It doesn't seem so long ago that Mon Mome, Don't Push It, Ballabriggs, Neptune Collanges and Aurora's Encore were each winning the Grand National. Given that amongst those five there have been 100/1, 66/1 and 33/ winners (the other two were 14/1 and 10/1) you can understand why this is the one race of the year that captures the imagination of the general public who will never have a bet again until next year.
So in pursuit of a windfall and bragging rights for the next month, I've been studying trends, form and generally crunching stats in the hope that this will all arrive with the name of whichever lucky (and there's a LOT of luck required) horse and rider manage to stay the distance, keep clear of the inevitable fallers and jump like a stag to get to the red and white lollipop before all else.
There are some very useful trends that can be useful when looking for a winner. The boxes that all the past 10 winners have all ticked (and remember these have included those 100/1 and 66/1 winners!) are:
- Aged between 9 and 12
- Had a run since the date the weights were announced (05 Feb)
- Won no more than 1 chase this season (thus protecting their handicap rating)
- Won a chase of at least 3 mile distance
- Run in at least ten chases
- Run 3-6 times since Sept 01 last year
- Irish or French bred
- Career best RPR rating was achieved in a chase of 3 miles or more
These are useful trends to look at and many of the runners tick some but not so many tick all...... there are 9 that do and these are: Across The Bay, Burton Port, Lion Na Bearnai, Long Run, Monbeg Dude, Pineau De Re, Quito De La Roque, Raz Du Maree and Teaforthree
The course is being selectively watered overnight to maintain the good to soft (good in places) going
There's a whole host of the top jockeys out of the race due to injury including amongst many, Ruby Walsh, Daryl Jacob, Jason Maguire - all previous Grand National winners and quite a few lesser known names. Since experience, fitness and nerves of steel count for that bit more when negotiating these tough fences, it's worth giving more consideration to those runners who have a talented pilot.
Now back to the nitty picky gitty!
Across the Bay has done all of his winning on heavy or soft and he won't be getting that here.
Burton Port has never won over more than 3 miles 1 furlong and that was his last win 4 years ago. Recent attempts haven't convinced on the stamina front.
Lion Na Bearnai won the Irish Grand National back in April 2012 but has only won once since. However, his stamina isn't in question and he has won on this going before as well as heavy. The booking of recent Cheltenham Gold Cup winning rider Davy Russell would imply that a good run in expected here. I'd say he's worth an each way.
Long Run should stay this distance but this faster track is likely to put too much pressure on his less than impressive jumping so I'll leave him for another day.
Monbeg Dude has been in the papers lately with his famous part owner, Mike Tinsdall. He's won in graded company in December (Cheltenham) when he was staying on strongly over 3m 2f and coupled with his win over 3m 6f at Chepstow his stamina looks to be in order. However, his jumping hasn't and that together with his usual hold up style means he is going to need a lot more luck than most. He is the top pick though on the trends.
Pineau De Re fell on his only previous visit here but trainer Richard Newland is confident that they now know how best to ride him. Unfortunately, the rider who knew best is Sam Twiston-Davies is aboard Tidal Bay in this race and today's jockey Leighton Aspell has not ridden a winner here in 5 years. On the plus side, he looks as though he will last the distance though and the going will suit. Perhaps an each way chance.
Quito De La Roque has been out of sorts lately, his last win was over a year ago and despite his trainer saying he is a Spring horse, most of his winning has been done on ground that has heavy in the going description.
Raz Du Maree is a super jumper and a stayer who seems to like a flat galloping track ... but he's a little thing! Last time he did finish ahead of both Seabass and Bog Warrior, who boosted that form with a Grade 2 win at Navan last Saturday so if he takes to these he's not without hope.
Teaforthree will be going off favourite and it's easy to see why. He was third in this last year and perhaps kicked for home too soon. He's not the most consistent jumper and has been known to jump to the right in the past which won't be too helpful here. With a more patient ride (same jockey) and the extra year's experience, he might do better this year. His last win was in 2012 at Cheltenham when he was partnered by JT McNamara in the NH Chase....and yes, I backed him on course. He is partnered today by Nick Scholfield who is an excellent rider but just not so good in chases at Aintree!
Of those that don't tick the trend boxes, these also caught my eye.
Triolo D'Alene used the Cheltenham Gold Cup as a prep race!! He won the Hennessy Gold Cup last November going away and beating Rocky Creek, Our Father and Prince De Beauchene in the process. However, Rocky Creek has a 3lb pull this time (the other two have better weight advantages but not enough to turn things around in my opinion).
Rocky Creek has form figures of 2-1-1-1-3-2-2 and is extremely lightly raced (down to ringworm more than design!). Ruby Walsh told trainer Paul Nicholls that he though he was a national horse but he may just need another year? Having said that, he oozes class.
Since one or two bookies are paying out on the first 6 places, I have listed my top 6 of the above in order of preference:
- Monbeg Dude
- Rocky Creek 5th
- Lion Na Bearnai
- Pineau De Re 1st
- Raz De Maree
Good luck & may all the runners and riders get home safely