly two full circuits of a unique 2¼ mile course. 

2. 30 often crazy fences, with The Chair the tallest at 5ft 2ins. 

3. A build up, albeit without a huge crowd this time, parade and re-girthing period of around 25 minutes to test the nerves.

A maximum field of 40 will head to post at 5.15pm, but remember the record number of finishers is just 23 when Hallo Dandy scored in 1984. Finding a horse to complete is one achievement, filtering out the winner another altogether!


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So who might come out on top? 

Well here is my 1-2-3-4 (not necessarily in that order!).

1. Kimberlite Candy. Lovely racing weight for Tom Lacey and ‘twinkle eyes’ Richie McLernon. Stays well and has form over the big fences, having finished a fine second over the fences in the 2019 Becher Chase. Should have strong eachway claims. 

2. Cloth Cap. Ante-post favourite is chucked in at the weights and will love the ground. Did this column a favour when landing a big prize at Newbury and warmed up in style at Kelso. Has every chance for Jonjo O'Neill and Tom Scudamore who is trying to win his first National after many attempts. Scudamore is bred to land the prize as his grandad won the race on Oxo and his old man, Peter, finished third as a jockey on Corbiere but has been linked in training roles to three winners. Cloth Cap has massive claims.

3. Burrows Saint. Could blitz this lot for owner Rich Ricci if returning to the form of his Irish National success in 2019. Not been quite as good of late and now rated higher, but is trained by the champion of Ireland in Willie Mullins and gives Patrick Mullins a huge shout with Paul Townend sadly side-lined. This horse will have been laid out for prize having been forced to miss the event in 2020. 

4. Vieux Lion Rouge. Has travelled for more than thirty miles around Aintree and has jumped more than 220 National fences and never fallen. Unlikely to win, but is a fabulous eachway bet with many places up for grabs with some bookmakers. Has been a fine servant for David Pipe. Shop around for those offering favourable eachway terms and have a few quid on eachway.

Those are my hopes but the beauty of the Grand National is you at home can pick your favourite name or favourite colour and have a chance of collecting. 

I expect support for Rachael Blackmore’s mount Minella Times (surely should have been named Minella Sun!), while names like Discorama, Magic of Light, Chris’s Dream, Definitly Red and Give me a Copper will be popular. 

Good luck wherever you turn. It’s a day to cheer and shout your horse home. Twelve months on, a day Covid has failed to ruin.

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