Any consideration of this year’s Merseyside Marathon, has to begin with the phenomenon, that is the diminutive Tiger Roll. The gallant winner of last year’s renewal is a mere 15.2 hands, which must make those Aintree fences look huge, but this natural jumper, dare I say it reminiscent of the great Red Rum, just jumped from fence to fence and had plenty left in the locker to fend off the late challenge of Pleasant Company. The 9yo has won 11 of his 34 races, including an amazing 4 victories at The Cheltenham Festival, (Triumph Hurdle 2014, National Hunt Chase, 2017 and The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase for the past two years). His stamina and jumping skills were spectacularly on show last time out when he coasted home by 22L for his second win in The Glenfarclas at The Festival. A strict interpretation of the form of that heat would suggest that he has improved at least 10lbs over the last 12 months so still looks reasonably handicapped on a mark 9lbs higher than last year. He has never fallen in any of his 34 starts and if in the same form as last time, will be a tough nut to crack.
Three 11yo’s have won The National in the past decade, and Irish Maestro, Willie Mullins will be hoping his talented stayer, Rathvinden, can make it four. Lightly raced for his years, he has won 6 of his 13 starts over fences, including last year’s stamina sapping 4miles National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, where he outstayed Saturday’s opponent, the mare, Ms Parfois. There was only 1/2L in it at the finish and Rathvinden is a pound worse off with her at the weekend, but the Mullins horse looked an improved performer 6 weeks ago when comfortably beating the 159 rated, Alpha Des Obeaux at level weights, and is fancied to confirm the form. With a nice racing weight of 10-10 this confirmed stayer has plenty to recommend him.
Despite being badly hampered at the first, and clouting the 5th last, Tony Martins, Anibale Fly did really well in last year’s race to finish 4th, 11 1/2L behind Tiger Roll racing off a mark of 159. He ran the race of his life to finish second in The Gold Cup 22 days ago, and if that heat hasn’t left its mark, he may just have been a tad underestimated by The Handicapper on 164. He meets Tiger Roll on 4lbs better terms than last year, and owner, JP Mc Manus, could be justified in entertaining hopes of landing a second Grand National to add to his win with Don’t Push It nine years ago.
Good ground and a staying trip seemed just the ticket for the Philip Hobbs trained, Rock The Kasbah when the 9yo won the 3m3 1/2f Bet Victor. Com Handicap at Cheltenham in November. He took it up two out on the good ground and staying on well up the hill beat the now 150 rated Royal Vacation, (rec 4lbs). A safe conveyance, he has never fallen in his 13 starts over fences, and having had a nice Winter break, avoiding the deep seasonal ground, he will strip one of the freshest in the race. If as seems likely Champion Jockey Richard Johnson is in the Plate he looks to have a serious shot at filling in that one serious gap in Richard’s CV.
Owner Trevor Hemings is double handed in his quest for a 4th victory in the great race, and both his runners, Lake View Lad and Vintage Clouds, have plenty to recommend them. They both clashed in their last race, the Ultima Handicap at The Cheltenham Festival with Vintage Clouds doing best. He finished 2nd, two lengths in front of the rallying Lake View Lad. They meet on the same terms on Saturday but I feel that Lake View Lad might be the better armed to cope with the demands of Saturday’s marathon, and Scottish trained, by Nick Alexander, he will certainly be a popular pick with punters north of the border.
The last time a 7yo won the Grand National, was way back in 1940, which makes it difficult to recommend the David Pipe trained, Ramses De Teillee, but as we all know, statistics can be misleading,(7yo’s are something of a rarity in the race) and it’s also worth remembering that the Trophy has gone back to Pond House on two previous occasions, so they certainly know what’s required down Nicholashayne way. Ramses De Teille, by the middle distance stallion, and top class sire of NH horses, Martaline, has won 3 of his 10 starts over fences, and may have been a little unlucky not to have added The Welsh Grand National to his CV last December. Always travelling well within himself, he looked the most likely winner until belting the 4th last fence, and while that would have been the end of most animals challenge, he rallied bravely, and got to within 1 1/4L of Elegant Escape. He put in another excellent effort last time over Haydock’s tricky upright fences, where despite running on strongly, he was collared inside the last 50 yards. (3m4 1/2f Good). A seriously upwardly mobile young stayer, who never knows when he’s beaten, he is definitely worth considering.
Selection : Tiger Roll Danger : Rock The Kasbah
EW. : Ramses De Teillee