MM’s guide to the Grand National: Your top tips and possible winners

By Sean-Paul Doran

As the world-famous Grand National approaches this weekend, MM takes a look at the runners, riders and possible winners of horse racing’s flagship race.

Tomorrow at Aintree, 40 of the sport’s fastest horses will compete to be crowned National winner 2012 and secure the £975,000 prize for their owner.

The handicap steeplechase is run over four miles and 856 yards (7,242m), and the horses will jump thirty fences over two circuits of the National Course.

An estimated £300million was bet on last year’s race, according to bookmakers, and it is expected that this year will see a similar layout.

The race isn’t just for the heavier gamblers, however, as the National traditionally attracts bets from people across the spectrums of age, gender and sporting knowledge.

Work places across the country have their own sweepstakes in operation, and thousands of people will be left wondering just how likely they are to see a return from their investment.

It’s easy to see why Jonjo O’Neill’s Synchronised, to be ridden by Tony McCoy, has been installed as 15/2 favourite for the race.

The horse is 7lb ahead of the handicapper and now looks in a good position to win at Aintree. This week’s steady rainfall should play to his strengths.

Having already won at Cheltenham this year, Synchronised could become the first horse since Golden Miller in 1934 to win both the Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same year.

Jockey Tony McCoy certainly believes it can be done.

“You’ve got to dream, don’t you,” McCoy told the Guardian this week. “It’s what makes racing – chasing down the impossible.

“We’re going to give it a right good go,” he said.

Last year’s winner Ballabriggs will bid to become the first back-to-back winner since the incredible Red Rum in 1973/74.

At 14/1, the horse will undoubtedly attract a number of punters but the feeling within the industry is that this race may just be beyond him.

Previous winners of the race tend to place but the handicapper usually makes it more difficult for a horse to retain the title than it is to win it the first time.

Ballabriggs’ winning jockey from last year, Jason Maguire, has spoken of the horse’s chances in this year’s contest.

He said: “He’s got 10lb more which is a problem but he’s a big tall horse and would carry weight.

He looks very straight and he’s tightened up a good bit from [his last run at] Kelso. He had a good blow there, which will have put him right.”

Other highly-fancied contenders this year include West End Rocker (12/1), Giles Cross (12/1), Junior (14/1) and On His Own (12/1), ridden by Ruby Walsh.

There are punters who don’t have the time or the inclination to study form, going and price fluctuations among other factors, and would rather pick a horse solely by the appeal of its name.

For those of such practice, this year’s race has thrown up quite a few candidates.

Shakalakaboomboom (18/1) will certainly entice a flurry of bets, as will Organisedconfusion (25/1), According To Pete (33/1), Weird Al (40/1) and what sounds like a 1970’s soft rock band, Midnight Haze (66/1).

However as 2009 winner Mon Mome, a 100/1 longshot, proved, the National is a race that defies logic and reason from time to time.

This year’s betting is propped up by Postmaster at 150/1 and Tharawaat (100/1) and it wouldn’t be completely beyond the realms of plausibility for a horse with lengthy odds to stroll through the winner’s enclosure by 5pm on Saturday.

*All prices correct from as of Thursday evening.

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