Randox Health Grand National Handicap 4m2 1/2f Aintree Saturday

grand national oddsguruAny 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.

oddsguru aintree fencesGood 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

John Gray

Randox Health Grand National Handicap 4m2 1/2f Aintree Saturday

In the forty renewals of the great race, between 1958, when the Co Wicklow trained Mr What came home in front, and 1997, Irish yards only collected the prize on one other occasion, (the Dan Moore trained L’Escargot in 1975) but in the twenty runnings since, stables from across the Irish Sea have been responsible for more than a third of the winners, (Bobbyjo 1999, papillon 2000 Monty’s Pass2003, Hedgehunter 2005, Number Six Valverde2006 Silver Birch 2007, and Rule The World two years ago. This is clearly a very significant trend so any contenders from The Emerald Isle need to be treated with plenty of respect, perhaps none more so than current market leader, Total Recall.

Trained in Co Carlow by master handler, Willie Mullins, (who won with Hedgehunter in 2005) the 9yo son of Westerner certainly has plenty to recommend him. He was campaigned until this season mainly around 2 1/2m, with only limited success, (a single victory from his first six races over fences). It is only since he started tackling longer distances last October, that Total Recall’s career has really taken off, culminating in a superb victory in The Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury, ( The Hennessy Handicap until 2017 ) last December. Having won his previous race, a 3m Limerick Handicap very easily from Alpha Des Obeaux off a mark of 129, he was sent off the well backed 9/2 favourite in the 20 runner field for the Newbury classic. Racing off an eighteen pounds higher mark for the 3m2f contest, he duly obliged in the style of a real stayer, keeping on strongly from the last to collar the talented Whisper on the line. Reverting to hurdles two months later, he won a Leopardstown 3m Handicap easily prior to his latest race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Sent off a 14/1 chance, he was responding to pressure from pilot, David Mullins, to go into 6th place with four to jump, but unfortunately came down at the third last. We will never know what might have happened had he stood up, but there was still petrol left in the tank and I suppose the fall saved him from having too hard a race. He had only fallen once before, (his first race over fences) so this progressive staying chaser, although 9lbs higher than for the Ladbroke Trophy, with 11-4 on his back on Saturday doesn’t look overburdened, and could just make it number two for Willie.

One who did have a hard race at the Cheltenham Festival was the gallant 8yo Shantou Flyer. Runner up in his three previous races, he looked as if he might break the sequence under a good ride from the excellent young James Bowen ( and would have done so in another few strides) when mugged by Coo Star Sivola in The Ultima Handicap. He was pulled up in last year’s National as a 7yo when trained by Rebecca Curtis, but is a much stronger and more mature animal now, and he was staying on stoutly in the 3m1f Ultima on dreadful ground on the first day of The Cheltenham Festival. His pedigree, (by Shantou out of the Bob Back mare Carrigmona Flyer) shouts stamina, and having had thirty two days to get over his Festival effort, he looks nicely handicapped racing off the same mark, giving him a racing weight of 11-1 and at current odds around 40/1 this veteran of 24 chases, who has only ever fallen once, looks one to be interested in.

The Gordon Elliot trained Ucello Conti was going well enough in mid division when unseating at Beechers on the second circuit last year, and runs this time off a 2lbs lower mark, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-9. His Uber shrewd trainer has only given him the two runs since last year’s effort, finishing second to Saturday’s opponent Anibale Fly at Leopardstown in December, and pulled up on heavy ground in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park the following month. He is owned by one of the most successful partnerships on the National Hunt scene, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede and it would come as no surprise to see the 10yo involved on Saturday.

The above mentioned Anibale Fly did best of the Irish contenders in the Gold Cup, finishing third, 8 1/2L behind Native River. While he couldn’t go the pace of the first two, Tony Martins 8yo stayed on well to hold on to third place. Given a revised rating of 168 following that Gold Cup effort he gets to race off his previous mark of 159 in this early closing contest giving him 11-7 to carry. His sire Assessor is a big influence for stamina and his legendary owner J.P. McManus would love to bag a second Grand National.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Blaklion ran a marvellous race in last year’s renewal finishing in 4th place. He looked the most likely winner approaching the 2nd from home but took a bump, and was headed between the last two. Slightly hampered at the last he stayed on but lost third place near the line. He ran another fine race over the National fences when winning The Becher Chase, (3m2f) on heavy ground last December, beating The Last Samurai by 9L. Unfortunately this has led to a 9lbs rise in his rating to 161 giving him a racing weight of 11-9 at the weekend, a burden only carried once successfully (by Many Clouds three years ago) since the immortal Red Rum won with 12-0 on his back in 1974. That said his top trainer has won the great race twice before, with Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree four years later, so certainly knows what is required, and Blaklion is undoubtedly an improved performer this term.

The David Pipe trained 9yo Vieux Lion Rouge has an enviable record over the big Aintree fences having completed in all four attempts. He was 6th in last year’s National, 7th the year before, finished 7th behind Blaklion in the Beecher Chase last December and won the previous year’s renewal of that same contest. Presumably with the National in mind he has only had one run since early December, finishing a respectable 4th in an Ascot Handicap (17Feb 3mSoft). He will strip a fresh horse on Saturday and off a 2lbs lower mark than last year it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see the prize go back to Pond House in Somerset for a third time. (Miinnehoma 1994 Comply Or Die 2008).

Selection: Total Recall

E.W. : Shantou Flyer and Ucello Conti

John Gray

Crabbie’s Grand National Tips 2016

Crabbie’s Grand National 4m 3 1/2f Aintree Saturday – Our e.w. selection, Saint Are, gave us a great run for our money, finishing second in last year’s renewal of the great race, at the rewarding odds of 40/1, so let’s hope we can go one better this time.

The 2015 winner Many Clouds carried 11st 9lbs to victory, the highest since Red Rum in 1974, and this year heads up the weights with 11st 10lbs. His preparation last year had been geared towards the Gold Cup ( in which he finished a well beaten 6th ), and his participation at Aintree was something of an afterthought, so this time, with his programme aimed specifically at the National can we expect a repeat? Well he did win his prep race at Kelso, a contest he was fully entitled to collect, comfortably enough in early March, but interestingly the time gap between that race and Aintree is not much different than last year’s interval between the Gold Cup and the National. This years renewal of the Aintree Spectacular is reckoned to be one of the “classiest” of recent years, at least a 3lbs better race than last year, so arguably Many Clouds needs to improve again to carry top weight to victory. Having said that he does have a lot in his favour and deserves his place at the top of the market.

Many doubters had to eat their words when Paul Nicholls’ wonderful 10yo Silviniaco Conti hosed up in the Betfair Ascot Chase in Febuary, having previously been pulled up in the King George at Kempton. This marvellous racehorse who has won eight times at Grade 1 level and amassed over £1,000,000 in prize money is certainly not finished yet, and has to be on the short list.

Ucello Conti is a half brother to the above paragon, and in the hands of master trainer Gordon Elliott, responsible for the 2007 winner, Silver Birch, also has plenty to recommend him. Previously trained in France, and a winner of over £250,000 in prize money, he won at his first attempt over the larger obstacles as a 3yo way back in 2011, and has only come to grief once in his subsequent sixteen chases. His three runs for Elliott have included a 2nd in the Paddy Power at Leopardstown and a 3rd in the Thyestes at Gowran Park showing steady progress, and earning him a rating of 149, giving him an assured place in Saturday’s line up. His trainer thinks him a “natural” for Aintree so at current odds of 33/1 is worth considering.

It must seem an eternity to trainer Kim Bailey since the glory days of 1990 and 1995 when he won the National with Mr Frisk, the Champion Hurdle with Alderbrook, and the Gold Cup with Master Oats, but perhaps with the talented 8yo The Last Samurai the good times may be here again. He was no slouch when trained by Donald McCain last year winning three of his five starts, but in the care of Mr Bailey his form hit a new high when impressively winning The Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster last time out. The Doncaster race has been a good guide in the past with three winners, Ben Nevis, Corbiere,and Amberleigh House going on to victory at Aintree. With just 10st8lbs to carry The Last Samurai looks really well treated and is short listed.

There is something in the Merseyside air that brings out the best in Saint Are as he seems to reserve his best for Aintree. A winner of a Grade1 hurdle here as a 5yo, he has also won a Class1 chase over the Mildmay course, and last years second in the National itself was outstanding. His handler, Tom George says that he is a”Spring” horse, confirmed by his recent Doncaster success. Definitely worth considering!

For a horse with such an impressive C.V. the Willie Mullins trained Sir Des Champs looks well treated with just 10st13lbs on his back. He had a great season in 2013 winning the Grade1 Hennessy Gold Cup, coming second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and winning the Punchestown equivalent. Unfortunately he was injured in the same years Lexus, and was off the course for 700 days. He reappeared last November at Thurles and seemed to have retained plenty of enthusiasm when winning easily. He has been disappointing in his two subsequent runs on very holding ground in the Lexus and Hennessy at Leopardstown but he is a horse who probably needs decent ground to show his best and may well find his ideal conditions on Saturday.

Another who returned to action after a long break is P Fahy’s 9yo Morning Assembly. Off for 20 months he reappeared at Fairyhouse in January and finishing strongly he went down by a head. He was second again at Gowran Park in Febuary and ran his best race last time when finishing 4th of 23 at the Cheltenham festival to Un Temp Pour Tout. Ridden by the shrewd Davy Russell he is worth a second look.

By the same sire Dom Alco, and in the same ownership as the 2012 winner Neptune Collonges, the Paul Nicholls trained Unioniste has possibilities. Attempting last year to be the first 7yo since Bogskar won in 1940 to collect he fell, but, as he was probably attempting the impossible anyhow with 11st 6lbs in the plate, and as this was his only lapse in twenty races, he is easily forgiven. He did his prospects no harm when finishing second to Many Clouds at Kelso last time, and this year, he is much more realistically weighted with 10st8lbs. With another year on his back he looks set to run a big race and could well tie up this years trainers championship for P.Nicholls.

Selection : The Last Samurai

E.W. : Unioniste

Best 2015 Grand National Betting Tips

Rocky Creek

Paul Nicholls runs the 9yo Rocky Creek, and is another who has a lot going for him. In last year’s race he was travelling well and jumping superbly until running out of petrol at the 2nd last, and faded into a well beaten 5th.

Having put up Pineau De Re, as one of our two selections in last years renewal, we feel that the Dr Newland trained 12yo is well worth a second look again this time. He came into last years race off a superb performance in the Pertemps Hurdle Final at the Cheltenham Festival where he finished an unlucky third. He has followed the same route this year, finishing a respectable 11th of 23, in the Pertemps despite suffering some interference. Indeed he was running on strongly at the finish of what was a rough contest, demonstrating his continuing enthusiasm for the game. His highly talented trainer is bullish about his chances, and considering how well previous winners have performed in subsequent renewals of the great race, he does seem to have place prospects at least.

Alan King, who has enjoyed such a fruitful season runs the 9yo Godsmejudge, and Saturday has been his target all season. Having won and been runner up in the last two renewals of the Scottish National his stamina for Aintree seems assured. Indeed in last years national North of the border, it was stamina that got him to within 1 1/2L of the winner, Al Co, having been 4L behind jumping the last. He is now 5lbs better off with Al Co, and with 10st8lbs on his back does look well handicapped. One for the short list!

Even without the Mc Coy factor, Jonjo O’Neill’s 8yo Shutthefrontdoor would surely be one of the favourites on Saturday. By Accordion out of a Strong Gale mare, his pedigree is all about stamina, a point strongly emphasised by his staying on win in last years Irish National, (3m5f), which he won off a mark of 143. Confirming his wellbeing, and his ability to run well fresh, he reappeared seven months later, easily landing a conditions race at Carlisle in November. Put away with Saturday in mind, the one reservation would be his handicap Mark, 7lbs higher than his 3/4L win in the Irish National. However with Mc Coy aboard he does seem to have a great chance.

Paul Nicholls runs the 9yo Rocky Creek, and is another who has a lot going for him. In last year’s race he was travelling well and jumping superbly until running out of petrol at the 2nd last, and faded into a well beaten 5th. he had a wind operation over the summer, and judging by his win at Kempton (Feb 21) it must be judged a success. He escapes a penalty for Kempton, as it came after the National weights were published, so is effectively 7lbs well in on Saturday. If his stamina holds out, and the omens look good, this sound jumper must have a great chance of being involved at the business end at the weekend.

Something about Liverpool certainly seems to suit the Tom George trained Saint Are, as he seems to reserve his best performances for the place. Winner of a Gd1 hurdle here as a 5yo, he won a Cl 1 chase over the Mildmay course as a 6yo, and ran another fine race when finishing 3rd over the National fences last December. Having been outpaced, he was only 7th at the 2nd last, but ran on really well to be only 3 3/4L adrift at the post. He won easily last time out,(3m1f) in Febuary, so back at his favourite venue, he is certainly worth a second look.

The David Pipe trained Soll has certainly thrived since joining the Nicholshayne team this season. He has won his last two races, most recently a Newbury veterans handicap (3m2 1/2f Feb 28) again after the National weights were published, and so escaping a penalty. Nicely handicapped, with just 10st2lbs to carry, with the in form Tom Scudamore in the saddle, he certainly catches the eye. He jumped around in the race two years ago, finishing seventh, and looks a much improved animal now. well worth considering.

Keith Revely’s Night in Milan is another who has been aimed at the National all season. Something of a Doncaster specialist, he won last years Grimthorpe Chase, and came third in this years renewal. As the Grimthorpe has been a good guide in the past, this prominent racing, sound jumper is another to consider.

Selection : Rocky Creek

E.W. Saint Are.

Long Run can land 2014 Grand National sponsored by Crabbies

ImageSince its inception in 1839 the Grand National has been subject to many adaptations and changes but perhaps none more fundamental than after the 2012 running when the structure of the famed obstacles where altered. The timber frames of the jumps were changed to a much more forgiving plastic construction. As seen last year this redesign to a much easier fence led to an unbelievable mere two fallers. The lesson from this surely is that outstanding jumping ability is no longer required as born out by last years winner who prior to his victory had a very poor completion rate. What now seem to be required is a well handicapped animal with limitless stamina.

So what of this year’s renewal. Last years third Tea for Three certainly must be considered. He is that type of superb jumper who would have benefitted from the challenge of the old style fences. However, he ran a great race last year when coming a gallant third behind Auroras Encore and Cappa Blue. Perhaps if he had been ridden with a little more restraint he may have got a little bit closer to the winner. Off a mark 2lbs higher than last year he looks very poor value at his current odds. Another factor against him I feel was the hard race he had in the Gold Cup.

Pineau de Re is an interesting runner from the very successful stable of Dr Richard Newland. For an 11yo he is very lightly raced having competed in only 14 chases. He ran a race full of promise at the Cheltenham Festival where was beaten a nse and a neck by the classy Fingal Bay and Southfield Theatre in a 3ml hurdle. He was running on strongly at the end so Aintree’s 4 1/2mls should hold no terrors. One for the short list.

The very likeable Long Run is trying to emulate the only two winners of the Gold Cup and Grand National, the great Golden Miller (5 times winner of the Gold Cup) and L’Escargot (the duel winner in 70/71). This is heady company indeed but with 11st 9lbs the handicapper has given him a chance. His pedigree is all about stamina and his very shrewd trainer N Henderson wisely bypassed Cheltenham with him. He will be well suited by the new fences, has a real Aintree specialist on board and must have a great chance of giving his trainer his first Grand National winner.

David Pipe’s The Package is interesting. A lightly raced 11yo he ran a very promising warm up race for this at the Cheltenham Festival. Having his first run for a year he was a very creditable 3rd behind Holywell in a 3ml chase. His pedigree being by Kayf Tara out of an Ardross mare is full of stamina. So ridden by the in form Tom Scudamore I can see him being involved at the business end.

The Tim Vaughan hunter chaser Golan Way at a huge price is worth a second look. Previously a more than useful hurdler and handicap chaser he looked to be back to his best when hacking up in a hunter chase at Warwick in March. If he is his mark of 142 is very fair indeed. His stamina credentials look sound as he stayed 3m6f on soft ground at Sandown.

The lightly raced 9yo Hawkes Point from the Nichols stable is interesting. A decent hurdler his staying on second to Mountainous in the Welsh Grand National at Christmas was all about stamina where he was beaten by a diminishing head at the post. He looks the type to benefit from the new fences and is another for the short list.

The Johnny Farrelly trained Battle Group looks interesting. Three times a winner at the Aintree Festival he is ridden by the very talented Brendan Powell. Although very disappointing In his last three races his enthusiasm for the game seems to revive in the spring. He has won five times in either April or May. Worth considering.

Selection: Long Run

E.W. Hawkes Point

Pineau de Re