Nearly time - The Grand National betting hots up
The Grand National picture is finally starting to take shape and it is not surprising to see a Paul Nicholls runner heading the betting in the shape of 7/1 shot, My Will.
After the stunning Cheltenham Festival that Nicholls had, it was with eager anticipation to see who he would run in the Aintree showpiece.
My Will has been all the rage in the betting since Ruby Walsh plumped for him after he ran extremely well in the Cheltenham Gold Cup over 3 and a half miles to finish fifth.
He has never run over National fences though and although he is nine years old which one of the peak ages for a National contender he is carrying 11st 4lbs, and only Hedgehunter has carried more than 10st 12lbs to victory in the last 20 years.
While it has been well documented that My Will is in fact 8lbs well-in and he certainly has the class to take a race like this, but the Grand National is no normal race and odds of 7/1 look too short as the stats stack up against Nicholls' leading contender.
So how can we solve this riddle? Nicholls' other runners are Eurotrek who is to be ridden by Sam Thomas, who can be backed at odds of 100/1 and has little appeal due to weight and persistent injury problems.
Cornish Sett is 33/1 in the betting and actually fit all the trends that we should be looking out for. He ran an excellent race in defeat in the Welsh National and a wind-operation which he had last summer looks to have revitalised him and if he stays he has a great chance.
The main draw back is he has in inexperience jockey on board in Nick Scholfield and his possible stamina limitations. Nicholls would not put someone on board though who he felt couldn't do the job and Cornish Sett could run a big race at over four times the price of My Will.
His other hope is Big Fella Thanks who is 22/1 in the betting and has the assistance of Christian Williams. He looks to have stamina in abundance judging by the races he's been aimed at the manner of his runs so far.
However at only 7 years old, he may be a year to early to throw down a big challenge and his inexperience could tell in his jumping.
So if there are doubts about all Nicholls' runners for one reason or another then where else should we be looking to find the winner?
Whatever Tony McCoy is riding is sure to be popular and although he is yet to win a National, he has been desperately unlucky on numerous occasions.
McCoy will take the ride on Butlers Cabin who can be backed at odds of 8/1. He ran very well in this race last year until coming a cropper at Bechers Brook the second time around, and his encouraging run at Cheltenham could put him right for this and will no doubt make a bold attempt to give McCoy his first National winner.
Rambling Minster who is also 10/1 in the betting has been the subject of a steady gamble since the start of the week and he could not be in better form.
He won the Blue Square Gold Cup at Haydock in testing conditions and has also won the Borders National over 4m so should stay well and has a nice weight, but possibly at 11 may be a little old to go all the way. In this kind of mood though you wouldn't bet against him going close.
Should McCoy surprise everyone and pick to ride 22/1 shot L'Ami then Enda Bolger's hope will no doubt come in for sustained support. Bolger seems to have revitalised L'Ami this season and juding on his run in the Cross Country race at Cheltenham he could put in a big run.
Hear The Echo at 14/1 will no doubt come in for huge support from Ireland, having taken the Irish National last year which is a decent trial for the Grand National.
He will definitely stay and should jump fine but is carrying 11st 5lbs which could anchor him back.
Others prominent in the betting include Black Apalachi at 16/1 who fell at the second last year but looks to have a decent chance of putting in a better show this time.
State Of Play who sidestepped the Cheltenham Festival to come here as he goes a lot better fresh. He has won the Charlie Hall Chase and the Hennessy Gold Cup before so has the class but stamina has to be taken on trust and he can be backed at odds of 14/1.
Parsons Legacy has been the subject of massive sustained support recently. He has been backed at all kinds of prices in to 16/1 and trainer Philip Hobbs has pleased backers by stating he can see the logic behind the gamble in that the ground has come right for him, he has a nice weight and is in good heart.
He won at Cheltenham on his reappearance this season before unseating on his last run but he goes well fresh and has been kept back for this which would explain where the deluge of money has come from.
Let's not forget about last year's winner Comply Or Die who jumped so magnificently last time to take the race in impressive fashion.
Last year he went off favourite and this year is available at 20/1 in the betting as he bids to become the first horse since Red Rum to retain the Grand National crown.
He has been punished by the handicapper for the style of his victory last year and while he may still be too high in the weights, if on song, you would not discount a huge run.
The picture should become clearer once we know who is riding who for sure, but this looks to be one of the most open, exciting Grand National's for years which can only add to the excitement of this truly special race.
L'Ami - 22/1
State Of Play - 14/1
Cornish Sett - 33/1
If you fancy getting all misty eyed as you remember some of the great National's past, then prepare yourself for Saturday by reliving BBC Sport's coverage of Comply Or Die's fantastic victory last year.