2016 Grand National Tips (Update): 1pt EW Gallant Oscar @18/1, 0.75pts EW Morning Assembly @25/1, 0.5pt EW Ucello Conti @33/1

Following our tips on Silviniaco Conti (12/1) and O’Faolains Boy (40/1 – now a non-runner) earlier in the week, we have three more selections for the 2016 Crabbie’s Grand National.

The best part of a decade has passed since an Irish-trained horse won the Grand National. That was 2007 winner Silver Birch, trained by at the time, the less well-known figure of Gordon Elliot.

The Irish challenge in 2016 is pretty decent with some formerly consistent Grade 1 chasers like Boston Bob, and Sir Des Champs that could be in the mix if recapturing their best form. But in this field, one of the four JP McManus runners makes most appeal.

It is with a slight sense of regret that GALLANT OSCAR, whose price was as big as 33/1 earlier in the week goes up as our third selection at 18/1.

A J Martin’s charge has most certainly gone under the radar this season with only three runs (two chase, one hurdle). But there has a been a wave of money on JP’s ‘apparent’ second-string over the course of the week, taking his price right in, and a bold show is conceivable on last season’s form.

His third-placed run behind the current 14/1 shot The Druid’s Nephew, in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival reads well as he was a staying on third in a hot race. He then bettered that at the Punchestown Festival a couple of months later when he destroyed a strong field including fellow National entrants Ballycasey, First Lieutenant, and Rule The World over 3m 1f.

Both of those performances were on good-soft ground, however I also think he acts on a  slower surface, so it may just be that conditions are spot on for him come-what-may with the weather on Saturday.

Gallant Oscar was running a nice race on his season opener off his revised 13lb higher mark, before falling three out in those heavy conditions, and his next run over hurdles may have just helped to keep him fit whilst preserving his chase mark.

His most recent run at Naas provides plenty of encouragement as he showed he was in good knick as he made steady and impressive headway from the rear of the field off top-weight – again in possibly unsuitably heavy ground – before bottoming out on the run up the finish behind the likes of Goonyella. Those runs suggest there is potential for him off this mark and he sill looks relatively unexposed for his age/profile.

Barry Geraghty rides AP McCoy’s last National ride Shutthefrontdoor, and I can understand why he has opted for him. He said that it was a very tough decision to pick one over the other as they have both been laid out for this with the pick of Geraghty’s rides arguably just shading it on previous form figures. But Mark Walsh is an able deputy, enjoying a fine season as his understudy and will pick up a ride he has won on before.

Gallant Oscar’s best appearances have taken place in the spring, where on those occasions he has finished with what looked like plenty in the tank, so the extended trip could be in his favour. I also like the fact A J Martins’ runners have finally come to form (having been quiet up until February) with a strong set of results for his runners at the recent Fairyhouse festival.

His position in the market is probably about right now, and whatever you may think about how the handicap dynamic has changed for the Grand National, the simple fact is that 10st 8lbs is a decent racing weight.

I wrestled with my other selections with a lot of the value taken out of the top of the market, but I think it may pay to stick with 2014 RSA Chase third, and 2016 Ultima Handicap Chase fourth MORNING ASSEMBLY.

He shaped well at The Festival this year before getting slightly outpaced four from home, and unlike a number of other horses that have made an appearance at both the Aintree and Cheltenham meeting, he probably would have benefited from those exertions.

He races off only a 4lb higher mark from his RSA Chase performance, and has got a win over 3m to his credit which is generally important in a National winner’s profile. He is also extremely lightly-raced for a nine-year-old runner but boasts strong form figures over his eight starts having never fallen/pulled up or outside the first four in a chase.

The slight concern is that his last win was back in 2013, but he has been off the track for almost two years and he backed up his second to Smashing with that run at Cheltenham off his extended break this season so the consistency/talent remains.

This has always been the target, so maybe connections felt that his last run would put him spot on for this, and being such a smart jumper there is reason to be confident.

There are plenty of exposed class horses trading at short enough prices, but the Pat Fahy entrant remains backable at 25/1, given he is unexposed over a longer trip with scope to improve for it.

He races like he should get it, and having been entered in to an RSA Chase before – so often a pre-cursor to a tilt at the Gold Cup the year after – there has always been confidence in his stamina and represents a lively outsider.

With the withdrawal of O’Faolains Boy this morning, we have room to recycle our non-runner-no-bet stake in to one further bet on a horse which looks a massive price – UCELLO CONTI.

My instinct says he wont have had sufficient experience in his career to tackle and win a National and his profile doesn’t exactly scream “winner”, but Gordon Elliots’ horses are in a great form and he knows what it takes to win around here.

Ucello Conti was ultra-competitive on his last two handicap starts. Both of which can be decent trials for the National; the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown (where he finished 2nd of 28), and the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park (3rd of 18). He arguably would have got a lot closer to My Murphy in the Thyestes had he not been ridden the long-way round on the outside from pillar-to-post by Jacques Ricou.

What makes those performances particularly impressive is that they were only his second and third start over fences in the UK&I having been a highly rated French hurdler.

He seemingly lost his way in France a couple of years ago, but has improved leaps-and-bounds with each chase start, and comes here fresh, albeit racing off a higher mark than his Irish rating – which gets him in to the race. He can ride a bit freely, but if he can get round the first circuit in contention then I think Daryl Jacob could have a massive chance on him.

Gordon Elliot has kept him under wraps for over a year after his switch from France and from hurdles, and will hope he can outrun his odds. But backing him is not without risk given his lack of experience, however that is factored in to the price and with 33/1 on offer from Betvictor (paying six places), the Isaac Souede and Simon Munir runner could spring a surprise.

1pt EW Gallant Oscar @18/1, 17:15 Crabbie’s Grand National (various)
0.75pt EW Morning Assembly @25/1, 17:15 Crabbie’s Grand National (Racebets 1/4 odds, 5 places)
0.5pt EW Ucello Conti @33/1, 17:15 Crabbie’s Grand National (Betvictor 1/4 odds, 6 places)




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