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Aintree Grand National 2011 

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Grand National – Betting Preview and Tips
08/04/11

When Ruby Walsh declared he would be riding The Midnight Club in the John Smith’s Grand National instead of any of Paul Nicholls’ runners, the Irish raider’s odds predictably contracted.

Backstage
© Grossick Racing Photography

Backstage

However, all the money in the last few days has been for last year’s winner Don’t Push It, who looks set to go off favourite as he bids to become the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back renewals of the world’s most famous steeplechase.

Having endured years of rotten luck in the race, it would be ironic would champion jockey Tony McCoy then goes and wins the Aintree spectacular two years on the trot. Personally, I respect Don’t Push It, but I’ll be surprised if he’s good enough to retain his crown on Saturday, as carrying 11st 10lb to victory in this 4m 4f marathon is a big ask.

I’ve backed Niche Market and Calgary Bay (each-way) ante-post, and am loathe to turn my back on the duo. However, in recent days I have become increasingly sweet on the chance of BACKSTAGE, who was creeping into contention when hampered by a loose horse and unseating rider at the twentieth fence in this race last year. His trainer, Gordon Elliott, has enjoyed a tremendous season so far during the 2010/11 campaign and it could be about to get a lot better.

Elliott has been shrewd in the way that he has prepared Backstage for this assignment, with the nine-year-old only returning to action in February. He bolted up in an open point on his reappearance and won with similar ease in that sphere again last month. Although it’s not easy to interpret form in points in the context of races under Rules, to my eyes Backstage looks better than ever and, therefore, appeals as being potentially well handicapped.

The selection will get plenty of assistance with Paul Carberry in the saddle. The gelding is the right sort of age to win a National (nine and 10-year-olds have a cracking record in the race), the drying ground is very much in his favour and, if he can avoid carnage, I’m pretty confident Backstage will go close.

Ballabriggs isn’t harshly treated, off a mark 10lb higher compared to when winning at last season’s Cheltenham Festival. He headed the market for much of the winter for this race and has to be accorded plenty of respect, along with the likes of What A Friend, who is a sizeable step ahead of the handicapper following his effort in the Gold Cup, and the progressive Quinz, who is only seven but looked precocious when landing the Racing Post Chase at Kempton last time.

Recommendation: Backstage (Niche Market and Calgary Bay already advised)

 

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