My first memory of the Grand National is 1981. I would have been seven, my grandfather got me into it, and he let me have a pound on.
1981 was one of the great National fairy tales, maybe the best of them all: Bob Champion with Aldaniti ... but I had my quid on Spartan Missile, who was second, ridden by 54-year-old John Thorne. That was not half a bad story in itself, but I was absolutely spitting angry he didn’t win. Still, I was bitten by the National bug from then on.
I used to wake up at four or five in the morning on the day of the National. It was honestly bigger for me than Christmas. I would do the family sweepstake and have that ready hours and hours early, then watch Football Focus, where there was always mentions of the race. After that, the day was all about Des Lynam, who was my hero.
The first time I went was 1991, I had just got my driving licence and I had this little red Volkswagen Polo, called Pele. We all piled in there, five lads. We stayed at the Little Chef in Nantwich, £25 quid for a room, so that was a fiver a head. We used to go to the Canal Turn, which you cannot do these days, and it was an absolute party. By the time the race started you could not see a thing. In 1991, I backed Seagram, and I had no idea he had won until five minutes after the race.
By 1993 we had started earning a few quid, so we upgraded into whatever the cheapest of the stands were. The challenge then was to try and get your mug on the telly behind Des Lynam. He would be in the old winners’ enclosure and you would be grinning in the background. When you got home the next day you would watch the video tape and see if you had got on. So I cannot have too many complaints when people are clowning around behind me at Aintree.
It is surreal for me to think that I am actually presenting it. I have got some huge boots to fill.
As for the race itself, it is getting tougher and tougher to pick the right horse. The first ever winner was called Lottery, and that feels appropriate for this year. I like One For Arthur. My grandfather, Jock Burns, would always back two things: Scottish-trained runners (the clue’s in the name) and greys.
Jock’s method only came good once, in 1979 with Rubstic, but I think One For Arthur has big claims. Linda Russell’s Kinross-based eight-year-old is a brilliant jumper - he could get round at Badminton. And he is owned by the Golf Widows (Belinda McClung and Deborah Thomson), whose husbands clearly spend all their time on the golf course and had got them this horse. Arthur was a really impressive winner of the Classic Chase at Warwick, and they were great fun to interview after that, so I hope we get another chance on Saturday.
I also like Perfect Candidate. He is a bold-jumping front-runner, and when the ground is decent, as it will be, a front-runner can be hard to peg back over these National fences. I thought Fergal O’Brien might have gone for Gold with him at Cheltenham but I am glad they have kept him fresh for this.
Completing my one-two-three is Blaklion, who has class, as shown by his RSA win at Cheltenham, and the Guru, Nigel Twiston-Davies as his trainer. Nigel has been priming him and he can go well.
Our aim with the Grand National at ITV is that people young and old enjoy it. I especially want the older generation to feel like they are kids again, that National excitement, the dream of it all. There is nothing else like it in sport.