I’M AT Aintree for the Grand National and tomorrow’s big race promises to be just as exciting as ever.
Like most people, I can remember sitting down with the family to watch the National on TV as a kid.
For me, that meant in the early 1970s when Red Rum was captivating the nation and becoming probably the greatest Grand National horse of all.
This is the one race of the year when people who have no other interest in the sport will pick out a runner and invest a couple of quid at the bookies.
It’s a real ‘pinstickers’ paradise and great fun, and everyone remembers having their first bet, or certainly their first winner in the race.
My granddad was a lay preacher, so there was no betting in the Tempest household.
But myself and my mum would always sit down to watch the race and be fascinated by the stories surrounding the horses and connections who had done well.
It’s a very different race now to what it was in the old days – and it should be easier to pick a winner.
These days, it is not quite the lottery it once was. The fences are much softer, which is only right, because they last thing we need is the bad publicity which always surrounds any fatalities in the race.
You can’t run the event without risk, of course, and you always hope for a trouble-free race.
Softer conditions seem to help, because the field are not going as quickly, and it’s a bigger handicap now and much more of a ‘proper’ race – showing the sport in the best possible light.
I think the popular choice in this year’s race will be Shakalakaboomboom, because the name just jumps off the page at you.
Not only that, the horse has a chance.
Second in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster, Shakalakaboomboom is trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty, so it’s the victorious Cheltenham combination back for more.
Plenty of people will also be having a look at Tony McCoy’s chances of making it a second win after his emotional triumph two years ago.
He is on the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and I am pretty sure they will go off favourite.
It’s really tough to go from Cheltenham and be successful at Aintree – no Gold Cup winner has won the National in the same year since Golden Miller in 1934 – but there has been an extra week in between this time because of Easter and that will do their chances no harm whatsoever.
For what it’s worth, all the lads at Skybet tell me West End Rocker will give us a good race for our money, everything taken into consideration.
My only advice would be to make sure that if you are betting each way, you place your money with a bookie who is paying out on the first five places – so shop around if you have to and go on-line if necessary.