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Grand National 2021 Preview, Tips and Runner By Runner Guide

What race is there to cover this weekend other than the Aintree Grand National, which will be run at 5.15pm and shown on ITV.

Once again I’ll be using Geegeez Gold to highlight some of the best angles into the race. Don’t forget that you can get your first 30 days of Geegeez Gold access for just £1.

This is the race of the year for trends fans and they are a great way of narrowing down this massive field. Andy Newton has already done the hard work for you if you are after Grand National trends, click here to visit his brilliant Grand National trends blog.

Pace

Making up ground isn’t easy on this course despite the runners having more than four miles to do so. In such a big field hold up performers can not only find themselves some way off the early lead, they also run more of a risk of having their rivals fall just in front of them. Those that are closer to the pace are far less likely to have to dodge fallen horses or unseated riders.

Let’s see what the data says about this race:

Aintree Grand National Pace Bias

Historic pace bias in the Grand National

It’s important to first acknowledge we only have limited data here. This is the only race each year run here over this distance and I’ve excluded heavy ground renewals as they come with their own micro pace biases.

The place data is the most telling here as this gives us the most data for the time period and the place percentages suggest a fairly strong bias towards those who race prominently. A very decent 20.48% of prominent runners place in the Grand National and that would probably be a lot more impressive if the data included 5+ places that you often get with the bookies.

Comparably, mid division is next best with an 11.29% place ratio, followed by front runners who have a 9.09% place strike rate and then there are the hold up performers who have a shocking place percentage of just 2.74%.

We can’t always tell exactly which runners are likely to be dropped out in the rear. It doesn’t take a drastically different ride to see a hold up performer to race in mid division for example. However it’s pretty clear that those who tend to race towards the rear and/or can be outpaced early on are not the ones to be with here.

Grand National 2021 Pace Map

A huge amount of runners makes constructing a pace map difficult, unless of course you have a Geegeez Gold subscription.

Grand National 2021 Pace Map

Grand National 2021 pace map based on the last two runs of each entrant.

We should have at least three runners happy to contest the early lead, including hot favourite Cloth Cap. Over this test they aren’t going to be taking each other on for the lead though, we’ll most likely just see all three disputing the early pace at a sensible gallop.

The runners you’d be most concerned about are those bottom nine contenders who all seem most likely to be dropped in at the rear. Recent history suggests they’ll have to be very good to win from there, or even place.

Instant Expert

Instant Expert should be able to highlight the runners who are more proven in conditions than others. The flip side of this is that those who are most proven are probably going to be amongst the most exposed runners but at the very least we can highlight some each way bets with Instant Expert.

Instant Expert showing win data for the 2021 Grand National field

Instant Expert showing place data for the 2021 Grand National field

You’ll find the win and place data above, win data first. A strong Grand National trend is the requirement to have won over at least 3m and to have placed over at least 3m4f so those two distances have been used for the win Instant Expert and place Instant Expert respectively. Both tables have been sorted by distance strike rate.

It’s worth noting that fifteen of these (including reserves) have so far never won on good or good to soft ground. Those runners include the well fancied Kimberlite Candy. Farclas and Cloth Cap are amongst the most consistent placers on this sort of ground, with Burrows Saint also up there but from only one try.

Nine runners that are guaranteed to make the final field have never won over 3m or further so it may be best to put a line through those. Burrows Saint, who is amongst the favourites, has the best win strike rate (67%) at 3m+. Eleven runners have a 33% win strike rate or better at 3m+ and that figure will drop to nine if the reserves don’t get in.

A whopping twenty seven of these, including the reserves, have never placed over 3m4f before which could be a convenient way of ruling out over half of the field. Yala Enki stands out as a runner that is consistently good over marathon trips with eight places from nine attempts over 3m4f+. Lord Du Mesnil and Potters Corner also bring a good place strike rate at marathon trips into this from more than one run so you’d fancy them to stay the trip at the very least.

With such a big field here form in 16+ runner races could be even more important than usual. Twenty eight of these, including reserves, have never won in a 16+ runner race before. Potters Corner is the only one to have both a 50%+ win strike rate and more than one win in these big fields. Twenty runners have at least a 50% place strike rate in big fields including the majority of the fancied runners.

If you wanted to build a shortlist of the most solid contenders from a win perspective using Instant Expert who have very few negatives you’d probably be looking at the following runners:

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Burrows Saint (good but limited data)
Secret Reprieve (good but limited data, 2nd reserve)
Takingrisks (lots of proven form)
Potters Corner (solid but ground a concern)
Cloth Cap (likeable profile)
Minellacelebration (some decent stats in his favour but has to prove stamina)

Grand National 2021 Runners

Here is the complete Grand National 2021 field in order of odds, most fancied to least fancied.

Cloth Cap

Pretty much everything to like about this one except the price. He’s a stone well in, ran a good 3rd in the Scottish equivalent two years ago, since cheekpieces were fitted he’s won easily on both occasions and enjoys this kind of ground. He’ll be out of the way of any incidents behind. He wouldn’t want to race as enthusiastically as he often does in this and there will definitely be better 4/1 shots on the day in other races but he looks the most likely winner.

Burrows Saint

Won the Irish equivalent in 2019 (aged just 6) which goes a long way to proving his stamina. That victory came on good to yielding and although most of his runs have come on softer, his three career victories came on either good to yielding or good. He’s raced over hurdles more than fences since the Irish National win, clearly protecting his handicap mark, and he put up a more than respectable effort in a Grade 3 chase last time out on ground softer than ideal.

Minella Times

A good jumper with form on a range of going types. He’s never gone further than 3m and has been beaten on both attempts at that distance. He shapes as if he will stay a little further but my preference is for something with far more proven stamina, especially at this sort of price.

Any Second Now

Enjoyed a step up to 3m2f to win the 2019 Kim Muir at Cheltenham before falling in the Irish Grand National behind Burrows Saint. He’s been campaigned with this in mind since but with his last two wins coming over 2m he’s potentially got a little too much speed for this and the fact that he’s falled or unseated on three occasions doesn’t bode too well, for all the fences aren’t what they once were.

Kimberlite Candy

A wide margin winner of Warwick’s Classic Handicap Chase in 2020, a race that worked out particularly well. That win suggests his new handicap mark shouldn’t stop him from winning and two 2nd places in the Becher Chase give plenty of hope that he’ll complete the course once again. This season’s 2nd in the Becher was his only run this season with leaves him with a longer than is often ideal break heading into this, although he does go well fresh. His best form is with plenty of cut in the ground and he was disappointing in the 2019 Midlands Grand National on good to soft which is a concern.

Secret Reprieve

Second reserve. On the upgrade in testing conditions at Chepstow the last twice. He’s lacking the usual experience of a Grand National and the likelihood of missing the cut here may do him a favour in the long run. He’ll be of interest next year, especially if the ground came up testing.

Discorama

No stamina concerns having placed in the 2019 National Hunt Chase on soft ground. Given a wind op since disappointing last time out so well being has to be taken slightly on trust but he’s run well after a wind op and an absence in the past, when 3rd at last year’s Cheltenham Festival behind The Conditional in the Ultima. His run style isn’t likely to do him any favours around here and most of his form is on softer.

Magic Of Light

Runner up in this in 2019 behind Tiger Roll so few question marks about the suitability of this test. As a 10yo she’s entitled to have a better crack at it this year but she’s 5lbs higher and it’s extremely difficult to win a National having run so well in defeat in the race previously. Poor run last time out but over a much shorter distance so that’s not a major concern. Much more appealing for place purposes than win purposes.

Farclas

Recent Cheltenham form behind The Shunter somewhat franked on Thursday but he’s been largely campaigned over 2m and although he ran well enough on his only attempt at 3m this is a massive step up again. Interesting from a handicapping perspective but has to be one of the least likely stayers in the field.

Potters Corner

Stays all day and loves testing conditions. He hasn’t been in the best of form on his last two starts and whilst he would have still made plenty of appeal on soft or heavy ground here, he might still find things happening too quickly in this. Perhaps the first time blinkers will help with that but there are certainly some risks involved for all it would be no shock if he won this.

Bristol De Mai

High class stayer whose best form has come at Haydock. He does have form on better ground but there is plenty to prove stamina wise and his best chance of defying top weight would have been if the race was moved to Haydock. Not difficult to oppose.

Anibale Fly

Finished 4th in this in 2018 on heavy ground and 5th in 2019 on better ground. Now 4lbs and 9lbs lower than those efforts respectively. He’s placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018 and 2019 too so is clearly a high class contender. He hasn’t shown much since the 2019 renewal and would have only appealed as a winner on soft ground anyway so whilst he could place if bouncing back, a win at a third attempt is a tall order.

Milan Native

Has won over as far as 3m2f when taking the 2020 Kim Muir but failed to shine when pulled up over 3m5f in November. He’s been largely out of form on his last three runs and didn’t jump well on reappearance at Cheltenham after wind surgery. Opposable based on current form, jumping and stamina.

Mister Malarky

Not the most consistent but his run style should serve him well around here and the ground should be fine. He ran well after wind surgery in February so perhaps that will sort out his consistency but he still has stamina to prove. Definite chance if stamina holds out.

Some Neck

First reserve. Run well twice over 3m6f in cross country races at Cheltenham and finishing 3rd behind two runners rated 20lbs+ behind him no disgrace even if well enough beaten. Jumping hasn’t always been the best and needs to improve for this test to figure if getting a run.

Takingrisks

Won the 2019 Scottish Grand National, beating Cloth Cap in the process. Versatile with regards to ground having won that race on good whilst gaining his most recent win, last time out, on soft. He’s got a good strike rate for a pretty exposed runner and although he’s now 12, it’s hard to argue his win last time out wasn’t a career best. He may improve again for this step back up in trip and although he’s fallen a couple of times, he’s gone eighteen runs without doing so. Certainly one of the more interesting contenders at a price.

Acapela Bourgeois

Gave Burrows Saint 6lbs and a beating last time out in a small field Grade 3 and now gets 1lb from that rival so interesting at the weights. He wouldn’t beat that rival on their meeting in the Irish National a couple of years ago though when Acapela Bourgeois was 3rd behind his stablemate. Should stay this far and jumps okay but he tends to need to dominate to win and those tactics will be a bit harder to pull off in this big field.

Lord Du Mesnil

A strong enough stayer who won a decent race last time out but he loves Haydock and very testing conditions. He’s fallen or unseated five times in his career including his French form and that’s a concern over these fences.

Yala Enki

Extremely consistent in staying chases but he was a faller here at the first in the Becher and eight of his eleven wins have come on either soft or heavy ground. The higher he’s gone in the handicap, the more he has relied on smaller fields to get his head in front so he’ll have to put in some weight carrying performance to win this. Likely to be well placed but whatever happens should find at least a few too good.

Canelo

Didn’t look to be crying out for further last time out over 3m2f and has arguably been nailed by the handicapper now. His run style might not be ideal here either and it would be a surprise if he was good enough, for all there are relatively few miles on the clock.

Definitely Red

A staying on 4th in 2019 Becher and was sent off 10/1 for the 2017 Grand National before he was pulled up having been badly hampered. Took well to cheekpieces when they were applied in a 15 length win at Kelso just over a year ago but he’s struggled for form since then. Might bounce back but it’s possible age has caught up with him.

Give Me A Copper

Very lightly raced for an 11yo and he’s largely run well on better ground. A solid 4th in the bet365 Gold Cup in 2019 but he’s not always the best jumper. Not without a hope in this at a price but even if his jumping holds up he’ll need to improve for the step up in trip.

Lake View Lad

Pulled up in the 2019 Grand National with connections stating they would have liked a softer surface. He beat Santini here in December but has been out of form since and hopes of a revival are pinned on a wind op and first time cheekpieces. Something to prove on this ground too.

Shattered Love

She’s been in fair form this year but most wins have come in small fields on testing ground over much shorter trips. Far too many question marks to consider.

Blaklion

Finished 4th in the 2017 Grand National before winning the Becher in the same year by a wide margin. Hasn’t really threatened to win a race since then though so all hopes pinned on the return to this venue.

Chris’s Dream

Ran in the Ryanair last time out but was pulled up after jumping errors. Has several wins at 3m but hasn’t looked like staying beyond that trip and this is a lot of weight to carry when stamina is in serious doubt.

Class Conti

Nothing particularly wrong with his handicap mark but it certainly seems he needs to improve for the step up in trip rather than simply stay the extra distance. He lacks a win at 3m+ though and the ground may be livelier than ideal.

Vieux Lion Rouge

Well suited by these fences having completed in every single one of his nine runs over them and was a wide margin winner of the Becher Chase this season, defeating Kimberlite Candy by 24 lengths. Yet to get within 27 lengths of the winner of this in four attempts and has looked a non stayer each time. Great bet to complete the course, poor bet to win.

Alpha Des Obeaux

Fell in the 2018 Grand National but was a good 3rd in the 2019 Becher. Hasn’t got within 13 lengths of winning since then but ran a decent 4th in the Cross Country Chase last month, just behind Some Neck. Ground and trip are probably okay but run style leaves him needing plenty of luck here. Better chance than odds suggest though.

Fagan

Fourth reserve. Comfortable heavy ground winner last time out and had looked in need of further at Ludlow previously over an extended 3m1f. Pulled up previously in the 2018 Scottish Grand National but beaten before stamina really came into play that day. Been hit hard by the handicapper for latest win and unlikely to get a run anyway.

Hogan’s Height

An impressive winner over these fences in the Grand Sefton in 2019 but not shown much since then, pulled up on penultimate start and beaten 124 lengths last time out in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. Has form on a range of going types but couldn’t be arriving in much worse form.

Jett

Hasn’t run well in over a year and was beaten over 100 lengths in this season’s Becher. Stays at least 3m1f but form as much of a worry as anything.

Ok Corral

Found to be lame after he was pulled up following a 416 day break when running in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival. He’s only run four times on good or good to soft ground and he’s won three of those which is a possible angle but a lot has to be taken on trust.

Sub Lieutenant

Stayed on nicely to finish 2nd in the 2019 Topham Chase and tends to run well on better ground. Not disgraced in two runs for the current trainer and jockey Tabitha Worsley has already won over these fences in the past in the Foxhunters’ Chase. Questionable stayer but better chance than the price suggests.

Talkischeap

Impressive winner of the 2019 bet365 Gold Cup (Give Me A Copper in behind) but only real sign of life since then came in a national hunt flat race at Lingfield in February. He reverted to type though when well beaten at Kempton on his next start. Enjoys fast ground (60% strike rate on good or better) but this might not be quite quick enough and needs to bounce back regardless.

The Long Mile

Stayed on well behind Acapela Bourgeois and Burrows Saint last time out but was very much ridden to get the trip that day. Similar tactics here would leave him a hostage to fortune and given the bulk of his form he’d still be a doubtful stayer.

Balko Des Flos

Barely run well for two years now and has to prove stamina and well-being amongst other things.

Ballyoptic

Has fallen in two out of three attempts at these fences and was well beaten in the other. He was actually in the process of running a decent race in the 2019 renewal when hitting the deck. He’s had no real respite from the handicapper though and hasn’t been in the best form recently so a win would be a shock.

Cabarat Queen

Best form has generally come when leading early but was always in rear last time out when eventually pulled up. Has form on a variety of going but something to prove at present and stamina far from assured.

Double Shuffle

He's been in decent form at Kempton on his last three starts and this course will suit his run style. Versatile when it comes to the ground but he didn’t seem to enjoy this test when trying it in 2017 and doesn’t look to stay further than 3m

Minellacelebration

Three time winner at Aintree but has yet to shine in two attempts over these fences. Won well in October here but hasn’t been in the same form since and has had a wind op since his last run. Wasn’t stopping when victorious over 3m2f at Uttoxeter last July and would be a major player if able to transfer his Mildmay course form to these fences. Very risky but more upside than most at these odds.

Ami Desbois

Runner up on his last three completed starts, behind fellow outsider Double Shuffle on his penultimate start. Tends to perform better in smaller fields which is no surprise given his run style and he’s going to struggle to dominate in this. May show up well for a while but stamina likely to give way later on.

Kauto Riko

Third reserve. Ran well in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November but not seen since. He was seen to good effect that day but still only managed 4th and on ground that is likely to be faster than ideal over a trip that looks much further than ideal it’s unlikely we’ll see him figure in the unlikely event he gets a run.

Tout Est Permis

Hasn’t been in the best of form this year and he didn’t look a strong stayer when a well beaten 8th behind Burrows Saint in the 2019 Irish Grand National. Ground no issue but recent form and distance are likely to cause problems.

Verdict

Not as many with outstanding claims in this as you might think. As usual there are a few in with a great form chance but with some serious stamina question marks and I definitely prefer some proven stamina on my side in this.

Cloth Cap is the obvious one. He’s a crazy price though, especially if some of his recent improvement has been down to the aggressive riding tactics. He should run well but you can’t back him at that price.

BURROWS SAINT hasn’t been able to advertise his claims as much as he’d like as Willie Mullins has clearly been protecting his handicap mark with this race the aim since last year. He seems to have the perfect mix of speed and stamina for this and should be ideally placed just off the lead.

There are a few at very big prices that can interest the each way punters. The least risky of those could well be Magic Of Light and Takingrisks. The former arguably finds herself in a weaker race than when she was 2nd in the last running of this whilst the latter is still unexposed at extreme trips, despite being proven at them, and ran a career best last time out. Man Of Light is the more likely to place and Takingrisks the more likely to win of that pair.

Of those at the more extreme prices Give Me A Copper, Sub Lieutenant and Minellacelebration make a little bit of appeal but I wouldn’t consider more than the tiniest of each way bets on those, if anything.

Four against the field:

1. Cloth Cap
2. Burrows Saint
3. Takingrisks
4. Magic Of Light