With the 5 day declarations now in for Saturday’s big race it’s time for a rundown of the likely runners.
* THURSDAY LUNCHTIME UPDATE*
48hour declarations are now in and no horses have come out of the race – This means the first 40 listed are all declared to run.
As alluded to in some of my previous posts there are certain stats that can highlight those with a better chance of prevailing. To try and pinpoint these further I’m going to give a scoring system to each runner based on each of these.
Latest odds for the big race from all of the major bookmakers can be found here:http://www.oddschecker.com/grand-national/winner
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.
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 one winner (Bindaree 8yo in 2002), and all but 5 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 29 to try in this millennium and the best was Big Fella Thanks with 6th place in 2009.
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
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’
Below are the 5 day entries and there is a final 48 hour declaration stage to come on Thursday where a few more horses may drop out. (I will amend the list if necessary then)
Horse are listed in racecard order with the highest weighted first.
LORD WINDERMERE 9yo 11st 10lbs
Trainer: Jim Culloty ; Jockey : Robbie McNamara
Score= 5 (W 0, S 1, A 2, R 2)
Top weight on basis of last year’s Gold Cup win. Even allowing for the softer ground this year he ran a lifeless race before eventually pulling up. Hardly an ideal prep and although ground should suit now the statistics are all against him now
MANY CLOUDS 8yo 11st 9lbs
Oliver Sherwood; Leighton Aspell
Score =4 (0,1,1,2)
This season’s Hennessy winner was more competitive in the Gold Cup biut like so many others was taken out of his comfort zone by Coneygree’s relentless galloping. That was such a test that I would suspect it will have finished many runners off for the season. Reading between the lines I think he’s only here because the owner likes to have a runner and doesn’t have anything else this year. I’ll be very surprised if this one can be competitive and hope he’s not given too hard a time as he remains a good prospect for next season
UNIONISTE 7yo 11st 6lbs
Paul Nicholls ; Noel Fehily
Score =4 (2,1,-1,2)
As a 7yo he has it all against him and good early season form really did nothing to help his handicap mark which is now 6lb higher than when finishing a remote 6th in the Hennessy. Preparations have to be much more low key for this race to avoid inflated marks like this so he’s not for me this year.
ROCKY CREEK 9yo 11st 3lb
Paul Nicholls ; Sam Twiston Davies
Score= 6 (2,0,2,2)
Falls behind on the stamina stat with my scoring but could arguably be higher. Looked a real stayer as a novice hurdler but in his chasing season he looked a bit of a weak finisher (most notably in this race when 5th). If he hadn’t folded up so badly in the straight he could easily have been given an extra 3 pts added and there must be plenty of hope on his latest win at Kempton that the weakness could have gone. That’s down to a breathing op and it’s worked really well with other Nicholls horses this season – notably 2 mile champion Dodging Bullets (another weak finisher who is now totally transformed).
Rocky Creek comes into this race on a mark of 154 but since that was given to him he’s now rated 163 after his Kempton win. So he’s one of a small handful who comes into the race ‘well in’.
In last years race he was the ‘wrong age’ at 8 and was the only horse to carry more than 11 stone and be in the first 10. It’s a performance that can be built on this year when more is in his favour
He should be favourite for me and despite not quite covering all the stats he should be very competitive in this race
FIRST LIEUTENANT 10yo 11st 3lbs
Mouse Morris ; Nina Carberry
Score = 7 (2,1,2,2)
I’ve long had a fondness for this one and he was my Gold Cup pick last year until being pulled out on the day of the race. A much better Spring horse and should get the decent ground he needs. Nina Carberry should have a great spin round as he’s a fine jumper normally but I’ve never seen him as a thorough stayer and 3ml 2fur is about his limit. Doesn’t quite seem the same force he was this season so far also. I’d be much happier to see him running in the shorter Topham Trophy on Friday around this course.
BALTHAZAR KING 11yo 11st 2lbs
Philip Hobbs ; Richard Johnson
Score =9 (2,3,2,2)
Hard to beat on Cheltenham’s cross country course, he ran too freely up front when not getting home in this race 2 years ago. Ridden with a bit more restraint he finished a good second last year and warrants his place close to the head of the market on that. Hasn’t run since November but usually performs well fresh so that shouldn’t be too much of a negative. A 3lb higher mark than last year won’t help things though but he remains a contender for a placing
SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR 8yo 11st 2lbs
Jonjo O’Neill ; AP McCoy
The favourite – but let’s face it he only is so because it’s the jockeys final ride in the race. A win in the Irish National and has proven stamina from that. Here endeth the positives though and he really should be at least double his current odds of around 7/1. He’s too young, doesn’t have enough chasing experience and an interrupted preparation this year all weigh his score down.Public support could see him shorten up further still come the day but favourites haven’t got the record you might expect with only 6 winning since 1970.
PINEAU DE RE 12yo 11st
Dr Richard Newland; Daryl Jacob
Last year’s impressive winner has now gone over the ideal age threshold and is on an 8lb higher mark. His preparation coming in hasn’t given the impression that he’s quite as good but his trainer is never one to underestimate. Faces an uphill task nonetheless to repeat the same performance
Here he is in his finest hour last year to get the juices flowing!
BALLYCASEY 8yo 10st 13lbs
Willie Mullins; Ruby Walsh
Apart from the fact he may be Ruby Walsh’s mount I can’t think of a less appealing contender for such a race. Doesn’t appear to get home over 3 miles and has been tried at shorter trips this season. What is he doing running here?
SPRING HEELED 8yo 10st 12lbs
Jim Culloty; Nick Schofield
Score =5 (3,1,1,0)
Touted by many as an Ante Post pick earlier this year he comes into the category of ‘doubtful stayer’ to me. I put him up as a bet at last year’s Cheltenham Festival when he obliged at a big price. That was mainly because he looked like a non stayer to me earlier in the season over 3ml 4fur and I thought the shorter trip was made for him. Whilst that thought remains in my mind I have to pass him over for this race.
REBEL REBELLION 10yo 10st 12lbs
Paul Nicholls; Ryan Mahon
Score= 6 (3,-1,2,2)
In great form this season and hhas winning form on this course – but everything is at much shorter trips and stamina is a massive concern. His upturn in form this season also seems linked to the partnership formed with young claimer Jack Sherwood. He isn’t experienced enough to ride him here so that’s also a negative for his chances. Another who should be in the Topham on Friday instead
DOLATULO 8yo 10st 11lbs
Warren Greatrex; Dougie Costello
On a 9lb higher mark than he has ever won off before and stamina for this trip is a big question mark. The handicapper has ruined what chance he did one have for me – and it wasn’t that high anyway
MON PARRAIN 9yo 10st 11lbs
Paul Nicholls; Sean Bowen
Looked an Aintree star of the future when jumping around this course for fun before eventually finishing 2nd in the 2011 Topham. He’s been a bit of a disappointment since and didn’t show too much on this course before Christmas. A win at Cheltenham since when 25/1 showed he still retains some ability but the handicapper has raised him back to a mark of 148 (highest winning mark 142) on the back of it.
CARLITO BRIGANTE 9yo 10st 10lbs NON RUNNER
Karen McLintock; Brian Harding
A once highly useful hurdler for Gordon Elliott, he’s hit some revival in form with a new trainer this season. While he should get the decent ground he needs he’s back to a very high mark of 147 and was comfortably beaten of that last time out.
NIGHT IN MILAN 9yo 10st 9lbs
Keith Reveley; James Reveley
Score 8 (3,1,2,2)
A bold jumping front runner who could be suited by the challenges of this course. His last win however was of a mark of 136 and he has 146 here. His only two efforts off such a rating have seen him beaten (though not totally disgraced). Some stamina to prove at this grade, particularly given his running style
RUBI LIGHT 10yo 10st 9lbs
Robert Alan Hennessy; Andrew Lynch
Irish raider who was once competing at the highest class at around 2.5 miles. Isn’t quite the force he was but there is absolutely no reason to assume he has suddenly found new stamina reserves. He doesn’t really stay 3 miles and so has very little chance here for me
THE DRUIDS NEPHEW 8yo 10st 9lbs
Neil Mulholland; Aidan Coleman
Score= 7 (3,1,1,2)
Another who comes here ‘well in’ – 10 lbs in his case after a runaway win at the Cheltenham Festival. His rider there, Barry Geraghty is now injured and Aidan Coleman should be a more than capable substitute.
Stamina is a bit of an enigma as he seemed to get 3.5 miles ok at Cheltenham earlier this season but then capitulated quite quickly in the Hennessy over 3ml 2fur.
There are also a few doubts about his low jumping style for these fences but my principal concern would be that he was trained to win at Cheltenham and the National is a bit of an afterthought.
CAUSE OF CAUSES 7yo 10st 9lbs
Gordon Elliott; Paul Carberry
Score= 5 (3,1,-1,2)
As previously stated I don’t count his win over 4 miles at Cheltenham as sufficient proof he has the stamina for this race. It was slowly run and the final sprint would have suited a horse who really a 2 miler over hurdles.
Expect to see him racing at the back of the field on the first circuit but as he’s only 7 I have to pass him by
GODSMEJUDGE 9yo 10st 8lbs
Alan King; Wayne Hutchinson
My early ante post pick and comes out perfectly on a stats front. His preparation was all looking good until a fairly horrendous last run over hurdles at Bangor.
Alan King issued an upbeat statement afterwards saying the horse was fine and simply didn’t like going hurdling.
It’s not ideal though to see a run like this only 3 weeks before the big one and I’m more hopeful than confident on his chances now
AL CO 10yo 10st 8lbs
Peter Bowen; Denis O’Regan
Score 10 (3,3,2,2)
Another who comes out perfectly on the stats, last season’s Scottish National hero ran really well in the same race that Godsmejudge was so disappointing in at Bangor.
Regular rider Jamie Moore is injured so we wait to see who replaces him.
Didn’t impress over these fences before Christmas but I doubt he was expected to do much in that race and it has managed to get his mark down a couple of pounds. Trainer Peter Bowen knows how to get one ready for these fences – Mc Kelvey was a good 2nd in the race and Always Waining and Dunnbrody Millar excelled for him in the Topham in recent years.
The one real concern comes with the trainers quote after his Ayr success : ‘Jamie (Moore) always had him on the outside because he loves to have plenty of daylight. I thought he got to the front a bit soon, but it worked out fine‘. – Peter Bowen, trainer.
He was ridden similarly wide at Bangor and if he does need all of that space he is on the wrong course here. He will lose valuable lengths and the Canal Turn could be a disaster
MONBEG DUDE 10yo 10st 7lbs
Michael Scudamore; Liam Treadwell
Score 10 (3,3,2,2)
My other Ante Post pick had some doubts expressed about his wellbeing at Cheltenham. Connections obviously expected a better showing there but I thought he ran ok on ground that had firmed up a bit too much for him.
A perfect score on Stats with a previous win in the Welsh Grand National on his CV.
Ran well here last year despite being a bit too fresh. I would have preferred Paul Carberry to be on board again so it’s disappointing to have a jockey on board who won’t know him as well (he needs to be held up and delivered with a late run). Liam Treadwell gets the call and at least he has the Grand National T shirt having won on board Mon Mome in 2009
CORRIN WOOD 8yo 10st 7lbs
Donald McCain; David Casey
Fair novice last season with some bold jumping front running displays. Was found out when upped in grade and yet to recover similar form levels since. Probably not experienced enough for this kind of test yet in his career.
THE RAINBOW HUNTER 11yo 10st 7lbs
Kim Bailey; David Bass
Two appearances in this race have seen him unseat rider on both occasions. An outsider who has had far from an ideal preparation and something to prove on stamina.
SAINT ARE 9yo 10st 6lbs
Tom George; Paddy Brennan
Never seen with a chance when running in this race as a 7yo in 2013. Previously had a good record around Aintree’s Mildmay course. Perhaps starting to rediscover his best form at 9 and with a change of trainer but he’s been raised a massive 16lbs in the ratings since finishing 3rd behind Oscar Time on this course in December. Some harsh handicapping there may have sealed his fate
ACROSS THE BAY 11yo 10st 6lbs
Donald McCain; Henry Brooke
An interesting contender who has led the field at at Water Jump for the last two seasons only to be hampered by a loose horse on both occasions. Last year was particularly costly as he went from clear leader to clear last place in just a few strides. He still did well to get to the coat tails of the principals at the Canal Turn but had used up too much petrol by then.
His stamina side scores high by virtue of a 3ml 4fur win at haydock in heavy ground but he didn’t get home in the National two years ago when leading until the home turn (so it is a slightly questionable 3 pts)
If he can be ridden with a bit more restraint (as when winning at Haydock) he could be an outsider who will outrun his odds. He did show he was coming back to form before being brought down at Cheltenham last time.
Trainer Donald McCain had had a poor season by his standards but there can’t be any around with a better heritage in this race
TRANQUIL SEA 13yo 10st 5lbs
Warren Greatrex; Gavin Sheehan
Once a classy performer when trained in Ireland he looks to be a downward curve now and has definite stamina limitations. Just likely to be here to give the owners a runner I suspect.
OSCAR TIME 14yo 10st 5lbs
Robert Waley-Cohen; Sam Waley-Cohen
A National veteran having been placed twice in this race and in an Irish National. Showed he wasn’t finished yet when winning the Becher Chase as a 13yo.
You won’t see many 14yos running in this race (2 in last 10 years) and his age should negate his chances of winning.
He does have a rider who has an excellent record in this race however and don’t rule out a top 10 finish
BOB FORD 8yo 10st 4lbs
Rebecca Curtis; Paul Townend
You won’t see a race won on much worse ground than the West Wales National at Ffos Las this season. Bob Ford won that farce of a race and so prompted the handicapper to raise him a bundle so he could get into this race.
He won’t find such ground here and on all other form he is now out of his depth on this mark
SUPER DUTY 8yo 10st 4lbs
Ian Williams; Will Kennedy
Looked useful as a novice chaser when trained by Donald McCain but was then sidelined for over a year. Stamina unproven and not enough to suggest he retains the same ability since his return yet.
WYCK HILL 11yo 10st 4lbs
David Bridgwater; Tom Cannon
Score= 8 (3,3,2,0)
Stamina is no issue here – in fact he’s likely to be just too slow on decent ground to keep up with the others! Preparation not ideal with only 2 runs and a fall in his last race. Easily discounted.
GAS LINE BOY 9yo 10st 4lb
Philip Hobbs; James Best
A maximum score here but that’s based on performances off much lower handicap marks than he has here. Owned by the Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club, both Mick and the trainer have said that he’s a horse who needs ‘everything to go his way ‘in a race. Unlikely he’ll get that here.
CHANCE DU ROY 11yo 10st 4lbs
Philip Hobbs; Tom O’Brien
Boasts a great record over these fences in 6 attempts. His performance in the 2013 Topham was lack lustre and he fell another time but the other 4 mark him as horse who thrives here
Unfortunately it’s mostly over shorter trips and on his one attempt at this race last year he patently didn’t stay close home. He still managed 5th and could achieve a similar placing again whilst the ground isn’t too soft. An unlikely winner but one to watch out for with top 10 betting
PORTRAIT KING 10yo 10st 3lbs
M Phelan; Davy Condon
Another with a top score that may flatter him. His stamina points come from his Eider Chase win in 2012 and his form recently doesn’t match up to his 140 rating. Appears out of his depth at this level.
OWEGA STAR 8yo 10st 3lbs
Peter Fahey ; Robbie Power
Little to recommend with this Irish challenger. Too young and not enough chasing experience plus a stamina issue make him a rank outsider.
RIVER CHOICE 12yo 10st 3lbs
R Chotard; David Cottin
Owner Fergus Wilson has a history of sending no hopers to big races. This 12yo has all of his form in France – largely on heavy ground and over shorter trips. There’s nothing to suggest to me that he is a serious contender
COURT BY SURPRISE 10yo 10st 3lbs
Emma Lavelle; Richie McLernon
We have to assume this one has had a setback as not been seen since early November despite an obvious preference for decent ground. Had a progressive profile until then and although not proven over marathon trips there was enough to suggest they could suit
ALVARADO 10yo 10st 3lbs
Fergal O’Brien; Paul Moloney
The owners and jockey have a magnificent record of placed horses in recent years and Alvarado continued that trend with 4th last year. He was going as well as anything with 6 to jump but then seemed to get outpaced at a crucial stage before his stamina kicked in to secure a place close home.
His preparation with only one run isn’t ideal this time round and getting outpaced again is a worry.
I could see a similar run again this year and a placing isn’t out of the question again – but perhaps lacking the tactical speed to win the race on decent ground
SOLL 10yo 10st 2lbs
David Pipe; Tom Scudamore
Soll was my ante post pick for the race last year when trained by Jo Hughes. That was based on a promising run in this race in 2013 when I considered him too young ( a bad mistake at the Chair not helping his cause before fading close home to finish 7th).
Everything went wrong with his preparation last year and he ended up running in the Topham instead over much too short a trip
This season he’s been moved to David Pipe and has rediscovered his potential (the trainer attributing this to blinkers and a tongue strap being fitted). As a result of his two recent wins he’s another who comes into this race as ‘well in’ – to the tune of 7lbs.
He’s likely to be the biggest horse in the field by some way but that didn’t stop another ‘giant’ Party Politics winning this race. Such big horses normally take longer to reach their peak so he could be close to that now at 10 years old.
The negative here is a stamina query, Whilst he races like a stayer he hasn’t got home in real marathon tests like the National before – but that was with a different trainer and I wouldn’t put it past team Pipe to bring on some more mettle in that department.
ELY BROWN 10yo 10st 2lbs
Charlie Longsdon; Brian Hughes
For a 10yo he has very little chasing experience and with just one run this season resulting in being pulled up, he has a poor preparation for this race. Hard to give any chance.
ROYALE KNIGHT 9yo 10st 2lbs
Dr Richard Newland; Brendan Powell
A second string to last year’s winning trainer’s bow – and another top score. Royale Knight seems all about stamina but his form is all at a much lower level than this. He’s been kept away from chases since winning easily off a mark of 124 which saw him raised a massive 15lbs to his mark here of 139. The question is whether he’s improving enough to cope with that. Good ground seems to suit
41. BAILEYS CONCERTO 9yo 10st 2lbs (first reserve)
The handicapper seems to have this one’s measure now and there is a big stamina question mark.
DUKE OF LUCCA 10yo 10st 2lbs (2nd reserve)
A winner on the Mildmay course at this meeting last year, he hasn’t shown too much sparkle so far this term. Nothing to suggest this sort of trip is what he needs.
43. Raz Da Maree ( achance on very soft ground) and 44. The Package are the last two reserves but it must be highly unlikely that enough runners will now drop out for them to get into the race
A resume of the top scorers:
ACROSS THE BAY
GAS LINE BOY
PINEAU DE RE
I would tend to think that this list as above comprises the likeliest winner and we can trim this down further with the removal of three horses who I think have inflated stats and are out of their depth in this race: Gas Line Boy, Portrait King, Bob Ford
I will also include two horses whose lower scores are because of low stamina points that I believe have the potential to be improved on this year SOLL and ROCKY CREEK
This leaves a final shortlist of
GODSMEJUDGE, AL CO,MONBEG DUDE, ACROSS THE BAY , ROYALE KNIGHT, PINEAU DE RE, BALTHAZAR KING, SOLL, ROCKY CREEK
I’ve already advised Godsmejudge and Monbeg Dude as Ante Post bets* and see no reason to add any more to either of them now.
With bookmakers increasingly opening up their shop window as the big race approaches we should see increased place terms coming to the fore – http://www.betvictor.com are already leading the way with ¼ odds 123456.. others could follow their example yet.There could well be more value to be had on Friday than there is now so I’ll hold fire to add other bets until then when the ground situation should be far clearer
This blog will be updated during the week as further news about the big race emerges. Daily previews for the other races will also appear each evening
For now, thanks for reading and enjoy the week ahead
(as always comments are most welcome on the site)
*Previous Ante Post recommendations:
1pt ew Godsmejudge 28/1 (1/4 1234)
0.5 pts ew Godsmejudge 25/1 (1/4 12345)
1pt ew Monbeg Dude 33/1 (1/4 12345)