Grand National tips and predicted 1-2-3-4 finishers from our expert The Couch

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If the assessor had the chance to reframe the weights for the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (5.15) run over an extended four and a quarter miles at Aintree, he would give CLOTH CAP a rating of 162, but as this an early closing event, the horse runs off a mark of 148.

On his last start, Jonjo O’Neil’s beast gave 4lb and a seven-length beating to a 158-rated animal, having earlier hacked up in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November. On both occasions he was ridden by today’s pilot, Tom Scudamore, and with just 10st 5lb on his back, the slick jumping Cloth Cap is going to take all the beating. He was third in the Coral Scottish Grand National over four miles in April 2019, so he has the requisite stamina. 4-1 might seem cramped odds with 39 opponents to beat, but the same thing was said about Tiger Roll before he obliged in 2019.

The winner of that race was Takingrisks, who showed he is no back number at the age of 12, when gamely accounting for Aye Right – who went to finish third in a red-hot handicap at Cheltenham in March – over an inadequate three miles at Doncaster in January. Only 4lb higher, the veteran looks overpriced at 40-1.

Discorama has been backed from 40-1 into 18-1 in the last ten days, and it’s easy to see why. Paul Nolan’s inmate comes into this marathon test a very fresh horse – form figures 21122 on his seasonal bow – having not been sighted since disappointing at Cheltenham in November. The Irish raider was second in the four-miler at the same track in March 2019, and was third of 23 the following year in the Ultima Handicap Chase off a mark of 148. He races off a perch of 149 this afternoon, and word from my best source in the Emerald Isle, is that Discorama has undergone intensive work on his wind.

Rachael Blackmore hopes to become the first female jockey to win this since Elizabeth Taylor on The Pie in 1944, and I’m sure Minella Times will give her a cracking ride with just 10st 3lb on her back.

Irish horses dominated at the Cheltenham festival in March, which leads me to back BALLYADAM in the Betway Mersey Novice Hurdle (2.25) run over two and a half miles at Aintree. Henry De Bromhead’s beast chased home Appreciate It in the Supreme Novice Hurdle last month over two miles, and this bumper winner runs as if this longer journey will see him in an even better light.

Nick Henderson’s SHISHKIN is unbeaten in four starts over fences, and he will be a very short price to make it five on the bounce when he contests the Doom Bar Maghull Novice Chase (3.00) run over two miles at Aintree.

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Jack Kennedy is an interesting jockey booking for THOMAS DARBY in the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (3.35) run over three miles at Aintree. This animal was second in the Supreme Novice Hurdle over two miles at Cheltenham in 2018, and this is the first time he has tried this marathon trip. I think he will love it, and at 20-1, he is working Couch’s each-way price.

In the Betway Handicap Chase (4.15) run over three miles and a furlong at Aintree, JOHNBB will carry my each-way wonga. Tom Lacey’s horse obliged a shade snugly off a perch of 130 at Wetherby in November, and even off a higher ledge of 137, he remains a fresh, well-treated progressive animal.

MARK 'THE COUCH' WINSTANLEY'S GRAND NATIONAL 1-2-3-4

  1. CLOTH CAP
  2. TAKINGRISKS
  3. DISCORAMA
  4. MINELLA TIMES
  • Grand National
  • Horse racing

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