'I'm really, really sweet on The Last Samuri – he'll be hard to beat'
Jessica Harrington, Daryl Jacob and Ryan Hatch join our panel
Who’s your Grand National fancy and why?
Jessica Harrington, trainer I am really, really sweet on The Last Samuri. He seems to have been trained to the minute and I was quite taken by his Doncaster run. He’ll be hard to beat I reckon.
Ryan Hatch, jockey I think Blaklion has got a chance. He has a bit of class, jumps well on the whole and has a nice weight. I think he’s going there with a good chance. I like The Last Samuri too – he’s been there and done it and might get the better ground he wants this year.
Richard Horner, Sky Bet odds compiler I did have a few quid each-way on Definitly Red after he won at Doncaster and hopefully he should go well, but the value has gone. At 20-1 More Of That, who ran well in the Gold Cup, looks a fair price and that will contract if Barry Geraghty picks him over the likes of Cause Of Causes.
Daryl Jacob, jockey It would have to be Ucello Conti as he ran a great race last year on ground that was too soft for him. I think the better conditions he is likely to face this time around will suit him much better and he comes into the race in very good heart.
Alan Johns, jockey I’d go with Definitly Red. He was very impressive in the Grimthorpe at Doncaster and I love the way he jumped and travelled. He put some useful rivals to the sword, such as The Last Samuri, who finished second in the National last year, while Yala Enki has won since at Kelso. He really caught my eye and Danny Cook gets on really well with him.
Can anything touch Buveur D’Air in the Aintree Hurdle?
Jessica Harrington No. He couldn’t have been more impressive at Cheltenham and we know he stays two and a half miles as well. He’s a course winner and it’s very hard to find any chinks in his armour.
Ryan Hatch Not that I can see. I was very impressed with his win in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Richard Horner With Apple’s Jade and Yanworth possibly heading for other races it’s hard to see too many challengers and if he runs anywhere near his Cheltenham form, he will be winning this weaker-looking race comfortably.
Daryl Jacob Good question. Buveur D’Air looked good when winning the Champion Hurdle, but if Yanworth turns up he might give him something to think about. Yanworth will be suited by the longer trip and that might just bring them closer together.
Alan Johns Buveur D’Air showed he was a class above at Cheltenham in the Champion Hurdle. He won the two-mile novice at Aintree last year, beating Petit Mouchoir, so we know the track suits him. I think he’ll be really hard to beat because he’s already shown he has what it takes to win against these rivals.
Will Unowhatimeanharry, the favourite in the Liverpool Hurdle, make amends for his Stayers’ Hurdle reverse at Cheltenham?
Jessica Harrington I’m not convinced by the chances of Unowhatimeanharry and I’d much rather Yanworth, who could step up to three miles for the first time. He seems to be crying out for three miles and, if he gets into a rhythm and gets rolling, I would imagine he will take some stopping.
Ryan Hatch Yes, I think he will – I can’t see who is going to beat him. He’s done it at a variety of courses for a long time and it was certainly a surprise to see him beaten at Cheltenham, but I think he’s going to bounce back.
Richard Horner With the forecast looking pretty good for Aintree, it’s hard to see why he is as short as 6-4 in places after being beaten fair and square in the Stayers’ Hurdle. He could be at his best with plenty of cut in the ground so, at that sort of price, you have to look for alternatives. Cole Harden should get better ground at Aintree and he can go close.
Daryl Jacob He looked very smart when winning in the early part of the season and it was no disgrace to be beaten by Nichols Canyon as that horse was given a peach of a ride by Ruby Walsh. I think Nichols Canyon is staying in Ireland for Punchestown so there is every chance that Unowhatimeanharry can regain winning ways.
Alan Johns Unowhatimeanharry didn’t do a lot wrong in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. He was unstoppable earlier in the season – he had won his last eight races before the festival. That takes some doing and I think he can resume that progress. Any horse is entitled to get beat once. I’m not sure whether Nichols Canyon will be coming over either.
And how about Cue Card in the Bowl?
Jessica Harrington I would love to see him bounce back. He’s been a terrific horse over the years and what a sight it would be if he won it again. My heart is telling me he will do it and, while my head isn’t sounding so strong, let’s hope he can.
Ryan Hatch He bounced back after Cheltenham last year to win this race, so I think he’s got a good chance. Obviously the stable are not running Native River and are just going with him, which suggests they fancy his chances. He’s a year older but he’s a lovable horse and it’d be great to see him win again.
Richard Horner We aren’t sure what is coming to take him on so it’s a difficult one, but at his best he would be a good thing. But he hasn’t been quite at his best this season and he wasn’t travelling well when coming down in the Gold Cup. Maybe a return to a slightly more attacking ride will bring about a return to form – we know he goes really well at Aintree.
Daryl Jacob He just doesn’t seem to like the third-last fence in the Gold Cup – but what a servant he’s been to Jean Bishop. He’s been a revelation since having a wind operation and has been in great form all season. There’s every chance he can get compensation for the Cheltenham mishap.
Alan Johns I love Cue Card and think he can win it again. I thought age might have been catching up with him but I think he retains enough class. We know Aintree suits him as he won after falling at the same fence in the Gold Cup last year, so his fall last time wouldn’t put me off. The other one who could run well is Bristol De Mai, he’s a really likeable horse.
What’s your best bet for Aintree’s three days?
Jessica Harrington I run Supasundae in either the 3m Grade 1 or the 3m handicap hurdle and he’s in great form. We’re leaning towards the Grade 1 at this stage. He has come out of Cheltenham in great nick and the way he won the Coral Cup tells me he’s still improving.
Ryan Hatch I like God’s Own in the Melling Chase. He loves the track and comes alive at this time of year, too.
Richard Horner Lough Derg Spirit in the Top Novices’ Hurdle. He should be well suited to an attacking ride around Aintree as those tactics suited him when winning well at Musselburgh. After missing Cheltenham to wait for this, he will be hard to beat.
Daryl Jacob It has to be Top Notch in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase. He put up a career-best effort over fences when just beaten by the brilliant Yorkhill. He should have plenty in his favour.
Alan Johns Defi Du Seuil. He’s against his own age group again and he has already proved he has the beating of a lot of these. He has dominated the division all season and he has now proved he can handle any ground. I ride Debece in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle on Friday, he only won off a mark of 121 at Newbury but he was impressive. We’ve always loved him and conditions will suit.
How will the battle for the British trainers’ title look by Saturday night?
Jessica Harrington I’m hoping Nicky Henderson will be further clear. He was my host for Cheltenham once again and we managed to have six winners between us. The winningmost male and female trainer at the festival in the same house! It was great fun. He’s had a terrific season and I really hope he closes it out and wins another title.
Ryan Hatch Paul Nicholls has five horses in the Grand National and I think he’s going to need them to perform for him and at least finish in the places. Nicky Henderson has horses like Buveur D’Air who should win, whereas Paul is just missing that top-class Grade 1 horse. You know Paul will take it right to the end though. He won’t stop, so it’ll stay close.
Richard Horner It will likely depend on how kind the Grand National is to Paul Nicholls. If he can get a top-two finish from the likes of Saphir Du Rheu, Vicente, Le Mercurey or Wonderful Charm, it would make the current 6-4 look very attractive as he will likely have the bigger numbers to end the season in front.
Daryl Jacob Nicky Henderson is taking a great bunch of horses to Aintree but Paul Nicholls is never to be underestimated – he was a long way behind Willie Mullins after the meeting last year and still managed to win the title again. It would be nice for Nicky to win it as he’s had a cracking season, but there will still be two weeks left after next weekend.
Alan Johns Well, if either Paul or Nicky wins the Grand National then that should seal it, and Paul probably looks to have the stronger hand at this stage with five runners. That said, Nicky looks to have more firepower coming into Aintree. It’s tough to call and I’m sure both will throw the kitchen sink at it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Nicholls managed to pull it out of the bag again.