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Grand National 2013


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[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW-aRqeZMQ8]The John Smith's Grand National | 6th April | Channel 4 - YouTube[/ame]


Sky Bet's Head Of Horse Racing Richard Horner with his runner-by-runner guide to the John Smith's Grand National.


Imperial Commander: The class act in the race as he is a previous winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup back in 2010. He was rated 185 in his prime and has been given a chance by handicapper Phil Smith as he can race off 158 here but will still have to carry top weight of 11 stone 10lbs. He produced an excellent comeback run in the Argento Chase when just touched off by Cape Tribulation and has had two months to get over that hard race after a small setback made him miss this year's Gold Cup. He is a risky betting proposition on the back of his second time out record and for that reason I couldn't support him but would love to see him run well.


What A Friend: Part owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson this Paul Nicholls-trained runner isn't as reliable as the reds have been this season in the Premier League. Useful on his day but hasn't won for over two years and there was nothing in his reappearance run at Kempton to say that will be changing here. Was sent off at only 12/1 two years ago in the National when pulled up and a win here will be about as popular as Rio Ferdinand scoring the winner at Anfield the next time they meet.


Weird Al: Trained by Donald McCain whose family certainly know how to train a National winner been the son of Ginger who was responsible for Red Rum an Aintree legend in the 70s and Donald has shown he can do it too with a win with Ballabriggs two years ago. Weird Al was a faller in the race last year when looking beaten four from home and his season has gone from bad to worse recently and he can't be fancied after been pulled up in his last two runs. The only glimmer of hope for him would be that the better ground will suit him rather than the heavy surface he has been running on recently.


Quel Esprit: A grade one winner in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown last year this gelding could well take to this test a bold jumper who likes to be up with the pace. Well beaten in this year's Hennessy by Sir Des Champs on his reappearance but will be better for that run and he can run well for a long way but will be a bit of a surprise if he lasts it out for victory.


Big Fella Thanks: This year's race distance has been slightly reduced because of a shorter run to the first fence and it's a shame for Big Fella it hasn't been reduced by a bit more. Denis O'Regan will be tasked with holding onto whatever he can until the last second to try to preserve his suspect stamina and he looks sure to run well again after finishing seventh two years ago he has a chance of just beating that finish this year but can't see him lasting home to win.


Seabass: History could well be in the making this year with the first female jockey to win the Grand National as Seabass has an excellent chance of going two places better than last year's third place despite a 5lb rise in the weights. Two or three minor errors last year didn't stop him running a blinder and he was always up amongst the leaders and didn't give way until the elbow. The slightly reduced distance will suit as well as last year's experience around the course and Katie Walsh is a very decent rider so a massive run looks assured and he is likely to be the best backed horse on Saturday. I think he will start favourite.


Roberto Goldback: Trained in Ireland last year he made a winning debut for Nicky Henderson at Ascot in November when bolting up by nine lengths . The handicapper took his revenge and bumped him up 12lb which was enough to stop him recently. He has been running on unsuitably soft ground in his four runs since though which has resulted in a 8lb drop back down the weights and he now has a chance again off 154 with the excellent Barry Geraghty in the saddle. He can run a big race on his favoured good ground.


Sunnyhillboy: Ran the race of his life last year when nabbed on the line and beaten a nose by Neptune Collonges. He has been given an extra 10lb by the handicapper and that is enough to persuade Champion jockey AP McCoy to look elsewhere for his ride and he favours Colbert station. Who am I to argue with the champ?.


Ballabriggs: The winner in 2011 and a gallant sixth in the race last year off a much higher handicap mark , Donald McCain's gallant horse looks just the type of Aintree horse that always runs well and even though as a 12 year old he may be slightly past his best, he is likely to be on the premises and challenging for the places.


Teaforthree: Would be a poignant winner as he landed last year's four miler at the Cheltenham Festival under the excellent JT McNamara and that contest is a good guide for this race and was trained this year for the Welsh National which he was narrowly beaten in by Monbeg Dude. A disappointing run at Haydock last time out can be forgiven as he was said not to have eaten or drunk on an overnight stay and this bold jumper who has never fallen looks likely to go well for Welsh trainer Rebecca Curtis.


Across The Bay: A third runner for Donald McCain and stable jockey Jason Maguire prefers the chances of Ballabriggs to this one. After been well beaten in the Welsh National he came back to form over hurdles at Haydock for Saturday's pilot Henry Brooke with a win in the grade Two Rendelsham . Would be a surprise if he was good enough here .


Join Together: Representing last years winning connections of trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Daryl Jacob this gelding took well to the fences when runner up to the veteran Hello Bud in the Becher Chase here in December. A poor run can be overlooked after been badly hampered by a faller early on in the Grimthorpe chase at Doncaster last time and he should go well but Ruby Walsh looks elsewhere for his mount and likely to have been able to ride this one if he wanted.


Colbert Station: The choice of AP McCoy in an attempt to supplement his win on Don't Push It in 2010, Colbert station is the most unexposed runner over fences but has done nothing but improve and we still don't know how good he is . Landing a touch in the Paddy Power at Leopardstown and an easy hurdles win are his two most recent runs and if he takes to this unique test and gets some luck he must go well despite the inexperience.


Forpadydeplasterer: The winner of the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2009 was the highlight of his career and he has given his connections some very good days and has been a grand servant. Even though he has won over three miles that was in a modestly run race and the stamina gauge is likely to be on empty well before the line.


On His Own: After getting behind early in last year's renewal he appeared to be travelling like the possible winner at the time he departed at Bechers second time round after been intimidated by a loose horse. Trained this year to preserve his handicap mark which is unchanged from last year he has not seen a fence in public only having a warm up for this when an impressive winner over hurdles. Ruby Walsh takes the ride for Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins and no surprise to see him make amends for last years mishap.


Joncol: A giant of a horse who is at his best on soft or heavy ground and likely to find this too much of a culture shock after usually running in small fields in Ireland on very testing ground.


Balthazar King: A horse with a great strike rate and has won seven of his last 16 races. He goes well fresh which he is here after bypassing a run to supplement his 2012 victory in the cross country chase at Cheltenham this year on what would have been on ground too soft for him. He is normally an excellent jumper and is fancied to run really well on ground he will relish and must be on the short list.


Cappa Bleu: Was fourth in the race last year after being given plenty to do by the usually excellent Paul Moloney. He now has the chance to make amends off a 2lb lower mark and comes here in good form after a good Ascot second to an in form Vino Gregio. Stablemate State Of Play made the frame three times in the National without winning and there is a fair chance Cappa Bleu could hit the board again.


Oscar Time: Ran the race of his life when second in the 2011 race won by Ballabriggs but his form has gone from bad to worse since and he arrives here in poor form. The only glimmer of hope is that he is now one of the Aintree specialist clan that only ever gets excited and runs well when he sees these unique fences.


Always Waining: Tremendous servant for connections winner the Topham Chase three times in a row over the National fences. The problem is that race is over 2 3/4 miles where as he has to keep going for an extra 1 3/4m now. It has to be a doubt that he will last the trip out but such is his record here you certainly couldn't rule him out.


Tatenen: Sent off at 100/1 in last year's race he unseated at the first Canal turn and even though he ran well at Cheltenham last time out that was over the minimum two miles and this marathon journey is something he doesn't want.


Treacle: Showed he is in form with a win at Downpatrick last time out but he took a heavy fall in this last year at the tenth fence when already getting behind and would be an unlikely winner.


Lost Glory: The third string of owner JP McManus and this one arrives in great form having won four of his last five races. AP McCoy prefers Colbert Station and Sunnyhillboy is Jonjo O'Neill's first string so not too hard to leave this one alone with no Aintree experience.


Swing Bill: Got round to finish tenth last year and a clear round is the best that can be hoped for as this now veteran has had little respite from the handicapper and has to race off a 2lb higher mark than last year.


Saint Are: Likes Aintree with two course wins but they weren't over the national fences but if he can get his sometimes sketchy jumping together he could well be a lively outsider .


Chicago Grey: Possibly the best handicapped horse in the race after his win in the Grade 2 Red Mills chase. He was unlucky to be brought down at the 5th in the race last year and the handicapper has given him a good chance allowing him to run on Saturday from a 9lb lower mark. A recent breathing operation seems to have done the trick and trainer Gordon Elliot knows how to train a National winner having done so with Silver Birch in 2007.


Quiscover Fontaine: Fell at the 17th last year when still going okay but his stamina would have been a doubt and nothing he's done since would get you rushing to back him.


Rare Bob: Ridden by the excellent young Irish jockey Bryan Cooper who looks sure to be a champion one day and a good each chance can be given to this one on lines through Seabass and a good run at Naas last time shows he's in good form. Hopefully will get a bit more luck than last year when brought down at the fifth fence.


The Rainbow Hunter: I don't envy jockey Aidan Coleman taking the ride on this one as even though he has some ability he is far from the best jumper in the world and he made a few mistakes last time at Ascot when ridden by the excellent Jason Maguire. If he puts in a similar round here there is only one place he will end up and it won't be the winners enclosure.


Becauseicouldntsee: Has had two attempts at this race with a fall and an unseat to his record so a leap of faith is needed to back him although he did show he was in good form with a good run at the Cheltenham Festival last time.


Harry The Viking: The second horse that Sir Alex Ferguson has a share in but it will be more surprising seeing What A Friend and Harry The Viking fighting out the finish than seeing Old Trafford filled with supporters from Manchester . Having said that if Harry The Viking could reproduce his run against Teaforthree in last year's National Hunt Chase where he was beaten by only 2 lengths and now gets 11lb from him he wouldn't be without hope.


Mr Moonshine: On a fair mark if he puts it all together but has been running poorly recently and couldn't back him in his current form.


Mumbles Head: Trainer Peter Bowen has an excellent record with horses over the National fences but it will be a surprise if this one is troubling the judge and when he saw these fences in the Becher Chase he fell heavily at the first so impossible to fancy.


Ninetieth Minute: Very little to recommend this one other than the jockey Boots Madden rode the winner in 2006 on Numbersixvalverde but he will be doing well to repeat the feat on this one who is a doubtful stayer and hasn't always looked the most genuine.


Auroras Encore: On his run in last year's Scottish National when just touched off by Merigo from a 6lb higher mark on fast ground he would hold an excellent chance. Since then however he has shown little but that has been on soft ground and if the livelier ground perks him up he could be an outsider with a squeak.


Tarquinius: Has been in good form this season but has risen a lot in the weights and has a disappointing run to overcome at Naas last time out and is the certain second string of the Gordon Elliot yard behind Chicago Grey.


Any Currency: Has become hard work for his jockey these days and at times appears slightly ungenuine but he did look to be taking to the fences well in the Becher Chase before unseating at the Canal Turn which gives faint hope of a decent run.


Major Malarkey: Slightly in and out performer but has ability on his day and could run okay with just ten stone and Tom Scudamore on his back but trainer's son Sam Twiston Davies much prefers the chances of his mount Imperial Commander.


Soll: Trained by Willie Mullins in Ireland last year he was disappointing in the early part of this season but returned to form with a game win at Sandown. More required here but could run well now he has his confidence restored.


Viking Blond: Fell at the first when a 80/1 chance last year and the best he can hope for this year is likely to be getting to the second fence.


Conclusion: A tremendous race is in store on Saturday and history could be made if Katie Walsh can get Seabass home which is a real possibility . I am just going to go for brother Ruby to spoil the party on On His Own as he was travelling like the winner last year when coming down and his mark has been preserved to give him every chance of winning this year.


I would expect course experience to play a big part again with the likes of Cappa Bleu, Ballabriggs and Big Fella Thanks all running well again without winning and two course debutants that can go close if taking to it are Balthazar King and Roberto Goldback.

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