Tag Archives: Grand National

Grand National Day Selections

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5.15 Aintree: Grand National Chase

The yearly lottery of finding the winner in the Grand National is nearly upon us once more. Twelve months ago I day-dreamed for a few moments…. here it is, finally I break the duck as Blacklion travelles like from another planet….

It wasn’t to be, as we all know. Will it be today? Possibly. One more time I put my trust in the Twiston-Davies runner. Much closer to top weight today, 9lb higher in his rating in fact – it looks a tough ask on paper.

However, connections had this day in mind ever since he faded into 4th twelve months ago. That day, when he travelled like the winner, he also pulled himself to the front way too soon. He made too much too early and that cost him dearly in the end. That’s my assessment, at least.

Same can happen today. Though, Sam Twiston-Davies may have learned from that day. The additional weight, mainly received for his emphatic win in the Beacher Handicap Chase here in December, is probably fair overall.

Fact is, Blacklion enjoys this course, he has top form in tough going conditions, had a wind OP since his last run, and according to connections as perfect a preparation as you there ever was. Today is D-Day!

Nonetheless, as much confidence I have in Blacklion, this is the National after all, hence you can never have too much confidence in any runner. Luck plays its part. That says, course form is something noteworthy, and as such it would be foolish to rule out The Last Samuri.

He absolutely loves the National fences and was runner-up in the 2016 National. A good deal higher in the weights today, he hardly appears well handicapped.

Regardless, with ground to suit, first time tongue-time potentially a help, and a fine prep run in the Cross-Country at the Festival (as much as Cheltenham can ever be regarded a ‘prep’), The Lat Samuri should be thereabouts.

Slightly more speculative is my final selection: Final Nudge. From the bottom of the weights, he is an interesting runner. He clearly stays and loves the mud as proven in the Walsh National.

On paper he was slightly disappointing in anything he did afterwards, though, personally I think his Kim Muir performance was better than the bare form suggests. He needs a good round of jumping, which can be an issue for him. Still, he looks one of the more intriguing runners, and at 50’s I take a punt.

Selections:
6.5pts win – Blacklion @ 17/1 Matchbook
2pts win – The Last Samuri @ 31/1 Matchbook
1.5pts win – Final Nudge @ 49/1 Matchbook

………

9.00 Wolverhampton: Class 5 Handicap, 6f

Logi hasn’t been firing for his new yard in two starts, however, dropping below a rating off 70 for the first time in his career, with a fine 5lb claimer in the saddle, he looks ready for a big run.

The four year old was unlucky not to win three starts back over course and distance in a similar race, so has proven he is well home on this surface and this class in and around his current rating.

He finds himself in this race today on much better terms and only the wider than ideal draw is a slight concern.

Selection:
10pts win – Logi @ 7/1 Matchbook

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Betting Preview: 2018 Irish Grand National

Katie Walsh and Thunder And Roses, winner of the Irish Grand National

Irish Grand National day – a dire day weather wise, if I have a look out of the window. Heavy ground at Fairyhouse – this will be some tough slug! You got to enjoy this type of deep ground and staying is the name of the game.

So, is it smart to be sweet on two horses that do have to prove they can last the National distance? Remains to be seen. Nonetheless, I do fancy Bellshill quite a bit. He would have been interesting for Aintree as well, however, Willie Mullins decided, despite an 8lb penalty for his last win, it’s going to be home sweet home.

Bellshill won the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase in February, bypassing Cheltenham for a crack at the Irish National subsequently. Up for debate how much this form is worth. Still, he looked like the trip is certainly no issue and further to that he enhanced his fine record on deep ground.

Off 158 effectively today, I feel this mark could still treat Bellshill lightly. He’s a class act – let’s not forget he finished a good third in the RSA behind Might Bite twelve months ago!

From the bigger prices I also quite like the look of top weight Outlander. Off 11st 10lb it’ll be an almighty uphill task, no doubt, and you have to get back quite a bit in history to find a winner off top weight.

The fact that Outlander was pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup isn’t ideal. On the other hand his runner-up performance in the Irish Gold Cup sets quite a high standard and says he is still worth every pound of his rating.

It is also fair to say Outlander is a different horse at home soil. He’s also enjoying deep ground, though, his stamina, albeit winning form over three miles, will be tested to the limit today.

I quite like the fact that an excellent 7lb claimer is booked, who will take off valuable pounds. Rob James is one of the leading riders on the Irish Point-to-Point scene, so that looks a significant jockey booking.

Selections:
7pts win – Bellshill @ 11/1 VC
3pts win – Outlander @ 40/1 VC

Preview: Irish Grand National

Last week we enjoyed a spectacular English Grand National at Aintree. This Easter Monday now all eyes will be on the Irish equivalent which is no less a cracking race to witness!

One of the biggest differences is that unlike the Aintree version, the Irish Grand National has been won by a female jockey – it’s the very same one who came closest to win the English National on Seabass in 2012 when finishing third.

Seabass has sadly passed away last week – may he rest in piece – but Katie Walsh has a ride here – however not on her 2015 winner Thunder And Roses but on the six year old Baie Des Iles. Can she do it again? Well, the odds are against here an it looks a difficult task for this young horse, indeed.

The champs of the last two years will find life difficult too. Thunder And Roses for one hasn’t got his head in front since landing the race in 2015 (and winning me a huge pot!). He was pulled up at Aintree, so was Rogue Angel, who got up in a thriller twelve months ago.

No worries for Gigginstown, though, as the powerful operation has another twelve runners in the race to land them the big prize for a third consecutive year!

That says none of them is particularly well fancied, with Cheltenham winner Tiger Roll  the best of the lot seemingly. However the seven year old has to carry a penalty and is a sketchy jumper who may find this test probably beyond him.

Another seven year old owns the position of red hot favourite. Our Duke, a fairly short 6/1 chance with most firms, comes here with a huge reputation on his handicap debut, after winning two of his three career starts over fences, including a Grade 1 in Novice company.

The only time he did not win, he finished a very gallant runner-up behind Disko at the Christmas Festival – form that looks incredibly strong.

Now, though, he has to bring his credentials to this much more demanding test, against seasoned, experienced animals and in a field as big as he’s ever encountered. Our Duke is a talented horse, but to back him at this short price with all these things in mind? I’d rather not.

The two that I like allot: current second favourite Fletchers Flyer and Gorden Elliott’s Noble Endevour.

Harry Fry hasn’t made a secret of the fact that this race has been the long term plan for Fletchers Flyer ever since he won a big Handicap Chase at the Punchestown Festival last year. He obviously handles this type of fast ground, goes well on a right handed track that is to some extend similar to Fairyhouse and he jumps well in a big field.

This still quite lightly raced chaser has seen a racecourse only twice this season. His comeback run is one to put a line through, however a third place in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February is a fine piece of form.

He should come here in tip top shape, certainly fresher than most and could easily find a bit of improvement in these conditions which means his mark of 145 could undervalue his real talent.

Noble Endevour is a bit more experienced and very much race hardened. He looked superb when landing the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and he followed up with another huge performance at the Cheltenham Festival when third behind Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

You always wonder how much energy that must have cost but he had only four starts this season so may well have still something left in the tank. Second highest weight in the race isn’t an easy feast but he should love these conditions as he clearly excels in big fields, his jumping is big and bold, he travelles strongly and the only slight question mark, other than fitness, is maybe the fast ground.

He has shown to handle it in the past, though his very best form comes on slow ground. Given that he usually travelles so strongly through his races I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Selections:
5pts win – Fletchers Flyer @ 11/1 Betfair SB
5pts win – Noble Endeveaur @ 16/1 Bet365

……

6.00 Redcar: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

Of course with three year old’s early in the season you can’t be quite sure how the race pans out pace wise, also some go with first headgear to post, suggesting there might be change of tactics for some.

However if you only read through the racing comments for most horses in this field you’ll find only very few did ever race close the pace, let alone lead a field. The majority is held up in rear, dwelt, was slowly away and therefore naturally behind, or at most tracking the race from a midfield position.

I feel this might give a horse a chance that forces the matter. Obvious candidate is top weight Chickenfortea, who has decent form in the book too. However of a revised mark he looks vulnerable to an improver.

This one could be Kevin Ryan’s Backinanger. This las has been up with the pace in his last two starts on the All-Weather where he ran with credit. He was incredibly keen when last seen at Newcastle and couldn’t sustain his effort, though the third place looks good form taking all of that into consideration, even more so as the winner backed up the form subsequently.

Backinanger is still winless, but he makes his turf handicap debut here with fast conditions sure to suit. Interestingly connections opted for fitting cheek-pieces for the first time, something that could help him to focus, be sharp in the finish and be easier to handle in general.

He also hails from a decent family, he also was a late foal which explains why he looked still pretty raw in most of his races up to date. It is therefore fair to assume that he could still improve a bit. A low mark of 57 gives him a good chance here.

Selection:
10 pts win – Backinanger @ 7/1 Bet365

Racing Weekend Review

A weekend of superlatives – nothing less you can call it. The main dish certainly delivered. Aintree the only place you wanted to be on Saturday quarter past five. But summer racing isn’t far away. Leopardstown staged Guineas trials and Naas saw the return of proper Group 1 stars. Here’s a review of the weekend’s action.

Grand National Delivered the Goods

Touted as one of the widest open National fields in a long time, the biggest horse race on the planet didn’t disappoint. It had it all: great build-up, excellent TV coverage on ITV’s National maiden gig, sunshine weather and a dramatic finish to the race. What more can you ask for?

It was 14/1 chance One For Arthur who eventually stayed on incredibly strongly after a voyage through the whole field in the hands of ultra cool Derek Fox. This big, powerful horse, ready made for the war of attrition the Grand National is. A triumph for Scotland they said, a triumph for Irish breeding it is.

One For Arthur was born and raised on the green island. In fact here it was where he also tasted first racing success.  In an Irish point to point that was, where he – what a nice coincidence that is – beat yesterday’s fourth Blacklion.

There is also Derek Fox, the young rider, who now only 24 years of age instantly became a legend of our game. The Sligo man who kept his nerves throughout, who didn’t panic when he still had a lot of ground to make up two out. Did anyone ever check: he must have balls of steel surely?

Safety First, Spectacle Second

The Grand National the way we know it these days may not hold the same fascination for traditionalists due to the modifications of the fences in recent years. It’s something heard often in the days leading up to the race. It would not be as special anymore. It’s not as much of a test as it used to be. It’s just another staying chase.

Well, to some extend that could well be true. But no one can deny the fact that The Grand National is as safe a race for horses as it ever was. And that can only be a good thing. In fact this was already the fifth year since the most drastic changes have been made and it’s no coincidence that it is also the fifth year running without a fatality. That is not by chance, that#s because of wise decisions made in the last number of years.

Becher's Brook

It’s great. I love it. I feel so much more passionate about the race knowing it’s so much safer. And honestly, is it really so much less of a spectacle? Not at all if you ask me. Those fences are still huge! I’ve been there, two years ago, stood in front of them – believe me when I say they are huge! They still warrant plenty of respect and they still provide a true test of jumping ability.

And that’s why it is still a unique race. One that captivates us racing fans but also many people who aren’t big time into the sport. And that is great. It’s great because we as fans can comfortably talk to our non-racing friends about the race, where they are equally as fascinated by the spectacle – and be it only for this one day a year – but where the talk afterwards is not about animal cruelty but about sport.

Big Performances all round 

A massive performance it was by Cause Of Causes who finished runner-up. He didn’t get the smoothest of runs but last month’s Cross-Country Chase hero at the Cheltenham Festival battled his way through under yet another excellent ride by the “Coddfather”.

If there’s anything like moral winners than Blaklion must go down as one. He was heavily backed into 8/1 favouritism before the off and travelled through the race most powerfully! In fact I’d say he probably travelled to well!

Blaklion pulled his way too the front with quite a bit to go and suddenly lead the field by a couple of lengths with still a good mile to go or so. It was inevitable that he would not get home. In the end he finished fourth, around eight lengths beaten. The same margin he was beaten nearly four years ago in an Irish point to point by One For Arthur…. in the aftermath it all looks so obvious.

The Flat Gains Momentum

Guineas trials took place at Leopardstown on Saturday. Aiden O’Brien took first and second in both the Classic trials for the boys and the girls. Most noteworthy was Orderofthegarter’s success who followed up with another impressive performance on his Naas romp a fortnight ago. He seems to be Ballydoyle’s Nr.1 for the Irish 2000 Guineas  – and after these two highly impressive performances he must have a prime chance.

The one to take out is runner-up Taj Mahal, though. First time tongue tied, he found the pace a bit too hot and didn’t get quite a clear run entering the home straight, but once manoeuvred into open space he stayed on very nicely.

He’s has quite allot of experience already, yet only won a Dundalk handicap of a mark of 86 so far, then finished the year on a positive note with a decent fifth only three lengths beaten in the Group 1 Criterium De Saint-Cloud. He looks physically improved over the winter and the tongue tie seems to help. He might be able to win a nice race this year.

Naas on Sunday saw the highly anticipated return of Alice Springs and US Army Ranger. All looks good with the filly. She ran a nice race in second place behind late sweeping Diamond Fields.

The Ranger is a different cattle of fish and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of him. This race doesn’t help. He appears to be hugely talented but after his excellent runner-up effort in last years Derby things have not gone to plan. Is it attitude, did he turn sour because of being rushed to the Derby, or is he simply not as good as previously thought?

He travelled well enough today but was a bit short of room at a crucial point of the race. So you can make an excuse. He did find not as much as hoped once in the clear though. And while that could be down to lack of fitness the fact that he was more than three lenghts beaten by a Group 3 animal is slightly concerning.

Now that the National is behind us the flat finally kicks in. Monday sees the return of the traditional Windsor meeting while Redcar is on offer too. Regular flat racing is back – oh how I missed it!

That says the jumps make a return to our thoughts once or twice again: The Irish Grand National on Easter Monday is here to mention – I’ll be going if work doesn’t prevent it. And then Punchestown of course is not too far down the road either. Great times to be a racing!

…….

One interesting selection for Monday – 5.25 Redcar: The top weight Livella Fella makes plenty of appeal dropping back into class five on her turf reappearance. She didn’t ran badly on the All-Weather over the winter but is clearly much better on the green grass and I suspect she’ll enjoy the conditions here.

A fair pipe opener after a break at Newcastle last month means she should be ready to go over a trip she loves. She has form at Redcar too and judged on past form appears to be on a pretty fair mark.

Livella Fella @ 10/1 bet365

Preview: 2017 Grand National

Who’ll rule the world this year? We gonna find out soon! Last year’s fittingly named Grand National hero does not attempt to defend his crown, but runner-up The Last Samuri tries to go one better this time.

Kim Bailey’s charge has to defy top weight, though – a tough assignment and presumably one that makes it incredibly difficult to win, I’m afraid. Nonetheless Last Samuri looks a very decent each-way shout at the very least.

You could argue there’s half a dozen in the field who’ll have a decent shout too. What quite clearly becomes evident is the number of younger, to some extend less exposed and certainly classier individuals having a go at the huge Aintree Grand National fences.

This is a trend we’ve seen develop over the last of years and one that has certainly not slowed down.

So, who’s going to win? Well, it’s hard enough to pick the winner so I’ll give you three that instead I do feel are overpriced and can outrun the odds – whether that is enough to get the head in front remains to be seen.

Nr. 10 – Blacklion @ 14/1: The eight year old will have to race off a four pound higher mark in the future, that meas he’s potentially well in here. In fact he’s got a near perfect profile for the National, one could say he is some sort of a sexy trend horse.

Fact is he’s got the form in the book, ran really well this season, has come close a number of times and has form that ties in with other very well fancied National contenders. He’ll stay and enjoys decent ground – also he’s never been a faller in his whole career.

Nr. 29 – Vicente @ 25/1: Potentially a smart horse who’s recently been purchased by the connections of previous National winner Many Clouds.

Fair to say things did not quite pan out as hoped this season after a fantastic 15/16 campaign that culminated in a Scottish Grand National success. You have to trust his trainer to have him right for the big day but if that’s the case then Vicente must have a big chance of his weight with conditions sure to suit.

Nr. 7 – Wounded Warrior @ 80/1: had his issues lately and has to be trusted to find back to his best. But apparently schooled well and is in fine order.

Clearly a classy individual on his day with Grade 1 chasing form in the book. He stays all day long and won’t mind the fast ground either. A decent sixth place finish – albeit a long way beaten – in the Theystes Handicap shows there is still some life in him.

………

3.40 Betway Handicap Chase

I loved the run of Potters Legend at Cheltenham in the Kim Muir last month. This progressive first season Novice Chaser won a couple of races earlier this season and then finished with plenty of credit in better grades the next four times.

His Festival run clearly the most eye-catching one. He made a serious mistake three from home and nearly came down, but rallied incredibly strongly to get on terms with the leaders half a furlong out, to eventually fade into 4th place.

The ground and flatter track may suit him well here and if he can hold his form after a long season – and that is in my mind the most pressing question – he’s got to be a serious contender.

Selection:
10pts win – Potters Legend @ 12/1 Betfair SB

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4.20 Liverpool Hurdle 

Yanworth comes here with a big reputation. Plenty speaks in his favour if he does what he promises: staying the trip. Question: after a long season and a below par run at Cheltenham, does he still have enough left in the locker? And if he has, is he good enough against some seasoned stayers?

In my book he is a fair price. You can argue that Coral Cup winner Supasundae is probably better value. Equally progressive but stays the trip and acts on the ground.

However this should be the pay day for a previous World Hurdle hero: Cole Harden. He was not favoured by the watering and slower than expected ground at Cheltenham last month, still ran a huge race in fourth.

Blinkers on, good ground here a given and a not overly hard season on the clock; Cole Harden looks primed to run a big race from the front and will take allot of beating.

Selection:
10pts win – Cole Harden @ 11/2 PP

Bristol holds the Key

Here’s Aintree! The jumps are back! Wait, what? Wasn’t the flat just back? Well, yes…. and no. It’s one of those strange anomalies of the racing year where the start of the flat overlaps with the end of the jumps season.

It’s kinda strange, confuses me every year anew – the Lincon’s run, the first good flat horses are out, yet here we are gearing up for the Grand National?!

Whatever. Monday nights at Windsor are only four sleeps away. Until then we have one last hooray for hurdles and fences.

Admittedly, due to anomaly mentioned above, I clearly am not as excited about the Aintree Festival as I’ve been for Cheltenham. My gut feeling is I’m not the only one who shares the same sentiment.

I keep my betting to a bare minimum but as ever will try i vein to find the winner of the National Lottery….. that’s for Saturday though. Only one race I care about today at Aintree – that’s the “poor cousin’s Gold Cup” – the Bowl Chase.

……

2.50 Aintree: Bowl Chase, 3m 1f

Cue Card greets from the top of the betting. The old boy still goes strongly as he proved this season. Question: what did yet another fall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup did to his psyche?

Empire Of Dirt flies the flag for Ireland. Slightly disappointing in the Rynair Chase, but he’ll love this trip and track and is my idea of the most likely winner.

He’s not my idea of a value bet, though. That’s at given prices clearly Bristol De Mai. Of course I have to say this, because I fancied this lad for the Gold Cup quite a bit too. He’s got some issues, jumping is sketchy, however he posses an abundance of ability and is still only a six year old.

The track will suit him, he did not have a n overly hard season and may be the one who has still something left at this stage of the year.

Selection:
5pts win – Bristol De Mai @ 6/1 Bet365

…….

6.45 Chelmsford: 1m Handicap, 3yo

Andrew Balding’s Drochaid jumps out here. He’s a big price – too big in my eyes. He is nicely bred and was progressive as a juvenile, won a good maiden at the fourth time of asking, with subsequent winners behind in second and third.

He’s bound to improve as a three year old and returns to the track after a seasonal break. He drops into a class 4 Handicap on his AW debut with a mark that might underestimate him.

Mastercraftsman offspring tend to perform well at Chelmsford and the Balding yard is flying high in the last handful of weeks. It has to be said Drochaid encounters a strong favourite with Hannon’s Mustarrid here and this might be only a pipe opener, but at 16’s I’m inclined to have a small bet.

Selection:
5pts win – Drochaid @ 16/1 Skybet

Grand National: Many Clouds the one to Beat

It’s the big one – Grand National Day has arrived! A race that captures the imagination like no other. A worldwide TV audience of over 100 million tunes in for the greatest horse race of them all!

It puts racing on the front pages, it demonstrates the resilience, power and beauty of the race horse and the sport. Yet it can swiftly produce those shocking images of dying horses, asked to do the near impossible, jumping error free those huge fences.

Animal welfare is always a huge concern, a huge issue on this particular day. Those fanatics who want to ban the sport will sit in front of the TV, a mouse click away from publishing their articles on cruelty of the sport, though their conflict of interest, wanting to slate the sport for the “love of the animal”, yet their need for dead horses to fulfil this purpose – I feel sorry for these poor souls.

Let’s focus on what’s important: the race is safer than ever. Through changes made it might have lost some of its brutal spectacle of the past but in my mind it remains the ultimate test for horse and rider – just a bit safer, not necessarily easier.

I’ve been to Aintree myself last year, my first National “in flesh”. Some experience, indeed. I saw the brilliant winner Many Clouds, who was far more superior than the winning margin suggested.

Can he do it again? Possibly! In my mind Many Clouds is the one defending champ who has the best chance in a very long time to actually defend his crown. That is because the conditions are near perfect for him, but more importantly he retained his class and will to race after winning the big one. So many National winners never really came back – he sure did!

Many Clouds has been in excellent form throughout the season, with the National the ultimate aim. He looked brilliant in his final prep run at Kelso. Yes, you could say his handicap mark is five pounds higher than last year, but I say it’s a fair reflection of his improvement and well being and unlikely to stop him. He was easily those five pounds better than the rest last year, and I suspect it does still not reflect his true ability.

I do really fancy his chances! He’s proven over this special test, he’s a good traveller, he jumps really well, has the form in the book – he’s the one to beat, no doubt. At 10/1 I’m in!

There are two other horses I do quite like too: Sir Des Champs is one. Ruby Walsh had to give up the ride due to an injury sustained when he fell on Vautour yesterday. Replacement Nina Carberry is equal to the task.

I always had a soft spot for Sir Des Champes, probably because I won big on him at Cheltenham. But this brute of a horse has an aura…. It was great to see him winning on his comeback this season after a long absence. He was found out for class the last two times, but in fairness you don’t need to be a Grade 1 horse to win the National. You’ve got to have the right attitude, have a good  handicap mark and be a sound jumper.

All that is Sir Des Champs. On a mark off 154 dropped into a handicap he should go close I believe, considering this represents a huge drop in class too. Stamina and jumping are his game, so I would expect him to perform really well. He’s a fine 25/1 shot.

The other one I like is Holywell. It’s really not difficult to see why. He usually comes alive at this time of the year as he prefers the slightly better ground. He proves to be in excellent form after finishing a gallant runner-up in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham. The winner of that particular race has bombed out yesterday, although when thrown into Grade 1 company.

The National could be the right test to bring out the best of Holywell. His mark is clearly fair, could actually underestimate his true class, given he goes so well at Aintree, in spring, on this type of ground. He’s a 16/1 shot.

Both Sir Des Champs and Holywell are available at those prices with Bet365 where you can get half your stake refunded for an each-way bet. That sounds’s pretty fair to me. Good luck – and fingers crossed all horses come home safe.