Not the ‘Wallace & Gromit’ version, of course, but the National’ version, with a maximum field of 40 thundering across the Melling Road at 5.15 this afternoon.

At 12-1 the field, this is one of the most open Nationals for years and, if you are one for statistics, it gets even more open.

‘Age of the Winner’ is the stat in question and let the record show that, since the void race in 1993, only two horses below the age of 9 have managed to win. This is particularly interesting this year, as 4 of the first 6 in the betting are aged 8 (Vieux Lion Rouge, Definitly Red, Blaklion & One For Arthur) and will therefore be eliminated from this analysis.

JP McManus is triply represented and,  although Regal Encore can probably be discounted, the other two are up there disputing favouritism. First colours are worn by More Of That, also the chosen mount of Barry Geraghty but even though  Jonjo is exuding confidence I can’t see this rather fragile animal surviving the rough and tumble of a race such as this.

The apparent second string, however, is worthy of serious consideration. Cause of Causes, fresh from an impressive win in the Walt Disney race at the Festival finished 8th in the National two years ago, as a 7-y-o – a tremendous run given the statistic I am banging on about. Now the ideal age of 9, this horse has hardly gone backwards since and in Jamie Codd has a partner who knows him well and is somewhat limpet like in the plate. First port of call, therefore, is an e/w bet on Cause of Causes at 16-1.

Another of Gordon Elliott’s runners, Ucello Conti is also worthy of consideration. This 9-y-o finished 6th in last year’s race, off the same mark as today, looking a real danger before two uncharacteristic blunders late on removed the stuffing. One year older, perfectly prepared and with the ideal going, expect to see Daryl Jacob creep, creep, creep and then produce, justifying your e/w bet at 20-1.

A Grand National review would not be complete without a small statutory punt on a 50-1 ‘rag’, so here is one. Probably leading for the first circuit and possibly lasting a lot longer than the odds would suggest, have a few squid on Perfect Candidate – you may be pleasantly surprised.

The undercard kicks off with two hurdle races with a chance to win your National money – Fountains Windfall in the 1.45 has probably improved a stone and a half in its last two runs but its rating has only risen by 7lbs. Targeted at this race, at 12-1 e/w it’s a cracker.

At 2.25 one of the easiest handicap winners of the season goes back into novice company with the race at its mercy and yet it is at an each way price

Brio Conti e/w at 9-2 could be manna from heaven – let us pray.

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