Grand National Preview

Grand National Preview

Regardless of what you think of the radical changes made to the National course, what’s not open to question is that it provides a completely different test. When looking for a Gold Cup or Champion Hurdle winner we know the qualities required – but this is effectively a new race and nobody really knows the combination of attributes needed. The flip side of that is that if we can guesstimate those requirements correctly, there ought to be some great value available.

The fences looked to have changed again in the autumn races and now resemble the brush through fences of cross-country chases, so jumping is less important. I think now that the jockeys know the revised layout, they may go even quicker this year. Whilst tactical speed to keep you in the race is needed, it may well be that the overwhelming requirement is now stamina. They used to hunt round for a circuit so it wasn’t that much of a test of stamina at the trip – now it might be that even some thorough stayers don’t get the trip and only one or two horses will really get home.

Last year’s renewal provides some evidence to back up that theory. Teaforthree (10/1f) had won the 4miler at Cheltenham and Oscar Time had been a close 2nd in the 2011 National. Both looked to get very tired on the run in and didn’t really see out the trip. Teaforthree was ridden quite aggressively last year and with more patient tactics he could emulate Hedgehunter who went off too quickly the year before his triumph. It’s possible though that he’ll find one or two too strong for him on the run in again, and with that doubt I couldn’t put him up at a short price.

Tidal Bay (18/1) and Long Run (14/1) are the class acts in the race. Both stay well but have 11-10 and 11-9 to carry. It’s a long time since any horse carried that sort of weight to victory and with the extreme test of stamina it may be getting harder, for all the weights have been compressed in their favour.

Of those at the front of the market the one I like best is Monbeg Dude (14/1). He won the Welsh National off 128 last season on just his 6th start over fences and then a good handicap at Cheltenham in December off 138. He is up to 146 now so he needs to keep improving, but that’s only 10-9 and Paul Carberry is the ideal man to track a path on the inner, saving valuable ground. He’s been well found in the market this week though and the value has gone.

The other interesting one of the market leaders is Burton Port (20/1). He was rated 166 after an 8l 4th in the Gold Cup and 3l 2nd in the Bowl here 2 years ago. A second 18 month spell on the side lines resulted in a switch to Jonjo O’Neill and, starting on 158 in November, he’s managed to get down to 145 for this. Even since the weights were announced he’d shown little until a decent 7l 2nd in a veterans race at Newbury off 141. If he’s anywhere near back to his best he has a great chance, but the fancy prices have gone now.

Given that nobody knows the right type for the new National, I’m keen to back my hunch and look for a horse suited by an extreme test of stamina. It’s not straightforward to pick out those who have the right credentials. The fact that Auroras Encore won at 66/1 last year might just be setting a precedent for long priced winners who have few other opportunities, on a sound surface, to exploit their extreme stamina.

The first I like is Alvarado (40/1) who won the extended 3m3f handicap at Cheltenham’s open meeting off 132. He looked a really strong finisher there and is in off 7lb higher. That’s 10-2 and a featherweight ought to be even more of an advantage the more it becomes a test of stamina. He got stuck in the mud on his only other run this season, but that Cheltenham form, from subsequent winners Knockara Beau, Bradley and Monbeg Dude, looks good. He’s refused to race a couple of times and there has to be a question mark how he’ll take to this, but if he does I think he has a big shout.

However, I’m going with Quito De La Roque (40/1). He’s been a class act in his time, (rated 169 last season and gets in off 151,) and 2 seasons ago he ran on from a seemingly impossible position to win a 3m Grade 1 at Down Royal, causing trainer Colm Murphy to say he would look for a five mile race for him.

Murphy has shown he knows how to handle top horses with the likes of Brave Inca, Big Zeb, and Fethard Lady. He’s lacked a high profile horse recently but is amongst the winners again, (4 in March, after being out of form over the winter with just 2 winners in the previous 4 months.) If he has Quito De La Roque back anywhere near his best he has a real chance. That’s obviously quite a big if, but Gigginstown had other options for this and he’s their sole representative, which suggests he’s in good form.

1pt Quito De La Roque to win the Grand National (4.15) @ 40/1

It’s a real shame that a dirty scope has ruled More Of That out of the Grade 1 3m hurdle. 3 of those who chased him home in the World Hurdle line up, including 6½l 3rd At Fishers Cross (13/8) and 8½l 4th Zarkandar (100/30). Both have sound chances but are priced up accordingly.

There are two interesting horses at bigger prices that might provide better value. Whisper (13/2) won the Coral Cup off 153, the highest mark a Festival handicap has been won off this century. To put it in context, Ilnamar won the Aintree Hurdle in 2002 having won the Coral Cup off 137. Top class handicap form is often underrated when compared to the also-rans in Grade 1s, (Diakali was a close 4th in the County off 154 and nearly won the Aintree Hurdle yesterday). I think that’s the case again here, especially if the extra 3f brings out some improvement.

The other is Salubrious (16/1) who patently failed to give his running in the World Hurdle – running far too keenly. He was only 2¼l behind More Of That over an inadequate 2m4½f in the Relkeel and should be much better served by this test. He obviously has something to prove now, but he has a hood on for the first time and if he relaxes, he could bounce back to his best, which should put him in the shake up. At the prices he has to be the selection.

1pt Salubrious to win the Stayers Hurdle (2.50) @ 16/1

The Grade 1 Maghull novice chase over 2m is an almost unique test. With no open Grade 1 at around this trip at the meeting, (the Melling is over 2m4f,) this is the only chance chasers really get in Britain to run at a sharp track on good, spring ground, in a 2m Grade 1. The emphasis is very much on jumping at speed - it’s generally paid to race up with the pace and making all is not unusual.

This is usually won by a horse that contested the Arkle, and Trifolium (3/1) is the obvious one having been a solid 4¼l 3rd. I was a bit disappointed with his run there and he’s short enough for a horse that doesn’t look a star.

I thought the clever bet would be Next Sensation who was given a cut throat ride in the Grand Annual but battled on really well to be 1¾l 4th. This track looks made for him and he doesn’t have that much to find on form. However, everyone seems to have noticed and he’s about the right price now at (9/2).

At the prices I’m sticking with old friend Ted Veale (16/1). He was going well when blundering 3 out in the Arkle and he then fell at the next. I think he’d have been in the shake up otherwise and if his jumping holds up here he can use his flat speed in the straight. He’s much too big a price.

1pt Ted Veale to win the Maghull Chase (2.05) @ 16/1

In the 3m1f handicap chase I fancy Saint Are (XX/1). He’s won only 3 out of his 26 races but the last two have been at this meeting in the 2011 Sefton Novices Hurdle and the 2012 renewal of this race off 137. He thrives here, at this time of year on decent ground, and I wouldn’t be too worried about his poor recent form, which is similar to that that preceded his last two wins here. It’s obviously possible he isn’t the same horse any more but in theory he should be in his prime at 8 and he stays this trip well. He was rated 145 after his win in this 2 years ago and is down to 129, which leaves him chucked in if in anything like the same form.

1pt Saint Are to win the Betfred Handicap Chase (3.25) @ 10/1

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Cheltenham Countdown

Welcome to our exclusive betting blog focusing on the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

For the third year running, we welcomed National Hunt expert Matt Tombs to blog all things Cheltenham through the winter. The highlight was Jezki's Champion Hurdle win, which was a vindication of a long-term plot and went some way to ensuring another Festival in profit. Click through to view the archive of 2012 and 2013.

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2014 Results:

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Western Boy - Supreme Novices - 1pt 20/1 - U/P

Zamdy Man - Supreme Novices - 1pt 33/1 - N/R

Ted Veale - Arkle - 1pt e/w 25/1 NRNB - U/P

Felix Yonger - Arkle - 1pt 16/1 - N/R

Jezki - Champion Hurdle - 1pt 12/1 - WON

Cockney Sparrow - Mares Hurdle - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Foxrock - National Hunt Chase - 1pt 9/2 - U/P

Gullinbursti - National Hunt Chase - 1pt 33/1 NRNB - N/R

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Rathvinden - Neptune Novices - 1pt e/w 16/1 - 3rd

Corrin Wood - RSA Chase - 1pt 14/1 - U/P

Ifandbutwhynot - Coral Cup - 1pt 28/1 - U/P

Arvika Ligeonniere - Champion Chase - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Balthazar King - Cross Country - 1pt 33/1 - WON

Modus - Champion Bumper - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

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Mozoltov - JLT Novices Chase - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Champagne Fever - JLT Novices Chase - 1pt 7/1 - N/R

Benefficient - Ryanair Chase - 1pt 9/2 - U/P

Baily Green - Ryanair Chase - 1pt e/w 20/1 NRNB - N/R

Salubrious - World Hurdle - 1pt e/w 25/1 - U/P

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Captain Cutter - Albert Bartlett - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Arctic Fire - County Hurdle - 1pt 16/1 - 2nd

The Giant Bolster - Gold Cup - 1pt 16/1 - 3rd

Dynaste - Gold Cup - 1pt 25/1 NRNB - N/R

Certain Flight - Foxhunter Chase - 1pt 20/1 NRNB - U/P

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Gigginstown - Top Owner - 1pt 7/1 - WON

Good Ground - Official Going - 1pt 10/1 - LOST

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Advised Bets:

Sizing Gold - Aon Novice Handicap Chase - 1pt 7/1 - U/P

On The Fringe - Champion Hunters Chase - 1pt 7/4 - WON

At Fishers Cross - World Series Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - 3rd

Balder Succes - Ryanair Novice Chase - 1pt 11/4 - 3rd

Art Of Logistics - Three.ie Handicap Chase - 1pt 12/1 - 2nd

Lyreen Legend - Punchestown Gold Cup - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Shanahan's Turn - Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle - 1pt e/w 33/1 - U/P

Mozoltov - Boylesports.com Champion Chase - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Western Boy - Champion Novice Hurdle - 1pt e/w 10/1 - U/P

Mullaghanoe River - Irish National - 1pt 18/1 - U/P

Mozoltov - Powers Gold Cup - 1pt 11/2 - U/P

Quito De La Roque - Grand National - 1pt 40/1 - U/P

Salubrious - Liverpool Hurdle - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Ted Veale - Maghull Chase - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Saint Are - Aintree Handicap Chase - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Ballynagour - Melling Chase - 1pt 7/1 - 3rd

King Of The Picts - Top Novices Hurdle - 1pt 33/1 - 3rd

Themanfrom Minella - Sefton Novices Hurdle - 1pt 50/1 - U/P

Giorgio Quercus - Topham Chase - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Dynaste - Betfred Bowl - 1pt 15/8 - 2nd

Turn Over Sivola - Red Rum Chase - 1pt 8/1 - 2nd

Uxizandre - Manifesto Novices Chase - 1pt 9/2 - WON

Mossey Joe - Aintree Fox Hunters - 1pt 13/8 - 3rd

Baby Shine - Reynoldstown Chase - 1pt 7/1 - U/P

Grumeti - Kingwell Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - U/P

Bog Warrior - Red Mills Chase - 1pt 9/4 - U/P

Lord Windermere - Irish Hennessy - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Vautour - Deloitte Novice - 1pt 2/1 - WON

Tammys Hill - Hunters Chase - 1pt e/w 5/1 - WON

Vendor - Betfair Hurdle - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Boston Bob - Cleeve Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - U/P

The Giant Bolster - Argento Chase - 1pt 7/1 - WON

Unioniste - Sky Bet Chase - 1pt 9/2 - 3rd

Hidden Cyclone - Clarence House Chase - 1pt 7/2 - 2nd

Captain Chris - WH Chase - 1pt 2/1 - WON

The Liquidator - Tolworth Hurdle - 1pt 5/2 - U/P

Lord Windermere - Lexus Chase - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Hey Big Spender - Welsh National - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Shantou Magic - Challow Hurdle - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Morning Assembly - Topaz Novice Chase - 1pt 9/4 - 2nd

Cue Card - King George - 1pt 7/2 - 2nd

My Tent Or Yours - Christmas Hurdle - 1pt 5/4 - WON

Defy Logic - Racing Post Novice Chase - 1pt 6/1 - WON

Salubrious - Long Walk Hurdle - 1pt 9/1 - 2nd

Totalize - The Ladbroke - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Ma Filleule - December Gold Cup - 1pt 20/1 - U/P

Prince De Beauchene - Hennessy Gold Cup - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Grumeti - Fighting Fifth - 1pt e/w 10/1 - 3rd @ 9/1

Sizing Rio - Drinmore - 1pt 5/2 - U/P @ 3/1

Jezki - Hatton's Grace - 1pt Evens - WON

Roi Du Mee - Betfair Chase - 1pt e/w 20/1 - U/P

Ballynagour - Paddy Power Gold Cup - 1pt 8/1 - U/P

Gift Of Dgab - Paddy Power Gold Cup - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Cash And Go - Greatwood Hurdle - 1pt 13/2 - U/P

Cotton Mill - Elite Hurdle - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Cue Card - Haldon Gold Cup - 2pts 11/8 - U/P

Benefficient - Charlie Hall Chase - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Sizing Europe - JNwine Champion Chase - 1pt 3/1 - 2nd