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Aintree Grand National

It is Aintree Grand National day next Saturday, and it might be worth backing On His Own and Chicago Grey now before they contract in price any more.

The big odds about On His Own are gone, but he is still worth backing now at 7/1, with a lot of the bookmakers offering favourable each-way terms and betting non-runner-no-bet.

Willie Mullins’ horse was running a huge race in last year’s Grand National when he came down at Becher’s Brook on the final circuit. He had been well back in the field on the first circuit, but he and Paul Townend had manoeuvred themselves into a nice position just behind the pace on the approach to Becher’s when he was slightly impeded by a loose horse and had to check his stride. Before that point, he had jumped the big fences really well.

Of course, Becher’s Brook is a long way from the winning line in the Grand National, and On His Own was only eight years old last year, he may have weakened out of it late on as the older stronger horses dominated the finish. (The first seven home were all nine or older.) Interestingly, Hedgehunter, who was also trained by Willie Mullins, had run a similar race in the Grand National as an eight-year-old in 2004, running really well and jumping fluently before he fell, a tired horse, at the final fence. Hedgehunter went back the following year as a nine-year-old off a 3lb higher mark and dotted up.

Like Hedgehunter, On His Own has already proved his stamina by winning a Thyestes Chase, yet he gets to compete next week off a mark of 148, the same as last year’s mark. He proved his wellbeing by winning a Grade 2 hurdle at Navan last month on his only run since last year’s National, and all looks set for a big run. If Ruby Walsh chooses him as his Grand National ride during the week – as appears likely at present – the 7/1 may dissolve quite quickly.

Chicago Grey is also worth having on side for the Aintree extravaganza at 14/1. Winner of the four-mile chase at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival, Gordon Elliott’s horse jumped the first four fences well in last year’s National before he was brought down at the fifth.

He is another who demonstrated his wellbeing recently by winning a Grade 2 chase on the same Navan card that hosted On His Own’s return, and he appears to be one of the best-handicapped horses in Saturday’s race, set to race off a mark of 141, 9lb lower than the mark off which he raced last year and 8lb lower than his new Irish mark. Paul Carberry has been booked for the ride, and Carberry is a huge asset in a race like the Grand National.

It is important to choose your bookmaker carefully at this stage. Ladbrokes and William Hill are betting non-runner-no-bet, Paddy Power and Bet365 are going non-runner-no-bet and betting each-way the first five places, while BetVictor are betting each-way the first six places.

© The Sunday Times, 31st March 2013