To race or not to race? Something William Shakespeare might have written had he become a racing journalist to supplement his other literary works. Thankfully he was quite good at it but as the first Grand National was run in 1839 and he died in 1616 then it would never have happened anyway.

As you probably know the world is in the midst of the current Coronavirus outbreak. Many sports that take place outdoors have been curtailed and it’s highly probable the 2020 Grand National may be run behind closed doors.

Although that won’t stop people making their way to the trees and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to catch a glimpse of those brave 40 horses and jockeys as they pound over the famous Aintree turf while tackling those fearsome green monsters that lurk in their way.

Should the race go ahead with no paying customers it’s highly likely that everyone and myself included, will be hoping that Tiger Roll achieves the unimaginable and gets his third consecutive Grand National win.

Sport needs its heroes in these troubled times. In the great Australian depression during the 1930s one horse, Phar Lap, was a beacon for Australia as indeed was one famous cricketer in Don Bradman, both of whose achievements gave hope and purpose in testing times for our Antipodean friends.

After his recent spin around Cheltenham in the Cross Country at the Festival, Tiger Roll is still heading the market for the big race. While he has been aimed and trained purposely for this race, it can be a good idea to hover around the market and see what value lies elsewhere. After all emotion and sentiment may play a part in backing Tiger Roll but we still need a sense of realism as we might not get the fairytale ending we’re hoping for.

Grand National Kimberlite Candy

One horse I have been ultra keen on since the weights came out is Kimberlite Candy. He hails from Tom Lacey’s stable in Woolhope, outside the market town of Hereford.

Back in December, on the marathon eight-race Becher Chase day, which finished in the fading light of the Grand Sefton, Kimberlite Candy ran a very impressive second on his seasonal reappearance. It was in the Becher Chase over 3m2f, which was followed up by the same race won by One For Arthur in 2017 – the slog that is the Classic Chase at Warwick.

It’s a real jumping test for the staying chaser and given that two of his career wins were in the month of April, he is definitely a spring horse. Similar to the way Auroras Encore was in 2013.

Kimberlite Candy travels well and jumped the National fences very nicely. He is sure to be a popular horse on the big day. He is also likely to be ridden by Richie McLernon. Nobody in the weighing room would begrudge him a National especially after 2012 when he was mugged right on the line by Neptune Collonges in one of the most pulsating finishes of the race.

Any Second Now Has A Chance

Another who catches the eye in the betting is Any Second Now trained by Ireland’s original Father Ted, Ted Walsh.

One thing, which can surprise many people, is the way horses get campaigned towards National glory. Some may run in the big staying chases and others might be raced exclusively over hurdles but this horse, in particular, has been kept this season almost exclusively to shorter distances.

Last season under top amateur Derek O’Connor he landed the Kim Muir Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He then went on to the Irish Grand National but fell at the eighth fence. Over the Christmas period, he ran in the race Paddy Power Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. He unseated four out when still in contention. It’s a race better known for Irish commentator Jerry Hannon almost losing his voice when Roaring Bull landed the win.

After that, he returned for the Dublin Festival over 2m5f finishing an honourable third in an ultra-competitive handicap. With twenty-four starters, he is used to the hustle and bustle of these big field chases.

Following Leopardstown, he had a nice confidence-boosting win at Naas over 2m. This might seem an unusual way to prep a horse for the world’s most famous steeplechase but Ted is as shrewd as they come in racing and he has a real live chance here in a race where anything is possible.

Bryony & Yala Enki

Finally one more who could land the spoils is the Paul Nicholls trained Yala Enki. Currently second in the battle for Champion Trainer, this tipped 2020 Grand National runner could effectively seal the title should his popular 10yo land the race.

Formerly with Venetia Williams, who is the world’s expert on getting horses to win when the ground is borderline unraceable, he was moved to the Nicholls yard in the summer. Slowly but surely he has come into himself in the second part of the season. Back in January, he won the Portman Cup at Taunton over 3m4 1/2f on heavy ground. He then headed to Haydock where he finished a solid third in very testing conditions in the National Trial.

No horse has won both the National Trial and the National in the same season. Like Kimberlite Candy, the form of his last run was given a very nice boost when second-place finisher, Lord Du Mesnil, also finished second in the National Hunt at the Cheltenham Festival. If the ground comes up soft then he has a cracking chance under his likely rider of Bryony Frost who excels on an old fashioned staying chaser.

So there we have three horses that I am keen on come 5.15pm on the 4th of April.

Racing may be sailing through choppy waters and whether we have a National this year or not, nothing beats the anticipation of this great race and nothing ever will.

Written by Neil Watson