10 Apr Can the north win the 2018 Grand National?
THE Grand National has been a lucky race for the north in recent years. Auroras Encore in 2013 caused a huge shock for Sue and Harvey Smith at 66/1. And last year One For Arthur, the cover star of this website, won the “Nash” under a beautiful ride by Derek Fox. Ironically, this year’s hopes once again rest primarily with Scotland and Sue Smith. Let’s look at the northern challenge for the 2018 Grand National…
SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT (Sandy Thomson): Has been the subject of headlines this week after being bought by Patricia and David Thompson, owner of Cheveley Park Stud. This has become an almost annual event: the Thompsons buy a Grand National runner a few days before the race. It worked with Party Politics in 1992. But more recent attempts have come unstuck including with Highland Lodge last year. You can understand why the previous owner (Sandy Thomson’s wife Quona) was tempted to sell as Seeyouatmidnight is no spring chicken and a six-figure offer would appear a no brainer. Although, for me, it does take a little romance out of the story.
Nevertheless, a very classy hurdler and novice chaser, Seeyouatmidnight has been lightly raced in the past two years and has not been the easiest horse to train. But he is probably among the best handicapped horses in the race. Don’t forget this is the horse that won the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham beating Blaklion and Minella Rocco (top weight in this year’s National). He was also third in the 2016 Scottish National (off 149, his racing weight on Saturday). I worry slightly that his preparation may have been a little rushed and he had to run at Newbury recently to qualify for the 2018 Grand National, but he has undoubted class and at around 20-1 is a solid each-way bet.
CAPTAIN REDBEARD (Stuart Coltherd): This would be a typical Grand National fairy story. Farmer, who has far more sheep and cattle than horses, wins with a horse ridden by his son. Captain Redbeard has already enjoyed a great season for Selkirk dairy farmer Stuart Coltherd, including winning the Tommy Whittle at Haydock. And he had the perfect prep in a hurdle race. Horse and jockey have some experience of the big fences with a creditable run in the Grand Sefton on desperate ground in December. And the trainer won the Foxhunters with 100-1 shot Tartan Snow in 2013. A sporting each-way bet and it would be a wonderful story if Captain Redbeard can win the 2018 Grand National for Scotland with the father-son team.
Will Sue Smith’s raiders all get into the 2018 Grand National?
I JUST KNOW (Sue Smith): Danny Cook chose to ride this eight-year-old ahead of Sue Smith’s other two possibles some time ago. He could end up as the only Smith runner to get into the race. I Just Know is a very interesting runner and one who would prefer the ground to dry out. He had an excellent novice chase campaign but his season has been geared towards the 2018 Grand National. Will it come a year too soon? Maybe, but the way he stayed on over 3m 5f in the North Yorkshire National at Catterick suggests he has the required stamina.
DELUSIONOFGRANDEUR (Sue Smith): Needs three to come out to be guaranteed a run, so there’s an agonising wait in store. By no means a forlorn hope. In fact, I’ve always liked the toughness of this horse. He is another resolute galloper and stayer. And although he can be a bit deliberate with his jumping, he is the type who might just get a kick out of Aintree.
VINTAGE CLOUDS: (Sue Smith): Vintage Clouds needs five to come out and looks unlikely to get in. This is a shame as a) I’ve backed him ante post and b) I still think he would have an excellent chance of giving Trevor Hemmings a fourth National victory. He is as tough as old boots and the race could be absolutely perfect for a horse who has been crying out for an extreme distance. Fourth in the Welsh National and third at Cheltenham in the Ultima, he would have no weight. If he does squeeze in, then Danny Cook may have chosen the wrong one.
The final 40 declarations for the 2018 Grand National will be made at Thursday lunchtime.