Grand National Horse Race
Forget Miss Marpleâ€™s hat pin, itâ€™s Hercule Poirotâ€™s â€œ little grey cells â€œ that we need to deploy to find the winner of this yearâ€™s John Smithâ€™s Grand National on Saturday at Aintree.
Between now and the great day, there will be more plunges and â€˜plottedâ€™ horses being backed off the boards than Captain Hastings has witnessed dire murders. Good Lord! Only yesterday a massive gamble on Parsons Legacy emerged leaving that animal a best priced 14s from 40s and 33s. Likewise earlier in the week, State of Play was reduced from 20s to 14s. When Ruby Walsh decided to ride My Will for Paul Nicholls instead of his fatherâ€™s Southern Vic, the horse was shortened to 7-1 favourite. With the news that Clerk of the Course, Andrew Tulloch has decided to water the Grand National course every day up until Saturday to ensure â€œ good, safe ground â€œ , we are left with another poser. Today, Paddy Power has eased Black Apalachi and Southern Vic, both needing cut in the ground to show their best, out in the betting because of the forecast warm and sunny weather predicted in the Liverpool region this week. However, there is a conflicting report of a band of rain which could reach the area on Saturday which could turn the forecast good, good/soft going to soft or even heavy. Good money for Hear The Echo from Ireland came as a surprise to me yesterday as all the horseâ€™s winning form is on an easy surface, and is set to carry11st.5lb. With Tony McCoy still mulling over his choice of J.P.McManusâ€™s runners, itâ€™s quite possible that last yearâ€™s unlucky Becherâ€™s casualty( second time round ) Butlerâ€™s Cabin could well go joint favourite with My Will if McCoy plumps for him. Added to this is the considerable confidence from expert pundits behind the Nichollâ€™s novice Big Fella Thanks at around 20s, and the bang in form Reveley representative Rambling Minster, still on 10s, but whose odds could both tumble.
So we have a number of imponderables to consider : riding arrangements, weather forecasting, course watering and the inevitable defection of horses incurring a knock or niggling injury that will prevent them from running thus contracting the betting market. In past years, nearly all the top 5 in the betting shorten up on the eve of the race.
But we are still going to have a punt, so what are the best deals? Most High Street bookmakers are offering non runner no bet deals. Ladbrokes and William Hill are in this category, but only offer Â¼ of the odds 1234. Bet 365 go1/4 odds 12345, as do Stan James ( non runner no bet ) and Boyle Sports. Victor Chandler offer a free bet to your initial stake if your horse falls in the race. Paddy Power offer 12345 at Â¼ of the odds too. My advice is to back your selections before Friday, taking a price if your fancies rate from 10s to 25s in the current market.
All we have to do now is find the winner. I went through the form book last night and eliminated half the field on suitability of the expected going. I am aware that because of the intended watering and the risk of rain arriving on Saturday that my conclusions and comments may not be quite so concrete. However, I hope that my analysis and reasoning is cogent and clear.
The stats tell us that in the last 21 years no horse has carried more than 11st. 1lb. to victory( Course specialist Hedgehunter carried 11st.1lb to win in 2005). Also during the same period only 9 to 11 year old have succeeded, with the exception of Bindaree aged 8 in 2002. However, this year there are a number of well fancied runners carrying in excess of 11st.1lb. including current favourite, My Will.
I have tried to condense my appraisal of the more fancied runnersâ€™ chances. Here goes:
Dismissed because of propensity for soft or heavy ground or overburdened.
BLACK APALACHIâ€¦..thorough stayer, course winner, too much weight 11.5.
CHELSEA HARBOURâ€¦all wins on soft,heavy, too much weight 11.8.
CLOUDY LANEâ€¦versatile as far as ground is concerned, too much weight.
COMPLY OR DIEâ€¦no problems with going, too much weight, returning winners have poor record.
HEAR THE ECHOâ€¦all wins on soft except one success on good/yielding, thorough stayer, too much weight 11.5.
Lâ€™AMIâ€¦.loves soft/heavy ground, thorough stayer and nice weight. Too slow.
PREISTS LEAPâ€¦thorough stayer, loves heavy ground, too much weight 11.5.
SNOWY MORNINGâ€¦3rd. last year, won on soft/heavy, poor effort last time out, made a noise in running according to jockey, too much weight 11.8.
SOUTHERN VICâ€¦loves cut in the ground, has good weight though.
MY WILL.. 5th. In this yearâ€™s God cup, Ruby Walsh rides, versatile as far as going is concerned, but 11.4. to carry.
RAMBLING MINSTER..in great heart, won over 3 Â½ and 4 miles, versatile on the ground issue, perfect racing weight of 10.9. sound jumper.
STATE OF PLAY..won last yearâ€™s Hennessey first time out, ran creditably in a Gold Cup , stays well, acceptable weight to carry 11.2.
IRISH INVADERâ€¦in excellent form, last 2 races have come over 2m.2f. where it was staying on well, did win over 3m. hurdles previously,versatile groundwise. Nice weight 10.9.
KILBEGGAN BLADE..won on soft and good ground, beat Rambling Minster at Sandown , good racing weight 10.7.
CORNISH SETTâ€¦respectable finish in last yearâ€™s National, second in Welsh National this year, good weight 10.10. promising jockey N.Schofield, versatile as far as going is concerned.
BIG FELLA THANKSâ€¦only a novice, but good run behind Nacarat at Kempton over 3 miles. Won on soft, 11.1.
BUTLERâ€™S CABINâ€¦.winning form on good and good/firm ground. Unlucky last year going well when falling at Becherâ€™s second time round, laid out for the trace since last year, good racing weight 10.13. McCoy?
Although emphasis is on jumping ability in this gruelling contest, Maori Venture won in 1987 after having fallen previously at Lingfield; West Tip won his National after falling the previous year at Becherâ€™s, so things could just be right this year for Butlerâ€™s Cabin.
Luck in running is a major element in the National, some jockeys prefer to go up the inside, others go wide to keep out of trouble, hoping to ride their race on the second circuit. With all the best research and information to hand itâ€™s still going to be difficult to find the winner.
There are 10 horses which fit the stats for age and weight comparison in this yearâ€™s Grand National:
Butlerâ€™s Cabin, Parsons Legacy, Lâ€™Ami, Cornish Sett, Darkness, Irish Invader, Rambling Minster, Southern Vic, Kilbeggan Blade and Brooklyn Brownie.
My money is on Butlerâ€™s Cabin, State of Play, Rambling Minster all to win and Irish Invader E.W.