Is Native River form key to backing the 2018 Grand National winner?

Image: “Aintree Grand National 2013” (CC BY 2.0) by stacey.cavanagh

How to find the Grand National winner

Horses that win the Cheltenham Gold Cup are highly-regarded staying chasers if nothing else. Colin Tizzard’s Native River oozed class in a front-running display when landing the spoils this year.

As a former Hennessy and Welsh Grand National winner, the eight-year-old posted strong form in some red-hot handicaps after proving his stamina when as a novice over fences when runner-up in the 2016 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Many horses that have finished behind Native River – and one or two who notably beat him – are going to Aintree for the ultimate test of a thoroughbred racehorse’s endurance, the Grand National.

It’s an indicator that his form lines are strong, so what can that tell punters looking to pick the winner of this year’s renewal of the most famous steeplechase in the world?

No accident Blaklion, Minella Rocco prominent

Sizing John in the 2017 Gold Cup apart, there’s only one other horse to have got the better of Native River in recent times and that’s Minella Rocco. Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, this eight-year-old has finished in front of him twice, first over 4m in the aforementioned National Hunt Chase and then when snatching the runner-up spot at Cheltenham last year.

It’s no accident Minella Rocco heads the 2018 Grand National weights as a result and joined as prominent in the Aintree betting with Paddy Power by Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Blaklion. The nine-year-old also triumphed over the Tizzard stable star during his novice season over fences when landing the 3m Towton at Wetherby in February 2016.

Native River was only third that day, but the places were reversed two months later when he met Blaklion again in the Mildmay Chase during the Grand National Festival at Aintree. That form was confirmed in the 2016 Hennessy – now called the Ladbrokes Trophy – the following season. Blaklion was only fifth behind Native River then.

Big race form to note


Image: “Paul Nicholls” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06

What about horses that chased him home? Well dual Scottish Grand National winner Vicente was fifth behind Native River in the National Hunt Chase, a faller when beaten in the Hennessy and sixth at Chepstow. This Paul Nicholls inmate is notable for what he’s achieved in consecutive seasons over 4m at Ayr having fallen at Aintree’s first fence last year.

Vieux Lion Rouge, meanwhile, was sixth in the Cheltenham four-miler and finished in the same place for David Pipe in the Grand National 12 months ago after being seventh the year before – yet winning the Becher Chase over the same fences in between. He’s beaten Blaklion twice before (also in the National Trial at Haydock) but lost to the JP McManus owned Regal Encore last time out.

Anthony Honeyball’s charge found the pace set by Native River in the Hennessy too hot to handle when pulled up but went out to be eighth at Aintree last year and third to Total Recall in the Ladbrokes Trophy. He, in turn, fell three out for Willie Mullins when also struggling to keep up with Tizzard’s Gold Cup hero.

Veterans brigade

One McManus horse that did get close to Native River at Cheltenham this year is Anibale Fly, who followed Might Bite past the post in third. Twiston-Davies has also seen veteran Double Ross sneak into the 2018 Grand National off a low weight and he was third when aged 10 in the Hennessy.

The 2016 Welsh National threw up a whole host of winners, with Gavin Cromwell’s Raz De Maree returning to Chepstow after chasing Native River home to win the race as a 13-year-old in January. Fellow veteran Houblon Des Obeaux was third for Venetia Williams two years ago, ahead of subsequent Irish Grand National Trial winning mare Baie Des Iles in fifth.

She, in turn, was then third to Pleasant Company from Mullins’ yard in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, who found that Cheltenham 4m race too tough as a novice. All of these horses have Aintree claims, then, and have thus attracted supporters in the 2018 Grand National betting. Native River’s hoofprints are all over about a third of the field!


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