For about a week after he won the Betfred Classic Chase over 3m 5f at Warwick, bookmakers continued offering 33/1 for the National about One For Arthur (he was 40/1 for 48 hours). This seemed a daft price and although he’s come in now to 20/1 there’s a fair chance he’ll go off half those odds.
He has a light burden (10.6), he’s improving, and has experience over the fences without having to face the white-hot furnace of the National itself (those who’ve run in it before are at a disadvantage these days, imo) and he jumps and stays.
Crucially, from a price viewpoint, he is trained in Scotland and will have lots of support from us natives and from the Scottish media. Perhaps more importantly, he has a name which will be latched onto by anyone with a relative or good friend, dead or alive (the former more likely, I’m afraid) called Arthur. These apparently small factors can drive significant gambles from the general public.
But the Braveheart factor and the housewife’s blessing of an old man’s name is far from all he has going for him. His jockey, Derek Fox, who has ridden him in all three runs this season reportedly told Lucinda Russell, the trainer, after the Becher that the horse ought to be tried with a tongue tie. Luke Harvey (ex-jockey) speculated that this suggested Fox had heard the horse make a noise during the race and Fox looked after him that day (he was a 3 lengths 5th of 22).
The tongue tie went on for the Warwick race and despite being quite badly hampered early, One For Arthur was unfazed, as was Fox who hacked him round at the back before taking closer order in effortless fashion with about 6 to jump before steadily drawing clear. His leap at the last suggested there was quite a bit in the tank although Fox took no chances, driving him out to the line.
You’d have to assume that had the tongue tie been on in The Becher, you’d be looking at a horse unbeaten in three races this year. He’s 8 and improving. Just how much difference the tongue tie has made, we will find out at Aintree although there has to be a worry that one needed fitting and his breathing is not A1.
But, all in all, I very much doubt that 20/1 will last once the publicity around the race begins in earnest.
Don Poli is another who should run well with evidence continuing to build that he needs to go left handed (I suspect you can add flat tracks and good ground to that but there’s not yet enough data to say for sure).
As mentioned earlier, I’ll be avoiding horses who have run in previous Nationals. In the old days, a proven appetite for the fences was a bonus. But since those jumps were seriously softened, the race has become a high octane test of stamina and big-day temperament. Visually the fences will still leave their mark on an animal, but I suspect that all the razzmatazz coupled with adrenaline-fuelled jocks asking their mounts for everything over such a long trip leaves an indelible mark on 90% of those who contest the race.
Here’s hoping the horses all go home after it and that no jockey need the services of the sponsors.