Some bookmakers are offering non-runner no bet for all 28 races at the Cheltenham Festival but that concession is being offered nowhere for the Grand National. Ante post rules apply for the most famous race in the world which means you lose your stake if a backed horse does not run. At this stage of the season there are over 100 potential runners so it’s scandalous that all you can get is one quarter the odds for the first four places but even on those terms Whisper looks a decent bet at 33/1.
The horse’s trainer, Nick Henderson, has declared that the National is the horse’s target even though the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a viable alternative. Whisper was only narrowly beaten by stable mate Might Bite in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham the bare result does not tell the full story. Might Bite veered off course after the last and Whisper made up many lengths only to be overhauled near the line.
However, if Might Bite had run straight to the line the horse would have beaten Whisper by possibly 20 lengths. There is no way Whisper could reverse the form off the same level weights in the Gold Cup. The only way Whisper could win the race was if Might Bite did not complete the course or took the scenic route to the line again. Whisper still has several lengths to make up on some of the other leading contenders so the focus for the horse is the Grand National which Henderson has never won.
The National is a handicap so all the entries are allocated a weight based on past performances and collateral form. Whisper would be at the top of the weights and may be given an impossible task. However, the horse is a Grade 1 winner running in a handicap and could have the class to prevail. Staying the extended four miles two furlongs trip could be an issue but few horses are proven over this distance. One For Arthur won the race last year so clearly can stay.
The last horse to win back-to-back Nationals was Red Rum in 1973 and 1974. Winners are usually given a hike in the weights and the race is demanding and can cause a horse lasting damage. Twelve months on from winning the race for the first time there are too many negatives and that’s why Red Rum was a special horse and the only three-time winner of the National from five starts. One For Arthur is no Red Rum so the double is unlikely and other horses are preferred.
The Last Samuri seemingly had the race in the bag before being passed on the run-in by Rule The World in 2016. The horse jumped around again last year but faded to finish 16th. Given a reasonable weight The Last Samurai should be on the short list based on experience of the unique fences. Native River was third in the Gold Cup so could be weighted out of the race while Minella Rocco finished second in the same race at Cheltenham last March.
Blaklion looked like the winner of the National until approaching the second last in 2017. The horse was foot perfect at the fences and put in an excellent round of jumping when winning the Becher Chase over the National fences in December. Weight will be a key factor but given a reasonable mark Blaklion has a great chance of winning the race. However, Whisper is a better horse though the weights have not been announced but at 33/1 you can have a small bet which could generate a big return.