Prior to focusing on the country’s flat racing classics, Europe’s steeplechase and horse racing fans can put all of their focus on the 2017 running of the Grand National Steeplechase. With a purse of £1,000,000 on the line, many of Europe’s top jumpers will be meeting the starter on April 8 and Aintree Racecourse in Aintree, Liverpool. A full field of at least 30 runners is expected to contest this most difficult race over 30 fences. The distance of the race stands at 4 miles and 514 yards, just over 6,900m.
With two-weeks until post time, the field for the race is starting to take shape. As difficult as this race is for the horses and connections, it’s a nightmare for handicappers, who have to separate the contenders from the pretenders from a large field of talented jumpers. Here’s a look at what figures to be the short list of true contenders for the Grand National.
Definitely Red – After starting weights were released and opening odds were posted, Defintely Red promptly went out and put a 14-length beating on The Last Samurai in the Grimthorpe at Doncaster. Since that huge effort, the horse’s odds have been shortening. He currently stands at 13.5-1 and figures to keep dropping until post time.
Vieux Lion Rouge – After the withdrawal of Minella Rocco, Vieux Lion Rouge has taken over the role of favorite at odds of 13–1. His standing as favorite is warranted after victories in the Becher Chase last year and in the Grand National trial at Haydock just last month. In the Grand National Trial, he took down another possible Grand National contender in Blaklion. It’s worth noting that at the posted weights, the odds on this one appear a little short.
Saphir Du Rheu – Top steeplechase jockey Sam Twiston-Davies had his choice of several runners and landed here. Since switching the horse’s focus to chase races, Saphir Du Rheu has been knocking at the door against some good types. While he has yet to distinguish himself among the elite jumpers in Europe, his odds of 16-1 suggest he just might be this good.
Cause of Causes – After a terrific 9-length victory in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham on March 15, Cause of Cause appears to be in career form. If he can transfer his fondness for Cheltenham over to Aintree Racecourse, he could give the rest of his opponents much to handle at current odds of 15.5-1.
Ucello Conti – With only 6 chase races under his belt, Ucello Conti is giving away a lot of experience to many of the race’s top contenders. With that said, he has managed to win 3 of those races, which sets him up to be a surprise package at 16-1. He did finish 6th in this race last year.
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