The Grand National–Horses for courses guide

The National fences are unique and it is worth noting horses that have successfully managed to navigate them in the past.

Don’t Push It won last year’s renewal and seemed to enjoy himself around Aintree. No horse has won back to back Nationals since Red Rum but several have come quite close to following up their success. Don’t Push It won well and it could be argued that by only raising him 7 lbs this time the handicapper has given him a chance. I don’t remember the last time a horse carried 11 stone 10 to victory so he has a bit to do but I wouldn’t rule out a bold show from him.

The 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 12th from last season are all entered again. Let’s have a look at them one by one.

State of Play was 3rd last year and 4th 10 2009. He has been dropped 3 lbs in the ratings since and looks to have a nice weight off 10 stone 6. He has not run since last year’s race but that is a positive as he goes well fresh. He has some good form on his CV having won the 2006 Hennessy and finished 6th to Kauto Star in the 2007 Gold Cup.

Big Fella Thanks finished 6th in 2009 and 4th last year. He fell in the Hennessy this year but comes to the National on the back of a fair run at Newbury where he was 4th over a trip too short for him. There may be a slight doubt over his stamina.

Hello Bud was 5th last year and has a good record over these fences as he won the Becher Chase this season and was 5th in the Becher in 2009. He has no stamina problems and won the Scottish National at Ayr in 2009 over 4 miles and half a furlong. Age is against him as no 13 year old has won since 1923.

Character Building was 7th and has never fallen in his career. He is a former winner of the Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham over 3 miles 1.5 furlongs. His most recent run saw him take 3 place in a decent race at Doncaster over 3.25 miles. He needs to be patiently ridden and has the ideal jockey for those tactics in Nina Carberry.

Comply or Die, 12th last season won in 2008 and finished runner up in 2009. He has plenty of stamina and won the 4 mile Eider Chase at Newcastle in 2008. He was pulled up on his last run when he got bogged down in the mud.

Vic Venturi won the Becher Chase in 2009 and got as far as the 20th fence in the National last season before being brought down by a loose horse. Royal Rosa has been 3rd and 2nd in the last two runnings of the Becher Chase.

So we have 8 runners with significant course form. I would not be at all surprised to see most of these completing the course. The pair with the best chance of winning would seem to be Don’t Push It and Stae of Play.

The Grand National – Finding the winner


Finding the winner of the World’s greatest race us not easy but by following a few “golden rules” we can at least be in with a sporting chance.


The race is run over four and a half miles – a real marathon for a racehorse. Our horse needs to have proven stamina. Form in the Grand National itself, or one of the other “Nationals” such as the Welsh, Irish, Scottish or Midlands versions is a good pointer. Another long distance race is the Eider Chase over 4 miles at Newcastle. I would be inclined to disregard any horse that has not won over 3 miles or further.


Most winners come from the 8 – 12 age bracket.


The National fences are unique and difficult. Previous form over the fences is a plus, either in the big race itself or something like the Becher Chase which is run in November each year.

It is also worth noting how many times a horse has fallen in the past. More than two falls on the record would be a worry.

The hustle and bustle

There are 40 runners in the race so previous form in competitive races with big fields is important. Apart from the races already mentioned races such as the Hennessy (Newbury), the Racing Post Chase (Kempton), the Bet365 Gold Cup (Sandown) or any race at the Cheltenham Festival come into this category.

The Irish challenge

Over the years the Irish have had their fair share of success and form in the big races across the Irish Sea is worth noting.

The National as a target

I always like give serious consideration to a horse that has been targeted at the race all season rather then one that comes to Aintree as an afterthought.


The going

Most horse have a preference for better ground or prefer the mud. It is worth checking that your selection will not be inconvenienced by the going.


It used to be said that you could disregard horses carrying more than 11 stone but that statistic has proved less reliable recently. Worth just keeping an eye on though.

The race is a handicap which means that the runners carry different weights depending on their past form.  It is sometimes possible to spot a horse that may be leniently treated by the handicapper.


Not absolutely crucial but it is certainly a nice to have if your horse is ridden by a leading jockey.

Next week we will have a look at the runners that meet our criteria.

Picture courtesy of the artist Katie Scorgie

Diary: March 26 2011


I have been concentrating my efforts on the forthcoming flat season and the Grand National so my preview of the racing tomorrow will be brief.

At Newbury Evella may be value in the 2.15. She has won 3 admittedly modest races this season but jumps soundly and is clearly on the upgrade.

In the 2.50 the Nicky Henderson runners are well fancied but are priced up accordingly. Of the outsiders Alverstone and Mizzurka make some appeal each way.

The booking of Ruby Walsh to ride Maktu in the 3.25 looks interesting while in the 4.00 Kid Cassidy looks the one they all have to beat.

Diary: March 23 2011


Tomorrow’s racing looks decidedly tricky.

The 2.40 at Haydock only has 5 runners and a case could be made for all of them. Humbie probably needs further. Glencree will appreciate the drying ground and is marginally preferred to Thumbs Up.

We were on Red Merlin last time when he won at 6/1. He is out again at Hereford in the 2.00 but will be odds on this time. I think I will bank my winnings and give him a miss this time.

hereford ruthharris

Sweet Irony has been knocking on the door and Alan King has probably found a winning opportunity for him in the Warwick 2.20. 11/8 looks short enough though given the presence of a dangerous looking Philip Hobbs runner.

A day to keep the powder dry I think.

Picture courtesy of the artist Ruth S Harris.

Diary: March 19 2011


The main race tomorrow is the Midlands National at Uttoxeter where the Jonjo O’Neill pair of Synchronised make some appeal. Later in the 3.35 the Warwick winner Stoney’s Traesure looks to be going the right way.

My best hope at Ffos Las is Buck Mulligan in the 3.10

Cheltenham Day 4


1:30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)

I have a particularly miserable tipping record in this race over the years so I am trying to break a losing sequence. Sam Winner had some impressive form earlier in the season winning twice at Cheltenham before getting bogged down in the mud at Chepstow. He sets a decent standard here. A Media Luz was a classy type on the flat in France but was too free when 7th behind Sam Winner here in December. She was then runner up to stable companion Grandouet at Newbury. She then fell at Kempton when in the lead before finally getting off the mark over hurdles at Huntingdon. Stamina could be a problem and the quicker the ground the better. Like A Media Luz the mare Unaccompanied gets a 7 lbs weight allowance from the geldings. Decent on the flat she has won both her starts over hurdles in Ireland. Soft ground would help her cause and the same could be said of Houblon des Obeaux, a winner on heavy ground at Haydock last month.

My selection is Sam Winner with a small saver on A Media Luz although if the ground turns to soft the other two horses mentioned would come very much into the reckoning.

2:05 – Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

Dirar boasts some useful form. A winner of the Ebor on the flat he was 3rd in the Galway Hurdle and has a good chance as long as the ground does not get too soft. Two other Irish challengers to consider are Alaivan and Blackstairmountain. The former was third in the Triumph last season and has won both his stats this term. The latter enjoys decent ground and does not look badly handicapped.

Soldatino won the Triumph last season but has been a little disappointing this time. This step up in trip may be what he needs though. Get me out of here was second in the Supreme Novices last season but his last 3 runs have not been encouraging. He has had a soft palate operation since his last run and a return to his best form would put him in with a good chance.

My three against the field would be Dirar, Get me out of here and Blackstairmountain.

2:40 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (Grade 1)

I am quite sweet on Court in Motion for trainer Emma Lavelle. He is yet to finish out of the first 3 apart from a fall at Exeter last year. Gagewell Flyer has won all 3 of his starts over hurdles this season all on soft ground the last two at Grade 2 level. Champion Court was an impressive winner here in November and if we ignore his last race then he must be on the short list.

Court in Motion is the selection with Gagewell Flyer and Champion Court respected. If the ground were to ride soft then Gagewell Flyer should not go unbacked.

3:20 – totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1)

Much as Denman and Kauty Star are wonderful horses I can’t really see either winning. They are both 11 now and no 11 year old has won since 1969. Imperial Commander is the reigning champion and has an impressive record at Cheltenham having won 6 of his 10 races there. He is very much the one to beat and will almost certainly be involved in the finish. Long Run, the King George winner is the likely favourite. His French form is top class and his jumping has improved a lot since lasts season. There are perhaps slight doubts about the track for him. It may be that he is more of a Kempton horse than a Cheltenham one. His stable has not been quite firing this week which could be a concern.

I have had Long Run down as my selection for weeks but I am going to change my mind. Imperial Commander has such good course form and goes so well fresh that I am going to put him up as my selection. They do say never change your mind!

If you are looking for an outsider to back each way then Tidal Bay and Weird Al would be my suggestions. If we were to get significant rain then Pandarama would be an additional selection.

To summarise then, Imperial Commander is the selection with a saver on Pandarama on soft ground. Tidal Bay and Weird Al the pick of the outsiders.

4:00 – Christie’s Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup

This looks a quality renewal. Last year’s winner Baby Run should again go well while Dante’s Storm is another to consider.

4:40 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

Sir Des Champs looks interesting. A winner at Auteuil he went on to win his first start in Ireland for Willie Mullins. Rain would help his chance. Last season’s Imperial Cup winner Qaspal is another to note

5:15 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup (Grade 3 Handicap)

Nicky Henderson will be keen to win this race in honour of his father. He has Tanks for That and Anquetta which both command respect. Shoreacres looks potentially well handicapped and is worth considering as is the 2009 winner Oh Crick. For my selection though I will go for I’msingingtheblues although he would not want soft ground. In the event of a significant change in the going Shoreacres would be the selection.

Good luck



1:30 – Jewson Novices’ Chase (Registered As The Golden Miller Novices’ Chase) (Grade 2)

This looks to be between Robinson Collonges, Wishfull Thinking, Loosen My Load and Noble Prince. Wishfull Thinking has a good record over this distance having won 5 out of 9. He is also a course winner. Robinson Collonges would probably have beaten Wishfull thinking when they met at Wincanton had he not fallen at the third last.

The Irish challenge is headed by Noble Prince and Loosen My Load. Noble Prince can be an indifferent jumper but both trip and ground will suit and he has plenty of ability. Loosen My Load is another that will like the going. He jumps well and is unbeaten at this trip.

I wouldn’t put you off if you want to back any of these but my personal preference is for Noble Prince and Wishfull Thinking, in that order.

2:05 – Pertemps Final (Listed Handicap Hurdle)

This is an open race with plenty of possibles. Chartreaux down at the bottom of the handicap has rock solid form and has shown he acts on the track. Sivota was 4th of 19 at Leopardstown over Christmas. He is a versatile sort that will handle the ground. Alfie Spinner has been in consistent form and comes from a stable whose horses are running well. Barafundle has a sound chance. Won at Newbury in November and looks potentially well handicapped. Lush Life is a course and distance winner, likes the ground and his last run can be ignored as he was unluckily left at the start. Another to consider is the Philip Hobbs runner Duke of Lucca.

My two against the field are Lush Life and Barafundle although I have plenty of respect for Chartreaux and Sivota.

2:40 – Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy Chase) (Grade 1)

Last year’s winner Albertas Run will like the ground and AP McCoy has an excellent record on him but the horse has failed to complete in either of his last two starts and I am going to look elsewhere for the winner. Poquelin was second in this race last year and has won 4 times at Cheltenham. The drying ground will suit him and he looks to have very chance. Kalahari King has run well at the Festival for the last two season finishing runner up in the 2009 Arkle and third in the 2010 Champion Chase. This step up in trip should be in his favour as will the better ground. These are my two fancies.

3:20 – Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade 1)

I am not sure that this is really a betting race. Big Bucks has held sway in the staying hurdle division in recent years, winning his last 10 races including this one for the past two years. The young pretender Grand Crus has made tremendous strides this year and is a very credible challenger. You pays your money and you takes your chance here really. Grand Crus will have to improve again to beat the champion but he may well do so. His hurdling technique is excellent although on the downside he might prefer some give in the ground. I have to come down one side or the other here and I will side with Grand Crus. Timeform rate him only 2 lbs below Big Bucks so any improvement from the younger horse could give him the edge.

Outsiders do not have a good record in this race. Zaynar could run into a place while Cross Kennon and Mourad also have place claims.

4:00 – Byrne Group Plate (Grade 3 Handicap Chase)

A tricky looking race where I fancy the winner will come from the first 3 in the betting, Aigle D’Or, Quartz de Thaix and Beautiful Sound. The first two are my joint selections.

4:40 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateur Riders)

Galant Nuit was a strong fancy for the Welsh National but missed the race after a training set back. He was a good third in this race last season. Junior is a Royal Ascot winner on the flat and has good course form at Cheltenham. His jockey rode the winner in 2009. These would be my two against the field with Dance Island the best outsider.

Good luck



1:30 – 141st Year Of The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup (Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase)

The David Pipe trained Sona Sasta has been a good friend to this site in the past and is a live contender for this. He has a progressive profile, is unbeaten over fences and will act on the ground. You could perhaps pick holes in his jumping but he is by no means a bad jumper. The trip will suit. Another that stays well is Some Target who represents a stable bang in form and originally was entered for 4 races at the festival. A sound jumper he is well worth considering.

The consistent Chicago Grey has the crack Irish rider Derek O’Connor in the saddle and looks sure to be involved in the finish.

2:05 – Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle

The Irish hold a strong hand here. One that I particularly like is First Lieutenant. He is a grade 1 winner and both trip and going will suit him fine. So Young won 3 bumpers in France before joining Willie Mullins in Ireland where he has won both his starts this season. Completing a trio of Irish hopes is Oscar’s Well a winner of his last 3 races, two of them grade 1s.

The English challenge is headed by Rock on Ruby and Tornado Bob. Rock on Ruby is a tenacious sort and boasts some good form at the track. Tornado Bob has finished in the first 2 in his 4 starts over hurdles.

I find the 3 Irish contenders hard to split but by Irish friend seems to have a lot of confidence in First Lieutenant so I will bow to his greater knowledge and blame him it one of the others wins! I will put up a second selection in this race as I have a sneaking fancy for Rock on Ruby.

2:40 – RSA Chase

Time for Rupert has been all the rage for this race for some time. Second in the World Hurdle last season he has won both his starts over fences. I am not sure that he is value for money though as his price looks rather a skinny one.

I am keen on the chances of both Wymott and Wayward Prince. Wymott has only finished out of the first two once in 10 starts and is unbeaten over fences. Wayward Prince has form figures of 121111 when running over 2 miles. My selections in this race are Wymott and Wayward Prince both each way.

3:20 – Queen Mother Champion Chase

Master Minded bids to regain his title and I would not dismiss his chance lightly. He faces some stiff opposition from the Irish in last year’s winner Big Zeb, Sizing Europe and Golden Silver. The dark horse of the race is Woolcombe Folly who has been a revelation this season winning handicaps at Ascot and Cheltenham.

The ground may have gone against Master Minded and I am inclined to take him on. Big Zeb sets the standard. I am not over confident but he is my selection. Sizing Europe has some good course form and along with Woolcombe Folly could be worth an each way interest.

4:00 – Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle)

As usual this is an ultra competitive handicap. Aegean Dawn has looked something special when winning handicaps at Cheltenham and Ascot. He has had an interrupted preparation for the race but if fully fit he would be a big threat. For Non Stop chased home the highly rated Grand Crus over course and distance before Christmas and I am keen on his chances. Call the Police is an interesting Irish runner although his best form has been with plenty of give in the ground. The consistent Bothy is another that would probably prefer softer ground.

Aegean Dawn and Non Stop will do for me with the best outsider the Venetia Williams runner Lightning Strike.

4:40 – Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Titan de Sarti came to the UK with quite a reputation from France but has been expensive to follow. He may well be capable of better than he has shown so far. Tenor Nivernais is another that started his career in France. He was 3rd at Taunton last time out in a race where the form has worked out quite well. Paintball has plenty of experience from racing on the flat comes here on the back of a win at Ludlow, has Richard Johnson in the plate and has to be on the short list. L’Eminence Grise has been running in very good company and may have been underestimated by the handicapper. These would be my short list of 4.

5:15 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race)

I fancy Knight Pass for this. There are others to consider, Cheltenian, Ericht, Raise the Beat and Divine Rhapsody. Knight Pass is the selection though.

Good luck