The Grand National at Aintree takes place this weekend and it is shaping up to be a classic renewal of the world's most famous steeplechase. A number of horses are being backed for the marathon contest including Balthazar King who is looking for a famous Cheltenham Festival/Grand National double for trainer Philip Hobbs.
Balthazar King was last seen running a massive race at the Festival to win the Cross Country Chase for the second time in three year's. It was a monumental performance for a horse that stays well and jumps like a stag as long as the ground comes up decent. He has won all four of his starts this campaign with his last one off of top weight at Cheltenham a career best. He did run in the Grand National last season but faded into 15th having raced exuberantly for much of the first circuit.
Richard Johnson will be on Balthazar King once again at Aintree and there is no doubt that if the ground comes up decent, the 20/1 currently on offer about him in the Grand National Betting is likely to prove a big price. His run last year is a slight worry though with Johnson likely to want settle him down better this time over the first lap, although it would be a major surprise if wasn't raced prominently once again.
As always when it comes to the Grand National though, there are a number of horses being well backed with plenty possessing the scope to feature. One of those is Teaforthree (8/1) who was last seen running a decent race in the Gold Cup when finishing 8th for Rebecca Curtis. He is a former winner of the four miler at the Cheltenham Festival so stamina is on his side while he ran really well at Aintree twelve months ago to finish third. He has been in great form this season and as a strong jumper, he fits the profile of a National winner down to a tee.
There has been plenty of money this week for Monbeg Dude (12/1) who is a former winner of the Welsh Grand National and is many people's idea of the winner on Saturday. Paul Carberry has been booked to ride the horse who is part-owned by former England rugby stars Mike Tindall and James Simpson-Daniel. He won a big handicap race at Cheltenham back in December and is likely to be ridden patiently with the hope of picking off tiring runners on the run-in.
Paul Nicholls trained Neptune Collonges to National glory in 2012 and he will be hoping he can follow that up here with Rocky Creek (18/1). The progressive eight-year-old was second in the Hennessy Gold cup back in November while he was also second in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham last time out. Triolo D'Alene (20/1) was the horse to beat Rocky Creek in the Hennessy and he will re-oppose here as a former winner of the Topham over the National fences, which surely puts him right in the frame as well.
Nicky Henderson has never won a Grand National but he has a very strong hand this season with the aforementioned Triolo D'Alene joined by former Gold cup winner Long Run, Shakalakaboomboom (33/1) and Hunt Ball (66/1) in the field. Long Run (12/1) is the interesting runner as a former Gold Cup winner and dual winner of the King George VI Chase which ensures that on class, he is probably the horse with the most in the entire field. He has lost his way slightly over the past 18 months when it comes to Grade 1 races and has enough weight to carry but if he takes to the fences on Saturday, Long Run has to be a contender with in-form Sam Waley-Cohen on his back.