Welcome to another blast of stats that hopefully will pinpoint the winner of this year’s big race at Aintree.
Runner, riders and all of the odds can be found here
(scroll down the page to find full list of odds and place terms from every firm)
Note that place terms may well vary with some firms paying 4 places, some 5 and some 6 or even more. I cannot stress highly enough that (unless betting win only) there is a much bigger advantage on your side the more places are available. If you are betting each way then avoid the firms only paying 4 places unless the win odds are markedly higher than others. Also be sure to take a price (rather than SP) as most will shorten up as we get closer to the race. There may be some competition to be best in the market tomorrow so best to check markets on Saturday morning – those that haven’t been put up by Pricewise (comes out at 8pm) or by the Sporting Life the night before might be have their best offers then
In common with the last 2 years I have attempted to pinpoint the main factors needed to find the winner of the big race.
In 2015, Many Clouds defied most of these (too young, carrying too much weight) but subsequently proved himself to be an exceptional winner. Sadly, this warrior gave his all in beating the new star of the NH chasing scene, Thistlecrack, earlier this year and he is no longer with us.
In 2016, the system proved much more effective highlighting the winner Rule The World (advised 50/1) and 3rd Vics Canvas (advised 80/1) as selections. A 34.5 profit such as from last year will be hard to replicate but we can but try!
The key factors I look for are weight, stamina, age and number of runs this season. 2015 was run on good ground and 2016 had softer conditions. I think it’s likely that on decent ground the weight factor becomes a bit less important – currently it’s looking that we will have fairly similar conditions this year. However, with only one horse carrying more than 11st 6lb this year (The Last Samuri), this factor won’t be dismissing too many runners at all
The factors are broken down into points as such (taken from my 2015 post)
Weight. ( W )
11 stone or less a big positive = 3pts
11st 1lb to 11st 6lb – less of chance but still not insurmountable (particularly on decent ground) = 2pts
Over 11st 6lbs = 0 pts
It may seem obvious but there was a train of thought once that 2.5 mile horses were ideal for this (largely stemming from Fred Rimell/Gay Trip victory). There is nothing to back this up nowadays.
A winner over more than 3 miles is necessary so we give 1pt for that
Not having won over at least 3 miles in hurdles or chases is such a big negative to me that it carries MINUS 1pt
Proven stamina in a competitive National like Handicap (3ml 4fur or more) =3pts
*Please note I do not consider Cheltenham’s NH Chase in that last criteria. It is over 4 miles but is for amateur riders and usually slowly run so can give a misleading stamina impression. Likewise the 3ml 7furlong Cross Country race at Cheltenham doesn’t count either as it is run at a totally different pace.
Age (and Chasing experience) (A)
9,10 or 11 is the desired age bracket to have here and gets 2pts.
Since the turn of century (and not counting Red Marauder’s heavy ground freak race) that covers all but two winners (Bindaree 8yo in 2002, Many Clouds 2015), and all but 6 winners since 1980.
Those 8yos that have prevailed did have chasing experience on their side so get 1 pt if they have had at least 10 runs over the big fences
Streetwise 12yos can also triumph occasionally but would need a previous run over the National fences to get 1pt
A 7yo hasn’t won since 1940 so that has to be a big negative and gets MINUS 1pt. There have been 33 to try in this millennium and the best was Big Fella Thanks with 6th place in 2009 (two of this years runners Vieux Lion Rouge and Cause of Causes both returning this year tried and failed at 7.
13 and 14yos don’t often run and their price would reflect that they are past their prime. No points for them but don’t be surprised with a top 10 finish as National veterans Swing Bill and Hello Bud have done in the last 3 years. And the there was Vics Canvas of course last year, who might well have won but for near catastrophe at Bechers Brook on the first circuit.
Runs This Season (R)
When you realise that none of the last 24 winners came into the race without having at least 3 runs it has to be important and so is given 2pts. A run since Christmas is also important so we’ll take off a point for any that haven’t
These I think are the key statistics for which to base a scoring system and I will apply to each horse below. A total score of 10 pts is possible for the ‘ideal stats fit’
So here is how this years runners stack up given these criteria:
|GRAND NATIONAL 2017||TOTAL PTS||WEIGHT PTS||STAMINA PTS||AGE PTS||Runs this season|
|Houblon Des Obeaux||10||3||3||2||2|
|Just A Par||10||3||3||2||2|
|Thunder and Roses||10||3||3||2||2|
|The Young Master||9||3||3||1||2|
|One For Arthur||9||3||3||1||2|
|Raz Da Maree||9||3||3||1||2|
|Bless The Wings (res)||9||3||3||1||2|
|Cause of Causes||8||3||1||2||2|
|Viva Steve (res)||8||3||1||2||2|
|The Last Samuri||7||0||3||2||2|
|More of That||7||2||1||2||2|
|Saphir Du Rheu||6||2||1||1||2|
|Roi Des Francs||6||2||1||1||2|
|Cocktails At Dawn||6||3||-1||2||2|
|Drop Out Joe||5||2||1||2||0|
|Knock House (res)||5||3||1||1||0|
|Vieux Lion Rouge||4||3||1||0||0|
***Now confirmed that all 4 reserves will not get into the race***
Now some comments for the top points scorers from this list:
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX
Venetia Williams’ charge seems to have been around for years but is still only 10. In his pomp he was rated as high as 162 and capable of holding his own in the highest class. Like many French-breds he seems to have regressed a bit earlier and is down to a mark of 149 here. Runs in the Welsh and Midlands Grand Nationals this season confirm his stamina. His best form has always come on soft ground and unlikely to get conditions here. I’m not sure his hard slog in the Midland Grand National so recently will be a great prep for this and that was also off a 5lb lower mark
Kerry Lee’s runner was very fancied for this last year but failed to make the cut. He ran in the Topham instead but got no further than the first fence. His form this season has not been so good and he has a marked preference for much softer ground than he will get here
Second in this race in 2015 (from a mark of 143) and fancied last year off 146 (was one of the blog selections) but was pulled up. The ground is the key here and the rain that came last year effectively killed his chances. The stable is in good form and the booking of Davy Russell is a positive. At the moment the ground looks to be in his favour although I’m sure connections would have wanted to see no watering taking place. It should still dry out enough by 515 to not be an inconvenience to him. Strangely for an 11yo tomorrow will see him wearing blinkers for the first time (has worn a visor before)
JUST A PAR
His record in the Whitbread Gold Cup (2nd and 1st in last two years) gives this one his stamina credentials. He hasn’t performed over this course in two previous tries although the ground could be an excuse. Should get his favoured conditions tomorrow though he had them at Musselburgh recently and was pulled up then.
ROGUE ANGEL & THUNDER AND ROSES
Mouse Morris won this with Rule The World last year and has two great stats fits running here as these two have won the last two runnings of the Irish Grand National. Mouse has few peers in getting one ready for a big race so although something for both to find on form this year we can be sure they will be primed for this. Bryan Cooper had the pick of 5 runners this year from the Gigginstown team and sided with Rogue Angel (he did pick the wrong one last year though!). Rogue Angel did have a spin over these fences in the Becher Chase before Christmas – that was down the field but probably just a sighter for this – and more importantly it didn’t push up his handicap mark
GAS LINE BOY
The Ian Williams stable is in fine form recently and that has to be a positive on this one’s side. There are some negatives to balance though. He got no further than the first fence in this contest in 2015 and has been a horse in the past who seems to need things to go his own way to be seen at his best. In a big field like this he may struggle with that. Stamina points come from a win at Haydock in 2014 where things did go his way – but there have been a few other attempts where he has struggled to get home. Although Gas Line Boy does get full points they may be misleading in this case
THE YOUNG MASTER
Being an 8 year old he may be a year too young but he’s be far more experienced than most his age as he started chasing at 5. Although ridden by an amateur in Sam Waley-Cohen that can’t be construed as a negative here. Sam is the most successful jockey riding over the National fences with 5 wins over the course on his cv and a close call with Oscar Time in this race. I’m not always convinced that the Whitbread Gold Cup which he won last year is as good a stats pointer as other distance hcaps but it was still a good performance for a relatively your horse to win as he did. Trained specifically for this race by Neil Mulholland he ran a nice trail when 5th at Cheltenham in his last run
ONE FOR ARTHUR
Representing Scotland. Another who is really a year too young but displayed some dour stamina qualities when winning at Warwick in January. He had previously ran very well over this course in the shorter Becher Chase when staying on strongly in 5th. His Warwick win has seen him rise substantially in the handicap here to a mark of 148 from 137. That puts him worse in with the 4 horses who beat him in the Becher. This longer trip will be totally in his favour but connections would probably have been happier with some rain to soften the ground
Bought by Trevor Hemmings to replace Many Clouds. Another 8yo but being French bred that might not be such a negative and again he’s quite experienced for his age. Demonstrated that stamina was his forte when winning the Scottish Grand National last season. He got good ground there and that’s a must – conditions are looking right for him again. Trained for the race and is a noticeably better horse in the Spring. The one negative would be if he is a good enough jumper. In days of yore I think he would have struggled more but the easier fences these days will help his cause. The booking of top northern jockey Brian Hughes is a bonus.
RAZ DA MAREE
At 12, this Irish challenger could be a year too old but he has some fine performances in staying chases on his cv. His second to Native River earlier this year was probably a career best but that did come on his favoured soft ground. On the likely conditions tomorrow it’s easy to see him getting too far behind as he did here in 2014 when staying on late into 8th
BLESS THE WINGS
At number 41 in the list he is first reserve and needs one to drop out to get in. Another 12yo so maybe a year too old but his second in the Irish National last season puts him into the mix. Denis O Regan has gone close in the race before on Black Apalachee. Likely to be held up and the sort to run into a place if he gets in
** Update – now confirmed that with no withdrawals Bless the Wings and the other three reserves will not get into the race ***
That covers all those with 9 pts or more
Of those with 8 I have to give particular note to CAUSE OF CAUSES. He’s a bit of an oddity in that he has US flat breeding and started off looking like a 2 mile hurdler. He tried this race as a 7yo in 2015 off a mark of 146 and finished 8th. In the last 2 seasons he was won the 4 mile NH Chase at Cheltenham and the 3ml 7furlong Cross Country Chase. As previously noted I really err on the side of caution in using those two races as stamina guides for this. If I did include either he would get 10 points. It’s also worth noting that for the 3 previous seasons after excellent performances at Cheltenham he disappointed on his following start. This may be an indication he was trained for that meeting far more – that could be the case again
I won’t go into detail on every other single runner but here’s a few notes on others that are well fancied in the betting and the negatives I have that sway me against them:
6th last year and 4th in the Becher Chase this season. That shows the fences hold no fears but he still hasn’t conclusively proven he has the stamina. His form also looks fairly exposed now and the handicapper hasn’t let him off enough to make me think that a place might be the best he can hope for
Anything ridden by Ruby Walsh has to be given a second look but his stamina for such a test is a big question mark. All his form comes on a softer surface also
THE LAST SAMURI
Fine effort to be second last year off 10st 8lbs. That effort and another fine performance over the course in the Becher Chase since have not gone unnoticed by the handicapper and the burden of 11st 10lbs is likely to prove his undoing for me. He’s a real trier but not the biggest horse to shouldering top weight in this test
MORE OF THAT
Former brilliant winner of the World Hurdle but had problems since. Still a classy individual who was 6th in the Gold Cup (worse off with Saphir Du Rheu who was one place ahead). His stamina over this trip is completely unproven but much the biggest issue with me is the fact he has only had 8 chase runs in his life and lacks the requisite chasing experience I would be looking for. He is the choice of Barry Geraghty to ride in this over Cause of Causes
Another Northern hope who is vying for favouritism. Stamina certainly not proven for me and he gave no encouragement for that before falling in the 4mile NH Chase at Cheltenham last season. Has had a largely upward curve this season except for his Haydock effort. That was much the most competitive race he faced and his jumping was put under pressure there. I have a feeling this one may prefer smaller fields and will be out of his comfort zone with 39 others in the race
SAPHIR DU RHEU
5th in the Gold Cup and so could have a fair mark from that effort. Stamina this far is unproven though and his jumping has looked suspect more than once in his career. Also at 8yo he could be a year to young
Last seasons RSA winner was outstayed by Vieux Lion Rouge at Haydock. His stamina for this is also a question on his earlier Hennessy Gold Cup effort and at 8 he may be a year too young
Has demonstrated these fences hold no fear for him when winning the Becher Chase in 2015 and second in the same race this year. He might have been unlucky then as looked the likely winner but idled on the long run in to let Vieux Lion Rouge get past. Stamina looks to be a big issue over this longer trip though and only having one run this season is a big negative also
At 7 the stats are totally against him and his stamina is totally unproven (related to Nil Desperandum who was 4th in this and a very strong stayer). He could be a National horse of the future but worrying that connections thought he sulked when fancied at Cheltenham in November. The big field here may not be ideal.
VIEUX LION ROUGE
Has been vying for favouritism since his Becher Chase win and another dour effort at Haydock. That might have confirmed his stamina but he didn’t look to get home last year. It could be the combination of age and ground were against him then but he hasn’t had the requisite 3 runs this season either. Far too many negatives for me for the price being offered
FINAL ANALYSIS and SELECTIONS:
Of the full 10 pt scorers I am particularly drawn to the Mouse Morris pair – Rogue Angel and Thunder and Roses. They are both really strong stats fits for me. The lack of experience over the course for the latter’s jockey Mark Enright is the biggest negative I cand find here.
Saint Are has to be selected as well as the ground looks to be right for him this time. If it does rain or if they water the ground too much then I would have less hope
Vicente and The Young Master have both done enough by this point of their careers to suggest that being 8 might not be such a negative for them.
Narrowly missing from the final list are Houblon De Obeaux and One For Arthur (both would become more interesting if the ground were a bit softer). Bless the Wings is another with definite place chances but at time of writing is still the first reserve and needs one to drop out to get a run.
Once again with extra places being offered I have no problem giving several selections here but taking extra places is imperative (and taking 1/4 odds rather than 1/5th)
2pts ew Rogue Angel – take 25/1 with firms offering 1/4 odds 5 places or more
1pt ew Thunder and Roses – take 33/1 with firms oofering 1/4 odds 5 places or more
1pt ew Saint Are – take 40/1 with firms offering 1/4 odds 5 places or more
1.5 pts ew The Young Master – take 20/1 with firms offering 1/4 oods 5 places or more
1.5pts ew Vicente – take 25/1 with firms offering 1/4 odds 5 places or more
Total outlay 14pts – (1 point can equal £1, £10, £20..whatever equates to budget in all cases)
Good luck to all with whatever you back (and as always lets hope all runners and riders come back safely)
One For Arthur wins for Scotland! As mentioned he was very close to being one of the selections but I thought the ground had just gone against him. Hopefully some were less dissuaded by that and stuck with him as stamina firmly won the day again. He fitted every stat needed except age where ideally he would have been a year older.
As for the actual selections, it was unfortunate to lose Vicente, The Young Master and Thunder and Roses all quite early. Rogue Angel had a great spin up front for most of the way but ultimately faded away badly in the home straight.
It was left for Saint Are to run onto into a place and rescue some returns from the recommended investment.
1pt EW at the recommended 40/1 would have returned 11pts – therefore a loss of 3pts on the day from the suggested 14pt investment.
The great news is that all 40 runners and riders returned safely from the event.