The Grand National is back this weekend and with Tiger Roll absent from the star-studded list of entries, pundits and punters alike are starting to speculate on who is going to win the latest renewal of the Aintree showpiece.
It’s no secret that Cloth Cap is the extremely short-priced favourite in the 2021 Aintree odds. The nine-year-old, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and raced in the famous colours of owner Trevor Hemmings, is now as short as 7/2.
However, with minimal profit there to be made, the punters will be keen to look elsewhere in the betting market. Although, they may not need to run their finger too far down the racecard as second favourite Any Second Now, who is currently priced around 10/1, looks to be a decent bet.
The nine-year-old is trained by Ted Walsh, who won the National with Papillon back in 2000, and is owned by Irish billionaire J. P. McManus, who also boasts a sole victory in the marathon race as the legendary AP McCoy rode the O’Neill-trained Don’t Push It to glory in 2010.
On paper, Any Second Now fits the bill for a potential National winner. With an allocated weight of 10-9, he is nestled nicely within the perfect weight class. In fact, 12 of the last 20 winners have been between 10st 7lb and 11st 1lb, which could indicate that Any Second Now is better suited than Cloth Cap, who is carrying a weight of just 10st 5lb.
That aside, the nine-year-old has also proved he can stay the distance. With the Grand National run over four miles, it’s pivotal that a horse has already proved in their career that they have the stamina required, and Any Second Now has shown that calibre in the past. He won over three miles and two furlongs in the Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, which is a must have on a National entry’s CV.
Any Second Now’s form did leave a lot to desired earlier in the season, however. He was ninth twice on the spin at Naas and Navan in the tail end of last year before pulling up at Gowran Park. But he bounced back with a victory over two miles back at Navan last month, beating Castlegrace Paddy by 10 lengths in the Webster Cup Chase.
Talking ahead of the National, Katie Walsh, who boasts a third-place finish as a rider in the National, claimed that Any Second Now resembles Papillon and Seabass – third in 2012 – and revealed that the shorter trip over two miles in Ireland last month was a tactic used by the trainer to smarten his horses up.
“The great thing about Papillon and Seabass was that neither of them were slow and could win over two miles,” Katie Walsh told the virtual press conference. “Dad isn’t afraid of running them over shorter trips and loves smartening them up that way. It would have been a question of whether or not they would get the trip beforehand.
“I think as the National has changed over the last few years that you need to be able to travel easy within yourself for the first mile and a half, then everything starts to change a bit. In that regard, Any Second Now is a strong traveller and can run – and win – over two miles in competitive races.
“They’re different types of horses but he’d be quite lairy and spooky, more like Papillon. There are definitely similarities among the three of them in that they can travel well early.”
Cloth Cap is the deserved favourite and the fact that he is set to line up for starter’s orders as the shortest favourite in over 100 years speaks volumes of the quality he possesses. However, the National is not a straightforward affair and anything can happen. So, certainly don’t rule out Any Second Now.