grand national 2011 / entries
National Glory for McCain and Ballabriggs
1 Ballabriggs 14/1
Ballabriggs was an emotional winner of the John Smith's Grand National for Donald McCain, son of Aintree legend Ginger McCain, the trainer of Red Rum.
Grand National – Betting Preview and Tips
When Ruby Walsh declared he would be riding The Midnight Club in the John Smith’s Grand National instead of any of Paul Nicholls’ runners, the Irish raider’s odds predictably contracted.
However, all the money in the last few days has been for last year’s winner Don’t Push It, who looks set to go off favourite as he bids to become the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back renewals of the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Having endured years of rotten luck in the race, it would be ironic would champion jockey Tony McCoy then goes and wins the Aintree spectacular two years on the trot. Personally, I respect Don’t Push It, but I’ll be surprised if he’s good enough to retain his crown on Saturday, as carrying 11st 10lb to victory in this 4m 4f marathon is a big ask.
I’ve backed Niche Market and Calgary Bay (each-way) ante-post, and am loathe to turn my back on the duo. However, in recent days I have become increasingly sweet on the chance of BACKSTAGE, who was creeping into contention when hampered by a loose horse and unseating rider at the twentieth fence in this race last year. His trainer, Gordon Elliott, has enjoyed a tremendous season so far during the 2010/11 campaign and it could be about to get a lot better.
Elliott has been shrewd in the way that he has prepared Backstage for this assignment, with the nine-year-old only returning to action in February. He bolted up in an open point on his reappearance and won with similar ease in that sphere again last month. Although it’s not easy to interpret form in points in the context of races under Rules, to my eyes Backstage looks better than ever and, therefore, appeals as being potentially well handicapped.
The selection will get plenty of assistance with Paul Carberry in the saddle. The gelding is the right sort of age to win a National (nine and 10-year-olds have a cracking record in the race), the drying ground is very much in his favour and, if he can avoid carnage, I’m pretty confident Backstage will go close.
Ballabriggs isn’t harshly treated, off a mark 10lb higher compared to when winning at last season’s Cheltenham Festival. He headed the market for much of the winter for this race and has to be accorded plenty of respect, along with the likes of What A Friend, who is a sizeable step ahead of the handicapper following his effort in the Gold Cup, and the progressive Quinz, who is only seven but looked precocious when landing the Racing Post Chase at Kempton last time.
Recommendation: Backstage (Niche Market and Calgary Bay already advised)
THE 2011 JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL
Class 1, Grade 3, £950,000 total Prize Fund. 4.15pm, Aintree, Saturday, April 9, 2011, four miles and four furlongs. For six-year-olds old and upwards which are allotted a rating of 110 or more by the BHA Head of Handicapping following a review of the horses entered and after taking account of races run up to and including February 13, 2011. Horses which are not qualified for a rating in Great Britain or Ireland at February 1, 2011, may also be entered. Such horses may be eligible for a weight providing the Handicapper is satisfied that the horse's racecourse performances to February 13, 2011, would merit a minimum rating of 110. To qualify horses must have run at least three times in Steeple Chases run under the Rules of Racing of the same Recognised Turf Authority up to and including February 13, 2011. At the Handicapper's discretion such horses may be allocated a rating. The decision of the BHA Head of Handicapping shall be final. No penalties after publication of the weights. Highest weight 11st 10lb. Entries closed February 1, entries revealed February 2 (102 entries, 3 subsequently scratched), weights revealed February 15, first scratchings deadline March 1 (82 remained), second scratchings deadline March 22 (74 remained). Five-day confirmation stage April 4 (65 five-day confirmations), final declaration stage 10.00am, April 7 - (maximum 40 declared runners), plus 4 reserves. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Wednesday, April 6.
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