Welcome to my annual posting where I try to break through some previous statistics and throw in a bit of form analysis. The end aim is to try to find the winner of National Hunt racing’s premier event.
This season has been uncommonly damp. As with the Cheltenham Festival, the ground is much softer at Aintree than the norm.
The last soft ground National in 2016 proved very successful for this blog with a 34.5 pt profit (Rule The World 1st and Vics Canvas 3rd both recommended). Hopefully the wetter ground shows the blog in a good light again. When the ground wasn’t so soft last year,the winner One For Arthur came out well on the stats but was marginally edged out of my selections – Saint Are recommended then came out best in 3rd.
With the ground being so soft I would expect a low weight and proven stamina to be the overriding factors again in making selections
The runners and odds from various bookmakers can be found here
As per last year I must point out the following when going through these:
Note that place terms may well vary with some firms paying 4 places, some 5 and some 6 or even more. During the last year some firms have even offered 1st 8 for some top handicaps so don’t be surprised to see that…it’s gold dust if you can get paid out for first 8 and get a good win price into the bargain! 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
Copied from previous posts the main factors are broken down into points as such
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 then there was Vics Canvas of course in 2016, 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 therefore possible for the ‘ideal stats fit’
Here’s how the runners in this year’s renewal come out applying these factors:
|GRAND NATIONAL 2017||TOTAL PTS||WEIGHT PTS||STAMINA PTS||AGE PTS||Runs this season||additional comments|
|Chase The Spud||10||3||3||2||2||pulled up last 2 runs|
|Houblon Des Obeaux||10||3||3||2||2||regressing as he gets older?|
|Milansbar||10||3||3||2||2||needs to get into a rhythm|
|Thunder and Roses||10||3||3||2||2||fell on last 2 runs and didn’t finish last year|
|I Just Know||9||3||3||1||2|
|Vieux Lion Rouge||8||3||1||2||2||stamina?|
|Raz Da Maree||8||3||3||0||2||needs heavy ground!|
|Bless The Wings||8||3||3||0||2|
|The Last Samuri||7||0||3||2||2||first time tongue tie|
|Total Recall||7||2||1||2||2||fell last time|
|Warriors Tale||7||3||0||2||2||needs decent ground?|
|Gas Line Boy||7||3||1||1||2||stamina?|
|Saint Are||7||3||3||1||0||needs decent ground?|
|Virgilio||7||3||1||2||1||wind op since last run|
|Baie Des Iles||7||3||3||-1||2||age?|
|Road to Riches||7||3||0||2||2|
|Pleasant Company||6||3||1||2||0||stamina? (going well until mistake last year)|
|Walk in the Mill||6||3||0||1||2|
|Blaklion||5||0||1||2||2||stamina? wind op since last run|
|Alpha Des Obeaux||5||2||0||1||2||prefers decent ground|
|Pendra||5||3||0||2||0||wind op since last run|
|Lord Windermere||4||3||1||1||-1||stamina? Fell last run|
|GRAND NATIONAL 2018|
Some notes now on the main points scorers and a few other notable runners:
The 4 top point scorers here are all big priced contenders
CHASE THE SPUD
‘The Spud’ represents the popular Fergal O’Brien stable and would be a big contender here if his chances were based solely on his Midlands Grand National win last season and his seasonal debut at Haydock this year. This proved his stamina in soft ground. It is what has happened since that it concerning with him being pulled up twice. It’s possible he didn’t like Chepstow when doing that in the Welsh National (hadn’t run well there before). However he then pulled up again in conditions that should have suited him ideally at Newcastle
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX
10th last year and never seen with a chance but the ground would have been too lively for him then. The softer ground should see him in a better light and I can see him improving on that. In common with many French breds he does seem to be regressing at the age of 11 (wasn’t far off Gold Cup class earlier in his career) but that is mitigated now with a lower handicap mark. He has plenty of form in National type races and is well in with Chase The Spud on Midlands National form last year. Trainer Venetia Williams won this with 100/1 shot Mon Mome in 2009. That one was 10th the previous year. Could lightning strike twice?
The mount of Bryony Frost is another with strong form in National type races. His best effort came in one such race at Warwick earlier this year. Bryony was able to claim 3 lbs then but can’t this time. However she seemed to get on really well with him that day and got him in a perfect rhythm early. That seems to be the key to this horse – his two disappointing efforts in the Welsh National coincided with him getting out of position early and always on the backfoot. If his very able rider can get in a good position and relaxed with his jumping he’s a notable contender here
THUNDER AND ROSES
We have been here before. Thunder and Roses also scored top marks last year but got no further than the 9th fence when badly hampered by another faller. I have to wonder what impact that had on him and he’s also fallen in his last two starts. He is a former Irish National winner but his form this season gives much less confidence in his chance than this time last year
I JUST KNOW
Just below top points is Sue Smith’s runner who just falls short on the age category. He qualifies on stamina from a win in Catterick’s North Yorkshire Grand National. He won that well but it wasn’t the strongest field and he has paid by having his mark raised a massive 14 lbs here.
Of the 8 point scorers REGAL ENCORE is most interesting. He finished 8th her last year when given a quiet ride out back (running alongside eventual winner One For Arthur for the first circuit). That wasn’t quite enough to convince me as yet that he qualifies on stamina as he could have just been passing tired horses who raced more prominently (would have been 10pts but for that). He’s long had ability but been a bit disappointing and a little quirky. He does seem to go well for Richie McLernon though and it would be no surprise to see him involved.
Interestingly, Regal Encore was once beaten at 1/4 by 66/1 shot SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT over hurdles and they haven’t met since then. The latter subsequently proved a classy animal and a third in the Scottish National in 2016 augurs well. What isn’t on his side is a troubled preparation this year. He’s had only one run which isn’t normally good for this race and he’ll need to come on considerably from that form. He likes to race prominently
VIEUX LION ROUGE has been here twice before and looked to fail on stamina both times. He was better fancied for both of those efforts and his form this year isn’t the same standard
RAZ DA MAREE and BLESS THE WINGS both fall short on the age statistic but I wouldn’t count that too much against them on deep ground. ‘Raz’ can’t have the ground soft enough and if anything wants more rain to hit the course and the trip to be five miles. His problem is he is likely to get well behind early on but if the ground is really soft they could come back to him.
Age also falls against 7yo BAIE DES ILES at the opposite end of the spectrum. A 7yo can’t possibly win this race everyone cries (including me normally).. but let’s hang on here as this is no ordinary 7yo. French breds can reach maturity much earlier then UK and Irish bred horses and she was already chasing at the age of 3! She’s already won a Grand National trial and ran very well in both the Welsh and Irish Nationals when only 5. I’m very much reminded of Paul Nicholl’s mare L’Aventure when assesssing her. That one was unlucky to win the Welsh National in her 5th year and then made up for that when 6. Furthermore, one of the most impressive performances over the National fences in recent years came from another French 6yo mare, Ma Filleule, who won the Topham Trophy in 2014. In my mind, Baie Des Iles already has the maturity of a 9yo and that would make her a full 10 point scorer.
Katy Walsh (3rd on Seabass in 2012) takes the ride as per usual on this almost white mare. She is trained by her husband, Ross O’Sullivan but it would be a surprise if father Ted and brother Ruby haven’t had their say in her preparation for the big race
There are some big priced contenders that do fall flat on the scores here
ANIBALE FLY is undoubtedly on an attractive mark compared to his Gold Cup third but the weight he has to carry and lack of form in similar races are against him. I’d also have a slight concern how much that Gold Cup run on deep ground could have taken out of him.
BLAKLION came to win this race last year but stamina then hit. Under a bigger weight and in softer ground he’ll need something special from his recent wind operation to get home here I think
THE LAST SAMURI was second two years ago and has paid for that with high handicap marks since. He got too excitable in overly long preliminaries last year which trainer Kim Bailey blamed for a lack-lustre 10th. He’s a solid horse generally but the rain is against him….on better ground I think he would have been a solid bet to finish in the frame. He is wearing a first time tongue tie tomorrow
TIGER ROLL‘s form at 4 miles comes from the two races I don’t count as genuine trials for this. He’s a very enigmatic type who seems to save his best for Cheltenham now. He disappointed in the Irish National last season after winning at the Festival. For that reason, I find his price plenty short enough to follow up another Cheltenham Festival win this year
Gordon Eliott seemed worried about the ground for him when interviewed on Racing UK today. He was more upbeat about stablemate UCELLO CONTI but that one has a stamina question mark for me on his run in 2016 (unseated rider when still going well at Bechers second time round last year – too far out for stamina issues to play a factor then)
I must also mention old friend SAINT ARE who made a valiant attempt last year. He’s slipped off the age scores now at 12 but much more importantly soft ground is not his cup of tea and his form this season has been poor
So its down to the shortlist and this year I come down to these from my scores
CHASE THE SPUD
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX
THUNDER AND ROSES
I JUST KNOW
RAZ DA MAREE
BAIE DES ILES
I have to take out Thunder and Roses from these due to his recent efforts and also discount I Just Know as think he is too badly handicapped
This leaves us with six possibles. I cant get too gung-ho about Chase The Spud’s chances on his two most recent runs but because he does have some proven attributes I will have a small win only interest.
Raz Da Maree and Houblon Des Obeaux are both types who I can’t really see winning but can see getting placed. I would be looking at them with firms who pay out more than 6 places (if any exist) and if anyone offers Top 10 finish prices
Regal Encore is another excluded from larger bets due to his stamina question mark but I will still be getting involved for smaller stakes
Therefore my main two fancies at this stage are MILANSBAR and BAIE DES ILES who will both operate in the conditions and have proven stamina. Neither have raced over these Aintree fences before but both are very experienced. Both are ridden are women and the latter is a grey. Statistics may point against both those facts but the two jockeys here are a class above many other women who have ridden here…and any trends about grey horses are totally insignificant for me. The one disappointment is the price on Baie Des Iles. She was 50/1 a week ago but she’s been gambled all week as her chance became more apparent…that price has long gone now
I’ll add some bet recommendations this evening when overnight prices and place terms become revised.
…and the final recommendations when seeing tonight odds are:
2pts ew Baie Des Iles 18/1 currently with Corals paying 1/4 odds 12345
1pt ew Milansbar 33/1 currently with Corals, Ladbrokes, William Hill all paying 1/4 12345
I was hoping to see extra places added to place an each way bet on Houblon Des Obeaux but nothing that stand out this evening. He remains interesting for top 8 market on Betfair exchange along with Raz Da Maree.
There isn’t quite the same place terms offer out there as have seen for previous years – much more of 1/5th odds rather than 1/4 which makes the use of picking out 5 or 6 horses this year a little less attractive. This is slightly surprising given that its currently 14/1 the field on Betfair exchange right now indicating this is one of the most open Grand Nationals for years. Getting at least 5 places remains a must as it is so competitive.
If any firm does a special price on a woman rider winning the Grand National it may also be of interest as that covers the two recommendations (plus Alpha Des Obeaux thrown in)
thanks for reading and best of luck to all