The Leader will be giving in-depth news and tips on the racing front as the 2017 Flat horse racing season gets underway – at Doncaster and Kempton on April 1 – with the Aintree Grand National on April 8.
The Leader was the only weekly ex-pat newspaper to give an in-depth coverage, with interviews and tips at this year’s Cheltenham Festival – with SIX winning selections – tipping a 16-1 treble, along with each-way selections, that returned a profit for punters.
The Leader winning 4-1 tip at Cheltenham, Cause of Causes, who finished eighth in the 2015 Grand National, is a leading contender for this year’s Aintree Grand National, run over the grueling 4 miles-plus National Course.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, the nine year-old, carrying 10st 12lb, impressed at the Cheltenham Festival. Bookies odds: 11-1. Elliott also saddles 16-1 chance Ucello Conti, carrying 10st 11lb, who finished sixth in the 2016 Grand National.
Vicente, owned by Trevor Hemmings, who won the Grand National with the late Many Clouds, who collapsed and died in January, Ballabriggs and Hedgehunter, is trained by Paul Nicholls, carrying 10st 9lbs, priced at 25-1.
Eight-year-old Vicente won of the 2016 Scottish Grand National and ran a respectful sixth in the Coral Welsh National in December. Hemmings could be set to make Grand National history – becoming the first person to own four winners – if Vicente obliges.
“Having sadly lost Many Clouds, Trevor was looking for a suitable horse for the Grand National. Vicente was for sale, and a deal was done,” said Nicholls.
“Trevor is an an enthusiastic owner, and loves the Grand National. He liked the profile of Vicente – who won the Scottish Grand National last season – and is at his best in the spring,” said Nicholls.
Irish trainer Willie Mullins, who had six Cheltenham Festival winners, including The Leader winning tip Yorkhill, saddles 16-1 chance Pleasant Company in the 2017 Grand National.
Pleasant Company, 9 years old, who noteably missed Cheltenham to run at Aintree, carries 10st 11lbs: “I normally don’t have a big team at Aintree. But we’ll run Pleasant Company in the National,” said Mullins.
Blaklion, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by Noel Fehily, carries 11st and is priced at 14-1: “Blaklion is a great ride to have – he’s got a bit of class – and hopefully he’ll be a good ride,” said Fehily.
A plethora of top sports action begins in April – with the European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarter-finals being staged at the weekend – along with the Oxford-Cambridge crews 2017 Boat race in London, the 163rd Boat Race, dating back to 1829, over four-and-a-quarter-miles.
The four days Masters Golf, in Augusta, USA, gets underway on April 6; the County Championship Cricket season commences on April 7; the Davis Cup Tennis quarter-finals begins on April 7; along with the World Cup of Gymnastics in London and the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 9.
Ahead of The 2017 Masters Golf, the first of golf’s four major championships, during April 6-9, played at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia,
American and World number one Dustin Johnson said: “The Masters is always a tournament that I look forward to. I really like going to Augusta. My game is in good form, everything is working pretty well.”
World number three, Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, 27, who has overcome a painful rib injury this season, said: “The injury hasn’t been ideal to start the year. I feel like I’ve worked a lot on my short game and that part of my game is as sharp as it has been, going into Augusta.
“Since coming back from the injury I feel really healthy. I don’t feel any issue with my health. And freshness could help. Mentally going there and not being drained is a good thing.”
Premier League fixtures returned at the weekend – with title favourites Chelsea hosting Crystal Palace – after the international break. On the transfer front Blues boss Italian Antonio Conte is lining up summer signings Alexis Sanchez, Virgil van Dijk and Tiemoue Bakayoko.
The Checkatrade Trophy final, between former Premier League outfit Coventry City and Oxford United is played at Wembley on Sunday, April 2.
Coventry – relegated from the Premier League in the 2000-01 season along with Manchester City and Bradford City – are in dire-straights, bottom of League One, with relegation to the old fourth division beckoning.
Spurs and England star Jimmy Greaves once said of football: ‘It’s a funny old game!’
GRAND NATIONAL TIPS:
1: Cause of Causes. 2: Vicente. 3: Pleasant Company. 4: Blaklion.
The Leader selections for the weekend will appear on the online Edition on Friday.