The intense focus put upon the Cheltenham Festival nowadays means that a lot of the ante-post buzz for the Grand National gets somewhat drowned out in the early part of the year. Of course, that all changes from the moment Cheltenham finishes.
However, there have been a couple of intriguing moves in the markets in recent weeks that point to something the Grand National has been missing in recent years – a good rivalry among some of the favourites.
The two horses in question are Total Recall and Tiger Roll, trained by Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott respectively. While much of the idea of a ‘heated rivalry’ between the two trainers is a media construct, it is nonetheless interesting to see the two Irishmen go head to head in a big race.
Total Recall has been leading the ante-post betting for several weeks now, gaining plenty of admirers after winning the Ladbrokes Chase in December. The nine-year-old was still in contention to be placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month when he fell at the third last fence. He is a general 10/1 chance for the Grand National, a race in which the favourite has not won since Don’t Push It in 2010.
Tiger Roll is as low as 12/1 for the Grand National following his impressive victory in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. This amazingly versatile horse first came to prominence when he won the Triumph Hurdle in 2014. He took a while to adapt to fences and still has an unusual jumping style, but that did not stop him from winning a Munster National at Limerick in 2016 and a four-mile National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in 2017.
As it stands, the pair look like decent shouts with just under two weeks to go until the National. However, there are going to be around 38 other runners to worry about, some of which will offer plenty of value to use the latest 2018 Grand National free bets on.
Anibale Fly, The Last Samuri and Minella Rocco – all available at around 16/1 – are also attracting a few ante-post bets.
Another horse with plenty of supporters in the ante-post markets is Blaklion, currently priced just behind Total Recall at 12/1. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse is incredibly consistent, having finished in the top three in 18 of his 25 races in his career to date.
He was very unlucky in the Grand National last year, leading by four lengths with two to go before eventually finishing fourth.
If you re-watch the race however, you will see eventual winner One For Arthur crashing in to the back of Blaklion on the second last jump. Before that, Blaklion and Noel Fehily looked in complete control. It could have been a very different story for the pair.
It is very difficult to choose between Blaklion, Tiger Roll and Total Recall at the moment. As always, it's a very open-looking race and there is a strong chance that it will be won by an Irish-trained horse. Elliott won it with Silver Birch in 2007 and Mullins triumphed in 2005 with Hedgehunter.