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How to bet £20 ante-post on the 2017 Randox Health Grand National

Tuesday 14 February 2017

The weights for the the 2017 Randox Health Grand National were revealed on Tuesday night. Andy Stephens picks a top trio chalked up at 50-1 and bigger

By Andy Stephens

Identifying the Grand National winner is hard enough as the runners cross the Melling Road, let alone two months before when there are more than 100 possible contenders.

At this stage, with the ink used by Phil Smith to pen the weights still drying, I am ready to roll the dice and side with three at outlandish prices. Here goes:

HIGHLAND LODGE

Trainer: Jimmy Moffatt

Age: 11

Weight: 10st 6lb

Best odds available: 50-1

The “Aintree Factor” is not what it once was after modifications to the fences in recent years but it still exists, with some horses coming alive over the big spruce fences and others retreating into their shell.

Highland Lodge has run in the past three renewals of the Becher Chase without mishap and fits very much into the first category. His last two appearances in that race - over 3m2f and 21 National fences - suggests he can do much more than just make up the numbers on April 8.

In the 2015 renewal he was never far away and kept on doggedly to beat 16 rivals. Moffatt resisted running him before the main event to keep him fresh but to no avail because he did not make the cut.

The latest running of the Becher was a much stronger renewal but Highland Lodge, having his first run for eight months, again looked all over the winner only to idle and be nabbed on the line by Vieux Lion Rouge.

The form is just about as strong as it gets in the staying handicap division with The Last Samuri (third), Ucello Conti (fourth and since second in in the Thyestes Chase) and One For Arthur (fifth and subsequent Classic Chase winner at Warwick) being the next three home.

Highland Lodge will get in this time - he is 42nd on the list - and will have a lovely weight to carry.

The trainer has again opted to keep his stable flagbearer fresh and the only stumbling block could be stamina.

However, I am pretty sure Highland Lodge’s passion for the fences will keep him rolling and his wins early in his career, when trained by Emma Lavelle, included a wide-margin win over an extended 3m 1f at Cheltenham on heavy ground.

His breeding also offers encouragement because his sire, Flemensfirth, has already been responsible for two National runners-up in King Johns Castle and The Last Samuri, while his dam is related to two more in What’s Up Boys and Supreme Glory.

O’FAOLAINS BOY

Trainer: Rebecca Curtis

Age: 10

Weight: 10st 6lb

Best odds available: 66-1

Let us get the negatives out of the way first. Since his win in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival three years ago, O’Faolains Boy has run just six times and at least on a couple of those occasions has shaped as if amiss.

He also missed the Hennessy in November with what Rebecca Curtis described as a “small setback” when prominent in the ante-post betting. And his absence since suggests that was not as small as perhaps first suspected.

However, if Curtis can get him to the race in something like one piece then there has to be a chance he can go a couple of places better than the stable’s Teaforthree, who was third in 2013. He is entered at Ascot on Saturday and I'd settle for a clear round and him finishing with something in the tank. Anything else would be a bonus. 

The form of O’Faolains Boy RSA win, gained at the main expense of Smad Place, stands close inspection. Carlingford Lough, a subsequent dual Irish Gold Cup winner, was among the also-rans, while Don Cossack and Many Clouds were also in the line-up, albeit neither completed.

Before that, he had outmuscled Many Clouds in the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot. Enough said.

It could be that his problems have taken their toll but it was only 14 months (and three runs) ago that he jumped superbly and hammered a fair yardstick in Sausalito Sunrise by 15 lengths at Newbury.

The 10-year-old also ran much better than the bare form suggests in the Gold Cup last year, when he was still bang in contention three out.

Clearly, it is not easy to keep his wheels on the road and every day brings the possibility of a bulletin that announces he is out for the season.

But the National has been won by similar sorts in the past and Phil Smith, then handicapper, has shown great leniency in dropping him to a mark of 148.

WOUNDED WARRIOR

Trainer: Noel Meade

Age: 8

Weight: 10st 11lb

Best odds available: 66-1

Michael O’Leary enjoyed one of his proudest moments when Rule The World carried his Gigginstown House Stud colours to glory in the Grand National last year. The winner has since been retired but one of the biggest owners in the game still has 16 of his horses entered this time.

Don Poli and Empire Of Dirt are his two shortest-priced contenders but, in an open year, that pair are surely bound for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. That does not mean they will not show up at Aintree, as well, but it will not help the chance of either.

For ante-post punting purposes, I much prefer a Gigginstown “sleeper” in the shape of Wounded Warrior, a smashing looking horse who could well be tailor-made for the race.

A brother to the classy but ill-fated stayer Sword Of Truth, Wounded Warrior has evidently dropped off a few radars since establishing himself as among the best staying novice chasers around a couple of season ago.

Meade wasted little time getting him over the bigger obstacles - he ran only four times over hurdles - and that was more than vindicated during his novice campaign when his efforts included an emphatic defeat of Rule The World plus placed efforts behind Don Poli and Valseur Lido in Grade One events.

He began last season well enough, too, when chasing home Don Cossack but evidently had a problem or two after that because his only other run was when sixth in the Irish Gold Cup.

This campaign he began with two tame efforts but it is much too early to be writing him off and his latest spin, when sixth to Champagne West in the Thyestes Chase wearing cheekpieces for a second time, was more encouraging.

Stamina looks his strong suit and he jumps soundly, while a mark of 153 is attractive on the pick of his efforts. He is versatile regards the ground.

How to bet £20 ante-post on the on the 2017 Randox Health Grand National:

£12win on Highland Lodge at a general 50-1

£4 win on O’Faolains Boy at a general 66-1

£4 win on Wounded Warrior at a general 66-1

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