GRAND NATIONAL

Grand National at Aintree: the five sub plots surrounding it

Can Clouds strike again?

History suggests there's more chance of finding Shergar alive in a field in Connemara than there is of Many Clouds winning back-to-back Nationals. Red Rum was the last to do it back in 1974, but he was Red Rum, a National legend, who went on to finish second twice before claiming his historic third win in 1977. But that said, Many Clouds looks bullet proof and has peaked at just the right time.

Photo: Jon Super

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Out of retirement, into the record books?

Disenchanted with his day job, Leighton Aspell retired in 2007. Two years later he was back riding. On Saturday, he has a shot at rewriting the record books as the first jockey to win the National three years on the trot after Pineau De Re (2014) and Many Clouds (2015). For good measure Many Clouds' owner Trevor Hemmings will become the first owner to win the race four times should the 7-1 favourite oblige.

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Bookies braced

Once a year punters and betting shop regulars have their betting slips poised to plunge on Many Clouds with British bookies fearing 'Black Saturday' a fortnight after the hammering they took at the Cheltenham Festival. Reports suggest bookies lost up to £60 million at Cheltenham - a win for Many Clouds would see mass cancellations of Caribbean holidays. "Cheltenham was just about as bad as it gets and the wounds haven't healed. We're now dreading the prospect of Many Clouds landing back-to-back Nationals. It could seal the worst month we've ever known," Ladbrokes' David Williams told an industry website. He added: "Last year Many Clouds was a terrific result for the bookies. This year it could be horrendous. What a difference a year makes."

Photo: Andrew Yates REUTERS

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Master Mullins closing on Nicholls

The last time an overseas trainer won the British jump trainer title Marilyn Monroe was married to Joe DiMaggio, Rock Around The Clock made an appearance at Number 1, Roger Bannister ran his sub four minute mile and Switzerland held the world Cup. The year was 1954, Vincent O'Brien was Britain's Irish champion trainer. Sixty two years later, Willie Mullins is odds-on to repeat the feat. By close of business Thursday he was only the price of a bookie's second hand Jag shy of Paul Nicholls.

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BBC commentator

Anyone tuning in to listen to the great race on BBC Radio 5 will hear the voice of Gary O'Brien, one of the station's four-strong team. If there is added tension and excitement in O'Brien's voice it is due to his shared ownership of one of the 40-runners, Vics Canvas. The BBC's late 'voice of racing' Peter O'Sullevan famously held his nerve to call home Attivo winning the 1974 Triumph Hurdle. O'Brien's runner is a 66-1 outsider, and he told the Daily Telegraph: "If he gets round that would be an achievement in itself, he's weighted up to the hilt and age could count against him, but he's entitled to run."

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