In this Grand National Free Tips article we have analysed the form and chances of the main Liverpool fancies and worked out which horses appeal as the best bets for the Aintree spectacular on Saturday April 14, 2012. Our strongest fancy is for David Pipe’s representative JUNIOR. Read on to see why we reached that conclusion and who else we think has a big chance.

These days the winners need a certain amount of class as well as endless stamina. Carrying more than 11 stone will stop the vast majority of horses no matter how good they are. Experience of the unique challenge of the National fences is definitely a positive for both horses and jockeys. For Aintree debutants, treat habitual fallers and blunderers like the plague.

Age is important too. You can be confident that Grand National stalwarts such as Don't Push It and State of Play will run well but, at twelve years old, they are very unlikely to win and probably will not be long enough priced for a worthwhile place bet. Here are a few worth thinking about for the top honours.

West End Rocker
The Alan King trained 10-year-old showed an absolute love of the Aintree fences when scoring with ease over the fearsome National obstacles when he won the Becher Chase on December 3. He was drawing away from his field by the line, demonstrating his endless stamina. His jumping was foot perfect bar a mistake at the very first fence. Niche Market was a distant twenty-two lengths second that day but he travelled well for a long way and the ground was officially heavy, so he can not be dismissed if, as seems likely, he encounters a faster surface on the big day. Course form counts for a lot. Recent form counts for plenty. West End Rocker has both. As he is also the perfect statistical age for the Grand National it is no surprise that the impressive performance saw him shoot towards the head of the Grand National Betting market.

Oscar Time
This son of Oscar finished a creditable second in the 2011 Grand National and there is no reason why he shouldn't go well again. His amateur pilot, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winning Sam Waley-Cohen has also proved himself to be more than competent over the Aintree fences. While there was delight at being second rather than excuses after the 2011 result from the Waley-Cohen camp, the result might have been reversed if Jason Maguire had not been so relentless in his use of the whip aboard the winner, Ballabriggs. Oscar Time certainly appeared to finish in much better shape than the clearly exhausted Ballabriggs. Trainer Martin Lynch will be doing everything in his power to ensure that the Waley-Cohen family can add the National to their tally of big race successes.

The Grand National was mentioned as the strategic aim for this son of Singspiel as soon as he changed codes. He was one of the favourites in the ante post betting for the 2011 Grand National following his impressive victory in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at Cheltenham in March 2011 but failed to make the cut. As his handicap mark has gone up significantly this time around there will be no repeat of that and he will get a run.

The Pipe team know how to train a Grand National winner, producing Comply Or Die for his victorious run under Timmy Murphy in 2008 and to take second place in 2009. David's dad Martin Pipe also won the race with Miinnehoma in 1994 for Freddie Starr, who recently revealed he has never eaten a hamster. If Junior shows anything like his form of last season then he may just eat his rivals and he has to be one for the shortlist. He may never have seen an Aintree fence but he has never fallen or parted company with his jockey in over 20 starts over obstacles. In 2012 he will enter the race as a nine year old - statistically an ideal age for National success. He is a worthy Grand National Free Tips selection.

Killyglen was not among the fancied runners or the finishers in the 2011 Grand National but he is worth consideration in 2012 as he ran and jumped very well for far longer than anyone expected of a 66-1 shot. Although he blundered five from home in 2011, he appeared to be staying on when he finally fell four out. His Antrim based trainer, Stuart Crawford, was sufficiently encouraged by his performance to state his intention to target the race again. Killyglen's 2011-2012 campaign started with a couple of reasonable runs in hurdle races. His third run in the Betfair Multiples Handicap Chase on 19 November 2011 at Haydock suggested that he is in good order and has not lost his appetite for larger obstacles as he jumped impeccably and finished a creditable third carrying top weight under A P McCoy. If his preparation continues to go well he is not to be ignored and is hard to pass by as our Grand National Free Tips option.

The Midnight Club
He may have disappointed his band of followers that sent him off the 15/2 favourite in the 2011 National but The Midnight Club may well be worth pursuing again. 2011 was his first attempt at the National fences and he hit the third so hard that his then jockey, Ruby Walsh, said he knew his chances of winning the race were all but over. When you also consider that he was also so badly hampered by the debris he encountered four out that he almost came to a complete standstill, finishing in sixth place, four lengths behind Niche Market, was actually quite an achievement. Willie Mullins knows how to train for this race, sending Hedgehunter out to win for Trevor Hemmings under Ruby Walsh in 2005.

The Midnight Club will certainly not be any faster as an eleven year old but if he has learned from his experiences at Aintree he stands a good chance of making the frame. If Ruby Walsh deserts Paul Nicholls' contenders and opts to partner him again on the day he is unlikely to be a great price but Walsh's endorsement and assistance over the big fences are probably worth a point or two.

This talented gelding was moved to Tim Vaughan from Paul Nicholls in November 2010. The move followed owner Harry Findlay's tantrum after Nicholls failed to support him when he fell out with the racing authorities for laying his own horse. The move did not slow Beshabar's progress and he ended last season on a high with an impressive win in the Scottish National on April 16th at Ayr. In his previous run in the four mile National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in March he was a creditable second to Chicago Grey who outpaced him on the run-in by four and a half lengths. He has not been to Aintree yet but has never fallen. The only time he has hit the deck was when brought down by none other than Chicago Grey when staying on well at Cheltenham in a Novices' Chase in November 2010. He is owned by the Findlay clan so it is no surprise that the 2012 National has been declared as his ultimate target this season. He will be ten years old by the time of the race and, if he is on anything like his previous season's form (which gained him an official rating of 146), he has to be one for the shortlist.

Beautiful Sound
Trained by Gordon Elliott who sent out the 2007 National winner, this gelding by Presenting may never have been to Aintree before but he has the sort of connections that could lead to success in the National. In 2011 there was sufficient confidence in his credentials to make him the ante post favourite for the Irish Grand National but he frustratingly just failed to make the cut for the race at Fairyhouse. Instead he headed for Punchestown on 7th May and came second by the shortest of margins to Nicky Henderson's Shakalakaboomboom in the three mile one furlong Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase. If Elliott decides to target the Grand National at Aintree do not expect to see many prep runs. This horse is very lightly raced and obviously fragile. Elliott has already demonstrated his ability at getting a similar type sufficiently fit for the National. Silver Birch, his 2007 winner, was sold out of Paul Nicholls' yard following veterinary advice and needed stem cell treatment on his tendons prior to his victory. If anyone can get this horse to the Grand National in good order as a ten year old, it is definitely Gordon Elliott.

Chicago Grey
Another Gordon Elliott recruit that would have to be taken seriously if he decides to target the National is Chicago Grey. He has class, unquestionable stamina and a pretty clean record of jumping. He has only ever fallen once (in the aforementioned Novices Chase at Cheltenham in November 2010 when he brought down Beshabar). His most impressive recent victory was at the same course in March 2011 in the four mile National Hunt Chase where he outpaced Beshabar on the run in. A month later he started the 11/2 favourite in the Scottish National but could only finish a disappointing eighth at Ayr. He is obviously not the easiest character to deal with. He needs to be very patiently ridden in his races and has been taken down to the start early on a number of occasions, including at Cheltenham in March. His early form this season has not been impressive but if Elliott can rekindle his best form it would be unwise to ignore him and he was a consideration for our Grand National Free Tips choice.

Ballabriggs' needs little introduction having courageously battled to victory in the 2011 Grand National under Jason Maguire for Donald McCain. Another son of Presenting, he will be eleven years old when he lines up for the 2012 renewal and only two horses over ten have won the race since the turn of the century. Another statistic that counts against him is that no horse since Red Rum has managed back to back National victories. Could Donald McCain junior be the man to emulate his father's achievement with Red Rum? There is no question that he will be trained specifically for the race. If he reappears in good order this season there is no reason why he shouldn't run very well again.

Always Right
Always Right is a proven stayer who ended last season with an official rating of 142 over fences after getting third in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr less than a length behind Beshabar and Merigo. He has won nine of his lifetime fourteen starts, triumphing in five of his six runs in point to points and winning four of his eight starts in chases. John Wade, his owner and trainer, is a successful businessman in the north east who owns about thirty horses which he trains himself. That fact alone might help make this horse a decent price on the day as many punters look to follow trainers they know. Always Right has only fallen once and will go into the race as a ten year old. It would be quite some story if Always Right were to succeed at Aintree but the National has delivered more extraordinary outcomes in the past.

All of these horses have genuine chances for the Grand National 2012 but, looking at the pros and cons of each, the three top contenders have to be the Waley-Cohen's Oscar Time, The Midnight Club, if Ruby Walsh chooses to partner him, and Junior, provided the going is good on the day.

Given the David Pipe yard's outstanding form and the fact he has been targeted for this since before last year's race our fancy has to be JUNIOR to be backed each-way. He has never fallen and, at nine, is the historic optimum age for this test. Junior is a strong selection to run a great race for this Grand National Free Tips article.

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