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.

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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.

Stamina

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.

Age

Most winners come from the 8 – 12 age bracket.

Jumping

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.

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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.

Weight

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.

Jockey

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.

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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