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2011 Grand National Main Contenders Part Two


The fourth-place finish in the Cheltenham Gold Cup shows that this is a horse who can tangle with the best of them, but it will be especially interesting to see if he navigates the gridiron-style of racing that happens in the National. He has dropped down to 10/1 with some bookmakers and will likely go off at a much shorter price on race day if he enters problem-free.

Backstage returns to the Aintree fold after a falling effort at the 20th fence in last year’s iteration when sent off at a 25/1 price. He has had two low-profile outings this season – one at Kirkistown and the other at The Pigeons. Some bookmakers have him trading at about 14/1 and that’s a big ask for a gelding that has had to drop down to the Point-to-Point circuit in order to grab back to back victories for the first time in two years. His issue is that he just doesn’t win very often despite achieving some very solid official ratings. If you fancy him to fulfill his potential then he’s worth a shout but at 14/1 he simply has so much to do.

Don’t Push It comes back looking to take consecutive Nationals and he deserves plenty of credit having given Tony McCoy his first score in the UK’s biggest chase. Prior to his 2010 score, Don’t Push It scored at Aintree in the John Smith’s Handicap Chase in 2009 and he’d had several attempts over the course prior to that. His Aintree experience, coupled with AP’s steady hands, likely proved major factors in him capturing the Grade 3 contest at a solid 8/1 price. He will be carrying the top weight here of 11st 10lb and that seems an awfully difficult challenge for Jonjo O’Neill’s charge. Look for him around 16/1.

Don’t Push It’s victory in the John Smith’s Handicap Chase gives lie to an interesting gamble based on that as a key reference race. Those looking to play the same angle this year have a very interesting option – who will likely go off at an enticing price. Peter Bowen’s Always Waining is a ten year-old warhorse with more than 60 races under his belt lifetime. He stayed on very well to capture the John Smith’s Handicap Chase at last year’s Grand National meet and earned himself a 128 in the process. He has had six winless races since then but has been carrying a fair amount of weight in all of them but his seasonal debut in listed company at Market Rasen. In this year’s National, he is set to run at a mere 10st 2lb – which is likely right where he wants to be. He can be backed as high as 66/1.

The other logical selection, if you’re one to base your wagers on a combination of good form and official ratings, would be Junior – who boasts the highest OR in the race at a hefty 185. He enters off a score in the Kim Muir and his jumping ability could be the real decider here. He boasts some credible form on the flat as well and his staying ability can’t be called into question. If he can replicate career-best form, he’ll be a decent win-only shout at 16/1.