Another year has gone by and National Hunt racing’s greatest spectacle at Aintree racecourse is upon us once more.
With the forecast looking promising we can expect decent ground and a well run race. Anything can happen at the first few fences where the speed can be too much for some to jump accurately and its not until 7 or 8 obstacles have been completed before race riding can start to develop properly. It’s important not to get too far behind too early – midfield with a circuit to go is usually as far as you would want to be behind the leader
I covered much of the race stats in last years blog and as mentioned before there is a good guide to the date here http://www.grandnationalstats.co.uk/
The current runners can be found here http://www.racingpost.com/horses2/cards/card.sd?race_id=576664&r_date=2014-04-05&antepost=Y#raceTabs=lc_
And for up to date odds check here http://www.oddschecker.com/grand-national/winner
It’s very important to shop around here for the best value. Standard each way terms for a handicap are ¼ odds 1234 but as this is such a big event many firms will offer five places. BetVictor currently offer ¼ odds 123456. ( the one firm to avoid for each way bets would seem to be RaceBets if they continue to offer a ridiculous 1/5 odds 123!)
The more the number of places that are paid the less the win odds can sometimes be to make up for this concession. If you can get high win odds and extra places it really is the best of both worlds so choose carefully!
Be sure to use Non Runner No bet prior to the final declarations also – if the worst does happen and your horse gets pulled out you will not lose your money then.
The night before the race could also throw up better odds as firms try to push their product – but beware at 8pm on Friday night when Racing Post’s pricewise selection is officially released (its often apparent by market moves whet it will be prior to then) – expect any put up there to be trimmed significantly.
Saturday morning may some further price enhancements for horse not touched by the main tipsters
For stats suffice to say, weight is the one I look to most and I have a big leaning towards anything carrying 11 stone or less. Age and experience come next. 9 to 11 is the preferred age and previous course experience or proven form in similar events is highly desirable
And so onto the runners with my thoughts on most of the contenders (bear in mind that these are the current 5 day declarations and some may drop out before Thursdays’s final declaration stage):
1. TIDAL BAY age 13 weight 11st 10lbs ;trainer Paul Nicholls ;jockey Sam Twiston Davies
It will bring the house down if this popular veteran can triumph but despite the handicapper dropping his mark to 161 there are so many stats for him to defy. The last 13 year old to come close to winning was Aintree stalwart Rondetto in 1969. The last horse to carry this kind of weight to victory was Red Rum in 1977. Added to all of this, the more the ground dries out the less it will suit him and he could find himself outpaced. It’s hard enough to come from way back in this race as his style dictates but he would need some juice in the ground to have his best chance. Too much against him for me to fancy him but would still love to see him do well.
2. LONG RUN 9 11st 9lb; Nicky Henderson ; Mr S Waley Cohen
Another at the top of the weights, Long Run was at his peak as a 6yo when winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It’s not unusual for French bred chasers to start regressing earlier than others and while retaining plenty of ability he does seem to be going in that direction this season. I think his mark of 160 here is probably about the level he is now so again facing an uphill struggle off such a high weight. On the plus side, his rider has an excellent record in this race – on the downside Long Run has always been prone to miss the odd fence out and he wouldn’t want to do that here
3. HUNT BALL 9 11st 7lb; Nicky Henderson; Andrew Tinkler
If you believe the old adage that two and a half mile chasers are best for the National then you might give him a chance. I don’t believe they are and Hunt Ball only just gets 3 miles on a park course which rules him out for me.
4. TRIOLO D’ALENE 7 11st 6lb; Nicky Henderson; Barry Geraghty
Needs good ground but don’t quite think he has the class to carry this sort of weight here and it’s not ideal to hear he had a breathing problem in his last race. Has winning course form in last years Topham over a shorter trip and also as a 7yo has an awful lot against him on stats – the last one to win was Bogskar in 1940!
5. ROCKY CREEK 8 11st 5lb; Paul Nicholls; Noel Fehily
Has always looked a chaser going places and although he has a high weight there is enough class about him to give him some chance. However at 8 he is probably a year ahead of himself here and with only 7 chase runs under his belt he may be lacking. This wasn’t the plan for him earlier in the year and he seems to be here because he had a hiccup which meant he couldn’t run in the Gold Cup. While he has perfomed well twice this year there is still a suspicion he isn’t quite finishing off his races as well as others. A good jumper I can see him competing and loking dangerous for much of the race and then wilting in the home straight. Not without a chance of top 5/6.
6. QUITO DE LA ROQUE 10 11st 1lbs; Colm Murphy (IRE)
Hasnt shown much this year but has had good performances on Aintree’s regular Mildmay track in the past. A leap of faith required to fancy him here
7. COLBERT STATION 10 11st ; Ted Walsh (IRE)
One of the possible mounts for AP Mc Coy – was well fancied last year but never got involved before unseating his rider. 2lb higher mark here considering he hasn’t done much since is hardly appealing
8. WALKON 9 11st; Alan King; Wayne Hutchinson
Second to Triolo d’Alene in the Topham last year he isn’t attractively handicapped on a 5lb higher mark here. His one attempt at a National –the Scottish version ended in him being pulled up and I find little to recommend his chance here
9. BALTHAZAR KING 10 10st 13lb; Philip Hobbs; Richard Johnson
Terrific performer in Cross Country event s at Cheltenham. The fences may be similar there and he was fancied on back of that in last year’s race. The pace of this race is so different though and Balthazar was burnt out before the race began in earnest. Similar likely again – though if the ground is better than last year’s good to soft he could stick around a bit longer. A safe jumper who would be expected to complete at least
10. WAYWARD PRINCE 10 10st 13lbs; Hilary Parrott; Jack Doyle
A course winner twice on the Mildmay track, Wayward Price seems to save his best for his reappearance runs nowadays. Likely to find the pace of the race I problem I feel
11. MR MOONSHINE 10 10st 12lbs; Sue Smith; Ryan Mania
Same connections as last years winner, Auroras Encore here.Mr Moonshine comes here under a carrer highest mark. He ran well over the course to be third in December but has gone up 16lbs since. The handicapper would appear to have his measure.
12. TEAFORTHREE 10 10st 12lbs; Rebecca Curtis; Nick Schofield
Already discussed and selected as an Ante Post bet in my previous blog posting (10/1 now all gone at time of writing this) there are many positives here. His front running style may make him susceptible to a strong finisher but he could have ground most into submission by then. Running at Cheltenham Festival prior tho thsi can be a negative but I very much saw his run there as a warm up – whereas for many it is the main event and this is an afterthought. Bar a mishap I struggle to see him out of the top 4
13. ACROSS THE BAY 10 10st 11lb; Donald McCain; Henry Brooke
Has completed the course twice so must be fancied to do so again. But he likes to be up front and paid for that last year when weakening badly in the home straight to finish 14th. Would appear to need a shorter trip
14. DOUBLE SEVEN 8 10st 11lb, Martin Brassil (IRE)
The other possible mount for McCoy, his chance would appear to rest on the ground being no softer than good. If McCoy picks him the price will shorten but is handicapped high enough on what he has achieved and as an 8yo stats don’t favour his chances
15. BATTLE GROUP 9 10st 10lb; Johnny Farrelly; Brendan Powell
‘Enigmatic’ would be a polite way to describe this fella who hit a purple patch of form at this meeting 12 months ago winning twice. His record on last three runs sees two pulled ups and a refusal to highlight the risk involved in backing him. His mark is plenty high enough but if the fences are to his liking it wouldn’t be the biggest shock to see him competing – the ability is there – but strongest likelihood remains he will down tools early!
16. BUCKERS BRIDGE 8 10st 10lbs; Henry de Bromhead(IRE)
No winning form over more than 2.5 miles counts him out for me immediately
17. LION NA BEARNAI 12 10st 10lbs; Tomas Gibney (IRE); Davy Russell
A previous Irish Grand National winner – that has been a good pointer for this race before but not when they come here aged 12. Would need some cut in the ground and if it did come up soft he would be expected to stay on. Others fancied more
18. PRINCE DE BEAUCHENE 11 10st 10lbs,;Willie Mullins (IRE)
Has been Ante Post fav for this race in years past but never made it to this stage until now.I’m sure if Ruby walsh were riding some would have latched on to his chances but I’ve had the feeling before he may just not quite get this trip. Form this year also indicates a regression
19. MONBEG DUDE 9 10st 9lbs; Michael Scudamore; Paul Carberry
The Dude likes to be hald up and come late to win his races. Very tough to employ those tactics here but it can be done (Rhyme n Reason was famously last at Bechers first time in 1988 before triumphing). Paul Carberry was at his finest when using these tactics to perfection in the 2013 Welsh National. It should be noted however that his half length victim there – Teaforthree – is 13lbs better off. No course experience for the Dude but he has Zara Phillips 3 day eventing expertise in his team to prepare him for these kind of fences
20. BIG SHU 9 10st 8lbs; Peter Maher (IRE); Peter Buchanan
All of his form comes in cross country events and hunter chases. This marks him down as a good jumper but the pace of this race will be something new to him and expect him to be out of his comfort zone here
21. BURTON PORT 10 10st 8lbs; Jonjo O’Neill; Brian Harding
Hard to imagine that Burton Port is 10 – he seems to have been round a while and was competing at the top table of chasing for a couple of seasons.He would have been about top weight if he ran in this last year and has now slipped down the handicap after some poor efforts this year. His last run gave some hope that he may have found some ability again and if Jonjo O’Neill has managed to prime him back to form for the big occasion (wouldn’t be a shock!) then he is a dark horse in the race.
22. OUR FATHER 8 10st 8lbs; David Pipe
Always looked to have plenty of talent but it’s a while since we’ve seen it. Hard to fancy
23. MOUNTAINOUS 9 10st 7lbs;Richard Lee; Jamie Moore
This years Welsh National winner is a fine jumper who revels in soft ground. On anything quicker than soft he may find things happening a bit too quickly. Needs lots of rain to boost his chances
24. THE RAINBOW HUNTER 10 10st 7lbs; Kim Bailey; Aidan Coleman
Unseated rider here last year at a point that was too early to tell if he would have been involved. His caerer best win at Doncaster last time now sees him on highest ever mark of 144 and that should be his downfall – you need to come to this race having something in hand of the handicapper
25. VINTAGE STAR 8 10st 7lbs; Sue Smith; Brian Hughes
At 8, the stats are against him but this one has the look of a National horse to me – it may just be a year too early. His sire normally produces good ground performers so there is a chance that his soft ground form this year can be improved upon. Without his fall last time at Cheltenham, I would feel a bit stronger but we can be sure he has been schooled plenty on Malton’s Aintree style fences since. There are worse 40/1 shots for sure as he has had more chase experience than most 8yos in this contest
26. CHANCE DU ROY 10 10st 6lbs; Philip Hobbs; Tom O’Brien
Winner of the Becher Chase on this course before Christmas he has two ways of running at this track. In the Topham last year he was in trouble from the start. Satmina for this trip has to be an issue for me
27. HAWKES POINT 9 10st 6lbs; Paul Nicholls; Ryan Mahon
Close second in the Welsh National, he’s another who need the ground to be soft or else it may all be a bit too quick for him. Only 7 chase starts is a bit of a negative but he is 9 years old so should be strong enough for this test now. Place chances if the rain comes
28. KRUZHLININ 7 10st 6lbs; Donald McCain
Too young at 7? Has another entry on Saturday and think it’s likely that Donald MCcain would prefer him to run in that at this stage of his career
29. PINEAU DE RE 11 10st 6lbs; Dr Richard Newland; Leighton Aspell
There has been some interest in this one in Ante Post markets recently after a fine run over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival. Ran over the course in December but fell at an early stage – generally a sound jumper. Good jockey booking but races here off a career highest mark of 143 – can he really be improving at the age of 11?? Can see why he’s been backed but seems short enough now around 20/1. A suspicion that he might need more time between his races also?
30. GOLAN WAY 10 10st 5lbs; Tim Vaughan; Michael Byrne
Likes to dominate and will struggle to have things all his own way here. Readily discounted
31. TWIRLING MAGNET 8 10st 5lbs; Jonjo O’Neill
Beaten last time at Cheltenham when unseating rider. No form at this kind of mark that would prompt me to give him a chance
32. VESPER BELL 8 10st 5lbs; Willie Mullins(IRE)
One run over this course saw him get no farther than fence 1.Probably too young and not enough chase experience yet
33. THE PACKAGE 11 10st 4lb; David Pipe; Tom Scudamore
Another ‘dark’ one, The Package has always had ability but is a bit fragile having only been seen once in the last year. The ‘bounce factor’ from that Cheltenham run could be a concern . Ran in this race as a fancied 14/1 shot in 2010 (too young then?) but didn’t seem to enjoy the fences before unseating rider at the 19th
34. RAZ DE MAREE 9 10st 3lb; Dessie Hughes (IRE); Davy Condon
No encouragement in runs this year to think he is well weighted off a mark of 140
35. ROSE OF THE MOON 9 10st 3lbs; David O’Meara
Been following this one since he chased home Bobs Worth over hurdles at Cheltenham in 2011. Has looked a bit lacking in pace at a higher level since then. Didnt get competitive in the Becher Chase in December when on a mark of 135 and comes here 5 pounds worse off. Think he’ll struggle to keep up early
36. SHAKALAKABOOMBOOM 10 10st 3lbs; Nicky Henderson; David Bass
Well fancied for the race in 2012 but didn’t get home then after being prominent most of the way. 9 lbs lower mark here but he’s done nothing so far this season to show he retains the same ability
37. ALVARADO 9 10st 2lb; Fergal O’Brien; Paddy Brennan
The owners have been placed regularly in this race in recent years courtesy of Cappa Blue and State of Play. Alvarado doesn’t have quite the class of those two and seems to have two ways of running. 139 is a plenty high enough mark
38. LAST TIME D’ALBAIN 10 10st 2lb; Liam Cusack(IRE)
Placed in the Topham last year but with no winning form over more than 2.5 miles I think he should be sticking to that shorter race again
39. LOST GLORY 9 10st 2lb; Jonjo O’Neill
Pulled up after being tailed off in last two outings is not the preparation you would like to see for this! Only reason for support would be if you like the name
40. ONE IN A MILAN 9 10st 2lbs; Evan Williams
A career best when 4th in the Welsh National doesn’t put him in here as a total no hoper. Would need some heavy rain to replicate the deep ground conditions though
With only the top 40 guaranteed a place those below have to wait until Thursday’s final entry stage and hope that some above are taken out of the race to get in. For now comments on the next half dozen who stand best chance of getting in
41. GOONYELLA 7 10st 1lb; Jim Dreaper(IRE)
Being another 7 year old is a bit of a put off. Has plenty of chasing experience for his age though and on breeding it’s entirely possible that better ground may suit him here. Looks a thorough stayer
42. SWING BILL 13 10st 1lb; David Pipe
The second 13 yo in the race, Swing Bill has popped over these fences 6 times now, finishing 6th in the race last year. He’s a very unlikely winner but would be one to look at for markets to finish the race /finish in top 10 etc.
43. SOLL 9 10st; Jo Hughes; Mark Grant
My early fancy for the race – mentioned in January blog – I have backed him at 50/1 but fear his heavy ground runs since Christmas have scuppered his chances a bit here. 7th last year when it was a year too soon for me. If he does get in and manages to recapture his form I think he has a serious chance – but that’s a very big if!
44. MINELLA FOR VALUE 8 10st John Butler
Hard to make out a case here – mark is too high
45. NIGHT IN MILAN 8 10st Keith Reveley
An interesting runner right at the bottom if he manages to get in the race. Needs good ground and may well get that now. Downside is he may want to dominate from the front and there’ll be competition for that role. Nevertheless, a decent outsider despite 8 not being an ideal age
46. SAINT ARE 8 10st Tim Vaughan
9th in the race last year as a 7yo. Previously had won twice at this meeting on the Mildmay course. Form this year not encouraging though it has to be said he has never run well at Cheltenham where he pulled up last time.Looking unlikely he will get in but if he does I might have a small tickle if someone puts up a 3 figure price.
We have to assume the remaining 19 runners entered will be struggling to get into the race now
Ground will be a factor here for sure so thoughts may change as we get to race day. Soft ground looking unlikely right now but if the rain does fall there are a few resolute stayers whose chances will improve.
Employing my favourite stats I’m looking for something weighted no higher than 11st that is aged 9, 10 or 11. Previous course experience and proven stamina (either in this race or in similar well run races like the Scottish, Welsh or Irish nationals) are preferential
This gives my optimum shortlist of
TEAFORTHREE (Grand national + Welsh national form)
MONBEG DUDE (Welsh National form)
MOUNTAINOUS (Welsh national form)
HAWKES POINT (Welsh National form)
The last two named would appear to need the ground to be soft and as that doesn’t look likely right now I’ll be leaving them until more rain materializes.
Teaforthree is weighted to beat Monbeg Dude on their Welsh National run and his running style should be better suited to this race as he can maintain a handy position throughout
I have already put him up at 10/1 on a previous blog posting but 9/1 may still be available
He doesn’t quite fit the stats with his age but if the ground does continue to look like being Good or Good to Soft I can see Vintage Star performing well at big odds so a small play at 40/1 ew wouldn’t go amiss – he ran well in the Welsh National despite the ground probably being against him
1pt ew SOLL 50/1
2.5 pts ew TEAFORTHREE 10/1 (taking ¼ odds 12345 NRNB)
0.75 pts ew VINTAGE STAR 40/1 (BetVictor ¼ odds 123456!)
Thanks for reading
Good luck with whatever you back and hoping they all come back safe and well
Comments as always are most welcome
(It’s always good to read some different views so here’s a couple of respected blog sites to give some alternative opinions http://grandnational2014.blogspot.co.uk/ http://softinplacesracing.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/grand-national-2014/ )