Grand National Festival 2021 tips and best bets for Aintree day one

Get ready to cheer from your sofa — the tapes are set to rise for the 2021 Grand National meeting.

The three-day extravaganza takes place without fans this year, due to coronavirus restrictions on sporting events.

Normally thousands would pack the grandstands at the meeting, which concludes with the Randox Grand National on Saturday.

It will be a lot quieter on-course as the runners are sent on their way for the first race at 1.45 on Thursday.

The feature contest is the Betway Bowl (2.50) and NATIVE RIVER is tipped to give Colin Tizzard a memorable winner.

The trainer is saddling his last runners before handing over the licence to son Joe – and the stable favourite has outstanding claims of taking the gold medal.

1.45

NEWSBOY’S 1-2-3

1 THE SHUNTER

2 FUSIL RAFFLES

3 PROTEKTORAT

THE SHUNTER won pulling a bus at Cheltenham last month and is capable of another bold show now he steps up to the highest level for the first time.

Emmet Mullins’ eight-year-old has won no fewer than five times since he caught the eye of the Tipperary stewards with a never-nearer maiden hurdle fourth last July – a run that resulted in a 60-day ban for the horse, a 21-day suspension for jockey Brian Hayes and a €6,000 fine for the trainer.

The Shunter has shown admirable versatility, landing Cheltenham’s Greatwood Hurdle in November before warming up for the National Hunt Festival with a Morebattle Hurdle score at Kelso on March 6.

Back over fences for the Paddy Power Plate at the home of jump racing 12 days later, The Shunter justified 9-4 favouritism with his head in his chest, beating Farclas by three lengths.

When his upward curve will plateau is anyone’s guess.

Fusil Raffles chased home stablemate Chantry House in Cheltenham’s Marsh Novices’ Chase and is considered, along with Protektorat, who is back from wind surgery.

2.20

NEWSBOY’S 1-2-3

1 MONMIRAL

2 ADAGIO

3 FIVEANDTWENTY

MONMIRAL comes into his toughest assignment with an unbeaten record – and he is expected to defend it.

His debut success at Auteuil last March – Monmiral was trained by François Nicolle at the time – caught Paul Nicholls’ eye, and the son of Saint Des Saints relocated to Ditcheat later in the year.

Making his first start for his new stable at Exeter in November, Harry Cobden’s mount stormed home by five and a half lengths.

Grand National 2021




The performance persuaded Nicholls to raise his sights to Grade 2 level for the Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster 13 days before Christmas, and Monmiral went in by 11 lengths from Gold Desert.

On the back of a 10-week break, my selection took his career tally to four from four with a seven-and-a-half-length supremacy from Nassalam.

Nicholls resisted the temptation to prepare the four-year-old for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, preferring to send Monmiral to Aintree.

And the plan can pay dividends for a horse who is already very useful, with the promise of a good deal more still to come.

Adagio beat Nassalam by two and a half lengths in Chepstow’s Finale Junior Hurdle in December before running second to Quilixios in the Triumph.

He rates the obvious danger, with Fiveandtwenty, who has won all three starts over timber, the most convincing candidate for the bronze medal.

2.50

NEWSBOY’S 1-2-3

1 NATIVE RIVER

2 CLAN DES OBEAUX

3 CLONDAW CASTLE

NATIVE RIVER is the selection to give his trainer Colin Tizzard, who is saddling runners at his final Grand National meeting, an emotional and popular victory.

The 11-year-old has been an outstanding servant to the Venn Farm stable in Dorset, which Tizzard’s son Joe will take charge of in the summer.

Since capturing the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase over course and distance five years ago, Native River has performed with distinction against the best – none more so than when beating Might Bite by four and a half lengths in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 2018.

Prevented by injury from running in chasing’s blue riband in 2020, Native River stormed back to winning form from Bristol De Mai in the rescheduled Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at Sandown Park at the start of February before an honourable – albeit 30-length – fourth to Minella Indo in the Cheltenham Festival feature 20 days ago, with Aso eighth.

The drying ground went my selection – ridden today by Jonjo O’Neill jnr after Richard Johnson’s retirement on Saturday – that day, and this redoubtable veteran is still a force to be reckoned with.

Clan Des Obeaux, who wears cheekpieces, is respected as a dual King George VI Chase hero, but Waiting Patiently is finding it hard to win.

Two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll is almost certainly a better horse away from ‘park’ tracks, but Clondaw Castle put up a personal best in victory at Kempton Park on his latest start and has podium claims.

3.25

NEWSBOY’S 1-2-3

1 JASON THE MILITANT

2 SONG FOR SOMEONE

3 BUVEUR D’AIR

JASON THE MILITANT, representing the in-form trainer-jockey combination at Cheltenham last month, should appreciate the opportunity to tackle two and a half miles for the first time.

The winner of a Grade 2 event at Naas for Rachael Blackmore as a novice hurdler in February of last year, Henry de Bromhead’s seven-year-old warmed up for the current campaign with a success on the Flat at Fairyhouse in October.

Returning to his ‘day’ job 29 days later, Jason The Militant ran third to Aspire Tower, a short head behind runner-up Abacadabras, in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle at Down Royal.

And he was again closely matched with today’s rival when third, beaten a neck and a short head, in the top-level Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in mid-November, in which Abacadabras gained a gritty victory.

Jason The Militant was back to winning form in the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle over two miles at Fairyhouse on his latest start, and the additional four furlongs here represent a big plus.

The trip should also help Song For Someone, while McFabulous and Brewin’upastorm are closely matched on their running in the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell Park in February.

Buveur D’Air has had injury issues since winning two Champion Hurdles, but isn’t written off after bypassing this year’s race, in which Abacadabras fell and Not So Sleepy returned in fifth, one place ahead of Silver Streak.

4.05

NEWSBOY’S 1-2-3

1 CAT TIGER

2 BILLAWAY

3 DASHING PERK

CAT TIGER and David Maxwell are taken to prove a potent combination in the meeting’s first race over the Grand National fences.

Maxwell parts with huge sums purchasing horses to ride in amateur events, and has been crowned Britain’s top Corinthian for the past two campaigns.

He certainly has a useful sort in Cat Tiger, who had smart form over fences in France before scoring three times over hurdles last season.

Paul Nicholls sent Cat Tiger – off the track for 354 days in the interim – back over fences for a hunter chase at Leicester at the beginning of last month.

Ridden by Harry Cobden – COVID-19 saw amateurs banned until March 29 – the seven-year-old accounted for Tango De Juilley by a cosy length and a half.

There is plenty more where that came from, and Cat Tiger looks the type to prosper now that he takes on the famous obstacles.

Billaway has to be on the premises after his near-miss at the Cheltenham Festival, while Sam Waley-Cohen’s presence in the saddle is a boost to the chances of Dashing Perk.

4.40

NEWSBOY’S 1-2-3

1 GREY DIAMOND

2 MOON OVER GERMANY

3 FRERO BANBOU

GREY DIAMOND posted a comfortable first win over fences at Sandown Park last time out and still has more to offer.

After a switch from Nigel Twiston-Davies to Sam Thomas, the seven-year-old made the podium with a third to this afternoon’s rival Dostal Phil at Newbury in January and a second to Belargus at Sandown the following month.

Drying ground back at the Esher venue triggered market support for Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount, and he didn’t disappoint his backers.

Travelling with ease, Grey Diamond took up the running at the third fence from home, and reversed Newbury running with Dostal Phil to score by three and a half lengths.

My selection, who has had just five attempts over the larger obstacles, re-engages with the runner-up on 5lb worse terms, but spring terrain is an advantage, while the form of Thomas’s string this season isn’t off-putting, either.

Getaway Trump, smart when he’s in the mood, is worth a second look, along with Frero Banbou and Moon Over Germany, who captured this race two years ago.

5.15

NEWSBOY’S 1-2-3

1 EILEENDOVER

2 FINEST VIEW

3 ELLE EST BELLE

EILEENDOVER has looked a top-class prospect from the very start, and has strong claims of a fourth victory from as many attempts.

Pam Sly’s filly, a grand-daughter of the stable’s Speciosa – who won the 1,000 Guineas 15 years ago – went off at 28-1 for her debut in Huntingdon bumper in November, but laughed at those odds when romping home by 29 lengths.

Her second outing, in an event restricted to her gender at Wetherby at the start of December, was expected to be little more than an exercise gallop and so it proved, as Eileendover scooted home 16 lengths to the good of Haute Estime.

A Listed contest, again for females, at Market Rasen in January was expected to provide a sterner test, but once again Paul O’Brien’s mount proved too good, with six and a half lengths in hand of the previously unbeaten Miss Lamb.

Sly chose to bypass Cheltenham with Eileendover, who should remain unbeaten.

Elle Est Belle, a fine third to Sir Gerhard at the National Hunt Festival, can fight it out with Mind Sunday and Finest View for the minor medals.

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