Grand National 2021: horse-by-horse guide to all the runners

Hot favourite Cloth Cap heads the betting for the world’s most famous race at Aintree on Saturday

Bristol De Mai (age 10, weight 11st 10lb)

The bold-jumping grey is a magnificent sight when he gets into a rhythm and is the best horse in the race on form, including Grade One wins in 2017, 2018 and 2020. This being a handicap, though, that also means he carries top weight and though hardly over the hill at 10, there should be one or two at the other end of the handicap to beat him for speed on the run-in, especially on ground that is quicker than he prefers.

Chris’s Dream (9, 11st 7lb)

Has bits and pieces of top-class form in his back catalogue, including a close second to The Storyteller in a Grade One at Down Royal in October. But it’s also fair to say that there a lot more misses than hits among his recent outings – he was one of the first horses beaten in the Ryanair Chase last time – and his stamina for the National’s marathon trip also remains to be seen (or not, as the case seems more likely to be).

Yala Enki (11, 11st 3lb)

Another of those horses – there’s a growing list – that gets on particularly well with Bryony Frost, and three placed efforts in the mud at the Welsh Grand National, including two with Frost in the saddle, suggest that he won’t lack for stamina at the business end of the race. Faster ground, though, is a big concern, as the younger, quicker horses could already be pulling up after the line by the time he grinds into his highest gear.

Ballyoptic (11, 11st 1lb)

Three runs over these fences and two falls, though he was prominent for a long way three years ago before suffering a heavy fall at the fourth-last. Managed to get round in the Becher Chase in December 2019 without looking like he enjoyed the experience that much and for the most part his form has continued in sharp decline since. Easily overlooked.

Definitly Red (12, 11st 1lb)

A big fancy four years ago when he was badly hampered at the first Becher’s Brook and his saddle slipped, leaving his rider with little option but to pull up shortly afterwards. Was among the market leaders for the 2020 renewal as well, but he was beaten out of sight behind Cloth Cap last time and a long-delayed second crack at a race that has always promised to play to his strengths is probably 12 months too late.

Lake View Lad (11, 11st)

Sprang a surprise in a Grade Two on Aintree’s Mildmay course back in December with the 2020 Gold Cup runner-up, Santini, in second and the subsequent King George winner, Frodon, only fourth. Has failed miserably to back that up in two subsequent starts, though, and ran poorly after being left at the start in this race in 2020. Champion jockey Brian Hughes takes the ride but his National record is equally iffy, with just one completion from six attempts.

Burrows Saint (8, 10st 13lb)

Winner of the 2019 Irish Grand National on only his fourth start over fences in Ireland and campaigned with the Aintree original in mind ever since. Back over fences on his latest outing for the first time in 14 months, finishing second to Acapella Bourgeois at Fairyhouse on ground that was more demanding than he prefers. Should be able to turn that form around on quicker going, even on 7lb worse terms, and will be tuned to the second by his exceptional trainer. Barring accidents, very hard to see him finishing out of the frame.

Burrows Saint, winner of the 2019 Irish Grand National, is tipped for a strong finish.
Burrows Saint, winner of the 2019 Irish Grand National, is tipped for a strong finish. Photograph: Healyracing/

Magic Of Light (10, 10st 13lb)

The runner-up behind Tiger Roll in 2019 has a longstanding negative to defy as Nickel Coin was the last mare to win in 1951 – an odd renewal when 12 of the 36 runners failed to get beyond the first fence. Really took to the track three years ago when she led from the 25th until jumping the last and her front-running style is a bonus. Up 5lb in the weights this time, though, and likely to find a few of the younger ones taking her measure on the run back towards the stands.

Acapella Bourgeois (11, 10st 12lb)

Has the beating of stable companion Burrows Saint on a strict reading of their 1-2 in the Bobbyjo Chase in February, but this 11-year-old may not have the same scope for improvement and tends to show his best under more demanding conditions. All the same, he was a close third – again behind Burrows Saint – in the 2019 Irish National and Aintree can favour horses that race up with the pace. Comfortably on the right side of the line between “unlikely” and “very unlikely”.

Anibale Fly (11, 10st 12lb)

His two top-five finishes here – behind Tiger Roll on both occasions – when carrying a hefty burden read well in the context of this race, when Tony Martin’s runner has around a stone less on his back. The counterargument – and it’s a strong one – is that age has appeared to be catching up with him over the past couple of years, when he has finished last in all four of his outings over fences. Just one run this season and he would have needed it badly after 356 days off, but even if the big fences rekindle his enthusiasm they won’t change the year on his birth certificate.

Mister Malarky (8, 10st 12lb)

Had a visit from the wind-op fairy before his latest start in a decent handicap at Kempton Park and seemed to show the benefit, finishing third under a big weight. Earlier form has hinted at the stamina for a marathon trip, he acts on good-to-soft too and is certainly one of the more plausible contenders at a working person’s each-way price. Colin Tizzard’s final National runner before handing the reins to his son, Joe, and there would not be a more popular winner.

Tiger Roll's third visit to Aintree on Thursday afternoon proved far less successful than the previous two, prompting the stewards to inquire into the 11-year-old's apparently "tender" handling by Jack Kennedy, his jockey. 

Tiger Roll stayed on to finish fourth in the Grade One Betway Bowl, nearly 100 lengths behind the winner, Clan Des Obeaux.

Kennedy told the inquiry that Tiger Roll "was never really travelling due
to the fast early pace", and that he had been unable to hold a position
after a mistake at the third fence, where he felt that his partner "may
have lost confidence". He added that he "had ridden the gelding to best
advantage" and that he believed he had "obtained the best possible

Having also interviewed Denise Foster, Tiger Roll's trainer, by telephone,
the explanations – including Foster's suggestion that the race "may have
come too soon after a recent run at Cheltenham" - were noted.

Tiger Roll ran in the Grade One race rather than the Grand National, which he won in 2018 and 2019, after Michael O'Leary, his owner, decided that his handicap mark of 166 was at least 7lb too high.

He was also described as having "no chance whatsoever" in the Grade One race by Eddie O'Leary, his brother's racing manager, on Thursday morning, and drifted from an overnight price of around 5-1 to start at 8-1. Greg Wood

Talkischeap (9, 10st 12lb)

It looked like the only way was up for Alan King’s runner when he landed the last big handicap of the jumps season at Sandown in April 2019. Little – correction: nothing – has gone right for him since, and while a run at Kempton in February qualified him to line up on Saturday, he showed little sign of a revival and finished 39 lengths behind the winner. Big leap of faith required to back him, even at around 50-1.

Tout Est Permis (8, 10st 12lb)

Has not seen the inside of a winner’s enclosure since January 2019, and a third behind The Storyteller in October 2020 is the only real glimmer of form since then. Michael O’Leary, his owner, made a song and dance about Tiger Roll’s rating when the weights came out in February, but would have been more justified in kicking off about this one’s mark. One of the first to cross off the list.

Kimberlite Candy (9, 10st 10lb)

Has an obvious chance on his form over these fences in two Becher Chases and has been attracting steady support ever since the weights were published in February. There is an obvious question mark too, though, as his best performances have come on heavy ground, which makes his current price look thin in the absence of any significant rain.

Alpha Des Obeaux (11, 10st 9lb)

One more to add to the list of horses that probably missed their best chance of a Grand National win last year. Had Aintree squarely in his sights in 2020 after a good third in the Becher Chase over these fences but has been a long way below that form this time around. Showed a bit more interest in the Cross Country at Cheltenham last time but even that still gave him plenty to find.

Any Second Now (9, 10st 9lb)

Warmed up with a win over the minimum trip of two miles, which is hardly the standard prep for a National horse. But bear in mind that Ted Walsh, his trainer, is cannier than a Can-Can in a Cancún canning factory, not least when it comes to getting ready for Aintree, and this one has looked a likely sort for this race several times in his career. He stayed on all the way to the line to win the Kim Muir at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, arrives on a great racing weight and could well improve significantly for the marathon trip. Huge run anticipated.


Balko Des Flos (10, 10st 9lb)

Big runner on the basis of a win in the Grade One Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in 2018, but a no-hoper according to pretty much all of his form since. The unique challenge of the National fences occasionally nudges a horse to rediscover their best, but the unique challenge of the cross-country course at Cheltenham did nothing for him last time so that feels like grasping at straws.

Ok Corral (11, 10st 8lb)

A big fancy for this race 12 months ago when he was due to arrive at Aintree off the back of January’s big win at Doncaster. Much harder to like this time round after he was pulled up when tailed off at Cheltenham last month. That was a tough race for a comeback after more than a year off and he should improve for the outing, but the strong suspicion remains that his train is arriving at Lime Street 12 months too late.

Jett (10, 10st 7lb)

Mixed in some very decent company back in the day but never a prolific winner and has scored just four times in 32 starts over fences. Has nothing on his recent record to suggest there is the remotest chance of him making it 5 out of 33.

Shattered Love (10, 10st 7lb)

A Grade One winner as a novice at Cheltenham in 2018 but that was over two-and-a-half miles and she has yet to show any form when tried at three-and-a-quarter and above. Derek Fox, Ryan Mania and David Mullins all won the National at the first attempt in recent years. Kevin Sexton is most unlikely to join them.

Takingrisks (12, 10st 7lb)

The 2019 Scottish Grand National winner rarely runs a bad race and put up arguably the best performance of his entire career to win a valuable and competitive event at Doncaster in January. That was a fourth win in his last six starts in chases and he is a credit to his trainer, Nicky Richards, whose father saddled two National winners, but it also means that he makes his Grand National debut off a career-high mark at the age of 12. A big ask.

Class Conti (9, 10st 6lb)

The third string to the Willie Mullins bow has been running well without winning this year, but not well enough to suggest that he will beat either of his stable companions, never mind a significant number of the other 37 horses in the race. Decent form on good ground during his early days in France is the only real straw to clutch if you have pulled him out in the sweep.

Discorama (8, 10st 6lb)

Successful on his chasing debut in November 2018 but still looking for his second win over fences after nine attempts. That’s not a promising profile on the face of it, but he has been placed three times at the Cheltenham Festival while hinting that a challenge like today’s could be right up his street. Most of his form in on softer ground, which is a concern, but he is one of those horses that would need plenty to go his way to win without it being in any way a surprise if he did.

Lord Du Mesnil (8, 10st 6lb)

Won the Grand National Trial over three-and-a-half at Haydock Park in February and has a chance on that form, but seems to need bottomless ground to produce his best (and put a spoke in the wheels of his quicker rivals). One to bear in mind in the unlikely event that Aintree get a month’s-worth of rain between now and Saturday afternoon.

Milan Native (8, 10st 6lb)

Managed to keep tabs on Minella Indo, this season’s Gold Cup winner, for a long way at Wexford in October but seems to have been paying for it ever since. Pulled up over three miles and five furlongs in November and below form again when fancied to run well at the Cheltenham Festival. Very hard to recommend in his current frame of mind.

Potters Corner (11, 10st 6lb)

His number came up in last year’s “virtual” Grand National following real-world wins in both the Midlands National and Welsh National in 2019. Jumping issues seem to be a thing of the past and he would probably still be staying on to the line if they went around three times rather than just the two, but he could struggle to peg back some of his sprightlier opponents on today’s ground. The suspicion remains that the virtual turf was riding a lot slower than the official “good” 12 months ago.

Cabaret Queen (9, 10st 5lb)

The fourth and final member of the Willie Mullins team, and a 125-1 outsider after showing nothing on her latest start in a mares’ race at Cheltenham. Appears to need a freak event of Foinavon-like proportions to stand any chance.

Grand National interactive

Cloth Cap (9, 10st 5lb)

His handicap mark for today’s race looked workable even before his emphatic success in the level-weights Premier Chase at Kelso, and his new rating implies the handicapper would give him another stone to carry on Saturday if he could have another go at the weights. The Kelso form has hardly been advertised by the beaten horses, however, and 9-2 is short enough for any horse in this race when one mistake – or even a mistake by an opponent – can be enough to end a runner’s chance. He is the likeliest winner and a worthy favourite, but easy enough to swerve when the sheer unpredictability of the National has not been factored in to his price.

Minellacelebration (11, 11st 1lb)

Has winning form at Aintree but not over these fences, and knocked himself out of contention with a bad mistake at Kempton last time. That hardly inspires confidence here, for all that the big fences are not what they were, and he looks handicapped to the hilt as well.

Vieux Lion Rouge (12, 10st 5lb)

As grizzled a veteran of these unique obstacles as any horse in training, having raced over the National course no fewer than seven times including two wins and a second in the Becher Chase at the December meeting. His record in the National itself, however, is uninspiring, for all that he has got round every time: his stamina needle always hits empty with nearly a mile still to run and might do so a little earlier now that he’s reached the advanced age of 12.

Canelo (8, 10st 4lb)

Still a novice over fences so has some scope to step up on his previous form but needs to bridge a big gap in terms of class, the challenge of the big fences and the extended trip to stand much chance of getting involved. Could be a useful sighter for next year’s race, and not unthinkable that he might sneak into the Top 10 if all goes well.

The Long Mile (7, 10st 4lb)

An interesting, potentially under-the-radar runner in the JP McManus colours, even though it is more than 80 years since a seven-year-old triumphed in the National. Got to within eight lengths of Acapella Bourgeois and three of Burrows Saint at Fairyhouse in February and is better off at the weights with both of those here. Might want softer ground and unproven beyond three miles, but worth a check in the betting given his owner’s liking for a tilt at the ring.

Give Me A Copper (11, 10st 4lb)

Sir Alex Ferguson watched his colours carried to a big-priced treble on Thursday on an afternoon he described as his best in racing after nearly 20 years as an owner. It would be quite something if he could improve on that excitement just two days later but his National runner produced something akin to relegation form at Doncaster in January, and will need a Nou Camp-style reversal of fortune to make a serious impact.

Farclas (7, 10st 3lb)

Three lengths behind handicap “snip” The Shunter at Cheltenham last month, when a stumble on the home turn also cost him a length or two. Weighted to go close on that form, which was a fourth successive top-5 finish in a big and competitive field. Like Tiger Roll, a former winner of the Triumph Hurdle who runs in Michael O’Leary’s maroon and white colours, and looks the most likely of the owner’s five runners to give him a fourth success in the last five runnings.

Minella Times (8, 10st 3lb)

Rachael Blackmore can move betting markets after her historic efforts at the Cheltenham Festival last month, but the question for backers is whether she has shifted the odds too far. The money was coming for Henry de Bromhead’s gelding long before Blackmore was confirmed for the ride, but while there is plenty in his form to suggest he has a fair chance of making his jockey the first female to win the National, there is little that makes him a legitimate 10-1 shot. Like Cloth Cap, he looks like one to pass over at his current price.

Rachael Blackmore will be hoping Minella Times can help her make history as the first female winner of the Grand National.
Rachael Blackmore will be hoping Minella Times can help her make history as the first female winner of the Grand National. Photograph: Pat Healy/

Sub Lieutenant (12, 10st 3lb)

The mount of Tabitha Worsley, one of three riders in the field bidding to become the first female jockey to win, and has several bits of form that would make him a blot on the handicap at his best. Very hard to see him running up to that at the age of 12, however, even though Worsley is unbeaten (in one previous start) over these fences and Sub Lieutenant himself was second in the Topham two years ago. Top 10 would be a fine achievement for one of the smallest stables in the game.

Hogan’s Height (10, 10st 3lb)

Landed the Grand Sefton over these fences in 2019 but failed to build on that in three subsequent starts and was more than 100 lengths behind the winner in the Cross Country at Cheltenham last time. That run ensured he was qualified for the National but there are potential stamina issues, even if he can return to something like his best.

Double Shuffle (11, 10st 2lb)

The runner-up in the 2017 King George VI Chase at Kempton, second only to the Gold Cup in terms of prestige for staying chasers, which suggests a liking for a flat track like this. His affection for running over four-and-a-quarter miles is far less certain, however, and there has been little sign of his best form in recent seasons.

Ami Desbois (11, 10st 2lb)

A tough, consistent chaser but consistency rarely seems to be enough where he is concerned and he is without a win since December 2017. It is not a losing streak that he stands much chance of snapping here.

Blaklion (12, 10st 2lb)

Showed a real aptitude for the National fences in lesser races over the course before suffering a luckless run when fancied for this in 2018, when he set off at 14-1 but had nowhere to go when a rival fell in front of him at the first. His karma account is massively in credit after that but cashing it in would require everything up to and possibly including divine intervention (and even that might not be quite enough).

Greg’s prediction: 1) Any Second Now, 2) Burrows Saint, 3) Mister Malarky, 4) Acapella Bourgeois.


Greg Wood

The GuardianTramp

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