Who do our experts fancy for the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday?
There will be a Tiger Roll-shaped hole in Saturday's Randox Grand National, but the world's greatest steeplechase is shaping up to be as competitive as ever, with the likes of Ladbrokes Trophy hero and clear ante-post favourite Cloth Cap, Welsh National winner Secret Reprieve, Burrows Saint and Kimberlite Candy among the 68 possibles remaining for the race.
Will one of those horses etch their name into the history books? Or could this be the year of another shock to rival the likes of Auroras Encore, Mon Mome and Foinavon? Our experts give their thoughts on the illustrious race.
'Unique test should bring out the best in him'
Secret Reprieve has been my long-range fancy for the race since he hacked up in the Welsh National in January.
He remains relatively unexposed at marathon trips and Aintree’s unique test should bring out the best in him.
Kimberlite Candy will also get better the further he goes. Experience over the fences is not as important in a Grand National as it once was, but the fact that Tom Lacey’s runner jumps them so well must be taken as a huge plus.
Richard Birch, tipster
'He looked as good as ever last time'
There's no denying Cloth Cap has excellent credentials, but the Grand National is a 40-runner handicap with 30 fences to negotiate and his price surely fails to recognise the large slice of luck needed to prevail.
Horses trained in Ireland have finished first, second and third in the last two runnings of the race and were totally dominant at Cheltenham, so that is the obvious place to start.
Another factor to consider is that eight- or nine-year-olds have won the last five Nationals, while it took two high-class horses in that time, Tiger Roll and Many Clouds, to carry more than 11st to victory.
Taking those facts into account, I expect Any Second Now to give a very good account. He screamed 'National contender' when winning the Kim Muir in 2019 and looked as good as ever when landing a Grade 2 at Navan last time.
Lewis Porteous, reporter
'The fences could be the making of him'
Gordon Elliott’s record in the Grand National speaks for itself and the fact that he had this race in mind for The Storyteller at the beginning of the season bodes well for his chances.
The Storyteller is an amazing horse. He has won 11 races, including once at the Cheltenham Festival, and has placed 12 times.
He has amassed more than €400,000 in prize-money, but his biggest payday may yet be to come at Aintree.
Now under the care of Denise Foster, not much will have changed in The Storyteller’s preparation for the Grand National and he represents a class angle in the race.
Yes, the weights reflect that and The Storyteller will be running from the wrong end of the handicap but it’s worth remembering he won a Grade 1 at Down Royal in October and then finished in front of subsequent Gold Cup hero Minella Indo when second in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February.
The Storyteller was last seen finishing a respectable fifth in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month but the National fences could be the making of him.
Odds of around 20-1 are a fair offering for a horse of his calibre who has been fine-tuned for this race.
Brian Sheerin, reporter
'He's the underrated class act in the race'
Recent victories for the likes of Neptune Collonges, Many Clouds, Rule The World and Tiger Roll have proved you need a touch of class to win, which is exactly what The Storyteller has.
The Denise Foster-trained ten-year-old has blossomed to peak in his career at the top level this season and still looks overpriced at 20-1, despite his hefty weight burden of 11st 8lb. His form this season is some of – if not the very best – heading into the race, winning the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal, runner-up in the Irish Gold Cup and filling that same position in a Grade 1 hurdle too.
He backed those impressive efforts up too with a lovely National prep when a keeping-on fifth in the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Despite winning over three miles-plus as a novice at the top level, he looks to have cracked stamina trips this term. While his rating of 165 means he faces a stiff task compared to recent trends – only Many Clouds won off a mark of 160-plus in the last decade – he's a solid, safe jumper who thrives on stamina tests. He should also relish the typical ground conditions on the soft side of good on his Grade 1-winning form.
The race has been his target all season and he is the underrated class act in the race.
Matt Rennie, reporter
Read more on the 2021 Grand National festival: