A small but certainly select field makes this edition of the King George an exciting renewal. Some of the very best older horses meet the leading lights of the 2022 Classic generation.
All eyes are naturally drawn to Westover: an unlucky third in the English Derby and subsequent runaway winner of the Irish Derby. He’s been seriously progressive this season and today is about telling us whether there’s even more to come.
Of course the rematch with Desert Crown was highly anticipated but won’t be happening for quite some time, it seems likely now. That doesn’t distract from the intrigue that surrounds Ralph Beckett’s colt.
The son of Frankel is hard to fault. A progressive sort, he created visually a strong impression at the Curragh when landing the Irish Derby where he also ran to topspeed 100 as easy as you like. He confirmed his strong Derby performance that saw him run to topspeed 106 despite the well documented trouble he encountered in the home straight.
What the Curragh form is worth remains to be seen. And another question mark remains: how does he cope with proper fast ground? Could he be found out for speed on this ground in a race with a possibly muddling pace? He’s a short enough price to find out.
The other three-year-old in the field is English Oaks runner-up Emily Upjohn.
Many will argue she was quite unlucky that day at Epsom. Perhaps she lost the race at the start, although, that is my view, she had every opportunity to win in any case, given the winner Tuesday didn’t enjoy the smoothest of runs either.
Prior to the Oaks the John Gosden trained filly was a runaway winner of Musidora Stakes and won in even more impressive style on her seasonal reappearance at Sandown. If not for the neck beaten effort at Epsom she’d be unbeaten in four career runs.
Yet, in my view she appears to be seriously vulnerable. The fact of the matter is the figures are against her. She ran to topspeeds 95 at York and 97 at Epsom. Circumstances play a role in these figures, yet they tell a story at the same time and Emily Upjohn had opportunities to prove she is top-class on speed ratings as well.
She may well do so today. In fairness, she looks progressing all the time. But she has to take another big step forward today.
Mishriff was certainly an unlucky horse in the Coral Eclipse earlier this month. Short of room at a crucial stage, he finished much the best and was only a neck beaten by brilliant 3-year-old Vadeni. Another day he wins the race.
He is top-rated in this field, up to 5lb clear on official ratings There’s good reason for it. A runner-up in the 2021 edition of the King George, just beaten by excellent Derby winner Adayar, he went on to land the Juddmonte International in great style a few weeks later.
He ran to topspeed 116 and 118 in those two races. He ran 108 at Sandown. there is a slight question mark whether he truly is in love with the 1m 4f trip. Most likely the race today will turn out a test of speed more than pure stamina, so it’s unlikely to be an issue.
Mishriff is the class-act in the field and if he can improve just a tiny bit from Sandown – not impossible, given he came off a break – he’s going to be hard to beat, I reckon.
I love to see Torquator Tasso here. It’s brave by trainer Marcel Weiss to take a chance on ground most likely too fast for last years Arc hero. Weiss also has been quite open in admitting Torquator Tasso won’t be 100% today. Defending his crown in Paris is the ultimate goal.
There are questions marks over the validity of his Arc victory because of the heavy ground that day. He was a shock winner. Nonetheless, he’s a multiple Group 1 winner regardless. Clearly top-class, he deserved to be in this field. As much as I would love to see him do the “Danedream Double” it’s difficult to see.
The two long-shots Pyledriver and Broome are given little chance in the betting. The latter is clearly the more interesting one, in my view. An excellent winner of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, he ran to topspeed 108 that day – that level of form entitles him to have a fair shot, today, especially on fast ground and his ability to go from the front.
The market is tight but still underestimates Mishriff, who is clearly the best horse in the race. If he can run to the level of form he produced last summer in this very race and subsequently at York – and the Eclipse indicates he can – then he is simply too good for the rest in this field.
He has to give weight away to some smart younger horses, but he looks well capable of doing that in my book. On topspeed nothing in this field gets even close to him. I have him around a 5/2 chance as fair price. So there’s still a bit of juice left, albeit not that much.
2022 is a unique edition of the Derby as there is not a single Group 1 winner in the field. With that in mind the race is a wide open contest and the betting deceptive.
In fairness, that’s probably one of the phrases I (too?) often use. Perhaps it’s down to a simply tendency of mine to take on short-priced favourites. However, I truly feel this Derby is a wide open contest. A huge upset isn’t out of question. One only has to look back at the previous years to find that a long-shot winner isn’t something out of the ordinary, anyway.
That’s not to say Desert Crown – 2/1 favourite at the time of writing – won’t turn out the be the best horse in the race. He could be a superstar in the making.
The fact he won the Dante in impressive style on what was only his second career run and seasonal reappearance, despite uneasiness in the market beforehand, rates as significant in my book.
Will he stay? It’s widely assumed he does. As a son of Nathanial he should posses plenty of stamina. The way he kept going and hit the line in the Date suggests he got every chance to stay the Derby trip.
I’ve got concerns, regardless. Green Desert as the dam’s sire. Yes, some of the dam’s offspring stayed 1m 4f. Nonetheless it’s far from certain Desert Crown truly want’s the trip.
Not to glance over the fact he’s also a highly inexperienced horse, hasn’t encountered anything close to the test Epsom provides, the rain is unlikely to be of any help to him either, and we have a large field with 16 other horses all competing for positions and a clear run once they leave Tattenham Corner behind.
Yet, I’ve come slowly around to the believe he is most likely the most talented colt in the Derby field – once we look back in a few years time. In the context of today and everything that comes with it I have to oppose him at the given price, though. I have him more a 7/2 shot than the 2/1-9/4 on offer this morning.
Aiden O’Brien won the Oaks on Friday and he could do the double today. Stone Age is widely assumed to be his prime chance in the Derby. The Leopardstown Derby Trial winner has got his head in front twice this year after failing to do so as a juvenile in five starts.
He was visually impressive at Leopardstown, although his overall profile doesn’t scream Derby winner to me. Topspeed underlines this notion. He ran to 88 and 91 in those races this year. He has to improve significantly. Not a price to back.
Frankie Dettori’s mount Piz Badile enhanced his Derby claims with victory in the Ballysax. The impression he gave that day was he will stay all day long given how strongly he rallied in the home straight. He may well do. An 81 career best topspeed rating (71 in the Ballysax) means he’s got to improve significantly, though. I’m not convinced he will improve so dramatically for the trip.
The incredibly impressive winner of the Newmarket Stakes was Nations Pride. Godolpin’s first string and choice of William Buick today. He’s an obvious improver on his sixth career run having progressed with each run to date. My concern is the trip, once again. The line through his dam out of Oasis Dream doesn’t scream stamina in abundance.
From the other two Godolphin runners – Nahaani and Walk Of Stars – the latter is the one I would prefer. Last years Derby winning rider is on board Nahaani, but the colt doesn’t appear to have enough class I believe.
Walk Of Stars could have the class, though. Runner-up in the Lingfield Derby trial, he ran to topspeed 99 that day; he’s is still very much learning his trade. Stamina won’t be an issue. I expect him to improve for his fifth career run, the additional half furlong and possibly the emphasis on stamina today, depending how the race pans out. He is a big price at 16/1+. The track is a serious question mark, on the other hand and that makes me waver.
Star Of India won the Dee Stakes at Chester. He ran to topspeed 99 that day. Whatever the ground today, I don’t have too much concern about it, neither over track and trip. But how much more can he improve? The family hasn’t been top-class to the most part yet. He’s a full-brother to S J Tourbillon, these day an ordinary handicapper in Hong Kong.
It’s the question of the day: how much can these horses improve? You can’t be too sure about any of the fancied horses that they have it in them to progress to the level required to land the Derby in the ground, over this trip at this track.
In truth that’s only natural for three-year-old colts. My issue is the potential improvement is taken for granted in the betting for the likes of Desert Crown and Stone Age. I’m much more cynical in only believing what I’m seeing.
Which leaves me with Changingoftheguard. He has been on my mind ever since winning the Chester Vase in brilliant style. Sure, the form can be knocked for its small and rather uncompetitive field on soft ground. The favourite didn’t fire and left the race to win for the Aiden O’Brien trained colt.
Nonetheless, Changingoftheguard did it the “hard way”. Ryan Moore went to the front and pushed on right from the start. The son of Galileo galloped the others into submission. And he didn’t stop in the home straight. He just kept going all the way to the line.
He achieved a 106 topspeed rating for the Chester performance – a strong marker and the best on offer in the field today. With that in mind Changingoftheguard has delivered on multiple fronts unlike many of his rivals today.
However, he’s all stamina and vulnerable if the Derby would become a test of speed rather than stamina. But Wayne Lordan – not the most inspired jockey booking – has a say in how the race pans out. From his double-figure draw he can move forward and dictate, if he wants to. He won’t need to worry about stamina.
The application of cheek pieces is added bonus. This has worked wonders for Aiden O’Brien trained colts in this race before. It can help bring out additional improvement in Changingoftheguard too.
Therefore I feel the prices available, with the ground unlikely to be too fast, are way over the top. Any further rain beyond what hit Epsom this morning already will be a big help. And that’s why this lad is going to be hard to pass once in front.
The first opportunity of Irish Classic glory for fillies looks a wide open affair as 14 go to post at the Curragh this afternoon.
It’s no surprise to see an Aiden O’Brien trained filly heading the betting for an Irish Classic. However, the fact he throws three other fillies into the mix doesn’t scream confidence.
Tuesday, at the time of writing the 11/4 favourite, ran with plenty of credit at Newmarket in the English Guineas, finishing a solid third place behind Cachet, who has franked the form in the meantime. There’s every chance the lightly raced daughter of Galileo will improve.
Yet her career-best topspeed rating of 95 isn’t anything special. Could she meet the same fate as her full-sister Minding, who finished runner-up in the Irish 1000 Guineas in 2016? Well, I think it’s certainly worth to oppose Tuesday today, aynway.
Dermot Weld has a strong chance with Homeless Songs, the winner of the Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial. The Frankel daughter produced a nice turn of foot to beat smart runner-up Agartha.
No doubt she can progress and has to be considered a main threat to Tuesday. But to be a true contender she certainly has to improve. At Leopardstown she was a bit slow out of the gates, something you’ll hardly overcome in a Classic; while the performance was visually impressive, the 82 topspeed rating isn’t nearly as impressive.
The aforementioned Agartha was probably a bit unlucky in the Group 3 Cornelscourt Stakes subsequently. She finished second once again, that day behind History.
History, another filly for Aiden O’Brien, is another obvious improver, who should take another step forward from her really pleasing seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown.
Both fillies – History and Agartha – look solid alternatives to the favourite in my eyes, especially as the stiff Curragh finish should suit them.
William Haggas travels over with his representative Purplepay. She was an excellent third against the boys in the Criterium International when last seen. However, race fitness and most certainly the ground are major question marks for her. It may not be soft enough for her.
Mise En Scene hasn’t been seen since finishing 10th at the Breeders’ Cup. Her Prestige Stakes victory last August would give her a fair form chance to feature today. But hard to gauge what expect from her given she’s been off since November.
I am pretty sweet on the chances of another Aiden O’Brien trained filly: Concert Hall. She has Oaks written all over her, and at first glance a drop to a mile isn’t ideal. But in a Guineas that lacks substance, I feel she’s overpriced.
On pure form terms she has serious claims. She’s also top rated on topspeed – a 97 rating isn’t anything to shout about in top-class company, but that shows the lack of depth in the race today. More importantly though, Concert Hall achieved this career best TS last time out.
The daughter of Oaks winner Was returned as a 3-year-old with a fine victory at Navan last month where she stepped up to 1m 2f for the first time.
Not surprisingly she looked a bit fresh and was pretty keen for the first half of the race, but then travelled strongly on the home straight nonetheless and won in better style than the short winning margin may suggest.
The form has already worked out well, although the caveat is that she simply beat slower horses, given the third has won a Listed race over 1m 5f in the meantime and the fourth a Group 3 over 10 furlongs. Nonetheless, there’s real substance to this form.
Going back to her juvenile season her sixth place finish in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket was better than the bare result, and she was not far behind Cachet and Prosperous Voyage.
Before that she won the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes over 7 furlongs at the Curragh, clearly doing her strongest work up the stiff finish at the County Kildare venue.
In my mind this is the key to her chances today: that bit of give in the ground will put additional emphasis on stamina and horses can get really tired when they meet the stiff final furlong finish at the Curragh.
Concert Hall has proven that she has solid cruising speed, so I would not expect her to be seriously outpaced and getting too far behind.
Her future will most likely be over further. Today could simply be a stepping stone toward the Oaks. Aiden O’Brien mentioned this filly thrives on racing. Whether she well and truly enjoys cut in the ground remains to be seen. Others in this field, especially those fillies more at home over a mile may take a big step forward and outpace her.
Those are all dangers. Nonetheless, at given prices she looks significant value in my book given there is solid grounds to believe she will be more than capable to compete in this field at this track over this trip.
Six exciting colts go to post in the Classic Trial at Sandown on Friday. Could we see the 2022 Derby winner?
Goldspur has the strongest form in the book, no doubt. A winner of the Zetland Stakes in October last year followed up with a subsequent 3rd place in a strong Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
He ran to topspeed 92 on his second lifetime start at Newmarket and the French form has worked out well: the likes of Stone Age and Buckaroo have returned as three-year-olds in promising style.
The clear concern must be Goldspur’s speed. Even as a juvenile he appeared desperately in need of every inch of the 1m 2f trip. He was also beaten for speed in the closing stages at Saint-Cloud. With that in mind over 10 furlongs on fast ground he looks vulnerable in this field.
River Thames is an interesting alternative. I was quite taken how he won on debut at Punchestown. No surprise, he was a still raw and green and a bit flat footed over three furlongs out, but once called on for full effort he rapidly shifted into top gear and ran down the leaders.
Judged on that visual piece of evidence he should enjoy the step up in trip. Although the pedigree is a little bit less clear on that front. It’ll be interesting to watch.
John Gosden can never be ignored, given his more recent successes in this particular race. His Frankel colt Frantastic was an emphatic winner of a Novice contest at Newcastle when last seen in October. It was visually impressive how he put the race to bed, matched by fast sectionals in the closing stages.
On the other hand it was a slowly run race and the horses behind him low-grade standard – the runner-up is a 72 rated individual after an unsuccessful class 5 Handicap debut. The fact he could quicken off a pedestrian pace in such nice style, while you would hope he can easily step up to 10 furlongs, is a big plus, nonetheless.
Franz Strauss was a winner on debut at Newcastle in December. The form is notable for the fact that it has been seriously franked thanks to third placed Eydon who made such a big impression in the Feilden Stakes last week upon his return.
The son of Golden Horn looks sure to improve for the new trip and seems to be a bit overpriced in a race where the majority of colts are such unknown quantities.
Ralph Beckett will hope Westover can take a step forward for the new trip too. The Frankel colt finished never worse than second in three starts over 1 mile last year. To be competitive in this race he’s got to find improvement, though.
Cash is the one I am most interested in. For obvious reasons. He featured on my 5 To Follow list for 2022 thanks to a stunning debut run in a maiden at Newmarket in October.
Visually that was an incredibly taking run, one that is backed up speed ratings and sectionals. The form looks proper as he overcame greenness when beating more experiences rivals, plus the third placed horse was a fine 3rd placed finisher behind New London too, who himself is now a hot Derby prospect.
He is likely to stay well beyond the mile trip given the dam won over 1m 6f, so the step up in trip is a positive here. A negative could be hold-up tactics. Never ideal at Sandown, even more so in a race where there may a lack of pace.
A wide open contest, especially if one is prepared to take on short-priced favourite Goldspur. Charlie Appleby’s colt remains the most likely winner on all known form. However, the other five horses have all significant potential to improve.
At this point in time nobody truly knows which horse has trained on and will be able to fulfill their early promise. I hope it’s going to be Cash. The Grey impressed me on debut so immensely with a debut run that to me appeared out of the ordinary.
The pace is question mark, as is tactics. Yet, I can see a scenario where even in a slowly run race he has the turn of foot to quicken past his rivals. He looks to have all the right tools to be a really good colt.
After a disappointing run for Chief Little Hawk at Wolverhampton on Monday it’s back to the green grass on Tuesday with a confident selection in the Epsom opener.
Before we look what’s on the menu there let’s take step back and see what happened on Easter Monday in the Irish Grand National. Willie Mullins was sending out exciting Novice Gaillard Du Mesnil, who went off the 11/2 favourite on the late evening as Fairyhouse was basking in sunshine.
The 6-year-old gelding travelled well for most of the race in the hands of Paul Townend, although he was a bit tight for room two fences from home. This didn’t have any impact on the result, though. Because the winner travelled equally well, only to find more than anyone else in the closing stages.
Lord Lariat, a 7-year-old gelding won the Irish Grand National as a 40/1 shot, outrunning those odds in some style. Remarkably he’s done it for the same trainer and jockey as twelve months ago when Freewheelin Dylan claimed an amazing 150-1 triumph for local trainer Dermot McLoughlin and 7lb claiming jockey Paddy O’Hanlon.
For one of the smaller yards this is a near unbelievable achievement. Especially as neither Lord Lariat nor Freewheelin Dylan were supported by the public in the betting at all.
All questions whether Lord Lariat would stay the 3m 5f trip where comprehensively mastered and clearly horse was well managed through the season by McLoughlin. He won like a good thing.
1.50 Epsom: Class 3 Handicap, 5f
This will be fast and furious as races over the minimum distance down the Epsom straight tend to be. Progressive Electric Love is of interest, so is Recon Mission of a reduced mark. Thegreatestshowman appears a touch overpriced back on turf.
But the one I am really keen on is Mokaatil. No surprise, he was on a recent eye-catcher list for his season opening run at Doncaster. That day I felt he looked full of enthusiasm late in the race despite the trip being not quite his optimum.
He ran with credit at Lingfield in a hot Handicap since then but wasn’t fancied and neither was I interested in him that day. It’s a different story over five furlongs at Epsom.
Mokaatil is down another couple of pounds in his rating, drops back into class 3 and down to the minimum trip. He is the reigning Epsom Dash winner from exactly the same 82 handicap mark, followed up at Musselburgh to win of 86 and run to 85 and 80 topspeed ratings in those races.
In combination with the well-being confirmed in the referenced recent races he’s an obvious shout the marked doesn’t miss. Yet, having a highly capable apprentice on board claiming additional 7lb – and looking good value for the weight allowance – Mokaatil is a big chance and still underestimated in the betting.
10pts win – Mokaatil @ 7/2
Chief Little Hawk was a big disappointment today. He missed the break and the race was basically gone from there. He made bit of late progress without ever challenging.
I’ll keep the faith for another day. Ideally on turf. There is a race in him to win, for all the reasons mentioned in the preview.
The 2022 edition of the Grand National a is a highly competitive renewal. Many top-class individuals line up for the biggest price of all in jumps racing. Few can be easily ruled out.
No doubt this is down to the changing nature of the race. Easier fences mean less devastating injuries. The faller rate is significantly down. As a result owners are prepared to run better horses in the National.
Consequently we have seen the average official rating has gone up over the years. Horses that made the cut in the past – even some previous winners – wouldn’t do so today.
Comparing the fences from a few decades ago to what they look like today there’s a fair question to be asked whether this is still the same race. It’s not. Personally I continue to maintain the changes have been for the better, regardless.
Whatever way you’re leaning in this debate, there’s no getting away from the fact how compelling this years renewal is. Class and form in the book are available in remarkable abundance and make the 2022 a vintage edition in my view.
As always, 40 runners will line up this afternoon. Ten horses have made it on to my shortlist:
Perhaps this doesn’t read like an overly original shortlist. Most if not all these horses where more or less prominently mentioned in the various well known Grand National previews on TV, podcasts and blogs.
What I thought was interesting, though, from a personal perspective, after nailing down the ten most compelling contenders, was the fact that unlike in previous years I didn’t end up with a single genuine longshot (bigger than 20/1) on my list.
This is – or so I sense, a direct correlation to the changing nature of the race that favours classier and speedier types, who can race handily, travel well and hold their position. They also tend to measure up well on speed ratings.
And with that in mind it’s no surprise to see that the majority of horses on my list have ran to topspeed ratings of 130 and higher this season, or at the very least in the not too distinct past.
The only exception to the rule is Snow Leopardess. For a simple reason: jumping. She loves to attack and jump the National fences like few others do, as she proved so impressively in last years Beacher Chase.
She loves the unique test these fences provide, she stays and has been in superb form this season. That combination is a highly compelling one and I can see why she is so prominent in the betting, not to mention her incredible fairytale story.
Nonetheless, because she lacks the (proven) class, like nine others of my shortlist do, particularly in the speed department, I can’t back her at comparably skinny odds.
Burrow Saint achieved a career best twelve months ago in the National. He was well fancied and travelled like a good thing. He also emptied really quickly in the closing stages.
This season hasn’t been a good season for him. Perhaps he was minded for today, I reckon. Racing of the same mark, a year older, I won’t expect any improvement, though. That says he remains a solid contender given he’s an Irish Grand National winner. I also think only a classy individual can travel through a Grand National like he did last year. He’ll have to ride without my money today, nonetheless.
I feel it’s difficult to gauge what Minella Times has done this season and what form he’s in. On the surface the form is as poor as it gets, not having completed any of his two races. But he’s the reigning champion. He is a great jumper, he’s done it 12 months ago pretty easily and one has to trust Henry De Bromhead to have him spot on.
It’s not only the negative of the poor form Minella Times has to contend with. But a 15lb hike in his handicap mark is probably too much a burden to overcome in my view.
The Gordon Elliott trained Escaria Ten has been well fancied for quite some time. One can see why. Only narrowly beaten by Any Second Now when last seen, he’s a progressive staying chaser with strong form in the book and a fair handicap mark.
I have reservations about the big field, though. His best performances came in much smaller fields than the 40-runner strong Grand National. That’s too big a risk for my money to invest.
Another of Gordon Elliott’s runners is Run Wild Fred. I like him a lot. 2nd in the 2021 Irish Grand National, he’s still improving and hasn’t been out of the money in four starts this year. That includes a runner-up in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown over Christmas, and a most recent 2nd place at Cheltenham behind exciting Stattler.
He has a lot of the characteristics of a modern Grand National horse in my eyes. I have slight reservations about his handicap mark of 158 and whether he well and truly wants this marathon trip, though.
No issues with the trip for Any Second Now. Arguably a desperately unlucky 3rd place finisher twelve months ago, connections must have wondered what would have been with a clear run. Possibly a thrilling head to head finish with Minella Times?
There’s no question that he remains a prime contender. The form is fine, we know he goes well at Aintree, he stays and judged by last years strong performance one can argue the hike in his handicap mark is fully justified and may not stop him.
On the other hand Any Second Now is a year older, unlikely to improve and would need an absolute dream run to win where things have to go wrong for some of the other contenders. He’s short enough in the betting to hope for dreams to come true.
With recent Cheltenham Cross-Country winner Delta Work there’s a genuine Gold Cup horse in the field. If he’d be truly in love with the game again, I feel he could still be a competitive runner in a Gold Cup. He’s that talented.
Cheltenham proved that some appetite for racing has been regained. In my view he won with a lot more authority than the narrow winning margin suggests.
With that in mind I also feel a 160 rating isn’t unreasonable. It surely is a huge ask to win of 11-9, yet Delta Work has the class to do exactly that.
Whether he really wants the National trip is a key question, though. I have reservations. Paired with the fact that for more than two years he hasn’t ran anywhere near a topspeed rating of 130 – even with potential excuses – is enough to put me off at the given prices, regardless of all potential class.
An exciting up and coming staying Chaser is Eclair Surf who made it into this field with a 143 handicap mark – this is as sexy as it gets. He’s been brilliant in his last two staying chases, and particularly the fine runner-up performance in the Eider Handicap Chase behind subsequent super impressive Scottish Grand National winner Win My Wings gives him a prime chance.
He can race off the same mark as back then and you would hope, perhaps even expect, that there’s more improvement to come from this progressive staying chaser. He rates a key contender for me. But there are two horses left with even stronger claims.
I love the relatively unexposed look of Longhouse Poet, in particular. Especially the fact that he keeps improving nearly with every run. Also: in three runs over three miles and beyond he has been in the winners enclosure. He looks a proper stayer who, crucially, doesn’t lack tactical speed, though.
We saw that in the Thyestes Chase back in January when he travelled strongly and kept on really well to land that big Handicap. Therefore he has shown crucial skills required for the modern Grand National: travel, jump, don’t be too far off the pace, hold your position and do all of that in a big field.
We can blissfully ignore his prep run over Hurdles at Navan when last seen. Trainer Martin Brassil will have Longhouse Poet as ready as possible for today. He knows what it needs to win a National.
Of course it’s no easy task to defy a 11lb higher mark compared to his Gowran victory, but it’s fair to assume he can improve again, given the unexposed profile he has and the impressive nature of his Thyestes victory.
Longhouse Poet comes as close to a perfect modern Grand National horse – at this stage at least – as I could envision.
The other one who ticks most boxes is Fiddlerontheroof. He impressed me in two of three runs this season. I think we can forgive the most recent Ascot run – which was below expectations – for the fact it was more likely “just” a run to gain fitness as opposed to be fully tuned up.
The Listed Carlisle win on his seasonal reappearance, but even more so the subsequent runner-up performance in the Ladbrokes Trophy, rate highly on pure form terms. Arguably Fiddlerontheroof was perhaps a shade unlucky at Newbury having to negotiate a faller four fences from home.
Both forms look strong on the ratings front, having been awarded 141 and 142 topspeed respectively at Carlisle and then Newbury. That is consistency on a really high level and reads well alongside his handicap mark – especially if compared to the other more fancied runners in the National this year.
He remains open to further improvement over staying trips, too. Of course that always raises the question whether he truly wants this marathon trip, given he had enough speed to win over much shorter. But it’s exactly this speed in combination with the staying qualities he’s already shown I like.
This edition of the Grand National is a uniquely exciting one. The list of potential winners is long – the depth of quality in this years field is impressive.
Yet, truth being told I was surprised post-analysis when I checked the betting yesterday afternoon – and put my money down – that both Longhouse Poet and Fiddlerontheroof were as big in the market as they were – and interestingly still are this morning on various exchanges.
I am surprised because – given this is the Grand National – I feel rather confident both horses will run massive races. Whether it’s good enough to win is another question and will depend more on in-running luck than their quality. Certainly if all goes well neither Longhouse Poet nor Fiddlerontheroof be will be far away.
Fingers crossed for a clear run – but most importantly fingers crossed that all horses and jockey come home safely. That’s truly the one thing I am hoping for the most.