The John Smith's Grand National remains the highlight of my sporting year; it is a unique test of both horse and jockey over nearly four-and-a-half miles and thirty demanding fences. For safety reasons there have been slight modifications this year to a couple of the fences and the run to the first obstacle has been shortened by about half a furlong so that the horses aren't meeting the first as fast as in previous years.
Seabass very nearly made history last year when finishing third for jockey Katie Walsh and she must have every chance again this year with the shorter trip a plus for a horse whose stamina gave way at the elbow last year. Ireland haven't won the big race since Silver Birch in 2007, but they have a very strong hand this year with Katie Walsh's Father Ted saddling both Seabass and Colbert Station who, it was confirmed on Thursday morning, will be ridden by Champion jockey AP McCoy successful aboard Don't Push It in 2010.
Colbert Station's best form is on soft ground and I'm not convinced he has chosen the right one as he could easily have ridden last year's runner up Sunnyhillboy who will be reunited with Richie McLernon on Saturday.
The Walsh dynasty also includes Katie's brother Ruby who rides On His Own, my original selection for the race, and carries some of my cash at 16/1; the horse fell at Bechers' on the second circuit last year when looking sure to take a hand. One cannot guarantee, however, that his stamina would have lasted as there is still 10f to travel from Bechers' Brook, but he was going very well and has been wrapped in cotton wool for this year's renewal.
Trained by Willie Mullins On His Own has only been seen out once this season when winning a decent hurdle race at Navan over a, seemingly, inadequate trip; granted luck in running he must go close and Walsh has two Nationals already to his name courtesy of Mullins' Hedgehunter in 2005 and his dad's Papillon in 2000.
The last Welsh trained winner of the race was Kirkland in 1905 but they have assembled a very strong team for Saturday including Cappa Bleu who just gets the verdict; the selection is a Cheltenham Festival winner who appeared to get lost on his way round in 2012 before finishing strongly into fourth place. He has a pull in the weights with the other placed horses Seabass and Sunnyhillboy and would have finished much closer last year but for meeting trouble in-running and missing out the final two fences.
It has already been a wonderful year for Welsh sport and we bet 4/1 at betvictor.com there is a Welsh-trained winner of the race; as well as Cappa Bleu the other Welsh representatives are Teaforthree trained by Rebecca Curtis, Always Waining and Mumbles Head for Peter Bowen and Saint Are for Tim Vaughan.
Former Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander carries top-weight of 11st 10lbs and is the class act in the field; no horse has carried more to victory since the great Red Rum in 1974 but Neptune Collonges carried 11st 6lbs last year and Imperial Commander's trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has tasted National glory twice previously with Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree in 2002.
The waiting is almost over; we will all have our own personal favourites. If betting each way do consider our ¼ odds 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 places and good luck.
Grand National 2013:
1. Cappa Bleu
2. On His own
4. Imperial Commander
Latest prices from betvictor.com
On His Own 7/1
Cappa Bleu 10/1
Colbert Station 10/1
Chicago Grey 11/1
Imperial Commander 14/1
Join Together 16/1
Balthazar King 16/1
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