Can Noble Yeats “do a Tiger Roll”? Here’s a look at the main contenders and my attempt at solving the puzzle that is the 175th annual running of the Grand National.
A full field of 40 horses go to post with weights ranging from 11-12 to 10-2. It’s still a puzzle to solve, though, perhaps less the lottery and unpredictable race it was in the past.
Less difficult fences to jump, less carnage, less surprises. Class horses with big weights can win. The race looks completely different to those editions of half a century ago.
Last night I watched the wonderful DVD “12 Greatest Ever Grand Nationals” – great trip down the memory lane, but the race was a different kind of a beast compared to what it is these days.
The modern version of the Grand National is about class. Horses can certainly win with 11 stone plus on their back. We’ve seen it a number of times in more recent times.
Stamina is key, as a race over the marathon distance of 4m 2½f should be. Perhaps that makes it somewhat less a test of pure jumping ability. Personally I’m okay with this fact if it goes along with a safer race for horse and rider.
2023 Grand National Contenders
Favourite Corach Rambler is as short as 6/1 in the betting. There is certainly a form of recency bias included after his spectacular victory at the Cheltenham Festival.
Corach Rambler is a tricky sort, though. He needs to be ridden in a certain way and will require all the luck in the world to get a clear run from the back of the field.
It’ll require a lot of faith to back him at this rather skinny price. It sure is going to be the most spectacular victory should he pick his way through the field to win the Grand National.
Personally I find it hard to see how there could be any juice left in his price, though. There is no chance that I could make him a shorter price in my book. In fact, he’s too short, in my view.
Delta Work is the second choice in the market. He won the Cross-Country at the Festival for the second year running. He looked as good as ever when he beat well fancied stable mate Galvin last month.
He was third in the Grand National last year but also 22 lengths beaten. Perhaps a different ride could change his fortunes?
Possibly. Nonetheless, I find it hard to see how he could improve on that run twelve months later. He’s a well-exposed 10-year-old. One pound lower than last year won’t make a difference – a mark of 159 looks far from a giveaway.
Noble Yeats was a surprise winner last year. A surprise on the day more so for the general public than connections. They knew they had a tremendously well-handicapped horse on their hands. We know that by now as well.
He’s a classy individual and judged on his Gold Cup run – arguably the strongest performance by any horse in this years Grand National field – must be considered a prime contender once more, even off a much higher mark.
Tiger Roll proved you can win back-to-back and big weights aren’t a hindrance to winning the modern Grand National, either. Noble Yeats has to overcome a 19lb higher mark than twelve month ago, though.
That seems fair given the way he took his form to a new level this season, including that excellent 4th place finish in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. But that extra weight is a game changer, I firmly believe.
Tiger Roll only had to content with an additional 9lbs when winning back-to-back. Noble Yeats, perhaps a better horse right now than Tiger Roll was when winning his second National, doesn’t appear to be necessarily unfairly handicapped. At the same time I fear this weight is too much even for the classy Noble Yeats.
If talking about Noble Yeats one has to mention last years runner-up Any Second. He was less than three lengths beaten and ran a huge race in defeat.
He’s arguably unlucky not to have won a Grand National by now, after a superb, and somewhat unlucky 3rd place two years ago.
He’s another year older. This is his third attempt and he’s 8lb higher than last year, 15lb higher than 2021. His preparation has been spot on and he should be right there when it matters, but anything better than finishing in the placings is hard to imagine.
Willie Mullins sends out a small army. His best shot – judged purely on odds – seems Gaillard Du Mesnil who won the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last month.
Perhaps he was a bit fortunate because he benefited in no uncertain terms from the fall of a threatening rival. That begs the question: would he be as short in the betting if he’d finished runner-up that day?
I think he’s a few points too short, and no value to back in this race. Although he should stay, and that may allow him to be right there when it matters most.
The other well fancied Willie Mullins runner is Mr Incredible. He seems to catch a bit of momentum in the betting. He’s a quite lightly raced 7-year-old with an abundance of improvement left over staying trips, I believe.
He ran on for third place in the Kim Muir last month and may have finished closer if not for making a huge mistake at the last fence that cost him vital momentum.
He was a good second in a hot Grade 3 Handicap Chase at Warwick prior as well. On both forms he looks at the very least fairly weighted on handicapping terms.
He strikes me as one who had a lovely preparation for the race with a mark that has been somewhat protected this season as he ran well without showing all his cards, possibly.
There is every chance he can improve. If he does indeed, he would be a well-handicapped horse. Obviously, with Mr Incredible, talent is only one side of the coin.
He’s a seriously tricky sort and will need quite a bit of luck, given he is likely to race in rear of the field. That’s the reason why there are still big prices available to back him, especially on the Exchanges. But if he gets a clear run I can see him go all the way.
Longhouse Poet was my fancy twelve months ago. He probably did too much too soon, chasing a pretty hot pace, before tiering badly for 6th place finish, 34 lengths behind the winner.
He’s a fair shot once again off a near similar mark, I reckon. Possibly ridden with a little bit more restraint this time, he should get home better. I still can’t quite shake the impression of how badly he faded last year, though.
Hennessy winner Le Milos looks intriguing off only 6lb higher than when he landed the big handicap at Newbury in November. He travelled strongly throughout the race, made lovely progress, before hitting the front in the home straight and fought gutsily to the line.
He had a lovely prep run in early March at Kelso in the meantime, most likely not fully tuned up and not given the best of rides. There were plenty of positives to take away from that reapperance, nonetheless.
Clearly the 8-year-old is still on the up and a stayer of great potential after only ten runs over fences, and three this season. In my view he looks like an ideal National horse.
He should have a prime chance. He’s a good jumper, can hold his position well and most likely has the stamina required for the National.
Galvin was always thought of as a National horse more so than one who wins Gold Cups. Therefore, he probably outran expectations somewhat when winning the Savills Chase and finished a fine 4th in a Cheltenham Gold Cup last year.
He’s not been the same horse this season. Apparently he had a back issue in preparation for the Cross-Country Chase; he still finished a strong runner-up behind stable mate Delta Work last month.
I fancied him there, but off a 166 rating, the same as Noble Yeats, I struggle to see how he can be handicapped to win. You would have to believe he’s as good a horse as Noble Yeats is at this moment in time.
Would Galvin have finished 4th in the Gold Cup this year? Most definitely not. He was 10/3 for the Savills Chase this season, when he finished second last, a long way beaten. He’s not the same horse this season as he was the season before.
Highly talented 7-yeaer-old Capodanno is an interesting runner. He’s got the class and is lightly raced. He was only seen once this season, since winning the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown a year ago. That’s far from ideal preparation and off-putting.
Sam Thomas saddles Our Power. A seriously progressive horse. Unbeaten this season in two runs. On a really fair mark. If he can extend to the National trip he’ll be a huge runner. But a son of Power – who I have seen myself at the Curragh win a National Stakes and Guineas – stretches my imagination to see how he could stay the distance.
2021 Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier could have the required stamina and class. He finished a promising runner-up in the Bobbyjo Chase in February. His jumping can be a bit hit and miss, but he could be dangerous off 147 if he finds a good rhythm.
If you ignore The Big Breakaway’s poor showing at Cheltenham last month, one could make a solid argument for him to have the capabilities to outrun his big price tag.
He’s a strong stayer, was an excellent second in the Welsh National this season and may find back to his best with blinkers fitted.
I wouldn’t rule out Coko Beach to run well, either. He’s in good nick after landing a Grand National Trial in February and ran well for a long time in the Grand National last year. Ultimately he did way too much in front and didn’t get home.
If he can race with a little more restraint this time, he’s not without a chance to finish in the placings.
The Big Dog is a strong stayer and not out of it, although I feel he’s too high in the mark to be considered a contender for victory.
Same could be said about Lifetime Ambition, who’s got to content with a 8lb higher mark than in the Troytown Chase back in November, where he finished a fine runner-up behind The Big Dog, following on from a solid 4th in the Sefton over the National fences.
Unexposed Ain’t That A Shame looks to have been protected all season. he was a tough runner-up in the Munster National behind The Big Dog back in October. Only seen twice since then, one has to trust his fitness and stamina.
From the bigger prices Recite A Prayer is one who may outrun his odds. Second in the Kerry National at the beginning of the season; a Killarney National winner last year. He stays well but hasn’t been seen since disappointing at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Eva’s Oskar has stamina in abundance, ultimately is not classy enough you would think, but is also one of the more realistic bigger prices to potentially hit the frame.
The 2023 Grand National appears to be a wide open affair. Would Noble Yeats win again he’d be one of the all-time greats in my view. He looks all class and should run a huge race once again.
Yet, from a betting perspective I’ll can’t get passed the credentials Le Milos brings to the table.
He simply looks the ideal National horse to me. He’s had a lovely preparation. Showed strong form this season. Is still progressive and possibly better handicapped than he should.
He also remains underappreciated in the betting. He beat Corach Rambler comprehensively this season, yet is a multiple times the price of the favourite.
He receives 14lb from Noble Yeats. Possibly fair on a variety on ratings if purely judged on actual form. What may give him the edge, though: he’s a progressive stayer who continues to improve..
At the same time I can’t leave out Mr Incredible. He needs luck, and may be too far off the pace, ultimately. On the other hand he’s hugely talented and weighted to go seriously close – if things go well.
He’s a quirky sort, but if he gets a clear run he’ll look a huge price come the end of the race. This progressive and lightly raced individual impressed in the Kim Muir when last seen and has plenty of upside at this stage of his career.
6pts win – Le Milos @ 17/1
4pts win – Mr Incredible @ 23/1