Martin Malone

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Tag: Grand National

Getting ready for Aintree

It’s a bit early to be putting up posts about the Aintree Festival because we have little idea just which horses will be turning up where, or at all, but I’m laying down a marker.

I’m looking forward to watching Thursday’s fare in a suitable Racing UK furnished hostelry, followed by Friday with the obligatory sparkling drinks and Grand National day at home from start (preview programmes in the morning) to finish with, as usual, probably more interest in the “undercard” than the main event.

On Sunday, Nicky Henderson reported that Altior will be aimed at the Celebration Chase at Sandown and today Willie Mullins said that Footpad will not be traversing the Irish Sea later this week. If I was in the wonderful position of Munir/Souede (if only) then I would be seriously contemplating a trip to France in May, given this one’s predilection for Auteuil, perhaps over the haies (half way houses between hurdles and fences) that he has shown he is so adept at dealing with. It would be something else to see him up against De Bon Coeur in the Grande Course des Haies d’Auteuil but that is perhaps too much to hope for!

Buveur d’Air has also been ruled out of an Aintree run and is looking like he’s on his way to Punchestown later this month.

It’s sad but unsurprising to read about the retirement of Cause of Causes after his abject performance in the Cheltenham Cross Country. He’s been a nailed on bet at the Festival for the last few years and has well and truly earned his relaxation after his halcyon days.

In other news Ryanair winner Balko des Flos will run in the Melling Chase on Friday, Identity Thief will take part in the Stayers’ Hurdle on Saturday and Petit Mouchoir is likely to be favourite in the Maghull Novices’ Chase also on Saturday (which will undoubtedly be called Mag-hull by the racing presenters – as it always is!).

And what about the going? Here we go again (after Cheltenham). Here on the Wirral it poured all day on Saturday, although I’m told that it wasn’t so bad across the Mersey. As usual, I’ve tested the ground in my back garden and it’s soft, heavy in places! However, Aintree is renowned for it’s drying properties.

Here’s the Turftrax view as at 13:01 today:

 

 

 

According to the the generally reliable Accuweather, it’s going to rain tonight, showers on Tuesday, a shower or two on Wednesday, more showers on Thursday and Friday and cloudy on Saturday. As with Cheltenham, my prediction is for soft all round on all courses.

 

Here are the races to look forward to, ready to be filled and commented on over the next few days when we know the participants.

Thursday

1.45 Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f (Mildmay)

2.20 Doom Bar 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f

2.50 Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

3.25 Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

4.05 Foxhunters’ Chase 2m 5f (Grand National)

4.40 Red Rum Chase (Grade 3) 2m (Mildmay)

5.15 Mares’ Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Friday

1.45 Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 4f

2.20 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1/2f

2.50 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

3.25 JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f (Mildmay)

4.05 Topham Chase (Grade 3) 2m 5f (Grand National)

4.40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

5.15 Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Saturday

1.45 Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 3m 1/2f

2.25 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

3.00 Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m (Mildmay)

3.40 Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

4.20 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

5.15 The Grand National (Grade 3) 4m 2 1/2f (Grand National)

6.20 Conditionals and Amateurs’ Handicap Hurdle 2m 1/2f

So, just the 11 Grade 1 races to look forward to!

 

Aintree 2017 – Saturday

Just about time for quick selections this afternoon.

1.45 3m½f (3m149y) Gaskells Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)

No Hassle Hoff** (4/1) should win this but I’ll also have a small interest in Rons Dream (45/1).

2.25 2m4f Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)

Brio Conti* (9/2) and La Bague Au Roi (22/1).

3.00 2m (1m7f176y) (Mildmay) Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)

San Benedeto** (8/1)

3.40 3m1f (3m210y) (Mildmay) Betway Handicap Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (5yo+)

Value At Risk* (10/1)

4.20 3m½f (3m149y) Ryanair Stayers Liverpool Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)

Supasundae* (6/1)

5.15 4m2½f (4m2f74y) (Grand National) Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (7yo+)

Vieux Lion Rouge** (16/1) and Ucello Conti* (25/1)

6.15 2m½f (2m103y) Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle (Conditional Jockeys’ And Amateur Riders’ Race) (Class 2) (4yo+)

So Celebre* (13/2)

Good luck!

Aintree National day selections

Well I can’t dress up the fact that Champagne Fever was anything other than disappointing notwithstanding that he had every chance. Thankfully Rajdhani Express delivered at 10/1 and a last minute bet on Thistlecrack at 25/1 (e/w) did very nicely thank you so a much more profitable day two.

Now on to the big day. The supporting races are a mixed bag but the National is a really good dilemma and there’s no doubt that the race has become much more interesting from a betting perspective since the changes made two years ago. By the way, for those doubters, the Foxhunters’ and Topham were full of thrills and all horses returned uninjured. So much for those who continue to berate this celebration of Liverpool and all that’s good about horse racing and what brings so many people so much enjoyment. Thankfully the naysayers are quite properly marginalised.

So, on to the selections!

1.30 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle 2m 4f

Parlour Games has obvious claims but I’m with the highly progressive As De Mee (10/1). The course should suit. The ground is a question mark – not won on better than good to soft. There is a little rain forecast overnight and the day will be sunny but a lot cooler. I have a feeling that this one will not be inconvenienced at all by better ground and I expected the price to be much shorter.

2.05 Maghull Novices’ Chase 2m

I wonder whether the commentators will continue to call this the Mag-hull Novices’ Chase as usual! My selection is Sizing Granite (5/1) even though God’s Own is 15lb ahead on official ratings. The selection is after a three-timer. He’s a fighter and won easily last time. There’s no doubt that God’s Own’s second to Un De Sceaux’s imperious Arkle win (what a shame he’s not here) was a fine performance but his third to Vibrato Valtat in his previous race was not so impressive.

2.50 Stayers’ Hurdle 3m 110yds

There is no doubt that Cole Harden’s win in the World Hurdle was a fine performance but I was on Zarkandar (5/2) (nap) on that day and I know that I’m not alone in thinking that he would have won had it not been for an uncharacteristic blunder at the second last. I’ve been on this one many times and his three previous wins at Aintree put the cap on it. Bet of the day.

3.25 Betfred Handicap Chase 3m 1f

On any reading this is a poor race and it’s a mystery to me why it’s on this card. Having said that £60,000 prize money should have attracted a better field. It takes a lot for me to be tempted by an each way bet but I was buoyed by Thistlecrack today and I’ve therefore decided to side with Edgardo Sol (17/2 e/w). I remember seeing him win at Aintree in 2011 on his second race after moving from France (and then with Paul Nicholls) and thinking that this striking chestnut was going right to the top. He followed that up with a win in the Red Rum Chase in 2012. Admittedly his form has been in and out since then but I can’t find a better one in this race.

4.15 Crabbies Grand National 4m 3f 110 yds

So, on to the big one! I posted an “Aintree Taster” on Tuesday when I provided a horse by horse guide to the top 20 in the handicap. Carlito Brigante is the only defector from that list (lame) and the other 39 have stood their ground. It was too late for a reserve at 11.00 a.m. this morning (not sure why) and I’ve gone through all the runners. The result of my analysis is that the selection is unchanged but my second and third come from the bottom 20 in the handicap. I’ve also decided to hazard a trifecta – why not?!

So the selection is Cause Of Causes (20/1) (next best). Why shouldn’t he win? He’s a 7-y-o and history therefore suggests that he shouldn’t win. However, history takes into account the National as it used to be and is therefore an unreliable guide. He ran a poor race in the Galmoy Hurdle (Grade 2) but the four ahead of him (in a five runner race) are top graded hurdlers and, as is now apparent, that was not his game.

Why should he win? He stays in the highest company as perfectly demonstrated by his win in the National Hunt Chase over 4 miles at Cheltenham on his last outing. Staying is the name of the game in the new conditions of the National. If that were not enough, look at his winning style in that race (as I said the other day) – “held up in rear, headway 3 out, stayed on, driven out”. Does that sound like the profile of a National winner to you? Does it sound like the winners of this week’s Foxhunters’ and Topham? It does to me.

So, which ones make up the frame? I’m with Saint Are (40/1) and Soll (20/1) in that order. Saint Are can put in quality performances on his day and has a similar prep profile to last year’s winner (and my selection) Pineau De Re. Soll is on joint bottom weight, has been revitalised since moving to David Pipe (wins on last two outings since transferring) and was seventh in the race two years ago. The trifecta potentially delivers 18,000/1. Worth £1! Realistically I suggest a win on Cause of Causes and each ways on Soll and Saint Are.

5.15 Handicap Hurdle (Conditionals and Amateurs) 2m 110 yds

Let’s face it, we’re not really interested by now! If you need placepot selections I recommend Dormello Mo (12/1) and Astre De La Cour (9/1).

5.40 Bumper 2m 1f

Well, I think that Nina is going to round off a superb week with a win on Whistle Dixie (4/1). Evidently the market agrees because she opened at 7/1. This could be one of the steamers of the day.

As always, good luck!!

 

 

 

Aintree taster

I hope that you were with me (in betting terms at least) last Thursday for a very profitable day at Ludlow. We very nearly had the Lucky 15 but Jimmy The Jetplane just found it a bit much for wins on consecutive days after looking all over the winner on the turn into the home straight. Still, can’t complain about numerous doubles and a treble!

As usual I intend to provide night before previews and selections for each of the three days at Aintree and, also as usual, they may degrade day by day!

For now I’ll share with you my shortlist for the National. The first thing is that Shutthefrontdoor won’t win. If you are into these things lay the horse with Betfair for as much as you like. AP’s record in the National is not great, yet the AP factor suggests that this one might be as short as 4/1 at the off. Nonsense! AP will not be retiring on Saturday so those who have tickets for Sandown on 25 April needn’t worry.

So, what of the others? Here’s my take on the current top 20.

1 Lord Windermere

Top weights don’t win and this one has had a shocking season. Very unimpressed by Cullloty’s sacking of Davy Russell after the Gold Cup.

2 Many Clouds

Doubtful runner.

3 Unioniste

A live contender and on the shortlist.

4 Rocky Creek

I understand why this one is supported but not for me.

5 First Lieutenant

A fine horse but an in and out season and dismissed.

6 Balthazar King

Should be considered seriously but this is not a cross country race and it’s run much faster. A place possibility.

7 Shutthefrontdoor

A win at Carlisle in November and no other runs since last April is not the best prep. Unconvinced.

8 Pineau De Re

Even Dr Newland seems doubtful, having identified his other no hoper as having a similar chance (obviously my twist on his words but nonetheless relevant).

9 Ballycasey

A very disappointing season and not even Ruby’s skill will get this one home.

10 Spring Heeled

Another Culloty horse and, let’s face it, the trainer’s form this season has been atrocious. Just not good enough in my view.

11 Rebel Rebellion

A sterling campaigner who could well run into a place.

12 Dolatulo

Has a higher rating than I would have expected. No obvious claims.

13 Mon Parrain

A moody horse who sometimes runs out of his skin. 17-y-o Sean Bowen on board (just – having got the required number of chase winners last weekend). Not one to be placing too much trust in.

14 Carlito Brigante

One of my favourite horses, many years ago. Changed trainer a while ago and too in and out for me. Probably past his best (which was as a young horse over hurdles).

15 Night In Milan

There are many astute people who rate this one. However the lack of winning form and speed are negatives for me.

16 Rubi Light

A star in France and much expected when he moved to Ireland but, bluntly, the plan hasn’t worked.

17 The Druids Nephew

Another that has attracted many tips. Could relish this and another for the shortlist.

18 Cause of Causes*

A super horse and bang in form. I think that AP has chosen the wrong one and Paul Carberry is lined up to benefit. Winner of the 4m chase at Cheltenham so bang in form. Held up in that race and stayed on to win – perfect for the National. My current idea of the the winner at a current 18/1 – will be shorter on the day.

19 Godsmejudge

I’m sorry but this is a seriously overrated horse. If I was Phil Smith (the National handicapper) I’d have him at least 10 lbs lower. The form this season is nothing to get excited about and he has too many PU’s on his record.

20 Al Co

A pleasing horse but not in my view a winner of this. It’s logical to give him an entry but I don’t see him featuring.

So, there’s my view of the current top 20. The winner will more than likely come from them. My shortlist for winner and places is therefore:

Unioniste

Balthazar King

Rebel Rebellion

The Druids Nephew

and my current selection:

Cause of Causes

All may change between now and Saturday but this is a start!

I’ll update the selections once we know the confirmed runners.

 

 

Grand National week! (Pineau De Re the early choice)

I will not be at the National preview at Rigbys or watching the first day of the meeting for personal reasons.

However, I will be picking up on what is now a proper Festival with superb “support races” from Friday.

We should start with John Francome’s wise words concerning what the the National now is:

While I don’t share Francome’s negativity about what the race now is – it had to change and last year was an unqualified success – it is vitally important to bear in mind that staying rather than jumping is the key. He makes a very good point that 120-125 stayers won’t get in the race but it is what it is. Having said that, this maybe gives us an angle into the race by focusing on stayers who do make the cut.


So, let’s start with Long Run. It’s hard to believe that he’s only a 9-y-o. This season cannot be seen as anything other than disappointing. However, if you looked at him as a coming horse for the National then it’s not so bad. The Gold Cup confirms his class, as does any number of Grade 1 performances. He’s the best horse to run in this race for ages. No-one can criticise his jockey over the fences and he has stayer written all over him. The bottom line question is straightforward – is he knackered? There is evidence to suggest that he is. If not then he wins this easily against far inferior horses. That is the dilemma.


Next is Teaforthree. Look at how close he is at the last fence last year. He has to be taken seriously but I’m still unconvinced. A superb bet for a place so bear that in mind with the first six options that will no doubt emerge this week, subject to a 10/1 or similar SP.


Tidal Bay is a lovely horse that Paul Nicholls has shown what can be done with after the transfer from his errant former trainer. However, for all of his renaissance, this is just not the right option. A horse that has been juggled from hurdles to fences, his valedictory run was the extraordinary win at Leopardstown over a year ago. His late run could provide one of the greatest wins ever (Red Rum and Crisp) but I really can’t see it.


I’m sorry to say this for connections (save that I’m thinking about all other connections) but I’m of the view that Monbeg Dude has been media promoted all as a result of those connections rather than ability. He’s a decent horse but I can’t possibly see him as a National winner. That said the form view is always there to kick you in the National but that is the only basis on which I see this one winning.

Prince de Beauchene
Surely this is a runner by default, i.e. because there is no other obvious option (unlike On His Own). Just can’t have him.

pineau-de-re
Now then, Pineau De Re is my idea of the winner (at a current 20/1). I may be way off the mark but I suspect that this one will be much shorter come the day. The good doctor (Richard Newland) has worked hard with moderate horses for a number of years but this one fits the profile perfectly, as I currently see it. He fell in the Becher (when off 135) but his placing in that race, followed by hurdles (save for a chase win at Exeter over 3m) and his excellent third to Fingal Bay in the Pertemps is an ideal prep. At the current price he’s also an excellent each way choice.

Rocky Creek, Triolo d’Alene and Burton Port are all horses deserving their places in the race but I don’t see any of them featuring in the places. Balthazar King has his place in the betting by virtue of his aptitude for Cross Country races but his 15th in this last year and his 1st at Craon on a mad course in September and 1st at Cheltenham in this year’s Cross Country emphasises the difference between the disciplines.

Of the others, I have none. I’m pretty confident that the winner will come from the horses I’ve highlighted. Of course, a result like last year’s could make me look a fool but they rarely happen in successive years.

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