Talking Horses: Any Second Now can win second Grand National for Walsh

Trainer who won with Papillon in 2000 has runner who looks set to improve for marathon trip in Aintree spectacular

Betting odds are mischievous beasts at the best of times, and never more so than when 40 runners go to post for the Grand National, Britain’s annual flutter on the gee-gees. For weeks, the prices have been shouting that Jonjo O’Neill’s Cloth Cap is the horse most likely to win on Saturday evening. And whispering too that in the final reckoning, the chances are he probably won’t.

Overnight odds of around 5-1, in fact, suggest there is an 80-85% chance that one of the other 39 runners will beat him, but there are so many positives attached to Cloth Cap’s profile that this can be easy to forget. His form, age, weight and connections are all impeccable, but he is subject to the vagaries of chance just like any other runner.

Another point to bear in mind is that Cloth Cap is not necessarily the runner with the best chance at the weights, for all that his impressive success at Kelso in early March means – in theory, at least – that he is around a stone ahead of his mark. He is just the well-handicapped horse that everyone knows about, and has been priced up accordingly.

He will face opponents on Saturday whose training regimes have been counting down towards 5.15pm on 10 April 2021 for at least a year, and in some cases, probably two. They have been steered around races like the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, which Cloth Cap won so impressively in November, and in some cases, have done plenty of their racing over hurdles rather than fences. Those are the runners whose odds might actually underestimate their chance.

For those reasons, it is easy to pass on Cloth Cap at his current price, and Minella Times too, because his odds owe as much to his jockey, Rachael Blackmore, as they do to his form. And since Kimberlite Candy is uncertain to go on the ground (and Secret Reprieve missed the cut) this places the focus very much on Burrows Saint and Any Second Now.

Both horses have been prepared with only the National in mind by trainers who know what it takes. Burrows Saint was clearly going to be an Aintree horse from the moment he won the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse, on only his third start over fences for Willie Mullins, in April 2019. In the case of Any Second Now, trained by Ted Walsh who saw Papillon to victory in 2000, the klaxon was a win in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham a month earlier.

Both can be backed at close to double-figure odds and look to have similar chances, but since a choice must be made, marginal preference is for Any Second Now (5.15), since he has yet to be tried at a marathon trip and has shown clear hints in the past that he could improve significantly for the challenge. He stayed on strongly all the way to the line at Cheltenham two years ago, yet had enough speed to win a Grade Two over two miles last month. At around 11-1, he is top of the list.

Burrows Saint is an obvious candidate to chase him home, while Mister Malarky and Acapella Bourgeois (both 33-1) appeal as likely types to make the frame at decent prices.

Aintree 2.25 My Drogo put up one of the performances of the season in the novice hurdling division at Kelso in early March and has had 10 days’ more rest than Ballyadam, who was a distant second in the Supreme.

Aintree 3.00 Difficult to see anything other than an easy win for the exceptional Shishkin to close out a perfect novice chasing campaign.

Chepstow 12.30 Getaway Luv 1.00 Sackett 1.35 Mac Amara 2.10 Kaproyale 2.45 Saint De Reve 3.20 Dancingwith Storms 4.00 Young O’Leary 4.35 Musical

Lingfield Park 12.55 Peat Moss 1.25 Shecandoo 2.00 Newyorkstateofmind 2.40 Fierospeed 3.15 Devizes 3.50 Brunel Charm 4.25 Lafan 4.55 Far From A Ruby

Newcastle 1.15 Erne River 1.53 Diligent 2.33 Emissaire 3.05 Catlin 3.40 Lively Citizen 4.10 Cracking Find 4.45 Old Jewry 5.30 Dancing Doug

Aintree 1.45 Champagne Platinum 2.25 My Drogo (nb) 3.00 Shishkin 3.35 Paisley Park 4.15 Sam Brown 5.15 Any Second Now (nap) 6.20 The Gossiper

Wolverhampton 5.05 Belafonte 5.40 Crazy Spin 6.15 Wakening 6.45 Golden Rules 7.15 Churchill Bay 7.45 Puchita 8.15 Muftakker

Aintree 3.35 Paisley Park is not quite the Mr Dependable of two seasons ago but there is little wrong with his overall profile and looks more likely than his main rival Thyme Hill to produce his best on quicker ground.

Aintree 4.15 Sam Brown’s form at Carlisle in November has been franked since and he is on a fair mark for his handicap debut.


Greg Wood

The GuardianTramp

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