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2015 Aintree Grand National

This weekend's Grand National is an even bigger deal than usual. With the sport's most extraordinary jockey, Tony McCoy, having announced that this will be his final season of racing, it's understandable that his last ever Grand National would attract plenty of attention.

He's said that if he wins the race tomorrow - which would only be the second time in his career if he did - he'll retire on the spot, but unfortunately we don't think that little bit of sporting magic is likely to take place. Shutthefrontdoor is the favourite for the race, backed down to the short odds by punters leading with their hearts, but to our eyes he's just not made for this circuit.

At the rate he's being backed there's a chance he'll go off at shorter odds even than Red Rum did in his best years, but there's no doubt Shutthefrontdoor prefers right handed to left handed tracks, and frankly lacks the experience needed to take the win.

If McCoy crosses the line first on Saturday afternoon it will cement the legend of a man who has already far surpassed everything we thought possible in this sport, but we suspect his grand finale is still a little way off yet.

So who, then, do we favour for a shot at victory? Were it not for the McCoy fever Rocky Creek would likely be the current favourite, and he's definitely a horse to watch for this one.

He ran to fifth last year, fading towards the end, but breathing problems were definitely a big issue that affected what remained a strong season. He's subsequently had a wind operation and took a strong win at Kempton last time out.

This time round he's 9lbs to the good, and if he takes the fences as well as he took them last year he's got to be a strong contender. The best place we've found to back him is at Ladbrokes, who are offering an excellent 10/1.

Our other two picks come further down the odds. Cause Of Causes is a strong young horse who has impressed in a lot of big races. He took the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, and the four mile trip seemed ideal for him.

He has performed strongly against similarly ranked horses recently, including beating Thunder And Roses, who unseated his rider in their race but subsequently won the Irish National. Furthermore his stable is in form this week, with three winners so far.

We think he's worth a punt, especially over at Coral, who are offering him at an intriguing 18/1.

Finally, we think it's worth taking another look at Al Co. He had a hard time over these fences in December, but with his trainer Peter Bowen in better form now there's every chance we could see him recapture the exhilaration that saw him take an excellent Scottish National last April.

He's been aimed at this race ever since, and Bowen has form with National winners. If we put that unfortunate first run over the course down to the winter ground then tomorrow's appearance should be a dramatic step up.

On current form that would make Al Co a contender, especially on ground he favours. The best place to back him right now is 888Sport, who are offering a very tempting 25/1.

Aintree Friday - Crabbie's Topham Chase

Aintree festival is well underway in the sunshine up north, and the Crabbie's Topham Chase is the big race on Friday's card. Setting off at 16:05 over the fearsome National Course you'd be well advised to check the runners again before the start to make sure that nobody has withdrawn, but with that said, here are our favourites for the race.

Current bookies favourite Ruben Cotter came back from a frankly enormous absence to win last time out, running strongly over a similar distance and impressing all who watched. By all accounts his trainer has had him aimed at this event ever since, and the long absence surely leaves him on a strong mark compared to nearly all his strongest rivals.

The ground here should favour him more than it did at Kempton on his impressive return, so we're quite comfortable saying that he ought to feature strongly in this race. The best place to back him right now is at BoyleSports, who are offering an excellent 10/1.

All the talk this weekend is about Tony McCoy, participating in his final Grand National weekend as a jockey. His ride for the title race is the biggest deal, of course, but his runners in every race have been getting plenty of attention and this race is no exception.

In this case the punters might have a point, too. Winners of this race tend to be horses which have plenty of experience of the Grand National course, and Eastlake is one of the few horses in the field who have completed races here. He was third under McCoy in last year's Topham, he's a strong jumper, and his form, especially under McCoy, is still solid.

We'd normally advise against letting your money follow your heart, especially when a beloved sportsman is taking part in a major event for the last time, but it's hard not to argue that Eastlake and McCoy have the potential for a really good result on Friday. The best place to back them is currently PaddyPower, who are offering a market leading 11/1.

Finally, we've picked out a longer odds contender who's worth a look. We're normally a little shy of the really long odds, but Up To Something might be worth a tempting each way punt for this one.

He's currently rated 132 and low in the weights, having dropped from 140 a short while back. He'll be running with a hood in an attempt to revitalise his racing, but of note is the fact that he was looking strong running here last December before taking a fall.

His form has been in the doldrums for a while now, and we can't be sure that December's race or the newly acquired hood will chance anything. But at 50/1 over at StanJames, who are paying each way on the top four places, a small flutter could still see a nice return.

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