If you like horse racing then spring time in the UK is undoubtedly the best time of year. Firstly we get treated to the Greatest horse racing festival in the world at Cheltenham and then they deliver the Worlds Greatest Horse Race, The Crabbies Grand National.
All over the world Grand National parties will be taking place. Families will all sit together and shout and scream for the horse they have in the sweepstake or the small bet E/W on their idea of the winner. It is simply the race that stops the nation and has only one equivalent in the racing heart and that is the Melbourne Cup for Australians.
Every race horse trainer, owner, Racing journalist, bookmaker and Race course commentators lives have vivid memories of their childhood and their first meeting with horse racing, which is nearly always through this great race. The first bet, the first race seen on TV, the love of these great animals and their amazing ability and the huge way that the UK public gets behind this race, like no other.
True, it has had its detractors and there is no doubt in this day and age that the safety record for horse and jockey needed to be under the closest of scrutiny. It has been and the authorities have acted well in protecting the race and its status, even if to the die-hards it now all appears a little too easy – easy? Four miles, 3 and half furlongs over fences that they rarely see from one season to the next with weights derived from anything other than this type of race. Its no wonder it’s referred to as the bookies benefit! Well at least that’s what it used to be. I actually believe things have shifted dramatically towards the punter. Why I hear you ask?
Firstly because the fences are easier and because less horses fall, less get brought down and luck plays a lesser part in your horse getting around. Secondly because so many bookmakers want a piece of the action competition is extreme and the book is so tight. If you shop around you can get paid out down to six places at a 1/4 of the odds and with most horses currently priced 20/1 or bigger that’s a healthy return for placing. Thirdly because, thanks to Crabbies, the prize money is so big (over £1 million these days) all the good horse want to run in this race and better horses means better jumpers with better engines and that’s better for form judges all round.
So – how do we find the winner of the national. Well, I’m not saying its simple but my rule has always been – find three horses that fit the bill of a national winner and back them to equal stakes. They may not win but if you obey the rules then you should get a good run for your money.
What are the rules?
Last years third – Teaforthree (pictured) fulfilled nearly all the criteria in 2013
1. We need a horse aged between 9-12. Sadly this rules out the enigmatic Tidal Bay, who at 13 may still win this race as he is an amazing horse but statistics say its unlikely. It also rules out the sponsors horse, Swing Bill, who is 13 and has been aimed at this race by Trainer David Pipe and owner Judy Halewood since her company Crabbies agreed the sponsorship. The other horse that it rules out is Triolo D’Alene for Nick Henderson ,who at 7 is just too young to do himself justice.
2. We need a horse rated officially between 136-157 and this doesn’t take many out because those rated below 136 I don’t think will get in to this years race and at the top end there is only two, one of whom, Tidal Bay we have already discounted and the other is Long Run, who may prove to be a sensation over these fences but both his jumping and his form this year don’t appear up to winning this.
3. We want a horse who has won over 3 miles in its career. Believe me they go a good pace in this race now and the days of a 2 mile 4 furlong horse winning this race are well gone – they just don’t get home at this pace. Most know this and there aren’t many who haven’t won over 3 miles.
4. We need some class to win this race so we want a horse who has won a race worth more than £13,000 and that thins a few more out of the equation
5. We are also looking for a horse who has had a run over hurdles during the year as well. As odd as it sounds, amazingly 7-10 of the last ten years winners all did this in the year they won
6. There is a big figure that suggests that running at Cheltenham is not ideal preparation for this race either, as it was only 23-25 days ago that they ran. For that reason I need to put a line through Balthazar King and Big Shu, who if they had come here fresh I would have fancied as they both really like the cross country course with its quirky fences. I think their exertions will find them out.
So using the above and looking for best fits this is what our short list looks like at the moment and we will run the rule over it some more, using the above criteria to see who fits best to come up with our final three.
Our Short List for the start
Tea for Three, Prince De Beuchene, Quito De La Roque, The Rainbow Hunter, Pineau De Re and The Package.
Taking these horse one at a time we work through them as follows.
I was disappointed Rebecca Curtis ran Teaforthree in the Gold Cup and whilst he ran well at Cheltenham the National is his race, having finished 3rd last year he has what we need in a winner and we need to push aside his efforts at Cheltenham to be with him this year as everything else fits perfectly. That’s not easy to do.
Prince De Beuchene – has been targeted at this race by owners Graham Wylie and his new trainer, Willie Mullins. Even down to them running him in a 2 mile 4f “warm up” race last time out which both would have put him right for Aintree and not jeopardised his “winning mark” My only concern with him is how poorly he jumped on a slower surface at Leopardstown back in December. Hopefully they have worked hard on this aspect or he simply wont get round. (Another private rule is – Ignore Willie Mullins at your peril)
Rainbow Hunter -looked good going in to last years event and he ticks nearly all the boxes for legendary trainer Kim Bailey. A good run and win in the Skybet Chase on 25th Jan, with a good long recovery time. Little unlucky to unseat his rider at the Canal Turn first time round last year but some experience of the fences and after a soft palate operation that appears to have worked, he seems as good as ever.
Pineau Du Re – what an interesting horse. The good Dr – Newland trains this horse and he has set about fulfilling every criteria to win this race with this horse. including running him over hurdles where he ran a blinder finishing 3rd to Fingal Bay at Cheltenham for the perfect pre-race. Something tells me he is primed and ready to win, with the small caveat being his biggest Chase win is £13,000 and I would like that to have been more but its only a couple grand shy of the class required. With only 34 starts to his name he is not done too many miles and is a strong fancy.
Quito De La Roque – Enjoyed a really high profile for a while and has won big races. Really lost his way in the last 18 months and his handicap mark, dropping from 170 -150 tempers our enthusiasm. However he ran well for a long way early this year and hinted at a return to form. If he is back then Colm Murphy, his trainer, has a live wire chance.
The Package – After his Cheltenham success it would be wrong not to consider a David Pipe trained horse and this one is very interesting. His first run this season was at Cheltenham and whilst that would normally be a no-no, with it being his only run this campaign it will have put him right and his 3rd showed he has retained his ability. In 2013 has managed to get to the 19th fence before unseating his rider.
Who does that leave in our short list of three against the field – they are
1. Pineau De Re 33/1 Sportingbet 2. Prnce De Beuchene 33/1 Sportingbet 3. Rainbow Hunter 33/1 Sportingbet
If you bet with Sportingbet they are paying 5 places at these prices with Non Runner – no bet – get on now