Four to follow in Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree
As I've written the past two years, the 40-horse spectacle over highly-imposing fences is a fun race to take several fliers on for fun and entertainment purposes. Unfortunately for American bettors, or perhaps fortunately, the 23 highest-weighted horses in the field are their own individual wagering interests, while the 17 lowest-weight runners are combined into one gigantic MUTUEL FIELD (#24). Seventeen for the price of one always sounds like a good bargain, and if available at 5-1 or higher, it's worth taking a piece of it.
However, my general practice is to find four contenders among the 23 individual interests and back them in equal amounts. That worked for me in 2015 when Many Clouds prevailed at around 25-1 in the U.S. pools, although I struck out among my 2016 selections when a member of the mutuel field prevailed on top.
This particular renewal of the Grand National, to my amateur National Hunt eyes, seems a little more difficult that usual to whittle down to less than a handful of contenders among the first 23. Top-weight THE LAST SAMURAI (#1, 15-1), last year's runner-up, is obviously talented enough and is in solid form, but carries 16 more pounds than last year. I'm going to try and beat him at that seeming disadvantage.
For my quartet, I'm choosing two horses I've backed previously and siding with two relatively newer faces:
WONDERFUL CHARM (#8, 30-1) was one of my fliers last year, but was pulled up and has since excelled against easier company in hunter chases. Fared much better over this course before then, and perhaps can stay longer than most given his tendency of being held up early.
CAUSE OF CAUSES (#14, 15-1) is another I've backed previously, in 2015. He's won at the Cheltenham Festival the past three years, once at four miles, though he hasn't won outside that venue in some time.
DOUBLE SHUFFLE (#19, 30-1) seems vastly improved since adding blinkers a couple starts back. Main drawback is his age: no horse as young as seven has won the Grand National since 1940.
ONE FOR ARTHUR (#22, 12-1) has won two of his past three by widening margins, with a loss by less than three lengths in between over this course in the Becher Chase.