We found the winner in 2014 using a set of rules we have developed over the years. Given that these rules have worked in three of the last 5 years and that Pineau De Re was a 33/1 winner last year I cant think of any good reason to abandon these principles now. So hear they are
1. We need a horse aged between 9-12. That only rules out 12 of the 40. However we now have it down to 28.
.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, Lord Windermere (2014 Gold Cup Winner) and Many Clouds, who has had a huge year in 2014-15 – so that gets it down to 26.
3. We want a horse who has won over 3 miles and beyond in it’s 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 trainers know this and there aren’t many who haven’t won over 3 miles. So that doesn’t get many out of the frame but it does get six out of the reckoning.
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 getting us down to double figures.
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 8 of the last ten years winners all did this in the year they won. Not that many have but you need to prick your ears up when you find one – and we have.
6. There is a biggish figure that suggests that running at Cheltenham is not ideal preparation for this race either, but its an extra week this year so lets not be too dogmatic about that and Balthazar King ran 2nd last year, out of his skin, after the Cross Country race at Cheltenham. However it is something to consider and its better if your final choice hasn’t run within 30 days.
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 includes:
Last years winner of course, Pineau De Re. He seems almost as good as last year on his figures and there is no doubting his trainer knows what makes him tick. Don’t underestimate the value of course success, although I worry about how much the grueling run of success in this race scars a horse, which only goes to show what a phenomenon Red Rum was.
Balthazar King has to be considered. Would he have won if he hadnt run and won the Cross Country Race at Cheltenham just 24 days earlier? We might find out this year as he runs fresh (off for 146 days). We know he can do it fresh because he had no prep run before winning at Cheltenham in 2014.
Rocky Creek – looked a sensation when winning in February at Kempton and when things fall right for him he may have the touch of class you need to win this race. His trainer certainly believes he has a winner on his hands and it could be that he is well handicapped as an improving horse with not many miles on the clock.
Soll – The Pipe family haven’t had a huge amount of success in the National but Soll looks the type. Light weight, won over more than 3 miles on this type of ground, good jumper and an improving horse with few miles on the clock. His jockey Tom Scudamore is also extremely talented and thoughtful.
The Irish challenge would seem to come from First Lieutenant. Lets look at him. In anything other than the national he would look thrown in. A handicap, where he comes in on a mark of 153, having won a group 1 and run to a mark of 170. He ran in a hurdles race last time out and satisifies every other criteria. He also has that touch of class and has the services of an incredibly talented jockey, Nina Carberry, who won around these fences on Thursday.
So who do we plump for in a race where you don’t just have to find a likely winner but you have to have a huge dollop of luck just to get round. Well we have made our decision and it looks like this :-
Back all three and see if you can get one still on the bit as they cross the Melling Road – the second time around!!!! Its a great feeling.