Four horses to follow in the 2021 Grand National Steeplechase
After the 2020 race was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the world-famous Grand National Steeplechase is back on the calendar Saturday. And thus is my annual tradition of trying to sniff out the winner among a field of 40 that will travel a treacherous 4 1/2 miles at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England.
Perhaps the most popular spectacle in Thoroughbred racing, based on worldwide viewership and handle, the Grand National is also one of the more controversial events in the sport. However, changes instituted to make the race safer for all participants have been adopted over the past 15-20 years and have largely succeeded.
As noted in this space in prior years, I'm far from a National Hunt expert. But I do enjoy the fun and entertainment value of investing in the Grand National. And since making my selections public six years ago, I've enjoyed a couple profitable Nationals, most significantly in 2015 and 2017 (exacta box). Unfortunately, a devastating photo-finish loss in 2018 still irks.
U.S. bettors of the Grand National unfortunately are up against it, compared with their British counterparts. Because of tote limitations, only the top 23 highest-weighted horses are available as individual betting interests here. The bottom 17 (if all 40 start) are lumped into a mutuel field. Seventeen for the price of one sounds okay in theory, but the price is never rewarding and you get many of the least-fancied runners in the field.
Often, though, a number of the more popular favorites in the British pools are only available in the U.S. mutuel field. That is the case this year, with overseas favorite #28 Cloth Cap, second choice #35 Minella Time, and fifth choice #26 Discorama. The mutuel field is likely to be heavily backed this year because of their presence.
Until tote capabilities are updated in this country, I'll stick by my traditional way of playing and pick four horses among the 23 individual entries to back in equal amounts. Here are my four to follow for the 2021 Grand National.
#2 Chris's Dream (30-1)
He is perhaps in a tough spot, as the second highweight after back-to-back poor runs at Punchestown and Cheltenham, but both were at distances shorter than he prefers. His season-opening second at Down Royal in October was a solid piece of work.
#13 Mister Malarky (20-1)
He should be prominent early but hopefully not among the speed, of which there is plenty signed on. When he jumps cleanly, he has been effective in several recent starts during the current National Hunt season.
#14 Kimberlite Candy (8-1)
He has two solid factors in his favor — strong current form and fondness for the course, as he has been runner-up in the last two editions of the Becher Steeplechase over these fences. Stamina is unlikely to be an issue, either.
♥️ Vieux Lion Rouge rolls back the years— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 5, 2020
A dramatic running of the £120,000 Becher Chase goes to @DavidPipeRacing's Vieux Lion Rouge who records a second win in the race with a spectacular round of jumping at @AintreeRaces @CoFarrell20 pic.twitter.com/uCgXFckl36
#19 Takingrisks (20-1)
He is relatively long in the tooth, at age 12, but has enjoyed a terrific career, with 10 wins in 34 starts. He beat Cloth Cap in the Scottish Grand National a couple years ago and potentially still has it in him to outrun that favored rival.
It was on this day last year that Takingrisks (25/1) won the Coral Scottish Grand National under @SquinlanSean at @ayrracecourse for @NGRichardsRace.— Racing TV (@RacingTV) April 13, 2020
In his next race over fences, in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle, he won at 20/1. #understimated #RacingTVFlashback pic.twitter.com/IuiHaMAKUF