Rule The World wins the Grand National with 19-year-old David Mullins

The Michael O’Leary-owned Rule The World has won the Grand National, having never won a race over fences in 13 previous attempts. His extraordinary success will be an emotional moment in the life of his Irish trainer, Mouse Morris, whose son Christopher died last summer from carbon monoxide poisoning while travelling in Argentina.

rule the world


Morris made reference to his loss recently after winning the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday. “Tiffer was looking down on me today. He helped me there,” was the trainer’s immediate reaction on that day.

The winner was returned at 33-1 but a still greater shock seemed on the cards after the last when the 100-1 shot Vics Canvas challenged for the lead, despite having almost lost his jockey at the first Becher’s. Vics Canvas’ chance was compromised as he ran out of room around the elbow turn a furlong from home when The Last Samuri, one of the 8-1 joint-favourites, nosed ahead. But Rule The World’s final challenge up the centre of the course proved decisive and he pulled away to win by six lengths. The Last Samuri fnished second with Vics Canvas third and Gilgamboa fourth.

Initial reports suggested 16 of the 39 starters completed the course, rather more than might have been expected on the rain-softened going, and that all horses had returned without significant injury.

The winning jockey was the 19-year-old David Mullins, who has quickly built a big following in Ireland. He acquired the ride after Bryan Cooper, the retained jockey of the winning owner, chose instead to partner First Lieutenant, who got no further than the second fence.

“It’s unbelievable. I just couldn’t expect things to have gone better,” said Mullins. “There was one little mishap at the fourth-last but thank God I came out [the other side]. Everything went to plan really.

“Credit to Mouse, he’s produced this horse without having won over fences. Then there’s me, who’s never even walked around the Grand National track. Mouse is a genius and he’s the best man in the world for preparing a horse for one day. That’s the best ride I’ve ever got off a horse and it’s the best feeling to come back into a place like this. It was just brilliant.”

Many Clouds, last year’s winner, made a bold bid for a second victory but a late mistake saw him fade out of contention. Holywell, another fancied runner, was an early faller. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Many Clouds gives Leighton Aspell back-to-back Grand National wins

many clouds

Powered by article titled “Many Clouds gives Leighton Aspell back-to-back Grand National wins” was written by Greg Wood at Aintree, for The Observer on Saturday 11th April 2015 17.35 UTC

Tony McCoy seems adamant that he will not reconsider his decision to retire but, for the second year running, the Grand National was won by a jockey who did just that. McCoy, who finished fifth on Shutthefrontdoor, was one of the first people to congratulate Leighton Aspell after his victory on the 25-1 chance Many Clouds, 12 months after the victorious jockey had won the race on another 25-1 shot, Pineau De Re.

Aspell spent two years out of the weighing room after losing his enthusiasm for race-riding in 2007, but his decision to return has proved to be inspired. He is the first rider since Brian Fletcher, who rode Red Rum in 1973 and 1974, to win the National two years running and the first since Bryan Marshall in 1953 and 1954 to do so on different horses.

All eyes, inevitably, were on McCoy as the field went around their first circuit and a half of Aintree and he kept the 6-1 favourite out of trouble and jumping well as a steady trickle of runners either fell or unseated their jockeys. The survivors were directed around the Canal Turn on the second circuit as Balthazar King, last year’s runner-up, received treatment after a fall first time around, and after The Druids Nephew, who was still going well, fell when leading at the fifth-last fence, Shutthefrontdoor was still travelling like a potential winner.

But so was Many Clouds, a horse with the class to win the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November, one of the toughest and most competitive races of the season, before lining up as one of the favourites for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month. His quality meant that he had 11st 9lb to carry, just 1lb below the top weight and the highest burden carried to victory since Red Rum’s success under the old top weight of 12 stone in 1974, but he had adapted swiftly to the challenge of the big fences, vindicating the decision of Oliver Sherwood, his trainer, and Trevor Hemmings, his owner, to send him to the race just four weeks after his run at Cheltenham.

Many Clouds was left in front by the fall of The Druids Nephew and Aspell needed no further invitation to set off for the line. He was giving half a stone to Shutthefrontdoor, but McCoy’s mount was struggling to raise a serious challenge before they had jumped the last. The most successful jockey in National Hunt history has often seemed to get horses home by force of will, but even he has his limits.

Instead it was another 25-1 chance, Saint Are, who emerged from the pursuers after the last and tried to chase down Many Clouds. He was gaining on the leader in the final furlong but never at a rate that gave him a real chance of catching the winner. Hemmings’s familiar green-and-yellow quartered colours passed the line in front for the third time in a Grand National, following the victories of Hedgehunter and Ballabriggs in 2005 and 2011, with one and three-quarter lengths to spare over Saint Are, with Monbeg Dude third at 40-1 and Alvarado back in fourth for the second year running.

“When Aidan [Coleman, on The Druids Nephew] fell, my horse just pricked his ears and had a breather for three or four furlongs,” Aspell said afterwards. “I would have liked a couple alongside me when we got to the Elbow [just over a furlong out] just to push him along a bit. It’s a lonely place there and you’re running into a funnel. He’s all heart though and has given every ounce he possibly could have.

“I remember watching this race in a field on a small TV after I retired a few years ago. I never thought I’d ever win it once, let alone twice. He’s a great friend of mine, this horse. Last year I had to work hard at various points in the race, and I had to do a light weight before the National so I was a tired man. Today I had a lovely smooth passage around.”

Aspell set out knowing that he was on one of the best horses in the race, but a lacklustre run in the Gold Cup, when Many Clouds finished sixth, sowed the only seeds of doubt in the minds of his jockey and trainer.

“He just disappointed us there a little bit,” Aspell said. “He’d been training and eating very well since and giving us all the right signals, it was just a nagging doubt in the back of my mind whether he would be in tip-top form.

“I asked him some big questions and he has dug really deep. I tried to conserve energy because he had a hard race in the Gold Cup and it’s a wonderful training performance by Oliver to freshen him up and recharge the batteries. He’s all heart and he gave me the best ride I have ever had over these fences. I was just hoping that the battery life would last.”

The Grand National is so intensely competitive that most National Hunt owners can only dream of winning it once. Hemmings, though, has now enjoyed as many victories as Noel Le Mare, the owner of Red Rum, but with three different horses.

“There’s a style of horse that I purchase,” Hemmings said, “but I’m buying a slightly different sort of horse now than I did 20 years ago. They’re a slightly smarter sort of horse than the originals, and that’s how racing and the National have changed.”

2015 Crabbie’s Grand National – where they finished:

1st Many Clouds 25/1

2nd Saint Are 25-1 – 1 3/4 Lengths

3rd Mondbeg Dude 40-1 – 6 Lengths

4th Alvarado 20-1 – 3 1/2 Lengths

5th Shutthefrontdoor 6-1Fav – 1 1/2 Lengths

6th Royale Knight 25-1 – 2 1/4 Lengths

7th Tranquil Sea 33-1 – 10 Lengths

8th Cause Of Causes 14-1 – 2 1/4 Lengths

9th Soll 9-1 – 14 Lengths

10th Chance Du Roy 40-1 – 10 Lengths

11th Mon Parrain 33-1 – 5 Lengths

12th Pineau De Re 25-1 – 1 1/2 Lengths

13th Owega Star 50-1 – 6 Lengths

14th Spring Heeled 25-1 – 25 Lengths

15th Oscar Time 20-1 – 2 1/2 Lengths

16th First Lieutenant 14-1 – 3 3/4 Lengths

17th Rocky Creek 8-1 – 5 Lengths

18th Night In Milan 20-1 – 2 1/2 Lengths

19th Dolatulo 66-1 – 3 1/4 Lengths


Fence One: Al Co (unseated), Gas Line Boy (fell), Ely Brown (fell)

Fence Three: Rubi Light (unseated rider)

Fence Four: Corrin Wood (pulled up)

Fence Five: Unioniste (fell)

Fence Six: River Choice (fell)

Fence Eight: Balthazar King (fell), Ballycasey (brought down)

Fence 18: Court By Surprise (pulled up)

Fence 25: Lord Windermere (pulled up), Across The Bay (pulled up), Super Duty (pulled up)

Fence 26: Rebel Rebellion (pulled up), The Rainbow Hunter (fell), The Druids Nephew (fell)

Fence 28: Portrait King (fell)

Fence 29: Godsmejudge (pulled up), Wyck Hill (pulled up), Bob Ford (pulled up) © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Pineau De Re wins the Grand National 2014

Pineau De Re winning pic

Powered by article titled “Pineau De Re wins the Grand National at Aintree” was written by Chris Cook at Aintree, for on Saturday 5th April 2014 15.38 UTC

Pineau De Re was the 25-1 winner of the Grand National, foiling the two most high-profile jockeys in the race, Richard Johnson and Tony McCoy, who finished second and third on Balthazar King and Double Seven. The winning jockey was Leighton Aspell, making two years in a row that the famous Aintree race has been won by a rider back from retirement, following Ryan Mania last year.

The 37-year-old Aspell, runner-up in the National 11 years ago on Supreme Glory, quit the saddle in the summer of 2007 and went to work in the Flat-racing yard of John Dunlop in Sussex. He returned to action in 2009 and has now been rewarded with what was already his best season by a long way. Even so, first prize of £561,000 doubles his money won since last May.

This was the second Grand National over the modified fences that have been criticised by some for being too soft. Last year, every runner cleared the first seven fences without incident but this race looked much more like older Nationals, with Twirling Magnet falling at the first and others tumbling at regular intervals, including Burton Port and Big Shu at the next two fences.

However, Channel 4 reported that all horses returned without serious injury. A total of 18 completed the course.

The most notable departure in the early stages was the well-fancied Long Run, a past winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the King George VI Chase, who fell when leading at Valentine’s Brook. Shortly after, as the field tackled The Chair in front of the stands, there were despairing cries from many a punter as Teaforthree unseated Nick Scholfield.

Nor was the drama confined to the fences. There was a false start, following which Battle Group refused to race when the tape went up for real. As the runners passed the starting point to go out on the second circuit, Across The Bay, who had been leading, was carried across the track and out of contention by a loose horse.

Those still in the argument at that stage included Katie Walsh, a late call-up for the outsider Vesper Bell, who could be seen hunting along on the inside as the field tracked down to Becher’s Brook. But Pineau De Re was also travelling notably well at that stage and, a mile later, his reserves of stamina carried him clear of his rivals.

He won by five lengths from Balthazar King, who was a length and a quarter ahead of Double Seven. Alvarado finished fast into fourth, with Rocky Creek and Monbeg Dude not far behind.

“I was very conscious that I didn’t want to be in front too soon over four and a half miles,” Aspell said. “He’s a small horse, so he has to try at his fences, which he kept doing.

“When I got a bit of daylight, I knew I’d be fine because that was my only worry. Once he was in daylight, from the Canal Turn, he really enjoyed that part of the race.”

The winning trainer is the 50-year-old Dr Richard Newland, who took Pineau De Re into his Worcestershire stable last summer and sparked a revival in his form. The horse is Newland’s first Grand National runner. He was previously trained in Ireland by Philip Fenton, currently facing charges of possessing anabolic steroids and other banned substances, which it is believed he will deny. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Outsider Auroras Encore wins Grand National 2013 at 66-1

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The Grand National has provided another sensational shock with victory for Aurora’s Encore, a 66-1 shot who pounded clear on the run-in under jockey Ryan Mania, having his first ride in the famous race. The winning trainer is Sue Smith, wife of the former show-jumper Harvey, who achieved fame in the 70s as a bad boy of a sport that then enjoyed much TV coverage.

There was a great deal of pressure on Aintree’s officials to provide a safe race after two equine deaths over the first two days of the race-meeting, despite newly softened fences. The result was that there were no fallers and no jockeys were unseated over the first seven fences, including Becher’s Brook. Early indications were that all horses had returned safely.

Another success was the revised starting arrangements, which produced a start so quick and trouble-free that some onlookers were startled to discover the race in progress. At the other end of the action, Aurora’s Encore pulled clear of the much more fancied Cappa Bleu and Teaforthree, who finished second and third.

Seabass was sent off the 11-2 favourite to make Katie Walsh the first winning female jockey in the race’s long history. He made progress into the front rank on the second circuit before fading.

Walsh’s brother, Ruby, also rode a fancied horse in On His Own, who moved up menacingly on the second circuit. But he was already in trouble when falling at Valentine’s Brook, three fences further than he had managed last year. Tony McCoy was unseated when his mount, Colbert Station, blundered at The Chair.

The 23-year-old Mania gave up his career in the saddle in 2011, frustrated by a lack of opportunity, but found the sport’s lure too hard to resist. He was praised for his efforts by Smith.

“He’s a grand little horse and you can ride him anywhere, anyhow,” the trainer said. “We knew there was a strong possibility that he would get the trip and Ryan’s given him an absolutely wonderful ride.”

The four winning owners include the 78-year-old Jim Beaumont, who was born in Liverpool and worked in the city’s Adelphi Hotel as a bellboy at the age of 14. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Grand National 2nd favourite Prince De Beauchene ruled out


Powered by article titled “Grand National contender Prince De Beauchene ruled out by injury” was written by Chris Cook, for on Wednesday 27th March 2013 01.06 UTC

Prince De Beauchene, who had been second favourite for the Grand National, has been ruled out of the race on 6 April. His trainer, Willie Mullins, placed a statement on his website on Tuesday evening, reporting that the horse had sustained a stress fracture to a hip bone.

It is the second consecutive year that the horse has been a late withdrawal from the Aintree race, as he suffered an identical injury in the build-up to the 2012 renewal, for which he was also fancied. He got three days closer to the race this time.

“We have had some bad news about Prince De Beauchene,” Mullins wrote on the front page of his website. “He had not been striding out for the last few days and, following a bone scan in Troytown Veterinary Hospital, it has been confirmed that he has a minor stress fracture in his ilium. He will require at least six weeks’ box rest, so unfortunately he will miss the Aintree Grand National.”

The news was delivered in no other way and most people became aware when Prince De Beauchene’s odds on the Betfair website drifted alarmingly towards 100-1. He had been no bigger than 12-1 with conventional bookmakers.

Mullins still has a strong hand for the National a week on Saturday, led by the favourite, On His Own, who is owned, like Prince De Beauchene, by Graham Wylie. The unlucky Wylie is also the owner of Tidal Bay, ruled out of the National when a stress fracture to a cannon bone was discovered in February. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Clare Balding calls for change to start of the Grand National 2013

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Clare Balding, who will anchor coverage of the Grand National at Aintree when it is televised by Channel 4 Racing for the first time next April, has entered the debate on the world’s most famous race by suggesting that any horses that cross the starting line too early should be forced to start at the back of the field.

Balding also believes that the distance of the National should be reduced by almost a furlong to allow the runners to start at the Melling Road, cutting the length of the headlong charge to the first fence.

“My feeling is that the start has been a massive problem for the last three years,” Balding said this week. “I’d move the start to the Melling Road, and anyone who goes over the start line early will have to go to the back of the grid, so there is a penalty straight away.

“That means they won’t all charge it and it will slow down the pace to the first fence, which has a knock-on effect.”

The British Horseracing Authority recently completed its official review of the 2012 Grand National, in which two horses – Synchronised, the Gold Cup winner, and According To Pete – suffered fatal injuries. The Authority’s board considered the final report earlier this week, and its findings and recommendations are due to be published within the next few days.

The review is expected to recommend new procedures at the start of the race, which has caused persistent problems in recent years. This year’s renewal was badly delayed, first when Synchronised unshipped Tony McCoy and ran loose for several minutes, and then by two false starts. The BHA subsequently suggested that all 40 jockeys in the National had been in breach of the rules over the start, but did not lay any charges.

However, the review is not expected to recommend any significant changes be made to the Grand National course or the famous fences.

Neither of the two fatalities in this year’s race occurred as the direct result of a fall, as Synchronised was injured while running loose and According To Pete was brought down by another horse at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit.

Balding believes that the fences should be left as they are. “I wouldn’t reduce the size of the fences any more,” she said. “If anything, I’d consider putting them back to where they were, without bringing back the drops [between take-off and landing where these have already been removed].”

Meanwhile, the BHA said that 42 of its raceday staff have been warned that they are at risk of redundancy following an operational review which has “identified two areas … where efficiencies could be achieved”.

Three separate teams of staff – stable yard integrity officers, veterinary technicians and weighing room integrity officers – will be replaced by the single role of the raceday integrity officers. As a result, the 42 employees currently carrying out these tasks are expected to be replaced by a new team representing a total of 26 full-time jobs.

“Having thoroughly considered and discussed these services and issues,” Paul Bittar, the BHA’s chief executive, said, “we have informed the respective teams that we propose to bring their roles together.

“This means that we have had to put three groups of staff at risk of redundancy with immediate effect. Over the coming weeks, we will consult with the union [Unite] and the staff about the new roles and consider any alternative suggestions that they have.

“A recruitment process will then take place to select the right people for the new roles for what will amount to the equivalent of 26 full-time positions.”

The primary responsibility of the new integrity officers will be to safeguard integrity and horse welfare in the racecourse stables, including identification checks and obtaining samples for dope testing.

Bittar said that the intention of the change is to “create a more flexible and efficient raceday service”. He added: “our objective was not simply to save costs, although providing cost-efficient regulatory service to British racing is one of our over-arching goals.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Neptune Collonges wins Grand National 2012, but fatalities again

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Neptune Collonges Wins the Grand National 2012

Neptune Collonges, an unfancied 33-1 shot, won a thrilling renewal of the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday — but the race was marred by the death of the Gold Cup winner Synchronised who fell at Becher’s Brook.

According To Pete was a second fatality at the same fence.

Heavily-backed 8-1 joint-favourite Seabass led over the final fence under Katie Walsh, but tired on the run to the Elbow and it was Sunnyhillboy (16-1) who took up the running under Richie McLernon.

Sunnyhillboy looked to have the race in the bag when two lengths clear with just 100 yards left to run, but Neptune Collonges, under a determined Daryl Jacob, gradually closed in and grabbed the verdict by a nose right on the winning post in one of the closest finishes in the history of the race.

Seabass held on for third, five lengths adrift, with Cappa Bleu (16-1) fourth for each-way backers.

For the second time in three years, Ruby Walsh had been forced to miss the ride in the National after an earlier fall in the Aintree Hurdle. Two years ago, a tumble from Celestial Halo forced him on to the sidelines and history repeated itself as favourite Zarkandar came down heavily at the sixth flight.

Walsh was able to walk back to the weighing room but was signed off by the doctor for the rest of the day. Paul Townend replaced him aboard On His Own, who fell when in contention at halfway.

Victory effectively sealed the jump trainers’ championship for Nicholls, but it had looked only an hour earlier as if rival Nicky Henderson had stolen a march when Oscar Whisky (9-4) took advantage of Zarkandar’s fall to complete a lucrative treble for the stable who had also landed the first two contests.

Oscar Whisky had previously finished well held in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham but appreciated the step back in trip and showed plenty of determination under Barry Geraghty to deny Thousand Stars by a neck – the same one-two as in the race 12 months earlier.

Sprinter Sacre (1-7 favourite) outclassed his three rivals in the Maghull Novices’ Chase, coasting home by 13 lengths from Toubab.

“Anything but perfection is going to be disappointing from him,” said Henderson.

“He’s growing up all the time and he can only get stronger. He’s getting very sensible, his scope and swagger is quite extraordinary. He has this aura about him.

“We’ve always said he knows he’s very, very good looking, but just because they are beautiful it doesn’t always make them the best, but with him it does – everything fits, he has the athleticism and attitude.”

The treble for Henderson and Geraghty had begun with Simonsig (4-9 favourite), another to follow up a Cheltenham Festival success when taking the opening Mersey Novice Hurdle. In victory, he earned a quote of 3-1 from Paddy Power for next year’s Arkle Chase. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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How to pick your horse in the 2012 Grand National?

Mon Mome after winning the Grand National

Powered by 40 runners lining up, Saturday’s Grand National is a pretty confusing affair, even for those of use who spend the whole year watching horse races. If you’re one of the many who hasn’t given the game a second thought since last year’s race, it’s bound to be baffling.

This page is an attempt to help you find the right horse for you. All you have to decide is this: what kind of horse are you looking for?

A grey!

Well, it’s about time. There hasn’t been a grey Grand National winner since Nicolaus Silver in 1961. In fact, there have only been two winning greys in the race’s entire history, which goes back to 1837, and the other one, The Lamb, reportedly turned black by the end of his career. Anyway, this year’s grey hounds are:

Neptune Collonges

Alfa Beat

Chicago Grey

Swing Bill

A chestnut!

A bit more like it. We get plenty of those, like the (fairly) recent winners Mr Frisk and Seagram and Bindaree. Chestnuts, for those who don’t know, are the pretty, orangey ones. Some people believe their pigmentation makes them more sensitive to temperature than your average bay or brown horse, making them more likely to run well in warm weather. The science on this is entirely absent. This year’s chestnuts:


Always Right


The Midnight Club


Vic Venturi

Viking Blond

A horse trained in Ireland!

Irish raiders went from 1975 to 1999 without a single Grand National success but there have been six since then. This year’s typically strong team:

Alfa Beat

Black Apalachi

Chicago Grey


On His Own

Rare Bob



The Midnight Club


Quiscover Fontaine



Vic Venturi

In Compliance

A horse trained in Wales!

There hasn’t been a Welsh-trained National winner since Kirkland in 1905, a month before Las Vegas was founded. It’s a long time to wait but an odd feature of recent jumps seasons has been the emergence of Welsh stables as a powerful collective force. Doing it for the dragon:

Deep Purple

Cappa Bleu

State Of Play


A horse who has won the Grand National before!

Multiple National winners are extremely rare. There were only two in the last century, Reynoldstown (1935-6) and Red Rum (1973-4 and 1977). We have two previous winners in this year’s field. Is either of them another “Rummy”?


Mon Mome

A horse who has won one of the other Nationals!

A shrewd choice. Clearly you know something about the game because it is fairly common for National winners to have proven their stamina in the equivalent races in Scotland, Wales or Ireland. Stepping up to the big time this year:

Synchronised (Welsh National)

Hello Bud (Scottish National)

Organisedconfusion (Irish National)

A really young horse!

Horses have to be at least seven years old before they are allowed to run in the National, making them more than twice as old as the callow beasts who run in the Derby, but even that is a young age for this race. The last horse as young as seven to win was Bogskar in 1940, shortly before the evacuation of Dunkirk. This year’s children:



Viking Blond

A really old horse!

There is no upper age limit for National runners, which is a pity because racehorses generally lose their ability pretty quickly after turning 13 and no one likes to see old favourites being returned to the fray when the chance of success is remote. The National has not been won by a horse older than 12 since Sergeant Murphy in 1923. Galloping grandads:

Hello Bud (14)

Black Apalachi (13)

A horse wearing blinkers!

Well, they should help you to pick your horse out from the crowd but blinkers are thought to be a disadvantage in the National. They narrow a horse’s field of vision dramatically, whereas it may be helpful to see that loose horse approaching from your side. Since 1975, only Earth Summit and Comply Or Die have worn blinkers to National glory. Taking a narrow view:

Alfa Beat


Viking Blond

A horse who won at the Cheltenham Festival!

It sounds like a good idea but in fact it is 21 years since Seagram was the last horse to win a race at the Cheltenham Festival and continue to Aintree glory a month later. National winners are often big, slow, tough, burly types who can be brought to their peak maybe twice a year. It can be for Cheltenham in mid-March or Aintree three or four weeks later. Both is asking a lot. Pushing their luck, therefore:



A horse who won its last race!

That broadens the net a little, though the precedents are still not especially propitious. Just two of the past 10 National winners had also won their previous race. Trying to follow up:


Calgary Bay


West End Rocker

On His Own




Giles Cross

A horse who ran really badly in its most recent race!

Odd as it may seem, the Grand National often produces excellent performances from horses whose recent form has been dubious at best. Some beasts need this sort of extreme test to show their true form, others have been deliberately held back for the big day. Four National winners in the past 10 years were either pulled up on their previous start or finished more than 30 lengths behind the winner. Stuffed out of sight when we last saw them:

Weird Al

Alfa Beat


Always Right


The Midnight Club

Mon Mome

Arbor Supreme

Swing Bill

Vic Venturi

In Compliance

Viking Blond

Hello Bud

Neptune Equester

Good luck! © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Pick the Grand National winner, guide for novices

Powered by article titled “Five ways to pick the Grand National winner – if you’re a novice” was written by Barry Glendenning, for on Friday 8th April 2011 13.55 UTC

Think of the royals

With Prince William and Kate Middleton’s nuptials looming, omens suggest a horse with some connection to the royal wedding might prevail; Party Politics famously did for the bookies in 1992, the year of a General Election. Although Royal Rosa is the most regally monikered horse in the field, Oscar Time is the one the Union Jack-waving Middle Englanders should plump for. It’s the mount of Sam Waley-Cohen, the amateur jockey credited with getting William and Kate back together after their 2007 split by mischievously inviting both to a party at his family’s mansion, where they got their relationship back on track.

Remember the importance of family

Remarkably, when the jockey-bookings were finalised, there were four sets of siblings down to ride in this year’s Grand National. Sadly the withdrawal of Our Monty means that Ruby Walsh’s sister, Katie, misses out, leaving Paul and Nina Carberry on Backstage and Character Building, Leighton and Paddy Aspell on In Compliance and Chief Dan George, and Robbie and Andrew McNamara on Majestic Concorde and Bluesea Cracker. And while many wouldn’t dream of betting on a female amateur, the excellent Ms Carberry is bound to attract plenty of support as the only woman in the race.

Stick to the sport you do know

If football is more your bag than racing, you could do worse than put your money on What A Friend, a notoriously stubborn, occasionally temperamental but unquestionably talented steed that shares more than a few personality traits with his owner, Sir Alex Ferguson. Meanwhile JP McManus, the Manchester United manager’s former-boss-turned-nemesis (as a result of a row over another racehorse), sends out five runners. The notoriously myopic Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger isn’t represented in this year’s line-up, but should he decide to have a bet, would almost certainly back BecauseIcouldntsee.

Go with the grey

The elevation of the former steeplechaser Desert Orchid to national treasure status proves how much everyone loves a pretty grey horse and betting on one has its advantages – especially when you are trying to spot your fancy during the 40-strong field’s death-or-glory cavalry charge towards the first fence. Four greys will come under starter’s orders this afternoon: Silver By Nature, Quolibet, Piraya and Character Building. Silver By Nature is the pick of the quartet, but will be hoping for a splash of overnight rain to provide a bit of cut in the ground to help him become the first grey to win the Grand National since Nicolaus Silver in 1961.

Have fun with a novelty bet

If the prospect of picking the winner proves too daunting, you can always opt for one of the vast range of novelty bets offered by most bookmakers: the country of origin of the winning trainer, number of finishers, number of horses to clear the first fence, a father-son trainer-jockey combination to win, any horse to lead at the elbow and lose and even the number of false starts. Fans of Wayne Rooney-inspired profanity may be interested to know that Coral is offering 20-1 against the winning jockey effing and jeffing into a TV camera after the race. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Grand National Outsiders Tips, Bet Each Way Chance

We look at outsiders tips for the Grand National that we recommend that you should bet each way.

Powered by’s been a fair bit of Grand National coverage in this slot. Here you can read about what makes it so brilliant, while here is a bit about the surprisingly awful record of grey horses (not recommended reading for those of you who think the colour of a horse’s pelt is a subject undeserving of your attention). Last year, I wrote about some of the high-profile horses who have fallen at the first fence and gave some key stats.

Here’s a quick update on those stats. Don’t Push It had won over fences against 16 rivals before his National success, so 17 of the past 19 National winners have proven ability to cope with big fields (12 rivals or more). Paul Nicholls ran four more horses without success in last year’s race, taking his record to a most surprising 0/48.

Don’t Push It had also won beyond three miles, like the previous 20 winners, but he was carrying 11st 5lb, the most by any National winner since 1982. The last time a winner had more than that was 1977, when Red Rum carried 11st 8lb to his third success. It remains the case that no seven-year-old has won the National since 1940.

There are a few horses in Saturday’s race who may be thought to be up against it, judging by these stats, none more so than Quolibet. A seven-year-old, his only success (as recorded by the Racing Post) was over two miles and six furlongs and came against only eight rivals. He has fallen in three of his past six starts and was pulled up on his only run in Britain. Surely odds of 150-1 are very short indeed for such a runner.

I note that, among the market leaders, What A Friend has never beaten more than 10 rivals over fences while Quinz is a seven-year-old.

But I set no store by the Paul Nicholls stat, which is more of a curiosity than any kind of guide to what may happen in future Nationals. He campaigns his horses openly, which means they are not always well weighted when the big handicaps come along, but he will surely win it one day, especially if he keeps running three or four talented beasts each year.

By this stage, we all have fairly clear ideas about which horses we fancy to win. But it is worth taking the time to go through the final field, challenging your assumptions about each horse and asking yourself how surprising it would be, really, if it were to win.

If you find yourself newly impressed by the claims of a runner you had previously counted out, that may well be significant. You want to consider it now, rather than waiting until they’re running down to second Becher’s to find yourself thinking: “Actually, that thing has a real chance here …”

After all, your long-term views about the race are likely to centre on the market leaders, who have had this as their known target for months. There are other runners in the field whose claims have been wholly ignored by the media, horses who are sailing merrily along beneath the radar, preparing to drop a bomb on unsuspecting punters.

There are bound to be races that leave you baffled, wondering how on earth the winner has run so much better than his previous form. I never want to have that feeling after a National and to that end I have kicked around the chances of each outsider to see if, in fact, he should be among the more fancied runners.

Here’s the five at odds of 33-1 or bigger that I found most interesting.

1) Majestic Concorde 25/1 With Ladbrokes

I could see why this horse was available at 33-1 last weekend when connections were giving the impression that they might opt out of the race with this classy eight-year-old. Now that they have made their decision and he is a definite runner, I find it very surprising that a horse with such a sexy profile remains at those odds, though he is shortening with some firms.

There is no doubt about his basic speed, as he remains competitive at a high level on the Flat, being beaten just a length when fourth in the Chester Cup last May. Last summer he was third in the Galway Plate over a distance short of three miles on good ground.

Those efforts would make you worry about his stamina for four and a half miles but his latest run went a long way towards convincing me he is a Grand National type, when he won a 28-runner handicap chase over three miles on heavy going at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting. He stayed on well that day, having hit the front at the fourth-last.

Yes, he has 11st 5lb, which is as much as any National winner since 1977, and he’s also younger than most winners of the race. But the going will be no worse than good to soft, it seems, meaning that his class should count and he has every chance of staying the trip.

He’s had only seven runs over fences, three of which were in the past two years, so there is the potential for that to let him down, but he appears now to be a capable jumper.

2) Grand Slam Hero 100/1 With Ladbrokes

So long as the ground isn’t watered tonight to the point where it becomes taxing, I see this 100-1 shot having some sort of chance. The winner of five of his 17 chases (and six of his 10 starts for Nigel Twiston-Davies), he is by no means a plodder and beat 15 rivals in Market Rasen’s Summer Plate last July. He won again at Ffos Las in August and is only 5lb higher in the handicap than he was that day, on a nice racing weight of 10st 7lb.

There have been hiccups, including on his recent return to Ffos Las, when he was pulled up. But that was his first start for five months and the yard were out of sorts at the time but have since returned to something like the form they were showing in the autumn.

He also managed to fall at the first in the Galway Plate and I know that even some of those close to the yard have doubts about his ability to jump round the National course. They do not, however, include the trainer, who told me the other day that the horse is a good jumper.

Well, we’ll see. He would, of course, have to put it all together in order to be competitive on Saturday but that is not beyond this talented handicapper who goes well on a decent surface. He is far from the most likely winner but he should not be counted out.

3) In Compliance 66/1 with Ladbrokes

A bit like Silver Birch, this could be a winner to which people will respond by going: “Ohhhh. He used to be really good, didn’t he?”

In Compliance is actually a Grade One winner, having won the John Durkan at the end of 2006, when he was six. Alas, injury problems restricted him to two runs, both defeats, in the next three years.

He was finally moved into handicaps last spring, running sixth in both the Byrne Group Plate at the Cheltenham Festival and in the Topham over the National fences. Both those efforts may be seen as encouraging in the context of this race if you believe that what he wanted was further than three miles.

After a gap of seven months, he returned in January and has put up four good efforts this year, all over two and a half miles or shorter. He actually managed to win at Thurles, when the going was heavy and he was wearing blinkers for the first time.

Dessie Hughes has left those off this time because, as he told me: “He’ll need to see.” He’ll wear cheekpieces, which he has worn twice before, unseating once and then finishing third over a short trip on fast ground.

He’s had such a low strike-rate in recent years that any kind of poor run would be no surprise at all. But he seems to retain enough of his ability to get involved if he turns up in good nick and takes to the race. He’s 66-1 but is also joint-fourth in Timeform’s ratings for the race.

4) Comply Or Die 50/1 With Ladbrokes

Speaking of low strike-rates, Comply Or Die has not won since the 2008 Grand National, when he beat King Johns Castle by four lengths. This is not completely surprising. He went flying up the ratings for that effort and he would hardly be the first horse to be uninspired by normal courses after running well around Aintree.

He was second to Mon Mome in the 2009 race under 11st 6lb, an excellent effort, but was stuffed in 12th place last year with one pound less to carry. That sort of decline would not normally be followed by a return to form.

But he has only 10st 8lb to carry this time, a manageable burden for the first time since he won the race. His form this season is hardly exciting but he showed enough at Warwick in January, when he led to the third-last, to suggest that he can still get involved when things fall right for him.

It’s hard to see him winning again but he’s 50-1 and that seems too big for a horse who has shown himself so suited to this test. It is not beyond him to get placed again.

5) Surface To Air 66/1 with Ladbrokes

You rarely get offered 66-1 about a horse who has won three of his past four races. The explanation is that Surface To Air has spent almost three years on the sidelines with injury since those wins, the most recent of which came in Uttoxeter’s Summer National in June 2008.

He finally made his comeback in a hurdle race at Market Rasen last month, when he finished tailed off. It was a disappointing effort, even for a prep run.

But if Chris Bealby has managed to get him to peak fitness, this 10-year-old has the ability to get involved off a rating only 8lb higher than the one from which he achieved his latest win. Backing him requires a total leap of faith on the issues of his fitness and how much ability he retains but my feeling is that 80-1 overstates the problems facing him. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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