With the country in lockdown, a Virutal Grand National is being staged on Saturday afternoon, with bookmakers' profits going to NHS charities. Click here to see who our columnists are backing, and click here for Marcus Armytage's guide to the runners and riders.
Kildisart, a 50-1 shot who finished a season-best second at Cheltenham last month, can win the Virtual Grand National.
The Ben Pauling-trained eight-year-old has all the right credentials having been brought to the boil at just the right time this spring; he is effective on all types of ground but will be at his best on today’s good ground, he has never fallen, has won over Aintree’s Mildmay course (not the same as the National course but often a plus) and he looks like he will improve for the trip.
Tiger Roll, winner for the last two years, should be on any short list for today’s race but he has not had the smoothest of preparations after an operation to remove a chip of bone from his fetlock in the autumn.
On top of that, he has a lot of weight and he appeared to have a very hard race at Cheltenham when runner-up in the cross-country, a race he has always won before winning at Aintree. But he clearly raises his game when he gets to Liverpool and he is a must for inclusion in any top four.
Others for the short-list include the two bottom weights Kimberlite Candy, the Warwick Classic winner, and Walk In The Mill, another who is twice as good at Aintree as he is anywhere else although whether the two-time Becher Chase winner can improve on last year’s fourth remains to be seen. Both horses are best on heavy ground though as is another dour stayer, the Welsh National winner Potters Corner.
Like Kildisart, Burrows Saint, last year’s Irish National winner, is also making his Aintree debut and, having jumped round Auteuil last summer, the fences should hold no fears. He looks like he has been laid out for the race by Willie Mullins winning his last start in December since when his powder has been kept dry.
Recent Kelso winner Definitly Red is another that should not be ignored, though he will want more luck than he had two years ago when he was knocked over at Becher’s.
Of course, selecting the winner of the Virtual Grand National is not just about picking the right horse. It is also about pre-empting the computer so it may be pertinent to look at last year’s result when Rathvinden, third in the real National, beat Tiger Roll in the VGN.
Rathvinden, who is not in the line-up this year, had won the four mile National Hunt Chase as a novice and his previous start (indeed his only start before Aintree last season), the Bobbyjo Chase.
If the computer likes Willie Mullins-trained horses, which won the Bobbyjo on their previous start, then Acapella Bourgeois must be included in the list while winning the Irish National as a novice also gives Burrows Saint a very similar profile to Rathvinden.
In the Race of Champions, I can see Red Rum and Manifesto fighting out the closing stages with it going to Rummy by a short-head. They should be chased home by Jerry M, Troytown and Tiger Roll in that order.
2. Burrows Saint
3. Walk In The Mill
4. Tiger Roll
Race of Champions
1. Red Rum
3. Jerry M