Edmond a grand prospect
Edmond is the big plunge horse for this year's Martell Grand National - and no wonder. He is a confirmed stayer, has a touch of class and, most important of all, he loves soft going.
Rain has hit Aintree in the past few days and it has changed the whole complexion of a typically wide-open 40-runner contest. The race will be much more of a slog now, and there could be fewer than 10 finishers as tiredness takes its toll on jumping. In the two soft-ground Nationals of the past decade, there have been six and seven finishers.
Edmond looked a good prospect off a handy weight of 141 pounds even before the rain came, but now he looks to have an outstanding chance despite disappointing on his last run.
The National is regarded as a lottery, but in fact it is dominated by high-class horses with form in top races at around 4,800 metres. And the fences are not as daunting as they used to be - putting the emphasis on speed rather than stamina.
Champion trainer Martin Pipe has a record entry of 10 - a quarter of the field - and stable jockey Tony McCoy has chosen Blowing Wind mainly because of the soft going. But Northern Starlight and Dark Stranger look equally good propositions, particularly the latter after his good trial last time.
Papillon and Mely Moss, who fought out last year's finish, are fancied again but horses often have trouble reproducing a previous good run at Aintree.
For Hong Kong punters, betting is grouped in horses of three and those who fancy a Pipe winner could do worse than Group 14, which includes Blowing Wind and Dark Stranger. Group 12 looks interesting from a value point of view. All three horses - Strong Tel, Inis Cara and Feels Like Gold - can go well and punters should get a good run for their money. Inis Cara especially looks an interesting outsider.