Saturday, April 14, 2018 is a date etched in the diary of horse racing fans the world over. The stars of the sport descend on Aintree for the most valuable race of its kind in Europe – the Grand National. It’s the 171st official running of the historic handicap steeplechase, the market is beginning to take shape.

One For Arthur claimed the race last year, writing his name into the history books, while banking connections a whopping $400,000+. Will it be more of the same? Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell certainly hopes so, but she’ll have to do it with another, as national treasure One For Arthur has been ruled out of the season with a tendon injury. 2018 will bring us a new champion, but who will that be?

Oddsmakers at William Hill think our new king will come in the form of Blaklion, pricing him as a +1000 favorite. The nine-year-old gelding went into the year with a record of nine wins and eight places from 24 starts, including a December victory in the Becher Handicap Chase over three miles, one furlong. Gavin Sheehan sat in the saddle that day, playing his part in an emphatic nine-length score over nearest rival The Last Samuri, who towed home the chasing pack. 

Source: Andrew Humphrey via Twitter

Going off a short-price favorite, he more than lived up to the billing, strengthening his position at the head of the early betting for the Grand National. Punters who weren’t quite sure before the race were immediately won over. Nigel Twiston-Davies has a real contender on his hands. He boasts valuable experience too, starting as jolly last year.

Going off an +800 poke, following market support on the day, Blaklion, ridden by Noel Fehily, could get no closer than fourth at the finish line. Better was expected, but it’s worth remembering he did lead the race at the business end of the battle, before running out of steam when it mattered. Poised to strike four out, he ended going backwards, making no impression on the winners. Is there more to give? Many will see him as a risk not worth taking at the odds.

Source: Game Sputnik via Twitter

Moving further down the pecking order in search of a gem deserving of our attention, and the stats tell us last year’s gold medallist, at +1400, was the shortest-price winner since Don’t Push It in 2010, SP +1000. Half of the last four champions went off at +2500, so don’t be shy about going for an outsider.

Total Recall is currently available at the magic price of +2500, and as well as the generous quote, there’s lots to like about Willie Mullins’ hope. The vastly popular Irish trainer has worn this crown only once before, back in 2005 when Hedgehunter reigned supreme. Total Recall won back-to-back races at the end of 2017, claiming the Munster National at Limerick and Trophy Chase around Newbury, both three miles and above, so the trip shouldn’t be an issue.

He stole the latter by a neck, edging Whisper in the final strides, but it was his finish that caught the eye, going from strength to strength on the run-in and looking like a gutsy performer with plenty more to give. He’ll need improvement if he’s to land the big one, but we wouldn’t put anyone off at the price.