One For Arthur a likely gamble in Randox Health Grand National

gnnFor 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.

Back Silvergrove at 80/1 for the Grand National

national_jumpersSilvergrove was moved to Ben Pauling’s yard last season and should have been 3 from 3 going into the Cheltenham Festival. On his debut for Pauling he unshipped his rider when leading on the run in after the saddle separated from its tree.  He went on to win at Newbury and Kempton then headed to Cheltenham  for the Kim Muir. In that race he disputed the lead throughout, jumping superbly (his trainer says he’s the best jumper he has handled), but paid for being in the van by fading late to finish 3rd of 22 carrying 11.5

Pauling (better know for training Barters Hill) must get him a higher handicap mark to guarantee a run in the National and the trainer says he will attempt to do that in the Becher Chase over the National fences in December. If successful there, Pauling says he will not be seen again until the weights are published.

Silvergrove will be 9 come National day. He has the pace to be up there early and avoid trouble, though will probably need to be ridden more conservatively than in the Kim Muir. His jumping is sound, he is improving (he’s improved, officially, by 23 lbs since joining Pauling) and he’d be too big a price at 40/1 never mind 80/1 – Bet 365.

Good luck, and remember that ante-post betting can be a hazardous pursuit!

Joe