Tag Archives: Unioniste

Adam Webb’s 2016 Crabbies’ Grand National Pinstickers Guide

Here’s my 2016 Grand National Pinstickers Guide. It’s a more condensed version compared to last year due to timing constraints. One thing I have aimed for in this year’s guide is to have stronger negative stances against particular horses and their chances of Aintree glory rather than sit on the fence and give a more average rating. Each horse gets a rating out of 10, one gets 10 and three get 9 so you get a 1-2-3-4 at the end. Obviously the lower the rating, the more unlikely the chances are for success on Saturday.

Racecard number – Horse – Age – Weight carried – Trainer – Jockey

Many Clouds Silks

1)  MANY CLOUDS   9      11-10     Oliver Sherwood      Leighton Aspell

We begin this mammoth process with the 2015 hero who, in terms of a return bid, couldn’t have had a more perfect preparation if they had tried. Having needed the run in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby when sixth behind Cue Card, he followed up with a sound effort when second giving 5lb to Don Poli in the 3m1f Listed Chase over Aintree’s Mildmay Course. Another good second behind Smad Place in the Betbright Chase on Cheltenham Trials Day set him up for Kelso where he jumped brilliantly in the Premier Chase to win as he pleased by 10 lengths from Unioniste.

Many Clouds bids to become the first since Red Rum to win the National for the second time.
Many Clouds bids to become the first since Red Rum to win the National for the second time.

Everything looks primed for another big run and he has realistic claims to become the first horse since Red Rum 42 years ago to get the double. In terms of recent Grand National winners, he probably has the best chance since the same owner’s Hedgehunter back in 2006 who put up a brave effort when second to Numbersixvalverde. He deserves to be clear favourite and, even off top weight, has to be in the shortlist.

Rating – 9/10
Silviniaco Conti Colours2) SILVINIACO CONTI    10       11-8        Paul Nicholls        Noel Fehily

For a horse as popular as Silviniaco Conti, his participation in the world’s greatest steeplechase has a polarised view. Just like Marmite, you’re either for or against.

The case for him is pretty simple. The son of Dom Alco is a seven time Grade One winner including two Betfair Chases at Haydock and two King Georges at Kempton, not carrying top weight, and even with Many Clouds in the field is the class act of the race. He should race prominently and use his prime asset; his jumping. He returned to form in first time blinkers last time in the Ascot Chase over 2m5f when thrashing Dynaste by 20 lengths.

The classiest in the race but will Silviniaco Conti last home over the trip?
The classiest in the race but will Silviniaco Conti last home over the trip?

The negatives. Apart from his jumping, he hasn’t shown any inclination that he would be an ideal Grand National horse. Trainer Paul Nicholls is convinced he has all the stamina in the world and while in his more recent Grade One victories he has used his stamina to win, the majority of his rivals haven’t been the strongest of stayers at 3m and on both attempts he completed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, stamina has looked the issue rather than the track.

At the prices, he is one near the head of the market that needs to definitely be taken on with the main issue being stamina. Arguably he is better than Neptune Collonges, who won this back in 2012 for the champion trainer, but had confirmed his liking for a thorough stamina test.

Rating – 4/10

 

First Lieutenant3) FIRST LIEUTENANT  11   11-4    Mouse Morris    Bryan Cooper

A wonderful servant to connections over the years with his CV including a Cheltenham Festival win and various placed efforts. Ran in this last year and lost any chance with two bad mistakes at the first two fences, eventually completing tailed off. Bounced back to some decent form this season including when chasing home Smad Place in the Hennessy at Newbury and when a fast finishing second to Don Poli in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. Hard to recommend even with Bryan Cooper choosing him.

Rating – 3/10

 

wonderful charm4) WONDERFUL CHARM    8   11-3    Paul Nicholls    Sam Twiston-Davies

Another of the Nicholls battalion which stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies chose to ride, although his choices seemed pretty limited. Either him or Rocky Creek who has completely lost the plot with Black Thunder being sold at the Aintree Sale and the trio of Silviniaco Conti, Just A Par and Unioniste being rides set out for particular jockeys.

Having looked at one stage to be the next big thing in National Hunt racing, the son of Poliglote proved to be rather frustrating and has been trained specifically for the race this season with only one outing when second behind Aachen at Cheltenham before Christmas. The major concern is stamina and the recent rain will have done more harm to his chances. He’s one to avoid.

Rating – 2/10

 

ballynagour5) BALLYNAGOUR     10    11-2    David Pipe     Tom Scuadmore

It’s a joke he’s running here when he’s shown no inclination for a stamina test in his career. Will travel well for a circuit but the warning signs will soon be showing around second Becher’s. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

o'faolains boy6)  O’FAOLAINS BOY    9    11-1    Rebecca Curtis     Brian Hughes

The closer we get to the off, the more his chances appeal. The 2014 RSA Chase winner missed last season due to a leg injury and whilst his return to action in the Amlin Chase behind Vautour at Ascot was a shocking effort, he proved his wellbeing when taking a Graduation Chase at Newbury just before Christmas when beating Sausalito Sunrise by 15 lengths. The wheels soon fell off however when disappointing in the Betbright Chase behind Smad Place before a below par effort in a Pertemps Qualifier at Chepstow at the end of February.

O'Faolains Boy will appreciate any rain falling in Merseyside.
O’Faolains Boy will appreciate any rain falling in Merseyside.

His Gold Cup effort was a lot better in first time cheekpieces and he looked for a long way as though he would have a say in the finish before fading in the closing stages. As a preparation for this it looks a fair effort and with the rain making the ground softer, his chances improve greatly.

Rating – 8/10

 

 

gilgamboa7) GILGAMBOA    8     11-1     Enda Bolger    Robbie Power

Another that has proven he doesn’t stay 3m yet holds an entry here. Ran respectably in the Ryanair but should have either gone for the Melling Chase or the Topham as he would have had a more realistic winning chance. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

on his own8) ON HIS OWN    12    11-1    Willie Mullins      Mr Patrick Mullins

A grand old veteran whose career high came when second in the 2014 Gold Cup, he has had three attempts over these fences and since his first experience has looked soured by the place. Travelling well in the 2012 National when baulked by a loose horse and falling at Becher’s second time, he returned as a leading principal the following year and had began to struggle when falling at second Valentine’s. His other effort over these fences in the 2013 Becher Chase was a extremely mulish effort as he tailed himself off before plugging on through beaten horses.

The same character has made this appearance on a few occasions this season, including on his banks debut where you couldn’t blame him in fairness and at Leopardstown in the Irish Hennessy when showing wayward tendencies at various points in the contest. Should give Patrick Mullins a fun spin round but he’s a bit long in the tooth and plenty of others preferred.

Rating – 3/10

 

druids9)  THE DRUIDS NEPHEW    9     11-0     Neil Mulholland      Denis O’Regan

Arguably a case of what might have been last year when travelling omniously well before crumpling on landing five from home and giving Aidan Coleman no chance of keeping the partnership intact.

The Druids Nephew should run well despite 9lb higher.
The Druids Nephew should run well despite 9lb higher.

Unlike last season where the Cheltenham Festival seemed to be the main aim with Aintree as a back up due to him being well-in at the weights, the whole season has revolved around a return to Aintree with three runs since the start of the campaign. A pipe opener in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby behind Kilcooley before an interesting effort at Cheltenham when sixth behind Aachen in December.

His warm up came in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster last month when chasing home The Last Samuri in second having shaped well throughout. The son of King’s Theatre is 9lb higher than last year and probably has decent place chances but the main questions, which was a pre-race fear last year, are whether his stamina will hold out and how will he take to the Aintree experience the second time round.

Rating – 8/10

 

triolo10) TRIOLO D’ALENE     9      11-0     Nicky Henderson      Jeremiah McGrath

A former Topham Trophy and Hennessy Gold Cup winner, he missed last year’s renewal due to an injured knee and returned to action this year with a comprehensive display of jumping in a Listed Chase at Kempton when having the measure of Ptit Zig before that rival unseated two out. He consequently disappointing behind Silviniaco Conti on testing ground in the Ascot Chase in February and can ultimately be forgiven the run.

Just like when he contested the race in 2014, similar concerns about his jumping apply. Despite winning the Topham, he made several mistakes on the way round and he cannot get away with those again and also similar worries about his stamina lasting out. This does look another year where trainer Nicky Henderson’s wait for a Grand National year will continue for another twelve months.

Rating – 3/10

 

Rocky Creek Silks11) ROCKY CREEK    10     10-13     Paul Nicholls      Andrew Thornton

Sent off a well backed second favourite last year, he disappointed badly and has showed little remnants of that Racing Plus Chase win at Kempton last season. Looked out of love with the game in the Grand Sefton before a poor effort in the Denman Chase. Should suit Andrew Thornton’s style and jump round safely but he won’t be troubling the leaders.

Rating – 2/10

 

Sir des champs12) SIR DES CHAMPS     10      10-13     Willie Mullins      Nina Carberry

Dual Cheltenham Festival winner who looked a live Gold Cup candidate a couple of years ago when second to Bob’s Worth in the 2013 equivalent. Injury woes prevented him from another crack at the blue riband event and he returned from a long absence to win a farce of a contest at Thurles which proved very little about what form he had retained. We got a clearer indication at Christmas when he disappointed in the Lexus Chase and further more in the Irish Hennessy. This seems a desperate last bite of the cherry and his jumping even at his peak wasn’t the most fluent. Readily opposed, even with top amateur Nina Carberry drafted in to take the ride in place of Ruby Walsh who is out injured with a fractured wrist.

Rating – 3/10

 

holywell13) HOLYWELL    9     10-12     Jonjo O’Neill      Richie McLernon

There’s no doubting Holywell has plenty of talent when on a going day, a fourth in last year’s Gold Cup a testament to that and two Festival successes in two of the toughest handicaps of the season showcases his mettle for the big days when the pressure is on.

Holywell gets on really well with Richie McLernon.
Holywell gets on really well with Richie McLernon.

As has become the norm in Holywell’s season, it had been fairly quiet including a miserable display in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster before another crack at the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival where he bumped into a better handicapped horse in Un Temps Pour Tout. He still looks fairly treated here on the pick of his form and Aintree could be the type of test that could just bring him alive, similar to his stablemate Don’t Push It who won the race back in 2010. If he takes to this unique test, the son of Gold Well definitely has the class to go very close but that’s the risk you take backing the horse. Any extra rain is a negative to his chances.

Rating – 7/10

 

Shutthefrontdoor14) SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR    9    10-11    Jonjo O’Neill     Barry Geraghty

The 2014 Irish National winner was all the hype twelve months ago when the final ride in the contest for Sir Anthony McCoy the possibility they could win looked more than realistic for three quarters of the race until he weakened after the second last, finishing fifth behind Many Clouds.

Shutthefrontdoor didn't quite see out the distance last year.
Shutthefrontdoor didn’t quite see out the distance last year.

The son of Accordion started his season well with a promising effort when third behind Broxbourne in a Pertemps Qualifier back at Aintree in early November before disappointing in last month’s Greatwood Gold Cup where he never travelled a yard before being pulled up. An abcess on his foot was found as an excuse but it’s not an ideal ailment to have just a month before the big assignment.

Whilst there’s a doubt he didn’t get home last year, the lack of a run since November may have counted against him and at least his supporters have the benefit of connections wanting to give him an outing this season. It would be foolish to ignore him with Jonjo O’Neill’s record in staying handicap chases but others are preferred.

Rating – 7/10

 

soll15)  SOLL    11     10-11    David Pipe     Conor O’Farrell

An excellent servant to connections who won the inaugural Veterans Chase Final at Sandown where he beat Aachen in January. As a result, he runs here off a career high mark but while the son of Presenting has shown a liking for the track, he has had enough attempts in the race to suggest his winning chance has gone. He was officially 9lb well in last year and disputed the lead for most of the final circuit before fading quickly due to a broken blood vessel. Should give a good account for a fair distance before tiring.

Rating – 4/10

 

buywise16) BUYWISE 9 10-10 Evan Williams Paul Moloney

Fortune favours the brave. This is one case however where it won’t. Buywise has a ton of ability and consistently places in big handicap chases. The issues are definitely his jumping, even with the new modification fences, and his way of managing to lose ground midway through a race. His owner Hywel Jones when interviewed at the weights lunch came up with the plan that the son of Tikkanen could go for the holes in the fences on the first circuit which could be a disastrous method of negotating Aintree with 39 other competitors and likely fallers in front of him. Even if he manages to stay upright after making several errors, he needs to prove he can stay the distance which seems doubtful.

 

boston bob17) BOSTON BOB    11    10-10     Willie Mullins      Paul Townend

Has plenty of class on his day including wins at the highest level in the Melling Chase here two years ago and the Punchestown Gold Cup when beating First Lieutenant. On that form and his Bobbyjo Chase success last time at Fairyhouse, he appears well handicapped but he can be inconsistent and has had jumping issues in the past.

Rating – 5/10

 

aachen18) AACHEN    12    10-10    Venetia Williams      Henry Brooke

A horse who has taken his form to another level this season, even allowing for the fact he is in the veteran stage of his career. The son of … was given an enterprising ride at Cheltenham in December when setting a good gallop under Charlie Deutsch and maintaining it to win as he pleased with several of these in behind including The Druids Nephew. He followed up that effort off a career high mark when second to Soll at Sandown before a couple of below par efforts. Needs more than a career best to be taking this but should give connections a decent run for their money.

Rating – 5/10

 

Morning Assembly19)  MORNING ASSEMBLY   9     10-9    Pat Fahy       Davy Russell

One of the more fascinating contenders in this year’s renewal. Third in the 2014 RSA Chase behind O’Faolains Boy and Smad Place, he missed last season due to leg trouble and returned with an excellent comeback when just denied by Bridget’s Pet at Fairyhouse. Another fair effort followed before finishing third in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase behind Un Temp Pour Touts when ridden as seemingly he was going to progress from that effort for this race. The concern would be whether he will stay. Although he has shaped like a real stayer, his finishing effort at Cheltenham does raise some doubts.

Rating – 6/10

 

double ross20) DOUBLE ROSS     10    10-9    Nigel Twiston-Davies      Ryan Hatch

Has problems seeing out 3m in races so why is 4m2f and 74 yards going to suit? Also showed a massive dislike to the course when returning in December behind Benny’s Mist in the Grand Sefton. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

goony21) GOONYELLA    9     10-8      Jim Dreaper       Johnny Burke

It’s a case of third time lucky for Jim Dreaper’s charge having missed the cut for the final two renewals, although he has had two attempts over these fences in the Becher Chase. The first ended with an unseated rider at the first and the second was used as a sighter with his handicap mark high enough thanks to his endless reserves of stamina landing him a Midlands National victory at Uttoxeter and his third in the Scottish National at Ayr.

Goonyella loves testing ground and a real stamina test.
Goonyella loves testing ground and a real stamina test.

His most recent outing came when chasing home Venetian De Mai in the Leinster National over 3m at Naas last month, a run that will have left him spot on for Saturday. His chances increase with the more rain that falls but the slight concern is whether he gets left behind in the early stages due to the likely early gallop.
Rating – 7/10

 

ucello conti22) UCELLO CONTI    8     10-8      Gordon Elliott     Daryl Jacob

Silviniaco Conti’s half brother Ucello who has recieved his fair share of dreadful rides over the course of the season, in particular the Thyestes Chase by everyone’s favourite French jockey Jacques Ricou who took an unorthodox route around the outside where he gave the rail up to nobody. All things considered, it was an excellent run to finish as close as he did back in third behind My Murphy and he also boasts strong handicap form from Christmas when run down by Minella Foru in the Paddy Power Chase. Just like his half-brother, stamina has to be the main concern with the way he weakened in the last furlong at Leopardstown lingering on the mind.

Rating – 4/10

 

Unioniste Silks23) UNIONISTE    8     10-8      Paul Nicholls       Nick Scholfield

Smart grey chaser on his day who is just short of the highest level at his best. Looked an ideal candidate when preparing for this race twelve months ago until falling at the fifth fence. Returned to Aintree in December and although the yard was out of form at the time, it doesn’t explain his poor jumping fully. Has since won the Ivan Straker Memorial over 3m2f at Kelso and ran well enough behind Many Clouds at the same track last month. At the weights in a normal handicap, you would give him a big chance but previous course form tempers enthusiasm.

Rating – 3/10

 

le reve24) LE REVE   8    10-8     Lucy Wadham     Harry Skelton

An admirable and consistent type who has an exceptional record around Sandown including several course wins over an extended three miles and a fine third in last season’s Bet365 Gold Cup behind Just A Par. The main question about the son of Milan is whether he can handle going left handed with all his best form going the other way round. However, his runs at Cheltenham and Doncaster were good enough to suggest Aintree shouldn’t be an issue. Has place claims and won’t mind the ground.

Rating – 7/10

 

gallant oscar25) GALLANT OSCAR    10     10-8     Tony Martin     Mark Walsh

Gallant Oscar has been prepared for one day only and has a real live chance.
Gallant Oscar has been prepared for one day only and has a real live chance.

Threatened to win a big staying prize over fences before finally bagging the Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase at last year’s Punchestown Festival in very taking fashion under Mark Walsh. This season has been aimed around Aintree and he was creeping into the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown on his return over Christmas when unseating Donagh Meyler at the second last. Two quieter efforts have set him up nicely, the first coming in a handicap hurdle at Leopardstown before shaping eyecatchingly in the Leinster National when fifth behind Venetian De Mai. Doesn’t look badly handicapped on the best of his form and may yet improve for the extreme stamina test. One for the shortlist.

Rating – 9/10

 

onenightinvienna26) ONENIGHTINVIENNA    7    10-8     Philip Hobbs    Tom O’Brien

The least experienced member of the field having only ran in four novice chases and runs in the colours of former Grand National winner West Tip.

Having won on chase debut at Exeter where he jumped like an old hand when beating Fletcher’s Flyer before a solid effort when runner up behind RSA Chase winner Blaklion at Cheltenham in December. The son of Oscar followed that effort up with another second at Kempton, this time behind Local Show where the pair served up a treat in the jumping department. His most recent effort came in the Reynoldstown at Ascot where he got too involved in duelling for the lead and, as a result, suffered the consequences by finishing a very tired fifth.

The obvious concern would have to be the lack of experience and he is a definite candidate for future renewals of the race. The last seven year old to win the race was Bogskar back in 1940.

Rating – 7/10

 

the last samuri27)  THE LAST SAMURI (IRE) 8 10-8 Kim Bailey David Bass

Looked a useful novice chaser last season before moving from Donald McCain’s yard to Kim Bailey where the improvement has been quite staggering. A good third behind Wakanda and Virak in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle was a sign of things to come as he won a competitive Kempton handicap over Christmas, his stamina coming into play in the closing stages. He then followed up with an excellent performance in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster at the beginning of March when beating The Druids Nephew by 10 lengths.

The Last Samuri is 12lb well in on official figures.
The Last Samuri is 12lb well in on official figures.

His chance is obvious and of the Rooney horses, he is preferred to Kruzhlinin but he can give his fences plenty of air which could result in him getting behind from an early stage. Apart from that, he holds every chance of becoming his trainer’s second winner in the contest since Mr Frisk back in 1990 who smashed the track record on firm ground.

Rating – 8/10

 

kruzhlinin28) KRUZHLININ     9      10-7     Philip Hobbs     Richard Johnson

The other Paul & Claire Rooney runner who has benefited from a switch in yards; this time to Philip Hobbs. Won on his first start in convincing style at Kempton and was my main long term fancy leading up to Cheltenham where he ran in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase when fifth behind Un Temp Pour Touts which on the face of it looks an ideal National trial. However, his jumping fell to pieces in the last mile of the race and did remarkably well to recover from a shocking mistake at the fourth last which stopped him in his tracks. Although he has jumped round Aintree twice before when ridden to give him experience of the track as an inexperienced horse and looks a thorough stayer, the worry has to be whether his jumping will hold up ridden closer to the pace.

Rating – 7/10

 

rule the world29) RULE THE WORLD    9     10-7     Mouse Morris      David Mullins

Bids to become the first novice to win the race since Lord Gyllene in 1997 and has yet to win a race over the larger obstacles in thirteen attempts. Had shown no indication of staying a trip until finishing in the runner up spot in last year’s Irish National behind Thunder And Roses, a race that hasn’t worked out at all apart from this horse. Was second to the ill-fated No More Heroes over Christmas in the Topaz Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown. The main issue here is stamina, as he looked out on his feet at the end of the Irish National and this is an extra five furlongs. Others make more appeal.

Rating – 5 /10

 

just a par30) JUST A PAR   9    10-6     Paul Nicholls         Sean Bowen

Last year’s Bet365 Gold Cup winner looked an ideal Grand National type as a novice chaser when winning a Grade Two at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting back in 2013, however his only attempt over these fences in the 2014 Becher Chase was a disappointing effort when pulled up after jumping slowly at a couple. Remains inconsistent and wants decent ground ideally but could go well if the race takes his interest.

Rating – 5/10

 

katenko31) KATENKO      10      10-6       Venetia Williams      Will Kennedy

Looked a chaser heading for the top when taking two handicap chases at Sandown and Cheltenham back in 2013 before a serious bout of colic nearly ended his life. Has failed to recapture that form since and seems very fragile these days. One to avoid. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

vicscanvas32) VICS CANVAS    13     10-6     Dermot McLoughlin     Robert Dunne

Normally when looking at entries for a Grand National, 13 year olds tend to be ignored as they usually are past their best in terms of form and ability. This son of Old Vic is a different case however as injury problems curtailed his younger days so he started life in point-to-points aged 8. Since going chasing late in life, he has improved for a stamina test having won the Cork National in 2014 and finishing second in the 2015 Bet365 Gold Cup behind Just A Par.

Vics Canvas isn't your typical 13 year old running in the Grand National.
Vics Canvas isn’t your typical 13 year old running in the Grand National.

This season began with a preparation in the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock where he did well to stay with the field before getting outpaced, finishing in mid-division. Connections then came to Aintree for the Becher Chase where the slight concern beforehand was his size for jumping round. However, his jumping was excellent and he shaped with plenty of promise before getting tired on the run-in when finishing sixth behind Highland Lodge.

Two more runs in Ireland will have kept him ticking over nicely and, at the prices, he deserves to be shorter with stamina not looking an issue and him showing a liking for the fences. The last 13 year old to win was Sergeant Murphy back in 1923 but it wouldn’t be a huge shock were Vics Canvas able to return to the winners’ enclosure. One definitely in the shortlist and still available at 66’s.

Rating – 9/10

 

oscar t33) BLACK THUNDER     9     10-6     Paul Nicholls     Mr Sam Waley-Cohen

Possibly the pick of the champion trainer’s quintet as he looks fairly handicapped on the best of his form. A decent novice chaser with form tieing in with Many Clouds when he beat him at Haydock, the son of Malinas has always shaped as though an extreme stamina test will suit. His form this season looks mostly ordinary but he was running well off top weight in a recognised trial at Cheltenham in November when making an awful mistake at the second last, costing him all chance before unseating just after halfway in the Welsh National at Chepstow having just be niggled to stay in touch on atrocious ground. He ran better at Sandown behind Le Reve in early February, and can give his new connections a decent run for their money. Was bought by Robert Waley-Cohen for £90,000 at the Goffs Sale at Aintree for his son Sam to ride which is no negative whatsoever to his chances. Could sneak a place at a big price.

Rating – 7/10

 

Ballycasey34) BALLYCASEY    9     10-6     Willie Mullins     Katie Walsh

Similar to last year, he gets the exact same rating despite showing a liking for the track. A candidate for one of the worst campaigned horses in the past few seasons, the son of Presenting proved yet again in the Thyestes that he wants an intermediate trip and ran well in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Plate over 2m5f at Cheltenham when fifth behind Empire Of Dirt. Would be much better off in the Topham. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

hadrians approach35) HADRIAN’S APPROACH   9    10-6    Nicky Henderson    Nico De Boinville

A former Bet365 Gold Cup winner at Sandown back in 2014, the son of High Chapparal has had niggly issues which kept him from the track most of last season however, he shaped with encouragement on his return in the Racing Plus Chase when sixth behind Theatre Guide. The distance shouldn’t pose any issues but the concerns revolve around his jumping which can be sloppy and the ground as he wants decent good ground to be at his very best.

Rating – 5/10

 

vieux lion rouge36) VIEUX LION ROUGE     7     10-5    David Pipe    James Reveley

A progressive chaser who won a decent handicap at Haydock’s Betfair Chase before falling when in the chasing pack behind Aachen at Cheltenham in December. Ran well enough in the National Hunt Chase but failed to see out the distance. Hard to recommend.

Rating – 3/10

 

wyck37) PENDRA     8     10-5     Charlie Longsdon     Aidan Coleman

Had shaped like a real non stayer over 3m when failing to get up the hill at last year’s Cheltenham Festival behind The Druid’s Nephew but proceeded to dispell those thoughts with an impressive success in the United House Gold Cup back in October at Ascot. However, his finishing effort in the Silver Cup back over the same course and distance just before Christmas was hugely concerning and he doesn’t look an Aintree type. Very difficult to recommend. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

saint are38) SAINT ARE    10    10-5    Tom George     Paddy Brennan

An excellent old campaigner who benefited hugely for the switch in stables from Tim Vaughan to Tom George last season when returning to form with a bang, culminating with a fine second to Many Clouds in last year’s renewal. He took a while to come to hand earlier in the season when unplaced both at Cheltenham and in the Becher Chase, but a small wind operation and better ground seemed to bring about plenty of improvement when winning a veterans chase at Doncaster after the weights came out.

The son of Network should run his usual honest race but the slight concerns are his jumping as he made several errors on the way round last year and the softer than ideal ground. Has definite place claims.

Rating – 8/10

 

home farm39) HOME FARM    9    10-4    Henry de Bromhead    Andrew Lynch

Looked a promising staying handicap chaser in his younger days when with Arthur Moore but his chase form had tailed off at the back end of last season when pulling up behind Coneygree in the Gold Cup and disappointing behind Menorah at Sandown. The son of Presenting has ran two fair races over hurdles this season but it would take a massive leap of faith to fancy him here.

Rating 2/10

 

the romford pele40) THE ROMFORD PELE    9    10-4    Rebecca Curtis    Trevor Whelan

One of my longer term fancies since his return to action at Cheltenham in November over 3m3f when running on eyecatchingly up the hill behind Sausalito Sunrise before falling behind Aachen on ground that was too testing and at a time when the yard was struggling. He bounced back with a decent effort on Trials Day in the Cleeve Hurdle behind the dominant Thistlecrack before shaping really well over an inadequate trip in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Romford Pele looks unexposed as a stayer and fairly treated at the weights.
The Romford Pele looks unexposed as a stayer and fairly treated at the weights.

A former John Smith’s Summer Cup winner at Uttoxeter over 3m2f, he’s unexposed at the distance and has a very good jockey booking in Trevor Whelan who has a remarkable record with trainer Rebecca Curtis. The only slight concern is his jumping which can be haphazard at times, but he should take to these fences and and is well handicapped on his best form.

Rating – 10/10

 

Conclusion

Many Clouds looks a solid favourite in his bid to win back to back Grand Nationals and with a smooth preparation this season, it’s hard to keep him out of the frame as his main market rivals have questions to overcome with The Last Samuri’s jumping technique and Silviniaco Conti’s stamina. Saint Are can give another bold showing while last year’s fifth Shutthefrontdoor still has slight stamina reservations. The Druids Nephew should go well after his unlucky fall last year but any extra rain is a negative.

The idea of the 2016 Crabbies Grand National winner is THE ROMFORD PELE who has had a fair season despite not winning, looks feasibly handicapped on his best form and is unexposed relating to an extreme stamina test which should suit. Gallant Oscar and Vics Canvas are two others that should make the frame, the former given an ideal Aintree preparation and the latter unique in the sense that he doesn’t tick the majority of the trends but he is more than capable of ruffling a few feathers. Outside the main four, others that could go well include O’Faolains Boy and Black Thunder with Sam Waley-Cohen now riding.

1st – The Romford Pele

2nd – Many Clouds

3rd – Vics Canvas

4th – Gallant Oscar

Good luck with your bets!

2016 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase Day Preview

Here is tonight’s bumper preview in which Luke Elder, Adam Webb and Calum Madell look at the Channel 4 action from Sandown featuring the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, Ffos Las which has the abomination that is the West Wales National, Wetherby that hosts the Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase and the Irish Gold Cup from Leopardstown. We also talk about the other Grade One action from Leopardstown. Good luck tomorrow!

NAPs

Adam – Maximiser – 2:25 Sandown

Luke –  Jer’s Girl (E/W) – 12:55 Leopardstown

Calum – Cold As Ice – 1:45 Lingfield

Adam Webb’s 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National Pinstickers Guide

Whilst the 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National lineup seems to lack a certain oomph, it’s still one of the classiest fields assembled with the bottom end of the handicap as high as ever. I’m going to keep the intro short as there is plenty of content, views and opinions about every runner in this year’s race.

In addition to this extensive guide, myself, Luke and Calum recorded this Grand National preview where we went through every runner in racecard order and gave our views on the race with our ideas of the winner.

So without much further ado, here goes….

Lord Windermere Red

1) LORD WINDERMERE – 9 – 11-10 – Jim Culloty – Robbie McNamara

The class horse of the race having won twice at the Cheltenham Festival including last year’s Gold Cup and the previous year’s RSA Chase with an emphasis of stamina on both occasions. This season before Cheltenham had looked promising when third behind Don Cossack in the John Durkan when needing the run before a quieter effort on soft ground at Christmas in the Lexus Chase behind Road To Riches. His Gold Cup preparation went to plan in the Irish Hennessy when ridden differently to be third behind Carlingford Lough but his run in the Gold Cup itself left an awful lot to be desired as he never travelled a yard on the rain softened ground behind Coneygree where he was pulled up before the second last.

Can Lord Windermere become the first top weight to win since 1977?
Can Lord Windermere become the first top weight to win since 1977?

The better ground here will suit him a lot better and the extreme stamina test won’t be an issue but my one concern is how he will be ridden. If he is dropped out the back like in the Gold Cup, recent history has suggested he will face an uphill struggle. If ridden closer to the pace, he could easily run a big race and is handicapped to win the race. First time visor is interesting with a capable rider in Robbie McNamara in the saddle and he is officially five pounds well in at the weights with handicapper Phil Smith’s discretion.

Rating – 7/10

2) Many Clouds Silks MANY CLOUDS – 8 – 11-09 –  Oliver Sherwood – Leighton Aspell

One of the most improved horses in training having finally fulfilled the promise his trainer has had by winning both the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Betbright Cup on Cheltenham Trials Day. His career has been built around this season but he had shown moments of real quality in his novice chase career including his win at Wetherby where he beat Indian Castle. Things didn’t go completely to plan at either spring festival as he unseated (form book says brought down but he made a horrific mistake himself) his rider at Cheltenham before running below par at Aintree.

Many Clouds could be feeling the effects of a hard season.
Many Clouds could be feeling the effects of a hard season.

This season began in an intermediate chase at Carlisle where he beat Eduard with a slick performance that lead to him being a key contender for the Hennessy Gold Cup. The two concerns beforehand were whether the horse would fully see out the distance of three and a quarter miles and whether the increase of seven pounds in the handicap to 151 would stop him. He answered his critics (myself included) in empathic style to beat Houblon Des Obeauxs and Merry King in a gruelling race.

As the Hennessy had been a real war of attrition, question marks leading into the Betbright Chase were along the lines of the horse recovering in time after a two month break but he proved himself a quality performer when outbattling Smad Place and Dynaste up the hill. He was rightfully given his chance in the Gold Cup but he never looked entirely happy with the gallop Coneygree went and to his credit, his jumping kept him in the race for most of the way before fading to finish sixth beaten twenty five lengths.

The form from his Hennessy win would give him a real chance here having handled the big field with aplomb and his jumping on the whole is pretty solid. The main concerns are whether this is one run too many this season after a hard enough campaign plus the fact he has been to the past three Grand National Festivals and disappointed each time.

Rating – 6/10

 

Unioniste Silks3) UNIONISTE – 7 – 11-6 – Paul Nicholls – Noel Fehily

No seven year old has won the Grand National since Bogskar back in 1940 but he isn’t like many seven year olds attempting the race. Most that have contested the race are too inexperienced for the unique demands of Aintree at that stage in their career but Unioniste is different in the sense that he already has plenty of experience including a big handicap win at Cheltenham when he was a four year old. He looked a chaser on the up last season when he won a Listed Chase at Aintree’s Becher Chase meeting but the wheels fell off after that and his season ended over the same course and distance where he lacked fluency in his jumping behind Duke Of Lucca.

Unioniste has been prepared for the race all season.
Unioniste has been prepared for the race all season.

His return this season was behind Many Clouds in the Hennessy where he shaped well for a fair way before looking in need of the outing before building on that promise when sauntering home in a Sandown handicap beating Bertie Boru by ten lengths which he was raised eleven pounds by the handicapper. On his final start, he was a staying on third behind the Gold Cup winner Coneygree in the Denman Chase after getting detached at a crucial point.

Aintree should pose no problems for this dour stayer with the trip looking no issue however, he doesn’t appear to have the tactical pace to lay up early doors so he could require a Neptune Collonges-esque ride from Noel Fehily to keep out of trouble.

Rating – 7/10

Rocky Creek Silks4) ROCKY CREEK – 9 – 11-03 – Sam Twiston-Davies – Paul Nicholls

If there was a horse to take from last year’s renewal, Rocky Creek stood out like a sore thumb. The concern going into twelve months ago was whether he had enough chasing experience for a test like the Grand National. He proved himself over the fences, travelling and jumping superbly for most of the way before weakening after the second last when finishing fifth behind Pineau De Re with an interrupted preparation. Over the summer, trainer Paul Nicholls sent the horse for a wind operation as he wasn’t completely seeing out his races.

Rocky Creek looks to be the best of Paul Nicholls quartet.
Rocky Creek looks to be the best of Paul Nicholls quartet.

His season began in the JN Wine Champion Chase at Down Royal where he was a good second behind a racefit Road To Riches when needing the run before returning for a second crack at the Hennessy, a race in which he had finished second to Triolo D’Alene the year before. The first time tongue tie was fitted but he was hugely disappointing for reasons connections don’t even know themselves. Given a break, his most recent effort was a career best in the Betbright Chase at Kempton when finally confirming the promise shown as a novice chaser when winning in decisive fashion from Le Reve.

He is now officially nine pounds well in as the weights don’t change after they are released in mid-February and having had a better preparation than last year, he is definitely shortlist material. There is every chance he will be ridden with a bit more patience and with Sam Twiston Davies, stable jockey to Nicholls, having a fantastic record over these fences; this could potentially cap off an incredible first season working together.

Rating – 9/10

 

First Lieutenant5) FIRST LIEUTENTANT – 10 – 11-03 – Nina Carberry – Mouse Morris

An admirable performer for connections having raced at the top level for the last five seasons but he hasn’t looked the force of old recently. The former Cheltenham Festival and Betfred Bowl winner has been disappointing mostly throughout the season including on his return to action when well beaten in fourth by Road To Riches in the JN Wine Champion Chase.

Can First Lieutenant show any of his older form?
Can First Lieutenant show any of his older form?

Christmas held some promise in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown when wearing a first time tongue tie on ground that wouldn’t have suited when again behind Road To Riches; only beaten eleven lengths. He returned to Leopardstown for the Irish Hennessy where on a surface that would have been more in his favour than the Lexus, he ran below par when last behind Carlingford Lough before finishing third in a conditions hurdle at Thurles.

Supporters of First Lieutenant can stand by the fact that he has been clearly aimed at this race for a while and the cheekpieces being reapplied will help his cause but it does remain to be seen whether he retains that old ability. He also has question marks over his stamina which makes him easy enough to look over.

Rating – 5/10

 

Balthazar6) BALTHAZAR KING – 11 – 11-02 – Richard Johnson – Philip Hobbs

One of the most popular horses currently in training who can transfer his form from normal steeplechases to cross country events and the Grand National in which he was a fine second to Pineau De Re last year when given a more patient ride than in 2013.

The lack of a preparation run looks a concern for Balthazar King.
The lack of a preparation run looks a concern for Balthazar King.

After his exertions at Aintree, he ended his season by going to Le Lion-d’Angers for a cross country chase where he took a nasty fall when making a move into the contest. He then returned to Craon in September to win the same cross country race for the second year in a row but he made heavy weather of it having looked in trouble at one stage. His final start last November was yet another win around Cheltenham’s cross country on ground much softer than ideal and his class got him through to beat the veteran Uncle Junior. Trainer Philip Hobbs decided then to deliberately miss this year’s Festival to come straight to Aintree a fresh horse.

Although he has gone well fresh in the past, this would be a big worry. Especially when you look at one key trend that had stood up well against the test of time. Winners of the Grand National have had a run somewhere within 50 days of the race (Aldaniti a rare case in 1981 but he did run in February of that year) and whilst some horses have ran well having not run in that timeframe including Mely Moss in 2000 and Alvarado in last year’s renewal, it underlines that you need a racefit horse as opposed to one that’s fresh. In 2013, he came here having had the exact same break and disappointed although he did go too quick in front. The other worry is that he will find it difficult off a career high mark. Whilst I have the utmost respect of his chances, I just don’t see him winning with the concerns above.

Rating – 7/10

 

Shutthefrontdoor7) SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR – 8 – 11-02 – Tony McCoy – Jonjo O’Neill

The horse that has the potential to go off the shortest priced favourite for the race since Red Rum did in 1975 when he was sent off 7/2 mainly down to the fact this is Tony McCoy’s final ever ride in the Grand National, a race in which his fortunes have differed somewhat over the years.

Can Tony McCoy win his second National on his final ever ride in the race?
Can Tony McCoy win his second National on his final ever ride in the race?

Having shown plenty of ability in bumpers and hurdle races, his novice chase campaign didn’t completely go to plan after his win at Aintree which included a real disappointing effort at Cheltenham behind Sam Winner. It was subsequently found that his breathing was being affected so that was duly operated on. His jumping in the National Hunt Chase was littered with errors when sixth behind Midnight Prayer but he came right in the Irish National at Fairyhouse under Barry Geraghty when getting up late on to deny Golden Wonder by half a length.

 

The horse has only been seen once this campaign in November when taking a graduation chase at Carlisle in taking fashion beating Vintage Star by eight lengths. He was due to go to Ireland for the Lexus Chase but due to the yard’s drop in form caused by a virus, he was kept with a spring campaign in mind but missed Cheltenham altogether in favour to come to Aintree fresh and it would take a brave man to doubt Jonjo O’Neill’s ability to peak a staying chaser on the big day.

Shutthefrontdoor has the potential to go off the shortest priced favourite in recent history.
Shutthefrontdoor has the potential to go off the shortest priced favourite in recent history.

Whilst you know he will be there on the day fighting fit, he is another like Balthazar King that isn’t racefit which can be held against him. Other factors against him are that he lacks the relative experience needed for Aintree even though he has won an Irish National. The form of his last two wins haven’t worked out at all and, put simply, he is far too short in the betting. This is mainly due to the main factor of McCoy riding him whereas you can make strong cases for the likes of Rocky Creek and The Druids Nephew who have proved themselves more recently as more worthy of being shorter than him in the market.

Rating – 6/10

 

Pineau8) PINEAU DE RE – 12 – 11-00 – Daryl Jacob – Dr Richard Newland

Last year’s winner returns to defend his crown having spent a whole season over hurdles to protect his chase mark. His return to action at Cheltenham behind Katkeau caught the eye of many people, the stewards included, as he wasn’t given a particularly hard time of it at any stage through the race but showed enough to suggest he was in good heart with himself.

Can Pineau De Re become the first horse to win back to back Nationals in 41 years?
Can Pineau De Re become the first horse to win back to back Nationals in 41 years?

His next effort at Carlisle in a Pertemps Qualifier was worth forgiving as it was run on testing ground in which he never looked particuarly happy before actually qualifying at Exeter when just scraping in when eighth behind Regal Encore having travelled with much more zest through the race. In a strong renewal of the Pertemps Final, he wasn’t disgraced having travelled well for most of the contest before getting outpaced and staying on up the hill to finish eleventh behind Call The Cops.

This year has all been around a repeat bid of twelve months ago and whilst the services of Leighton Aspell have been retained elsewhere, Newland has found the perfect replacement in 2012 winning jockey Daryl Jacob who gave Neptune Collonges one of the finest rides Aintree has ever seen. One thing that marked the horse’s performance last year was the amount of jumping errors he made on the way round, most notably at the thirteenth fence. If he manages to jump round again then he has solid each way claims but may find one too good off a seven pound higher mark.

Rating – 7/10

Ballycasey9) BALLYCASEY – 8 – 10-13 – Ruby Walsh – Willie Mullins

The all-conquering Willie Mullins stable only has one contender surprisingly and this looks to be one of the worst chances the stable has ever had in trying to win the race. For jockey Ruby Walsh, this is most certainly his worst chance in his attempt for his third National.

Ballycasey should be at least double his price if not bigger.
Ballycasey should be at least double his price if not bigger.

Having convinced at the end of last season that he didn’t last home over three miles at both Cheltenham and Punchestown, this season has not gone to plan whatsoever. He won on his first start in a conditions event at Gowran over two and a half miles before not being able to go the pace over Christmas behind stablemate Twinlight at Leopardstown. There were excuses for his run in the Ascot Chase behind Balder Succes where he returned distressed and scoped badly but his run in the Ryanair was hugely disappointing for a horse that would have appreciated conditions on the day.

His pedigree suggests that the distance would be no issue whatsoever but on every occasion he has raced over a distance of three miles or further, he has never given the impression that a stamina test is what he wants plus with his inconsistent profile, he is extremely hard to fancy. He is priced up due to connections and if he were with other connections, you can guarantee he would be a three figure price. It’s rare that the Walsh/Mullins/Ricci combination would get such a low rating when chances are weighed up but this is fully merited.

Rating – 1/10

 

Lord Windermere Silks10) SPRING HEELED – 8 – 10-12 – Nick Scholfield – Jim Culloty

One of Ireland’s leading contenders having won last year’s Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival under an excellent ride from Robbie McNamara when beating Cause Of Causes. His final start last season was in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown where he was one of the first beat but stayed on eyecatchingly through beaten horses to finish fifth behind Hadrian’s Approach.

Will Spring Heeled see out the distance?
Will Spring Heeled see out the distance?

Over the summer, he contested the Galway Plate where he travelled strongly only to get outpaced after the final fence when fourth to Gold Cup third Road To Riches before not being seen until after the National weights were revealed when running well in the Bobbyjo Chase behind Roi Du Mee on ground that wouldn’t have suited.

His season has revolved around the race and the drying ground will definitely be in his favour plus the booking of Nick Scholfield is no negative at all. The main doubt I have is his stamina as in the past he hasn’t looked the most convincing stayer even though he did stay on in the Bet365. He is a strong traveller though and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was cantering all over the field crossing the Melling Road for the final time. What happens from thereon is another matter.

Rating – 7/10

 

rebel rebellion11) REBEL REBELLION – 10 – 10-12 – Ryan Mahon – Paul Nicholls

A horse who is currently in the form of his life having struck up an excellent association with Jack Sherwood and a winner over these fences courtesy of his success in the 2013 Grand Sefton.

Rebel Rebellion has course form but stamina concerns.
Rebel Rebellion has course form but stamina concerns.

His last three starts have been where the significant improvement has come which has earnt him the right to run in the race with wins in competitive handicaps at Ascot and Newbury with a second in a veterans chase behind Soll at Exeter. He was also fifth in this season’s Grand Sefton behind Poole Master after making a couple of fiddly errors.

Whilst Ryan Mahon gets on well with the horse, the claim of Jack Sherwood has looked to help him plenty and although he is well in on the ratings, there is a huge question mark over his stamina as he has looked to struggle over three miles in the past.

Rating – 3/10

Dolatulo12) DOLATULO – 8 – 10-11 – Dougie Costello – Warren Greatrex

Warren Greatrex has his first runners in the race and of his pair, this looks to hold the best chance. A dual performer over both hurdles and fences, he has had a decent season over fences with a staying on second over two and a half miles at Sandown behind Sound Investment before not being disgraced over these fences in the Grand Sefton when seventh to Poole Master after making a significant mistake at the seventh fence. He followed that run up with a career best in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby over three miles and one furlong when beating the well handicapped Cape Tribulation with a strong suit of stamina.

Dolatulo has a very interesting profile.
Dolatulo has a very interesting profile.

Connections then decided to return to hurdling as they believe he is a better horse if they keep changing his routine. He qualified for the Pertemps at Haydock before always looking on the back foot in the Final itself at the Festival due to the searching gallop set. He did stay on between the last two hurdles before fading to end up well beaten behind Call The Cops.

Whilst he could have ran better there, it most certainly wasn’t the big plan to be in tiptop condition for his preparation and there should be more to come from that effort. The only concern is whether he will fully appreciate the extreme step up in distance but he wasn’t stopping in the Rowland Meyrick so he’s worth his chance compared to others.

Rating – 7/10

mon parrain13) MON PARRAIN – 9 – 10-11 – Sean Bowen – Paul Nicholls

Truth be told, it doesn’t feel like four years ago when this horse jumped for fun in the Topham Trophy and looked the winner from a fair way out only to stop at the Elbow which allowed Always Waining to surge on past to take his second success in the race.

Mon Parrain should give Sean Bowen a good spin on his first ride in the race.
Mon Parrain should give Sean Bowen a good spin on his first ride in the race.

Since then, his career has never taken off in the way it promised too with injury problems being a culprit along with his attitude which has been questionable at times. He finally got a win when cheekpieced first time last April at Cheltenham under a fine ride from Nick Scholfield before running no race whatsoever when returning to action back at Cheltenham in October. The Becher Chase was also a strange effort as the fences didn’t really look to re-spark his enthusiasm as he plugged on to finish eleventh to Oscar Time.

On New Year’s Day at Cheltenham, he was sent off 25/1 with first time blinkers applied and we saw a completely different horse to the one we’d seen in his previous two races, jumping with that relish we had seen all those years ago in the Topham and proved to be too good for Our Father under a confident ride from promising claimer Sean Bowen. His National prep run in the Grimthorpe was much better than his run in the same race the previous year when fifth behind Wayward Prince.

As Sean Bowen rode his tenth winner in a steeplechase on Saturday, he is able now to have his first ever ride in the National and if the Mon Parrain from New Year’s Day turns up, he should have a decent spin round for a fair way but the trip is a big concern.

Rating – 4/10

carlito14) CARLITO BRIGANTE – 9 – 10-10 – Brian Harding – Karen McLintock – NON RUNNER

Scotland’s only representative and a first runner in the race for Karen McLintock having purchased the horse two summers ago for £32,000 with him bidding to become the first Scottish winner since Rubstic in 1979. Since his move from Gordon Elliott’s yard, he has only finished outside the first three on one occasion when outclassed in the Martin Pipe at last year’s Festival behind Don Poli.

Carlito Brigante is one at bigger odds than has some appeal.
Carlito Brigante is one at bigger odds than has some appeal.

Unlike most who have ran through the winter, he went for a summer campaign with him finishing second to the handicap snip that was The Romford Pele in the John Smith’s Summer Cup at Uttoxeter before another solid effort in the Inverness Cup when just beaten by His Excellency. His final run before a break in October was at Kelso where he won a handicap chase over three and a quarter miles off top weight in convincing style by seventeen lengths.

Put away for the winter months due to deteriorating ground, he returned at Kelso at the end of February where he was third behind Runswick Royal on rain softened ground which wouldn’t have helped his cause but it was a fair effort which he will definitely come on for.

Of those at the bigger prices, he appeals more than most as he is unexposed over stamina distances and has vital experience of big field handicaps being a former winner of the Coral Cup at Cheltenham. Brian Harding is a positive booking, the drying ground will certainly be in his favour and he is an uncomplicated ride.

Rating – 8/10

Night Mil15) NIGHT IN MILAN – 9 – 10-9 – James Reveley – Keith Reveley

A horse that has been a model of consistency throughout the season in staying handicap chases at Doncaster, a track which has served well in the past for Aintree candidates. He only just missed the cut for last year’s renewal having won the Grimthorpe Chase after the weights came out at Doncaster.

Night In Milan looks a solid jumper but might be handicapped out of it.
Night In Milan looks a solid jumper but might be handicapped out of it.

He started his season with two low key efforts over hurdles at both Sedgefield and Haydock before returning to fences at Doncaster where he was a close second to the ultra consistent Grandad’s Horse. He then ran respectably behind RSA Chase fifth If In Doubt in the Skybet Chase on ground probably softer than ideal.

A repeat bid at the Grimthorpe was his last run before Aintree and he was ridden with more waiting tactics than usual. He did make an uncharacteristic mistake at the first fence but he ran an excellent trial to finish third behind the reformed Wayward Prince. His bold jumping should hold him in good stead and with the drying ground definitely in his favour, he holds solid each way claims.

Rating – 8/10

rubi light16) RUBI LIGHT – 10 – 10-9 – Andrew Lynch – Robert Hennessy

Runs for the same owner/trainer combination that won the Champion Hurdle with Sublimity back in 2007. This two and a half mile specialist has scaled the heights at Grade One level which included a win in the 2011 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown and a third in the 2011 Ryanair behind Alberta’s Run. Whilst he isn’t at that level anymore, he is still running well and has won his last two races including a veterans chase at Wexford where he beat He’llberemembered and a conditions chase at Thurles where he beat Arnaud.

Rubi Light is a two and a half mile specialist who will struggle.
Rubi Light is a two and a half mile specialist who will struggle.

Earlier in his career, he attempted three miles twice which included a good second to the ill-fated Synchronised in the Lexus Chase and a fourth behind China Rock in the Punchestown Gold Cup beaten thirteen lengths. The main concerns are the drying ground with his love for soft ground and the distance which I don’t think he will appreciate.

Rating – 3/10

 

 

druids17) THE DRUIDS NEPHEW – 8 – 10-09 – Aidan Coleman – Neil Mulholland

If someone had said to me this time twelve months ago that I would be putting up The Druids Nephew to win a Grand National, I would have probably laughed at you. So here I am putting up The Druids Nephew to win the 2015 Grand National. The more I’ve thought about his credentials, the more convinced I am that he has a brilliant chance.

The Druids Nephew looks to tick every single box.
The Druids Nephew looks to tick every single box.

Having raced for Andy Turnell until the start of this season, he moved to Neil Mulholland and has thrived all season for his shrewd trainer. He started out in an easy race at Huntingdon to gain some confidence and he won with plenty in hand under champion jockey Tony McCoy. Cheltenham was the next port of call where he was ridden to get the trip over three miles and three furlongs. The tactics used probably cost him any chance of victory but in saying that, Sam Winner would have been extremely difficult to pass but he proved he stayed that distance on testing ground.

With the weights already out for the Hennessy Gold Cup, connections took their chance and he did very well to recover from a bad mistake early on. Given a sympathetic ride by Davy Russell, he was taken wide of the field and came there with every chance four out but the early mistake looked to cost him and potentially the hard race had at Cheltenham two weeks earlier.

To preserve his handicap mark before the Festival, he ran in the Cleeve Hurdle on Cheltenham Trials Day and was not disgraced when only beaten sixteen lengths by World Hurdle runner up Saphir Du Rheu. At the Festival itself, he was well fancied by connections and duly delivered on the day with an excellent performance which he had promised for a long time when beating the likes of Grand Jesture and Gallant Oscar.

Trainer Neil Mulholland has improved the horse plenty and is a shrewd operator.
Trainer Neil Mulholland has improved the horse plenty and is a shrewd operator.

The handicapper put him up ten pounds for that win however he escapes a penalty here which makes him the best handicapped horse in the race. In the past, his jumping had been suspect but his jumping at Cheltenham was solid and with Aintree less of a test than it used to be, the fences should pose no problem. With the better ground, staying the distance should be less of a problem as he wasn’t stopping behind Sam Winner in November and with him being such a strong traveller, he should be thereabouts crossing the Melling Road with two to jump. Whilst he has been running in handicaps, he does have a touch of class about him having finished sixth in an Albert Bartlett back in 2012 behind the ill-fated Brindisi Breeze.

Whilst Barry Geraghty is injured and unable to take the ride, the replacement of Aidan Coleman is a top booking and he does have a fair record over these fences, just not in the Grand National itself. It would also ensure that Coleman can forget the regretful decision made in 2009 when he chose Stan over the winner Mon Mome, both trained by Venetia Williams. If he gets a clear round and some luck in running, he looks the likely winner for me.

Rating – 10/10

cause of causes18) CAUSE OF CAUSES – 7 – 10-9 – Paul Carberry – Gordon Elliott

A second season novice over fences who finally broke his maiden tag in the best way possible when winning the National Hunt Chase under a fantastic patient ride from Jamie Codd who got him jumping well in rear and stayed on resolutely up the hill to fend off Broadway Buffalo.

Cause Of Causes has a good jockey booking in Paul Carberry.
Cause Of Causes has an excellent jockey booking in Paul Carberry.

Even though he has been a novice for the last two seasons, he has been thrown in the deep end in some of the most competitive staying handicap clases including the Paddy Power Chase when just denied by Rockyaboya and in the Kim Muir when a last fence blunder cost him his chance behind Spring Heeled. He was also a former winner of the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot over the minimum distance of two miles.

Whilst he deserves respect with his big field handicap form, the impression is a stronger tempo compared to the National Hunt Chase where he was given time to get into a rhythm could prove to be his undoing around Aintree. However, he does have a top pilot in Paul Carberry who won on Bobbyjo back in 1999 to guide him round. He is one I would rather leave than be backing.

Rating – 5/10

godmesjudge19) GODSMEJUDGE – 9 – 10-8 – Wayne Hutchinson – Alan King

This horse has been on my shortlist as a potential Grand National horse for around two years and he finally makes it here. The 2013 Scottish National winner missed last year’s race due to being a week behind in his work but ran two excellent races to compensate in the Scottish National when second to Al Co and in the Bet365 Gold Cup when third behind Hadrian’s Approach.

Godsmejudge has been trained for one day and has a live chance.
Godsmejudge has been trained for one day and has a live chance.

He returned this season in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster where he looked in desperate need of the run when pulled up behind If In Doubt before a more encouraging effort in the Betbright Chase when a staying on fifth to Rocky Creek. A spin over hurdles last time at Bangor was disappointing when he was last behind a potential future Grand National horse in Binge Drinker.

He most certainly has the right attibrutes to win a Grand National. He is a very sound jumper, is an uncomplicated ride and has a strong suit of stamina. This looks one of Alan King’s strongest chances for Aintree success and for rider Wayne Hutchinson who has an excellent association with the horse and he doesn’t look badly handicapped.

Rating – 9/10

al co20) AL CO – 10 – 10-8 – Denis O’Regan – Peter Bowen

Last year’s Scottish National winner showed resolute stamina when seeing off Godsmejudge and Trustan Times despite jinking twice on the run in and almost unseating Jamie Moore. This season started off disappointingly at Haydock over hurdles where he was the first beaten behind On Tour but improved more recently with two thirds. The first of those coming at Doncaster when third to subsequent Festival winner Call The Cops and the latter behind Binge Drinker where he shaped with a lot of promise.

Jumping is a real concern for Al Co.
Jumping is a real concern for Al Co.

This has been the long term plan and his profile would normally interest me a lot. However, one run not mentioned above was his second start when he came to Aintree for a sighter over the National fences in the Becher Chase. His jumping throughout left an awful lot to be desired when pulled up before the final fence. Without that run, I would probably be putting him up as an each way selection but he looked to really dislike the challenge of Aintree and he looks one to steer well clear of.

Rating – 3/10

monbeg21) MONBEG DUDE – 10 – 10-7 – Liam Treadwell – Michael Scudamore

One of the most consistent staying handicap chasers in training who very rarely runs a bad race. The former Welsh National winner has had yet another excellent season without getting his head in front including filling the runner up spot on his return at Chepstow behind Victor’s Serenade before running an excellent race in the Hennessy when fourth to Many Clouds. He filled the same position in the Welsh National behind Emperor’s Choice before finishing third behind the game Lie Forrit in Haydock’s Grand National Trial. His last effort was a surprising below par effort at the Festival where he didn’t look particularly happy at any stage through the race behind The Druids Nephew.

Monbeg Dude looks to have slight stamina concerns.
Monbeg Dude looks to have slight stamina concerns.

The jockey booking of former winner Liam Treadwell is an excellent decision from connections as surprisingly, he hasn’t ridden in the race since his debut on Mon Mome so he gets a thoroughly deserved opportunity. The slight doubt was whether he fully saw out the trip last year after making a couple of fiddly errors on the way round. Each way claims at best.

Rating – 6/10

 

 

corrin22) CORRIN WOOD – 8 – 10-7 – David Casey – Donald McCain

The first of Donald McCain’s two runners with this bold jumping front running grey sure to make a fair bid early on. He looked a highly promising novice chaser last season when winning his first three novice chases in convincing style including notable wins at Catterick when he thrashed Dursey Sound by twenty three lengths and at Warwick where he claimed the notable scalp of Black Thunder with a superb round of jumping. Considered good enough for a crack at the RSA Chase, he unfortunately got taken on for the lead by Annacotty and they each cut each other’s throats practically ending both their chances.

Corrin Wood should give a bold sight for a fair distance but stamina questions to answer.
Corrin Wood should give a bold sight for a fair distance but stamina questions to answer.

His return this season at Sandown was promising enough as he looked to really need the run beforehand behind the horse he beat at Warwick in Black Thunder before a more than satisfactory effort behind Dolatulo in the Rowland Meyrick carrying top weight before a disappointing run in the Peter Marsh which you can forgive as the ground was dreadful on that occasion.

His style will definitely suit Aintree with his bold jumping an asset but the concerns are whether his exuberance will get the better of him and whilst he has got form over three miles, the step up in distance is a step into the unknown.

Rating – 5/10

rainbow23) THE RAINBOW HUNTER – 11 – 10-7 – David Bass – Kim Bailey

The Rainbow Hunter bids to put behind him two unlucky experiences in the Grand National.
The Rainbow Hunter bids to put behind him two unlucky experiences in the Grand National.

One of the more recent unlucky horses of Aintree having been hampered on both visits which have resulted in Aidan Coleman being unseated onto the Aintree turf. The horse has only been out once this season when pulled up after hating the soft ground in the Betbright Chase behind Rocky Creek. Good ground here will suit better but coming into this off the back of one poor effort lingers in the mind and does the horse retain the same level of form shown when winning last year’s Skybet Chase at Doncaster.

Rating – 5/10

saint are24) SAINT ARE – 9 – 10-6 – Paddy Brennan – Tom George

A prime advert for what a change of stable can do for a horse. Formerly with Tim Vaughan, he moved to Tom George’s yard at the start of the season and has come back to form with a real vengeance. Twice a winner at this meeting including the Grade One Sefton Novice Hurdle, his season began at Cheltenham where he ran his best race for a long time before getting tired when third behind Sam Winner. His next start came in the Becher Chase over these fences where he got outpaced before staying on eyecatchingly to be third behind Oscar Time. On New Year’s Day at Cheltenham he raced on the pace but again found Mon Parrain and Our Father too good for him.

Saint Are should run well but probably won't be good enough.
Saint Are should run well but probably won’t be good enough.

With this race being the long term plan, he needed his mark to go up sufficiently to allow him a chance of getting in at the weights so it was a must win race at Catterick where he duly obliged by seven lengths. He has experience of the Grand National having finished ninth to Aurora’s Encore as a seven year old. The extra experience he has gained will hold him in good stead but the concern is how well handicapped he is compared to others in the race. He strikes as one that will jump round safely to finish sixth or seventh rather than win.

Rating – 6/10

across25) ACROSS THE BAY – 11 – 10-6 – Henry Brooke – Donald McCain

Arguably the unluckiest horse of last year’s renewal having been carried out by the enigmatic Tidal Bay just after the Water Jump losing in the region of forty lengths before continuing around to finish fourteenth behind Pineau De Re. This season had seen him not show very much with a laboured effort at Bangor before a slight spark of improvement in the Becher Chase where he led for a fair distance until getting tired behind Oscar Time and the same at Haydock in a Pertemps Qualifier when he faded away quickly when beat.

Across The Bay deserves more luck in running this year.
Across The Bay deserves more luck in running this year.

Last time out in the Kim Muir, he showed signs of a resurgence when travelling kindly through the race until he was brought down at the fourth last where he took a crunching fall, happily coming back safe and sound. He is similar to his stablemate in that he will be up forcing the pace but the concern is whether he’ll last home over the trip. His jumping which has been a problem in the past seems to have been sorted around here so he should give Henry Brooke another good ride round.

Rating – 5/10

tranquil26) TRANQUIL SEA – 13 – 10-5 – Gavin Sheehan – Warren Greatrex

Tranquil Sea isn't the same force of old and has major stamina doubts.
Tranquil Sea isn’t the same force of old and has major stamina doubts.

The 2009 Paddy Power Gold Cup winner is Gavin Sheehan’s first ever ride in the race for an up and coming young star of the sport. Now thirteen, he attempted to get in last year’s race but won after the weights were announced at Doncaster so was too late to make the cut for the race. He also ran in the Kim Muir where he missed the start and was eventually pulled up before running on Grand National day in the three mile handicap chase where he didn’t show very much.

He has been out once this campaign when a never nearer fifth to Soll in a veterans chase at Newbury. He bids to become the first thirteen year old to win the National since Sergeant Murphy in 1923 but he faces an uphill task, with stamina being a big concern plus he looks past his best which makes the veteran very easy to overlook.

Rating – 2/10

oscar t27) OSCAR TIME – 14 – 10-5 – Mr Sam Waley-Cohen – Robert Waley-Cohen

The oldest horse in the field has an exemplary record over these fences with him reaching the frame on all three starts over them including twice in this contest when second to Ballabriggs in 2011 and fourth to Aurora’s Encore in 2013. Whilst he’s now at the age of fourteen, he has shown very few signs of age catching up with him as he has won plenty of Point to Points mixed in with some hunter chases, one even over two and a half miles at Wetherby showing he still possesses a fair bit of pace.

Oscar Time looks overpriced with his superb record over the fences.
Oscar Time looks overpriced with his superb record over the fences.

He returned to Aintree for the Becher Chase where he was sent off overpriced at 25/1 and he showed his younger rivals a clean pair of heels, holding off the well ridden Mendip Express and beating a fair few of these that reoppose. His only other start since at Doncaster was promising when fourth behind Aachen in a veterans chase.

He is attempting to become the first fourteen year old to win the Grand National in its history and on the basis of his Becher Chase win, he holds every chance but there is that small doubt he is too old to do it. His price though compared to others in the race is ludicrous and, with a rider in Sam Waley-Cohen, a damn fine amateur who has a record second to none over the fences, he is definitely worth an each way punt.

Rating – 8/10

bob ford28) BOB FORD – 8 – 10-4 – Paul Townend – Rebecca Curtis

Sadly for Rebecca Curtis, her main fancy Teaforthree has had to be sidelined due to injury so instead she relies on Bob Ford to potentially become the first horse to win the National for Wales since Kirkland in 1905. The horse is inconsistent and needs his own way out in front which he definitely won’t get here. He tried these fences in the Grand Sefton in December and jumped poorly and he most certainly didn’t deserve a twelve pound hike in the weights for winning what was effectively a walkover in a farce of a race that was the West Wales National at Ffos Las. Pulled up last time in the Midlands National after failing to get his own way in front, he will surely struggle here and looks to have very little chance.

Rating – 1/10

super duty29) SUPER DUTY – 9 – 10-4 – Will Kennedy – Ian Williams

A decent performer in the past for Donald McCain and was second to none other than Simonsig at this meeting over hurdles three years ago. His form as a novice chaser was solid enough with it culminating in an excellent run in the Kim Muir when just denied by Same Difference in a close finish. Since then he has had his injury problems but his return to the track over hurdles at Wetherby saw some promise when sixth behind Join The Clan before a slightly below par effort in the Grimthorpe when seventh to Wayward Prince. Whilst he has form on decent ground, the concern is whether he’d want the going a bit softer but he is a sound enough jumper so should get round.

Rating – 5/10

wyck30) WYCK HILL – 11 – 10-4 – Tom Cannon – David Bridgewater

At one time in his career, this horse looked to have a real future when taking the Silver Cup at Ascot in December 2012 beating Katenko who went onto dominate two handicaps before a severe attack of colic ruined his progressive career. Wyck Hill was bought after that by JP McManus but was mostly disappointing which included a sour effort over these fences in the 2013 Becher Chase. He finally got it together in last year’s Eider Chase where the test of stamina played to his strengths.

Wyck Hill may prefer softer ground to be at his best.
Wyck Hill may prefer softer ground to be at his best.

His return this season in a novice hurdle at Chepstow had some promise going forward but his repeat bid for a second success in the Eider ended at the sixth fence when taking a tumble. Whilst he should appreciate every yard of the distance, he gives the impression that softer ground would suit better and his jumping would need to improve.

Rating – 5/10

gas31) GAS LINE BOY – 9 – 10-4 – James Best – Philip Hobbs

Owned by the Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club, Fitzgerald rode Rough Quest to victory in 1996 and proceeded to declare on BBC Television that winning the National was better than sex! Imagine the interview were this horse to win…

Gas Line Boy is worth a couple of quid each way at 100/1.
Gas Line Boy is worth a couple of quid each way at 100/1.

The horse has shown some fairly useful form this season with two wins at Exeter and Haydock, the latter of those a thorough stamina test where he beat Welsh National winner Emperor’s Choice by thirteen lengths. He was disappointing in the Welsh National himself but it was the worst ground he had encountered in his career to date so he can be forgiven. His final start in the Grand National Trial was littered with a few jumping errors but he ran respectably behind Lie Forrit when fourth.

The key to the horse is getting into a rhythm and if he does, he could make a mockery of his large odds and very easily run into a place. If he doesn’t, it will be a long walk home for James Best who is having his first ever ride in the race. For small stakes, that looks a risk worth chancing with the softer fences a plus.

Rating – 7/10

chance du32) CHANCE DU ROY – 11 – 10-4 – Tom O’Brien – Philip Hobbs

The second string of Philip Hobbs behind Balthazar King but his own form around these fences stands up handsomely. Winner of the 2013 Becher Chase and also runner up in the 2012 Topham, he finished sixth in last year’s National after making a bad mistake early doors but was given a wonderful patient ride by Tom O’Brien who takes the ride again. He was bang there crossing the Melling Road but ultimately failed to see out the distance.

Chance Du Roy should get round but whether he's in the same form as last year remains to be seen.
Chance Du Roy should get round but whether he’s in the same form as last year remains to be seen.

His return in the Becher Chase was a fair effort when fifth behind Oscar Time before a run in a veterans chase at Exeter where he was fifth again behind Soll after getting behind at a crucial point before staying on through beaten horses. He is likely to run a similar race to last year and give you a run for your money but may just miss out on placings, if your bookmaker is paying five/six places, use that to your advantage.

Rating – 6/10

 

portrait33) PORTRAIT KING – 10 – 10-3 – Davy Condon – Maurice Phelan

One horse that is assured of getting every yard of the trip being a former winner of the Eider Chase at Newcastle way back in 2012. That performance convinced me that he would be a future Grand National candidate but since then, injury problems have curtailed his career.

Portrait King should get around in his own time.
Portrait King should get around in his own time.

This season saw him return over an inadequate trip at Punchestown when eighth behind Grand Jesture before losing all chance when badly hampered in the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas at Leopardstown, eventually being pulled up. He won his next start at Fairyhouse with a real staying performance being Rogue Angel and followed that up with a good second in the Punchestown Grand National Trial behind the easy winner Embracing Change. Just like his Leopardstown run, he was badly hampered in this year’s Eider and never got back into a comfortable rhythm. Last time out, he was a fair second over hurdles at Downpatrick.

His jumping shouldn’t be an issue round here but the concerns are whether he is badly handicapped and does has the pace to keep up with the gallop on the first circuit. If he can, then he could be one to surprise as he does love a stamina test plus the drying ground isn’t too concerning either having won the Eider on good ground but the handicap mark doesn’t look particularly lenient.

Rating – 6/10

owega star34) OWEGA STAR – 8 – 10-3 – Robbie Power – Peter Fahey

Has the assistance of Robbie Power who won the race on Silver Birch back in 2007. The horse has shown some useful big handicap form in Ireland including a second in the Troytown Chase to the ill-fated Balbriggan at Navan and a fifth in the Paddy Power Chase to Living Next Door at Leopardstown however his final start in the Leinster National at Naas was a disappointing effort when sixth behind Miss Xian beaten thirty two lengths. That didn’t look the ideal preparation coming here and the concern is whether he’ll have the stamina to see it out with his breeding suggesting not.

Rating – 4/10

river choice35) RIVER CHOICE – 12 – 10-3 – David Cottin – Richard Chotard

The first French trained challenger since Musica Bella back in 2009. He attempts to become the third French trained winner in the history of the race with the last of those coming in 1867. Should jump these fences having jumped round Auteuil which is a fairly stiff track. Looks to have real stamina doubts. One to avoid.

Rating – 1/10

court by36) COURT BY SURPRISE – 10 – 10-3 – Richie McLernon – Emma Lavelle

It’s surprising that over the years Emma Lavelle has never had a runner in the National with this being her first ever representative. The horse has proven himself in various big handicap chases over the last couple of seasons with his first main success coming at Doncaster in December 2012 where he beat Night In Milan. Last season saw solid efforts at Chepstow, Wincanton and at Sandown over three miles five furlongs when second to There’s No Panic before his form tailed off with two sour efforts to end the season.

Court By Surprise has a tendency to hit a fence which could be his undoing.
Court By Surprise has a tendency to hit a fence which could be his undoing.

He started this season with a very easy win at Exeter when beating According To Trev before benefiting from cruel misfortune to The Young Master who was disqualified for not being qualified for the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton. To combat his form tailing off this season, connections have given him a winter break to freshen him up and he should give a good account of himself but there are several concerns I have. He has a tendency to clout a fence, has stamina doubts having looked a non stayer at Sandown and the lack of a recent run are all enough to put me off.

Rating – 5/10

alvarado37) ALVARADO – 10 – 10-3 – Paul Moloney – Fergal O’Brien

One that was backed ante-post at 40/1 in February as he looked the each way value of the race at that particular time and even at his current price now, you could argue he still represents value to place. He was fourth in last year’s renewal after being given a very patient ride by Paul Moloney who has placed every year since 2009 on the likes of State Of Play and Cappa Bleu for the Rucker family, both those horses trained by Evan Williams. Just like those pair, he seemed to get outpaced before staying on through beaten horses into fourth.

Alvarado looks the place certainty of the race.
Alvarado looks the place certainty of the race.

His only start this season came in a veterans chase at Doncaster where he ran respectably without landing a blow behind Aachen. He has also had a racecourse gallop at Newbury to sharpen him up. One thing is for sure, he looks to have a real each way chance but if Paul Moloney decides to ride him closer to the pace and keeps tabs with the leaders crossing the Melling Road, he has every chance to finally win the race for the Ruckers. That is a big if however.

Rating – 9/10

soll38) SOLL – 10 – 10-2 – Tom Scudamore – David Pipe

The Pipe family have had success in the National before with father Martin training Miinnehoma to win in 1994 and son David winning with Comply Or Die in 2008. During that season, he was a revelation in blinkers which is similar to this horse who was tried in blinkers on his last start and they looked to work really well on him as he beat Relax in a veterans chase at Newbury. Before that, he managed to qualify for the race when winning another veterans chase at Exeter under a brilliant ride from Tom Scudamore as it didn’t look a likely success from an early stage as he was scrubbed along to get a prominent position and needed every urging in the closing stages to win.

Soll may just lack the tactical pace to keep up with the field.
Soll may just lack the tactical pace to keep up with the field.

He has previous experience over the National fences. He got round when seventh to Aurora’s Encore two years ago when making a few jumping errors on the way round and also in last year’s Topham where he was completely taken off his feet and badly hampered by the fall of Fago at the final open ditch. The distance shouldn’t be any issue but the concern is whether he has that tactical pace to keep up early on plus his jumping will need to improve if he is to figure.

Rating – 5/10

ely39) ELY BROWN – 10 – 10-2 – No jockey – Charlie Longsdon

One that has very little chasing experience having only raced over fences six times in his career, two of those coming in Point to Points. He did win the Grade Two Towton Novices Chase at Wetherby last season with a solid round of jumping before he disappointed at Ascot in the Reynoldstown behind O’Faolains Boy. He was found afterwards to be injured and has only been seen once since back at Wetherby over hurdles where he was pulled up. Whilst he looks a safe jumper, his lack of experience and his preparation are surely major causes for concern.

Rating – 3/10

royale40) ROYALE KNIGHT – 9 – 10-2 – Brendan Powell – Dr Richard Newland

The final contender in this year’s Grand National is Dr Richard Newland’s second runner who has shown an aptitude for marathon trips with victories in the Borders National at Kelso over four miles in December 2013 and in the Durham National at Sedgefield last October where he absolutely bolted up under Daryl Jacob which helped his handicap mark go up enough to ensure a run here.

Royale Knight is Dr Richard Newland's second representative.
Royale Knight is Dr Richard Newland’s second representative.

His most recent outings have come over hurdles including a low key effort at Towcester where he might have still been feeling the effects of his Sedgefield win. Given a planned break, he showed promise when second over hurdles at Chepstow over three miles recently. This sound jumper has never raced in a race as competitive as this but the distance should bring out improvement and he should give Brendan Powell a deserved good spin after his first ride ended at the start on the recalcitrant Battle Group last year. The main concern the trainer has is whether he can keep up early as he isn’t the quickest in the field.

Rating – 7/10

 

Keeping the end short and sweet as I’ve rambled on long enough above, here are the horses that I will be backing. (The Druids Nephew, Godsmejudge, Alvarado, Carlito Brigante, Oscar Time & Gas Line Boy) The 1-2-3-4 is more inclined with the way my head sees the result but I believe Rocky Creek is short enough now so he can be left unbacked even though he has strong claims.

1) The Druids Nephew
2) Rocky Creek
3) Godsmejudge
4) Alvarado

The very best of luck to you if you are having a bet and many thanks for taking the time to read this piece!

2015 Crabbie’s Grand National Video Preview

The 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National is almost here and we at OnTheOtherHoof have recorded an extensive preview with all forty runners and their chances discussed by Luke Elder, Adam Webb and Calum Madell.

The very best of luck to you if you are having a bet on the race!

 

2015 Betfair Hurdle Weekend Review

What a three days of racing. The type of weekend where once you’ve gone through it all you need a good lie down. Both sides of the Irish Sea held some top quality action with Super Saturday at Newbury and Leopardstown’s Irish Hennessy card being the main attractions, upheld by some solid meetings elsewhere.

It’s rare that a Friday afternoon would get such a mention but with the quality of racing on show at both Kempton and Bangor, I felt it was worth covering those cards as well as there were notable horses at both venues.

Minella Rocco looks a very smart prospect for JP McManus.
Minella Rocco looks a very smart prospect for JP McManus.

Kempton’s card attracted some fascinating contenders for its two mile and five furlong novice hurdle, none more so than West Wizard who has been beaten twice in the same novice hurdle at the track two years running. On this occasion he was running over further but the odds on favourite again found one too good for him in Minella Rocco, an expensive purchase for JP McManus who looked to win with a fair amount in hand for Tony McCoy and Jonjo O’Neill.

Both horses travelled by far the best throughout the contest but when it mattered most, Minella Rocco had too much class for West Wizard who didn’t find again like has promised to do before. The winner doesn’t hold any fancy entries indicating that he is very much a long term prospect; one for chasing next season. It’s hard to suggest a target for West Wizard as he clearly hasn’t lived up to the hype of what his stable have expected of him. He does have a handicap mark of 136 so connections may consider going down that route with him but he isn’t one to trust.

Scorpiancer has ran respectably back in third and could be one to benefit from a wind operation as he didn’t look to see out the race. Flying Bandit will be interesting once he goes back into handicap company having shown enough here to suggest he can win one. Pyrshan was runner up to a Graded winner in Ordo Ab Chao on hurdling debut and will definitely make his mark in handicaps. Two that caught the eye further back were Rock On Oscar and The Last Euro. The former pulled away his chance and looked a horse that will need a fair bit of time to mature whilst the latter shaped with promise and is another long term project.

Third Intention was far slicker in his jumping than Josses Hill.
Third Intention was far slicker in his jumping than Josses Hill.

The Graduation Chase looked a good opportunity for Josses Hill to gain more experience of chasing after looking sketchy on his first two attempts at Ascot and Doncaster but yet again, his jumping left an awful lot to be desired and had to settle for second behind Third Intention who made most of the running for man of the moment Daryl Jacob.

On his third start over fences, Josses Hill was still guessy at a couple, including the ditch going away from the stands where he gave his supporters heart failure by standing off too far. His technique hasn’t improved much either with him lingering in the air which currently holds him back from being a top chaser. The Arkle was confirmed as the plan post-race but he hasn’t had an appropriate test. The Kingmaker would potentially have been an ideal place to go with the five fences down the back straight providing a true test for a novice. He is one to avoid at the Festival; even for each way purposes.

Take nothing away from Third Intention though who was giving the runner up eleven pounds and bounced back from a fall last time at Haydock. He did something that hasn’t been known of him completely in the past and battled all the way to the line. His slick jumping was his main asset and with his main competitor losing ground in the air, he was gaining, in particular at the final fence. The Topham was nominated as a target by Joe Tizzard, son of trainer Colin and he would be an exciting ride over those fences.

Caesar Milan wasn’t given the best of rides by Sam Twiston-Davies as he decided to kick for home too early although it did look a race winning move for the early part of the home straight. He has clearly turned a corner in cheekpieces and is definitely worth a chance depending on where he turns up next whilst Thomas Crapper had a good blow out with the novice handicap chase at the Festival firmly in mind for him.

The first division of the bumper provided some compensation for Nicky Henderson when Newsworthy made a winning debut for owners Michael Buckley and Rich Ricci. At one stage up the straight, it looked as though Midnight Cowboy would get the upper hand with the winner showing signs of greenness but he eventually put the race to bed. Of the front pair, the runner up looked a more long term prospect whilst the third horse Bilzic did too much in the middle part of the race and was a sitting duck for the minor honours close home.

The second division looked to have more substance in the entries but again, it went to Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty with Ok Corral who fought off the favourite High Bridge despite being slightly green in the closing stages. The winner looked to have more to give compared to the runner up and may have handled the softer ground better. Both Henderson bumper winners weren’t mentioned post-race for the Champion Bumper which seems fair, as both would be too inexperienced. High Bridge should be better on a more sounder surface being out of a 1,000 Guineas winner but he isn’t one to get excited about.

The Unit travelled well but went round the inside where the ground wasn’t as nice compared to going out wide whilst Antartica De Thaix was keen early on but travelled nicely before lacking a turn of foot. Both him and Baraza, a full brother to Nacarat, both look stayers and should be kept on side.

Great Try got off the mark at the third attempt over hurdles at Bangor, doing so in a professional manner under Nick Scholfield in what looks a fair enough race. With this being an EBF novice hurdle, this qualifies him for the Final at Sandown over two and a half miles which should suit him well. The runner up Hedley Lamarr ran a race full of promise on his debut in the familar colours of the Hitchens, famous for horses like Toby Tobias and Golden Freeze. If allowed to, he will certainly make his mark somewhere later in the season. L’Aigle Royal would probably appreciate going back up in trip after being put in his place here by the front two whilst Bringithomeminty was a disappointment, his jumping lacking fluency.

Beast Of Burden won this with plenty in hand and is worth his place at the Festival.
Beast Of Burden won this with plenty in hand and is worth his place at the Festival.

The three mile novice hurdle looked a match between Mendip Express and Beast Of Burden which went the way of the latter who won easily under Paul Townend. He made the majority of the running and relished the step up in distance, even with a slight error at the last. He is certainly worth a place at the Cheltenham Festival but I would be inclined to see him in the Neptune at this stage of his career rather than the Albert Bartlett as three miles on a more galloping track may just find him out at this stage of his career.

Mendip Express certainly wasn’t disgraced back in second, especially with his slickness over hurdles and was able to keep up with the winner for a fair way. He wasn’t beaten that far in the end and that should have put him spot on for the Festival Handicap Chase on the first day where he would have a big chance.

The Hunter Chase that ended the card wouldn’t have looked out of place at any of the major spring meetings and even though eight were pulled out due to various reasons, it still looked a strong contest for the sphere. As readers from last year may remember, Teaforthree was a horse that I had convinced myself that defeat was out of the question in the Grand National so you can imagine my shock when he unseated Nick Scholfield right under my nose at the Chair. Having watched the race back on numerous occasions, he wasn’t travelling with his usual enthusiasm and excuses emerged with an injury suffered during the race.

Teaforthree needs to win or finish second in another hunter chase to qualify for Cheltenham.
Teaforthree needs to win or finish second in another hunter chase to qualify for Cheltenham.

For today’s run, there was enough evidence to oppose him with. He usually needs a couple of runs before he reaches his peak and the drop back in distance looked to be an inconvenience. However, class prevailed with him travelling and jumping in the manner in which we have become accustomed to over the last few seasons, gaining his first win since his National Hunt Chase win at Cheltenham in 2012. The plan is to go to Cheltenham for the Foxhunters but he needs another win to qualify for the race. The Walrus Hunter Chase at Haydock could be a target; especially with the £10k bonus if you win that and the Cheltenham Foxhunters before a third crack at the Grand National.

Pacha Du Polder chased the winner throughout and whilst he was a useful performer at his best, giving eight pounds to Teaforthree proved too much. He only needs a win or another second to qualify for Cheltenham or Aintree with the latter looking a more preferable option over a trip that would suit him more. The other class horse Calgary Bay travelled up omniously going to three out before getting very tired. The market beforehand suggested he may need this outing and that was proven. He will no doubt be competitive in hunter chases over the coming months.

The main UK action of the weekend came in the form of Super Saturday with Newbury firmly in the limelight with a high quality card with some taking performances and some shocks along the way from both equines and human.

Qewy was impressive enough to get a 16/1 quote for the Supreme.
Qewy was impressive enough to get a 16/1 quote for the Supreme.

The opening race on the card was the two mile novice hurdle in which Qewy built upon his hurdles debut in Graded company behind Aso at Haydock when winning for John Ferguson and Tony McCoy, the first of two winner for him on the card. He jumped slickly throughout and used his tactical speed from the flat decisively against some fair opposition. He would need to improve again if he were to feature in the Supreme but with the improvement he has showed here, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if he did.

Doncaster winner Cardinal Walter loomed up dangerously having travelled strongly but was firmly put in his place by Qewy and made to look one paced; he will no doubt find a decent handicap hurdle in the spring. Royal Vacation has ran well on his hurdles debut and has performed to a fair level, suggesting that he will win a couple of novice hurdles before embarking on his chasing career.

Bouveril didn’t particularly look the strongest of finishers and could just need a summer at grass to grow up mentally and physically. Cloonacool could be used as the marker for the race, having beaten the Betfair Hurdle winner Violet Dancer on his last start at Kempton which gives this race a solid look whilst Risk A Fine was far too free for his own good and faded away tamely.

The Denman Chase looked an ideal opportunity for one of the top staying novice chasers Coneygree to cement his Cheltenham Festival position against seasoned chasers and he put in a performance similar to the Feltham where he put his rivals to the sword and one by one, they fell by the wayside, albeit this time down to jumping errors as opposed to falling.

Coneygree jumped and galloped his rivals into submission.
Coneygree jumped and galloped his rivals into submission.

A seven length success over Hennessy runner up Houblon Des Obeaux who looks to have ran to his mark suggests he isn’t far off Gold Cup class this season and his style of racing is just an absolute joy to watch with fast accurate jumping and the ability to get his rivals into trouble, something very few horses possess.

The performance was similar to Gloria Victis, like Coneygree, a novice who had both the RSA and the Gold Cup as potential targets after routing a field in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton. He was also ridden by Richard Johnson who deserves plenty of credit for the ride he gave Coneygree as he allowed the horse to do what he pleased but when asked up the home straight, he responded superbly.

The million dollar question – Do connections opt for the RSA or the Gold Cup? I’m now convinced that if he goes down the novice route then he will be extremely hard to beat, even with his running style and if they decide to go for the blue riband, he would certainly have a strong chance of winning. Whilst a lack of experience would be the concern, his jumping has been faultless so far and his relentless galloping have made him so endearing to the public.

Houblon Des Obeaux has been a model of consistency this season and deserves a big race win with this being his third second place finish this campaign. This was his Gold Cup and he was comprehensively put in his place by Coneygree which underlines how much talent the winner has. He may go to Cheltenham but his record isn’t the best. He could go to Sandown for the Bet365 Gold Cup again where hopefully he’d get further than the first fence unlike last year. Unioniste was outpaced here before staying on stoutly up the home straight, showcasing his attributes for the Grand National. Paul Nicholls did also mention the Grand Steeple Chase de Paris which is another race that could suit him very well.

Both Taquin Du Seuil and Harry Topper’s jumping were exposed by Coneygree. The former did look a danger going to three out before fading away, suggesting that the distance stretched him. He would probably head towards the Ryanair now with him showing more positive signs compared to Haydock whilst the latter wants softer ground and a similar galloping track. Double Ross showed more here than at both Haydock and Kempton but wants to go back in trip.

Mr Mole is a reformed character this season and the Champion Chase looks realistic.
Mr Mole is a reformed character this season and the Champion Chase looks realistic.

The Game Spirit Chase marked the return of last season’s Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy but the centre of attention shifted elsewhere as soon as the race finished with the shock announcement from nineteen times champion jockey Tony McCoy of his retirement at the end of this National Hunt season after gaining his 200th winner of the season on Mr Mole. McCoy’s retirement will get talked about more in due course on the videos and in written form closer to the end of the season.

To the race itself, the performance from Mr Mole was staggering. He gave about fifteen lengths away at the start when whipping round and almost looking reluctant to race. He got himself back into it early with the lack of a true gallop from Uxizandre but to make up that ground early on and to win in that manner was pretty impressive. A notoriously difficult horse in the past, this is yet another complete turnaround from Paul Nicholls who yet again has revelled in the challenge of making the horse a complete package. The Champion Chase now looks a realistic target and this is the exact same route Nicholls plotted out with a certain Master Minded in the 2007/08 season. With most of his main rivals having question marks hanging above them, the case is looking fairly strong for him and he could provide Tony McCoy a farewell present; a Champion Chase victory.

Both Upsilon Bleu and Karinga Dancer were here for prize money and have been rewarded but they were both outclassed. Uxizandre went out to make the running but was left behind quite easily by Mr Mole before his spectacular unseat at the final fence. It’s hard to know where to go next as he didn’t do anything here to enhance his Festival credentials.

This wasn't a satisfactory return by Sire De Grugy. Can he retain his crown next month?
This wasn’t a satisfactory return by Sire De Grugy. Can he retain his crown next month?

Strangely, that’s my way of thinking with Sire De Grugy as well. His fencing was far from fluent and he had threatened to get rid of Jamie Moore on more than one occasion before the final open ditch. With the ease Mr Mole won, I doubt he would have beaten him and whilst he’s entitled to come on plenty for the outing, this performance raises yet more questions about the Champion Chase rather than answer those before this contest.

As usual, the Betfair Hurdle was hugely competitive affair but it gave trainer Gary Moore a welcome tonic after the reversal of Sire De Grugy when he took the race for the third time with Violet Dancer who joined Heathcote and Wingman on the roll of honour for the Moore stable.

He was given a fantastic ride from the front by Gary’s son Josh who used the horse perfectly in first time cheekpieces and was never out of the first two. Left in the lead when Chieftain’s Choice fell at the last flight in the back straight, he built up an advantage that just wasn’t pegged back by the chasing pack. His jumping was much sharper than it has been in the past and these tactics looked to suit him well and he will no doubtedly head to the Festival for either the Coral Cup or the County Hurdle but unlike here, it will be harder to make most of the running and have something in reserve.

Cheltenian improved on his effort in this race a year ago when he was fourth by going two places better. He was another to be ridden handy and would have benefitted from that. It will be interesting to see where he goes next as he has plenty of options including going back chasing as he did jump well on chase debut behind the ponderous Josses Hill at Doncaster. Activial has ran another strong race after getting outpaced on the turn for home. He will be suited by going up in distance but the Coral Cup on normal Festival ground may prove too much for him as he did disappoint at Aintree on good ground.

Calipto was patiently ridden and travelled strongly throughout the race but once off the bridle, he looked fairly one paced. The suspicion is that he isn’t as well handicapped over hurdles as thought by connections and he will probably step up in trip before the season is out. Jolly’s Cracked It looked to be thrown in at the deep end and was given a perfect confidence boosting ride in rear by Nick Scholfield. This looks the race that may make a man of him and whilst a Festival novice hurdle is probably out the question, he will almost certainly win another race or two before the season finishes.

Arzal caught the eye massively and needs to be kept on side.
Arzal caught the eye massively and needs to be kept on side.

The eyecatcher of the whole race was Arzal as plenty went wrong throughout the race. Normally a front runner, he was inconvienienced by the standing start and was further back than ideal. He then was caught on heels passing the winning post with a circuit to go before getting badly impeded by the fall of Chieftain’s Choice which knocked him back to last place. For a couple of strides, it looked as though he wasn’t travelling at all well but he then picked up the bridle again and was allowed some time to recover. He was nursed onto the back of the main group before somehow finishing sixth. Without those problems endured in running, he would definitely have been in the frame and he has done incredibly well to be only beaten fifteen lengths.

Forced Family Fun would have finished closer having not made a blunder at the second last whilst On Tour was given a strange ride by Paul Moloney. On a horse that gets further than the minimum two miles, instead of sitting more handy, they held him up. Once he realised he was too far back, he made a mid-race move that used up too much energy and left him vulnerable after the last flight. Balgarry just wasn’t good enough on the day and may benefit with a confidence booster in a smaller contest whilst Wicklow Brave was a huge disappointment considering the amount of money that came for him. Ballybolley was beaten at the time when hampered two out but keep an eye on him if he goes to Aintree as the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle would suit him really well.

Of the non-finishers, Fascino Rustico had travelled kindly for Harry Skelton and hadn’t gone for his full effort when making a mistake and falling at the second last, bringing down Ebony Express and hampering Vasco Du Ronceray who was well beaten at the time. Fascino Rustico may well have placed and may well be a type for something like the Swinton at Haydock. It was a relief to see Ebony Express get up ok after a horrific looking tumble but he didn’t look to be going anywhere at the time. Chieftain’s Choice had jumped well up until departing whilst Goodwood Mirage barely took off at the first and gave Tony McCoy a pretty nasty fall. He then galloped off and decided to take on the open ditch in the back straight and from that evidence, I doubt he’ll ever make a natural chaser!

Kings Palace running style will leave him vulnerable in the RSA.
Kings Palace running style will leave him vulnerable in the RSA.

The three mile novice chase was a match between long odds on favourite Kings Palace and Vivaldi Collonges with David Pipe’s charge looking to regain his position at the top of the RSA Chase market after Coneygree’s sucess earlier on the card. Whilst he maintained his unbeaten record, he did give his backers a scare or two on the way round, esepecially at the three open ditches jumped. With showing that accuracy we have become used to, we did see his first real error at the third last when standing off too far and almost landing on top of the fence, doing extremely well to stay on his feet. Although he won a shade cosily, it did give Vivaldi Collonges a chance at victory as he did look vulnerable for a couple of strides.

Bookmakers were unimpressed and he actually drifted with a couple of firms. Even then, he doesn’t tempt me for the Festival at all. If Coneygree turns up in the RSA then he has competition for the lead and he would be vulnerable not just to that rival but to the whole field behind him that would stalk and pounce. Even without Coneygree, I would hold the same concerns that just like in the Albert Bartlett, he would set the race up for a stronger stayer. Vivaldi Collonges jumped better than he did on debut behind Kings Palace but it could be worth keeping his novice status for next season where he could gain plenty more experience.

The Listed Bumper that ended the card looked strong on paper and again went to an all the way winner in Barters Hill who remains unbeaten after three starts for Ben Pauling and defied all comers in tenacious style. There was a moment of concern passing the stands where his mind wandered towards the paddock exit and up the straight when taken on first by Final Nudge and secondly by the four year old Buveur D’air but he wasn’t for passing. The Champion Bumper could easily be tempting for connections and he could fare well there but would need to make the race a true stamina test from the front.

Others to note from the race for the future include Final Nudge who shaped well for a long way, Duke Des Champs who probably needed the run and Present Man who disappointed although he wouldn’t be the first horse to disappoint in this race and bounce back; Thomas Brown being a prime example twelve months ago.

Vibrato Valtat looks England's number one contender for the Arkle.
Vibrato Valtat looks England’s number one contender for the Arkle.

Warwick’s feature contest was the Kingmaker Novice Chase, which looked a match on paper between Vibrato Valtat and Top Gamble but it was turned into a procession with Paul Nicholls’ grey showing his class to dispose of an unbeaten novice whose jumping has impressed many. He was ridden with a huge amount of confidence by Sam Twiston-Davies but his jumping wasn’t as good as it has been in the past. He took a liberty at a couple along the side of the course but brushed those fiddly errors aside to beat Top Gamble comfortably giving him three pounds. He is now as short as 6/1 for the Arkle and whilst he looks Britain’s best chance of an Arkle winner, he comes up against a potential superstar in Un De Sceaux and I would expect him to be fighting out second with Clarcam, although he would need to iron out the errors made here.

Top Gamble jumped beautifully up until four out where he misjudged his takeoff and landed in a bit of a heap. He also made a slight error at the third last but was quickly back on the bridle however he was brushed aside by a smart novice. Although he has lost his unbeaten record over fences, he still emerges with plenty of credit but could be difficult to place.Turn Over Sivola has ran respectably back in third and will probably be one for the Red Rum at Aintree where he ran well last year behind Parsnip Pete whilst Kings Lad probably found the pace too hot down the side of the course. A step back up in distance would help his cause.

Petite Parisienne and Kalkir battle it out over the last.
Petite Parisienne and Kalkir battle it out over the last.

Leopardstown’s final main meeting before Cheltenham always throws up various clues and today was no exception. The Spring Juvenile Hurdle has thrown up the last two winners of the Triumph Hurdle and threw up a potential contender in Petite Parisienne who was impressive enough for her second hurdles start beating her stablemate Kalkir. She was in receipt of six pounds from the whole field (Bryan Cooper putting one overweight) and showed plenty of guts to battle all the way up the straight. Whilst her jumping was novicey in parts, she will surely improve for even better ground but she will need to considering the British juveniles.

Kalkir looked much happier than he did at Christmas on desperate ground but was beaten fair and square here. It’s hard seeing him reverse positions with the winner in the Triumph. Prussian Eagle appears to have shown improvement for slightly better ground after chasing home Fiscal Focus over Christmas and another Mullins juvenile hurdler in Dicosimo at Gowran. These three put twenty lengths between themselves and the fourth but it doesn’t look likely we saw the Triumph winner here. Vercingetorix made a bad mistake at the first and was a major disappointment, the first considerable one for owners Simon Munir & Issac Souede. That didn’t look his true running but that may sway the decision to keep him at home.

Nichols Canyon used his potent turn of foot from his flat days to full effect.
Nichols Canyon used his potent turn of foot from his flat days to full effect.

The Deloitte Novice Hurdle had yet another from the Willie Mullins stable sent off a short price favourite in the enormous grey Alvisio Ville who had attracted significant support not just for this race but for the Neptune at the Festival. But the bubble surrounding him burst when he was beaten into third by yet again, another Mullins stablemate in Nichols Canyon who shrugged off his unseat at Christmas in taking fashion, using the exact same tactics used to full effect on Vautour and Champagne Fever.

He was able from the home turn to use his flat speed to full effect and win by a comfortable three and a half lengths. Whilst the form of his Royal Bond win looked questionable, he was a class above them and the same comments apply for this performance here with much stronger opposition. With that potent flat speed, it may suit best going down the Supreme route and using the same tactics like the previous two winners listed above. Windsor Park improved on his effort two weeks ago when not given the best of rides. He was always going to come off second best to the winner and shaped like the Neptune would suit him but his jumping again would need to improve.

Alvisio Ville may benefit from staying at home this season.
Alvisio Ville may benefit from staying at home this season.

The hype surrounding Alvisio Ville has been pretty scary and he was well backed considering he had only won a maiden hurdle on Boxing Day. He jumped a lot better than on debut but was keen enough early on. That and the lack of experience probably told in the closing stages but he was beaten by a better horse on the day. With plenty of time on his side, he doesn’t need to go to the Festival this year when he has been brought for the purpose of going chasing. Silver Concorde shaped with more promise than on hurdling debut but the enthusiasm on my Supreme antepost bet has dwindled whilst Sempre Medici remains interesting if given a feasible handicap mark.

The Flogas Novice Chase looked an ideal target for Valseur Lido to remain unbeaten and book his ticket to the Festival in either the JLT or the RSA but the form of his Drinmore win was reversed by Apache Stronghold who was given an incredible ride by Paul Carberry considering he didn’t jump as well as he has done in the past. He paid a huge compliment to Don Poli who beat him over Christmas in the Topaz and was certainly suited by this intermediate trip under a patient ride. Trainer Noel Meade confirmed the JLT was his Festival target and he goes there with a definite chance as the end to end gallop should really play to his strengths.

Apache Stronghold reverses the Drinmore form with Valseur Lido. Both would have claims in the JLT.
Apache Stronghold reverses the Drinmore form with Valseur Lido. Both would have claims in the JLT.

Valseur Lido lost nothing in defeat but was just beaten by a slightly better horse on the day. He jumped and travelled like he did in the Drinmore and handled going the other way round. If he goes over to the Festival, you’d hope he would turn up in the JLT as he doesn’t shape yet like three miles would be right up his street. If he didn’t go, the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse could potentially be easy pickings. Adriana Des Mottes showed no ill-effects of her bad mistake at Limerick and has ran to a similar form level shown on that occasion as she would have finished a clear second behind Gilgamboa. She could easily drop back into her own company and win some decent prizes.

The Tullow Tank put in a much better effort than of recent times having travelled omniously well before getting outpaced after the second last. He is worth another go over three miles and this effort may have convinced his connections to ponder going to the Festival for the RSA. Jarry D’Honneur’s jumping was sketchy out in front and he unseated of his own accord at the last. A confidence booster in a lower grade will help.

RIP Le Vent D'Antan.
RIP Le Vent D’Antan.

The sad part of the race was the demise of Le Vent D’Antan who had jumped beautifully before overjumping at the last and injuring a shoulder. It’s a part of the sport no one wants to happen but for a small stable like Liz Doyle to lose their stable star, it’s heartbreaking. A one time favourite for the Champion Bumper in 2013, he had shown plenty of promise so far over fences to suggest he was above average. RIP.

Carlingford Lough and Tony McCoy in the winners enclosure after a famous win.
Carlingford Lough and Tony McCoy in the winners enclosure after a famous win.

The Irish Hennessy provided the fairytale with Tony McCoy, fresh from announcing his retirement at Newbury, gaining his first (and only) success in the race under a never say die effort on Carlingford Lough to repel the improver in the pack Foxrock with last season’s Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere running an eyecatching race back in third. The scenes that greeted the winner post-race were reminiscent of what Hurricane Fly received last month when winning his fifth Irish Champion Hurdle.

Carlingford Lough built upon his effort in the Lexus Chase where he travelled well before looking in need of the run. He did well here to recover from a mistake at the second last to run down Foxrock after the last to win going away. After this performance, he merits consideration for the Gold Cup but the concerns are based on the way he jumped around Cheltenham in last season’s RSA. It will be interesting to see whether McCoy chooses him or Shutthefrontdoor.

Foxrock continues to prove me wrong and this was by far a career best effort. He came off the bridle after the third last and found plenty for pressure, leading over the last fence before being caught on the run in by the winner. Connections may be tempted to supplement him for the Gold Cup but it could just pay to wait for the Punchestown Gold Cup this season with him.

Lord Windermere goes back to defend his Gold Cup crown with every chance.
Lord Windermere goes back to defend his Gold Cup crown with every chance.

Lord Windermere ran a much better race than he did in the Lexus. He was ridden more forward and unusually for him, he was probably in front plenty soon enough which has never been the case before. Considering he was only beaten eight and three quarter lengths, compared to last year when he was beaten twenty six lengths by Last Instalment, this was a Gold Cup preparation to be pleased with. Better ground here was a big positive compared to the testing ground he encountered over Christmas and he will now tick over until going back to defend his crown with as good a chance as any.

Boston Bob was never put in the race whatsoever having just hacked around at the back of the field. Bookmakers pushed his price out after this effort and whilst I wouldn’t be a backer of the horse, it seemed an unwise decision to let him drift. The concern for the Gold Cup would be if he gets himself out of position, whether that be by design or him getting outpaced. The other way to potentially look at this effort is that connections may have half an eye on the Grand National with the weights due to be published a week tomorrow.

Talking of Aintree, Home Farm ran a fair trial towards Aintree and would definitely be competitive there off a workable mark whilst First Lieutenant didn’t show very much for his National ambitions. Texas Jack put up a more competitive effort compared to recently but has never looked a true three miler. If kept in similar form, the Melling Chase could be his type of race having disappointed previously at the Festival whilst On His Own kept jumping out to his right and showed his inconsistency.

Prince De Beauchene isn't eligble this season for Cheltenham/Aintree Foxhunters.
Prince De Beauchene isn’t eligble this season for Cheltenham/Aintree Foxhunters.

The Raymond Smith Memorial Hunter Chase featured some old faces including 2012 and 2013 Cheltenham Foxhunters winner Salsify making his return to action and Mossey Joe but it was left to Willie Mullins and son Patrick with one time Grand National favourite Prince De Beauchene who didn’t jump as well as he did at Thurles but battled thoroughly to deny On The Fringe who was given a very patient ride by Nina Carberry.

The review of Prince De Beauchene could be described as pointless due to the fact he won’t be eligible for either the Cheltenham or Aintree Foxhunters, although he may return for the Grand National where he would give Patrick a thrill of a lifetime before failing to see out the trip. On The Fringe would be interesting in the Aintree Foxhunters as he has failed to get up the hill twice at Cheltenham although his main aim is likely to be Punchestown. Salsify was far too fresh on his return but showed that he was still in good enough form to suggest a return to Cheltenham is possible.

Emerging Talent should be a different horse after his summer holiday.
Emerging Talent should be a different horse after his summer holiday.

Exeter staged a good quality card on Sunday and three races are worth a mention. It was great to see Native River back in the winners enclosure after his fall on Festival Trials Day when taking the Listed novice hurdle and taking a notable scalp in Emerging Talent who still frustrates his backers as he travels so strongly through his races before finding little for pressure.

Both the front two will have smart careers when they tackle fences in the future, especially the runner up who just needs to grow up physically and mentally. He is with the perfect trainer in Paul Nicholls who will bring the horse along steadily to peak at the right time. He will no doubt leave his hurdles form behind once he goes jumping fences in the autumn.

For a moment on Trials Day, it looked bad for Native River so to see him taking this prize was pleasing. That gives the impression he would have gone quite close on that occasion and this is a nice boost to the Challow Hurdle form. He is more than worth his place at the Festival but sadly only has the Albert Bartlett entry. He would be more than worth his place in a Neptune but unlike the big Grade Ones, I’m unsure whether you can supplement for novice events.

Kalane was firmly put in his place by two smart horses but there’s no reason to believe he isn’t fairly useful himself and should make a good chaser in the autumn. The disappointment of the contest was War Sound who pulled far too hard for his own good and was comprehensively beaten. He is far better than what he showed yet but he has plenty of learning to do.

The Pertemps Qualifier looked one of the strongest so far and finally Regal Encore put it all together over hurdles with a comfortable success. The step up in distance looked to suit him really well and if progressing from this, he would almost certainly be able to make his mark in a Festival handicap but he is still one I wouldn’t completely trust. Alavian made it a JP McManus one-two and he was another to benefit from going up in distance although he was looked after significantly in the closing stages. If he is to make the Pertemps cut, he needs his mark to go up several pounds and it will likely be touch and go whether he scrapes in. Similar comments apply to the The Tourard Man who is currently in the form of his life and is worth his go in the Final.

Big Easy deserves to win a big handicap hurdle and whilst he would run his usual honest race, I don’t think he would have more improvement in him to win a Pertemps however the next home Knight Of Noir could potentially have more to come and is on my shortlist of three I have currently for the race. The other two being Brother Brian who chased home Rock On Ruby back in December and Edeymi who caught everyone’s attention last week at Musselburgh behind Dawalan.

Morito Du Berlais wouldn’t get in the Final based on this effort but hasn’t finishing winning over hurdles this season. He should win a decent handicap on good ground before the season is out. Unowhatimeanharry ran respectably from out of the handicap and has definitely shown enough to suggest he can bang a staying handicap hurdle. Pineau De Re shaped with plenty more promise compared to his previous effort at Carlisle and just managed to qualify. With improvement likely, he will run well at the Festival before attempting to regain his Grand National crown back where he should give another good account of himself.

Aubusson just failed to qualify but that could be a blessing in disguise as he could now be put away for the remainder of this season and be brought back for a chasing campaign in the autumn. Southfield Royale didn’t show his true running at all and can be forgiven whilst Ambion Wood likely needed this outing after a fair amount of time off the track.

Southfield Theatre would be more interesting at Aintree with the pace he showed.
Southfield Theatre would be more interesting at Aintree with the pace he showed.

Southfield Theatre got back to winning ways in the novice chase under replacement jockey Noel Fehily after chasing Carraig Mor home at Newbury on unfavoured soft ground. Back on better ground and allowed to make his own running, it was the best he has jumped over fences so far but it would have been touch and go had chasing debutant Val De Law stood up at the final fence as he was mounting a serious challenge. He looks a smart recruit for Jamie Snowden and was outrunning his odds when taking a heavy tumble. Happily, he got to his feet and galloped away unharmed. Whilst he holds no obvious entries, a race that could suit him towards the end of the season is the Future Champions Novices Chase at Ayr over two and a half miles.

The pace throughout was a stop start affair and they have sprinted up the straight and for a horse who has got form over further in Southfield Theatre, this shows he has tactical pace as well. Although it was the best he has jumped over fences, at this stage in his career, missing Cheltenham wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world as the RSA can be a particularly brutal test for a horse. With the pace he showed here, the three mile Grade One at Aintree could suit him really well under a bold front running ride, as he could potentially get his opposition into trouble down the back straight.

Melodic Rendezvous was sticky at a couple of fences but this was a much better effort than on his chasing debut at Bangor when scraping home against Boondooma. He did look the likely winner until a mistake three out put him on the back foot. Considering the ground was probably as lively as he would have wanted it, this was a good effort and there is no doubt he will bag a few novice chases with more cut in the ground. The Pendil at Kempton has been mentioned as a target but he will bump into England’s leading JLT hope Ptit Zig.

Thank you for reading this bumper edition which I hope makes up for not doing a blog last week. Next week features the Ascot Chase and the Grand National Trial at Haydock which will be an attritional test and I’m sure the Cheltenham video previews will begin soon.

Eyecatchers

Caesar Milan – Was better than the result suggested.

Great Try/Hedley Lamaar – The winner has the capability to go well in the EBF Final whilst the runner up is worth keeping an eye on.

Arzal – No luck at all in running and should be backed next time out.

Lord Windermere/Boston Bob – That will have put the former spot on to defend his Gold Cup crown whilst the latter wasn’t given a chance to show anything.

Knight Of Noir – Looks interesting for the Pertemps Final.

Val De Law – Looks a smart horse for Jamie Snowden and if his confidence isn’t affected, he should win novice chases.

2015 Betfair Hurdle Weekend Preview

With a cracking weekend of racing upon us, here is our preview which focuses on the Channel Four action from Newbury and Warwick with the feature event being the Betfair Hurdle, formerly known as the Schweppes/Tote Gold Trophy which has thrown up Champion Hurdle winners Persian War and Make A Stand and various top class performers including more recently, Zarkandar and My Tent Or Yours. We also look at the Grade One action from Leopardstown on Sunday where Willie Mullins looks to have a strangehold on all the Grade Ones on the card.

On the video tonight we have @Lukeelder13 and @AdamWebb121 plus a guest appearance from @calummadell as he was doing work for Timeform. Our Cheltenham Festival previews will begin either next week or the week after and if you have any suggestions for potential realistic guests then please send them in.

NAPs

Adam – Barters Hill – 4:40 Newbury

Luke – Jolly’s Cracked It – 3:35 Newbury

Calum – Calipto – 3:35 Newbury