Two of the first four horses home in last year’s Grand National ran at Cheltenham a month before the big race at Aintree. This time around, those who went to the Festival have one week less of recovery time.
While that fact hasn’t stopped bookmakers from having the likes of 2018 Grand National hero Tiger Roll and 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly as prominent in the betting, it’s well worth taking into consideration. Bearing this in mind, here are four 2019 Grand National hopefuls that skipped the Festival.
Anthony Honeyball may not be the biggest name in National Hunt horse racing, but he trains a real gem of a mare in Ms Parfois. This eight-year-old has run some huge races in defeat over real staying trips, going down fighting by half-a-length to Rathvinden in the National Hunt Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Ms Parfois then went on to Aintree and filled the same spot behind Terrefort in a Grade 1 at Aintree on the Mildmay course. She’s had just two subsequent outings this season and, although below par when sixth in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, she completed the marathon four-and-a-quarter miles of the Midlands Grand National last time out when second giving weight away.
With no doubts about her stamina whatsoever, Ms Parfois must be seriously considered for the Aintree Grand National at 25/1 with Paddy Power. If the ground is testing, she’ll have no problem toughing it out and lasting home based on her runs at Cheltenham last year and Uttoxeter this season.
Willie Mullins is on cloud nine after ending the wait to saddle a winner of the Gold Cup. Fresh from that major Festival success courtesy of Al Boum Photo, the dual Leinster National winner Pairofbrowneyes looks well-in to the English Grand National.
Pairofbrowneyes completed the notable feat of winning back-to-back renewals of the @ToalsBookmakers Leinster Nationals as he led home a 1-2-3 for @WillieMullinsNH in Sunday’s feature race at Naas Racecourse.
— Naas Racecourse (@NaasRacecourse) 11 March 2019
The Irish handicapper has this ten-year-old rated 9lb higher than his British counterpart. It gives every incentive for Pairofbrowneyes to line-up on Merseyside rather than remaining in the Emerald Isle for another crack at the Irish National.
Smart punters have also cottoned on to this. A gamble is developing in the weeks building up to Aintree and Paddy Power are now 25/1 about Pairofbrowneyes in the English Grand National. Like Ms Parfois, he ought to get into the 40-runner field and looks a good each-way bet as a result.
Mullins will have more than one representative at Aintree. Besides last year’s runner-up Pleasant Company who is looking to make it third time lucky, the aforementioned Rathvinden has been very lightly-raced since besting Ms Parfois. He’s another from the Mullins yard that has the Grand National as his target.
Although now an 11-year-old, Rathvinden has smart staying chase form from last year’s Cheltenham Festival with that four-mile victory over the mare. Instead of going back there for a race, he won the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse – a key Irish trial for the Grand National.
As with stable companion Pairofbrowneyes, Rathvinden has had his rating increased by Ireland’s handicapper. If you look at his rating in the Emerald Isle, he is 5lb well-in at Aintree and must be respected a top price of 12/1.
Mark Bradstock is another British trainer with a modest sized yard. Stable star Coneygree has been retired after being unable to recapture former glories since his 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph.
Step forward Step Back to fill those horseshoes. As the winner of the big Sandown staying handicap formerly known as the Whitbread Gold Cup in 2018, the nine-year-old was very impressive in that event off a light weight when bolting up by 13 lengths.
Bradstock has carefully minded Step Back since with just a couple of starts. He may have been laid out for a crack at the Grand National and, at 33/1, has claims on the pick of his form. Step Back should get in at Aintree and has an allotted weight of just 1lb higher than Ms Parfois and Pairofbrowneyes.