Tag Archives: Vics Canvas

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 Crabbies Grand National Preview

The 2016 Crabbies Grand National weights were revealed earlier this afternoon and with 126 horses entered to take their chance on 9th April, the biggest amount since 2008. For the last couple of years, the main point of interest in handicapping terms is how Phil Smith would assess those near the head of the weights including last year’s victor Many Clouds (11-10). Before the weights came out, it was evident Oliver Sherwood’s charge would carry top weight as he was the highest rated horse in England with Silvinaco Conti (11-8) having been dropped to a rating one pound lower. The only drastic changes made by Smith were lowering the marks of the top five in the weights by a pound and raising Houblon Des Obeaux (11-7) to an unrealistic mark of 160 after winning the worst renewal of the Denman Chase seen for a while last weekend.

Many Clouds bids to become the first to win back to back Nationals since Red Rum 42 years ago.
Many Clouds bids to become the first to win back to back Nationals since Red Rum 42 years ago.

The right place to start when going through the field is with last year’s hero Many Clouds whose chances are fairly obvious. He carried 11-9 when succeeding last year, only has a pound more to carry and most importantly; has been in excellent form despite not winning a race this season. Having needed his first run at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall, his subsequent efforts behind Don Poli over Aintree’s Mildmay fences and Smad Place in the Betbright Trial at Cheltenham have proven his well-being after such a tough season last year.

One more run at Kelso early next month should put him spot on for a repeat bid and although he carries top weight, the son of Cloudings looks to have the best chance since the owners’ Hedgehunter attempted the double back in 2006 when runner up to Numbersixvalverde carrying joint top weight. Is there any value in backing him now? Likely so. He won’t be 12/1 come the day if performing well at Kelso and with the public weight of cash with once a year punters recognising the name, he could go off one of the shortest priced favourites in recent years.

The class horse of this year’s renewal Silviniaco Conti has been dangled a tempting carrot by Phil Smith as he doesn’t carry top weight in a handicap, highly unusual for a six time Grade One winner with all of those dual successes in the Betfair Chase, King George and the Betfred Bowl. However, he doesn’t appeal in the slightest as a horse who fits the bill of a Grand National winner.

Whilst his jumping would be a huge asset over these fences, the main issues are his stamina and the fact he looked a shade of his former self in the King George when pulled up. The Ascot Chase on Saturday will tell connections what to do with him but hopefully he avoids this race and goes elsewhere. His trainer Paul Nicholls has eight other entries but none of them attract much as Grand National types.

Other contenders entered from last year’s race include runner up Saint Are (10-5), Alvarado (10-2), Shutthefrontdoor (10-11) and Royale Knight (10-1). All of them like Many Clouds will have been prepped with one day in mind and should all give a good accounts of themselves again but other competitors appeal more as ante-post propositions.

Kruzhlinin looks fairly treated at the weights.
Kruzhlinin looks fairly treated at the weights.

One horse who has experience over the Grand National fences that appeals plenty is the Philip Hobbs trained KRUZHLININ (10-7). Having moved from Donald McCain in the autumn to Hobbs, his only start so far this season came at Kempton in January when landing a 3m handicap chase in easy fashion despite jumping left handed. He was ninth in the 2014 Grand National when relatively inexperienced and caught the eye on that occasion when staying on well through beaten horses on the run in. This race was the plan last season but for injury to intervene and holds an entry in the Betbright Chase at Kempton which provides an opportunity for him to shorten considerably if he goes close.

The Rooneys also have The Last Samuri (10-8) and Operating (9-11) entered. The latter doesn’t appear likely to get a run but the former was also an impressive winner at Kempton over 3m at Christmas when showing a hugely likeable attitude to run down Viva Steve on a track that wouldn’t play to his strengths. Aintree will suit more than Kempton but the concern about his chance this year is a lack of experience and he looks more one to concentrate on in 2017. Similar comments apply to the real dark horse of the race Onenightinvienna (10-8) who, as a novice, has only had three starts over fences to date. Owned by Judith Luff, whose husband Peter owned Aintree legend West Tip, his jumping has been professional on the whole but like The Last Samuri; 2017 is when he will be of most interest.

The Romford Pele looks unexposed as a stayer.
The Romford Pele looks unexposed as a stayer.

Arguably The Druid’s Nephew (11-0) would have gone very close had he not fallen five out in last year’s renewal and has been aimed at this all season. Another bold bid is expected from Neil Mulholland’s charge but a horse with a similar profile who jumps off the page is THE ROMFORD PELE (10-4) for Rebecca Curtis. The yard has had a poor season in terms of form but he performed with plenty of credit when third behind Thistlecrack in the Cleeve Hurdle, a race The Druid’s Nephew used as a springboard for the Cheltenham Festival when winning the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase on the first day; a potential target The Romford Pele may well take in before Aintree.

His jumping has been a cause for concern in the past and although he fell at Cheltenham in December, the ground was too soft for him on that occasion so the likely sounder surface will bring out improvement in the jumping department. With the fences not as stiff than they were in yesteryear, he should cope with the demands of Aintree and he may well even improve for the stamina test having won a John Smith’s Summer Cup at Uttoxeter over 3m2f back in 2014 easily plus he shaped eyecatchingly at the Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham over 3m3f when a staying on seventh behind Sausalito Sunrise.

One of the major trials held at Aintree over the National course is the Becher Chase which has an excellent record in throwing up winners in Amberleigh House and Silver Birch (Earth Summit won the Becher after his National success) plus numerous placed horses including the likes of Clan Royal, Samlee and McKelvey. Highland Lodge (10-6) won this season’s renewal and looks likely to get a run with the handicapper using the Aintree factor to guarantee him a place in the line up.

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.

The most fascinating contender to emerge from the Becher was VICS CANVAS (10-8) who wouldn’t be your typical 13 year old lining up in the race. Most 13 years old who line up in the Grand National tend to be in their twilight days and are vulnerable to improvers. However, the former Cork National winner has only had nine starts over fences due to various problems throughout his career and his best performance came when second behind Just A Par in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown last April. A pipe opener in the Fixed Brush race at Haydock set him up for Aintree where he put in a highly credible effort giving weight to all those around him at the finish and jumping soundly for a horse who lacks size. The run last time in the Thyestes at Gowran can be forgiven and of those at bigger prices, he appeals most with his form over marathon trips and on the way he handled the course back in December.

Conclusion

Last year’s winner Many Clouds deserves to be clear favourite as he looks to have an excellent chance of becoming the seventh dual winner of the world’s greatest steeplechase but it would be wrong to put him up as an ante-post bet with there being plenty of value elsewhere. The first suggestion is KRUZHLININ who has looked an ideal National type since his run as an inexperienced seven year old back in 2014 and the move to Philip Hobbs has brought about improvement. The remnants of 33/1 will soon be gone and he could easily be prominent in the betting come the day. THE ROMFORD PELE cannot be ignored at 50’s with improvement likely for better ground in the spring key to his chances and he should relish the stamina test whilst VICS CANVAS is overpriced at 66’s on his form in staying chases. Others worthy of consideration are Gallant Oscar and Cause Of Causes, both owned by JP McManus and both looking to have had this as the sole aim all season.

Ante-Post Bets

Kruzhlinin – 33/1 (Several firms)

The Romford Pele – 50/1 (Bet365 – 5 places)

Vics Canvas – 66/1 (Bet365 – 5 places)