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Clan Royal has been damned with misfortune in the John Smith’s Grand National – second to Amberleigh House two years ago after his jockey dropped his whip and carried out at Becher’s last time by a loose horse when bowling along in front.

Despite the ill-luck, Clan Royal is Saturday’s likeliest winner. The handicapper has handed this horse a big chance by keeping him at a similar weight as last year. If you believe Clan Royal would have come within 10 lengths of eventual winner Hedgehunter last year, then you must back him.

Hedgehunter is his main rival in the betting market again and there are those that believe he has improved. Officially, he is 10lbs well in at the weights on the basis of his Cheltenham Gold Cup second. the suspicion is that Hedgehunter is good enough to have been placed in any of the last three Gold Cups. If he is merely as good as last year, he is not weighted to win. Clan Royal is.

The problem with Clan Royal is the price. He is a National hard-luck story and so is blue-eyed jockey Tony McCoy. This combination has meant that housekeeping money all over the country has been bet on the pair. We hope the housewives’ choice takes the bookies to the cleaners, but in a field of 40 it pays to have a hedge.

Innox is worthy of a place but is probably a short price. Numbersixvalverde has strong claims and carries the hopes of the Irish, who have plundered four from the last seven Nationals. However, another Irish horse, Garvivonnian, is worth an each-way bet if the ground is good to soft or softer. British-trained Juveigneur has a squeak at a really decent price if the ground rides good.

Aintree selections:

2.15 Voy Por Ustedes (win)

2.50 Asian Maze (win)

4.15 Clan Royal (win), Garvivonnian (e/w if ground good to soft), Juveigneur (e/w if ground good or faster)

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