Join Together should outstay the other 39 and win the National

spyglassRacing’s the last game to be in if you are one for tempting fate so it is with a hopeful ‘touch wood’ that I say the National has always been one of my best betting races. It’s the only race I’ll back 5 or 6 different horses in but more often than not such a ‘system’ will bring profits.

If you just want the selections, here they are in order of preference with prices at the time of writing. The prices are from Betvictor.com who is paying out on each way bets if your horse finishes in the first 6 (most bookies pay only on the first 4). If you want to bet win only, you will find better prices for these horses by googling Easyodds or Oddschecker:

Join Together 16/1

Teaforthree 14/1

Ballabriggs 16/1

Quel Esprit 40/1

Saint Are 50/1

Edited on Friday to add a couple who are quite a bit bigger than they should be and, if your budget stretches. will be worth small additional bets: Soll at around 50/1 and Viking Blond who is way too big on Betfair at 200/1 – probably too big even at 100/1 with the normal bookies

Before you go, remember to take a price, especially in the betting shop. Don’t just write the slip out and hand over your cash – ask for the price the horse is when you put it on. You’ll almost certainly get bad value if you don’t. You can see why here.

Most think of the race as a complete lottery. It’s far from it. It takes an unusual type of horse to win the National – it’s the longest race of the season – 90 yards short of four-and-a-half-miles. The Aintree management are watering the track to soften the going and try to make it safer – horses run slower on easy ground, blunting the headlong speed which causes many of the falls. And if they do tumble, the watered surface is more forgiving. But it adds to the stamina requirements too, and stamina is the first thing I look for when picking horses for the National.

Many go for jumping ability first but a horse could clear every fence by a foot and still lose if it hasn’t got staying power. On the other side, I’ve seen some horses who were not noted as fine jumpers run great races in the National – Sunnyhillboy, beaten a nose last year (weighed down by my money), Don’t Push It who won in 2010 and a few others. The Aintree fences are so unusual in look and size (at every other track the fences are of black birch), that many horses see them and simply say the equine equivalent of “F*#k me!” and realise they need to pick their feet up to survive. Others do the opposite and lose confidence, blunder along for a while then pull up or refuse.

Those blunderers and topplers are the ones which can cause ‘our’ horses problems. Sometimes you get stuck behind one and trip over him as he rolls in front of you. Or they’ll come sideways and bump you off balance or knock the jock from the saddle. There’ll be a few hard luck stories on Saturday, there always are.

Apart from those who’ve already completed the course in past Nationals, there are two horses running who will relish every yard of this trip they’ll be trying for the  first time – Join Together and Teaforthree.

Join Together is a nicely balanced horse, strong but not that tall. There have been some big horses who’ve won the National – Party Politics was huge, over 17 hands (a hand is about four inches and horses are measured to the top of their shoulders), but big horses can be clumsy round Aintree and their body mass can, I think, be a drawback over such a distance with drops on some of the big fences jarring that half-ton bulk as they land. Red Rum was under 16 hands, but he was a beautifully balanced horse, and I favour horses close to his build. Join Together’s not quite as symmetrical as that great horse but he will do.Join T

He’s trained by Paul Nicholls, one of the best, who trained last year’s winner Neptune Collonges. Ruby Walsh, who has first choice of Paul’s horses has decided not to ride Join Together – Ruby has yet to confirm which of two Irish horses he will ride and he will, as ever, leave Ruby Choose Day as late as possible – most seem to think he will pick On His Own. But he could have chosen Neptune Collonges last year and did not do so (albeit a late injury kept Ruby out of the race anyway).

Join Together ran over these fences in December on heavy ground over a distance about a mile short of Saturday’s. He just failed to catch Hello Bud after coming with a sustained run (you can see the race here – scroll forward to about 6 minutes 30 to see him finish).

He jumped with confidence and seemed to enjoy the fences (touching wood again here!) and unless he trips over something, he should reel them all in on the run from the last fence at about 4.25pm on Saturday.

Next time out, his trainer, for some crazy reason sent him over 3 miles at Doncaster one of the easiest tracks in the UK and very undemanding from a stamina viewpoint. He met some trouble in running there and was pulled up but would, in my opinion, have needed 5 miles at Doncaster to win, such is his need for a stamina test.

t43Teaforthree is another stout stayer and fine jumper. I’ve bet him too but was a wee bit concerned at his poor display at Haydock last time. His trainer put that down to the horse fretting at being away from home overnight (see, they are all individuals like us: some hate sleepovers) and he will travel up on Saturday morning to try and keep him  settled. Other than that last disappointment, Teaforthree has been very consistent. He’s won over 4 miles at Cheltenham and he almost certainly still has improvement in him. He jumps well and I backed him to win the Welsh Grand National: he was 2nd giving plenty weight to a pretty decent horse.

It was a close choice between the two but there is just a chance that Teaforthree might not take to these fences while I know that JT has no problem with them – that decided it for me.

Ballabriggs has been in and out of my mind. He won the National two years ago and was 6th last year. None of the last ten NationalBallabriggs winners has, so far, won another race of any kind. It’s massively taxing and Ballabriggs won in sweltering conditions under very strong driving (J Maguire hit him 15 times after the last, at least half of those unnecessary and bad for the race’s image but I’ll say no more on that). I thought Ballabriggs would never recover from his victory and his 6th last year surprised me. He ran well at Kelso this year and has 8lbs less to carry than in 2012. If he stays on his feet (and he’s managed that twice in this race) he will be very very hard to keep out of the first 6.

binocularsOthers I’ll be betting are Quel Esprit, a classy grey horse who, in the main, jumps very well and, importantly, can slot into a rhythm quickly in his races; that is so important at Aintree. A horse galloping well within himself in a settled rhythmical fashion can save an awful lot of energy. Quel Esprit has never tried this long trip but his breeding suggests he has a fair chance of staying it and he has a considerable measure of class which can count for an awful lot in these handicap races. He is ridiculously overpriced at 50/1 (with other bookies) and well worth a couple of quid each way, even at 40s with Betvictor.

Saint Are is another 50/1 chance who could run well. Some horses love a certain track and Saint Are loves Aintree. From 3 runs here he’s won two and been second in the other one. Now those were over the smaller Mildmay course, not the Grand National course. But his trainer reckons it is the flatness of Aintree that suits him and maybe the time of year sparking him off. He’s one for making the odd mistake (Saint Are, not his trainer), but the very type I mentioned earlier who’ll go “WTF!?” and either jump them all clean or pack in early.

That’s it. Good luck, and remember, there’s no such thing as ‘good inside information’ getting out. If it is so good, those concerned keep it to themselves, otherwise the horse’s price collapses. Trainers, owners and jockeys are the worst tipsters in the world because they are born optimists who favour their own horses. Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. Enjoy the race and let’s hope all come home safe.

Joe

WarnedOff

Gingertipster’s horse-by-horse guide to the Grand National

binocularsGingertipster writes frequently on The Racing Forum. He produces the best big race guides I’ve seen outside of the pro publications and he’s been kind enough to allow me to republish here.  Soll, who is a late sub, will be added tomorrow by Ginger.

The figure to the left of each horse’s name is its official handicap rating. The higher the rating the better the horse, although that is supposed to be equalised by the better horses carrying more weight. It doesn’t work out exactly in the National – for example Imperial Commander is rated 158 and should be carrying 10lbs more than Forpadydeplasterer, rated 148. But the handicapper makes special allowance for better horses in the National.

GRAND NATIONAL Aintree 4m3½f

158 Imperial Commander 12 11-10 Nigel Twiston Davis 1U1P/2
Despite top weight is well handicapped on 2010 Gold Cup win. Encouraging first run for year and ten months in January. On the face it Imperial Commander can be expected to come on for the run, ½ length 2nd to Cape Tribulation (who gave 6lbs) in Argento Chase. However, has excellent record fresh/at Cheltenham and now a veteran; it’s possible won’t improve significantly from reappearance. Cape Tribulation went on to be 21¾ lengths 5th to Bobs Worth in Cheltenham Gold Cup next start; a race Imperial Commander missed with an infection. Yet to race at extreme distances but stays on at the finish of races to suggest he’ll get the trip. Usually jumps well and races at or near the pace.
Sam Twiston-Davies

157 What A Friend 10 11-9 Paul Nicholls P/33F7-8
Never dangerous 8th in Racing Plus Chase only start this term. Winner at Aintree over normal obstacles, but didn’t appear to take to these fences when pulled up in 2011 Grand National. Increasingly looks temperamental and difficult to win with. Run style (held up/dropped out) doesn’t generally lend itself to this race. Likely to stay this trip. Part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Sam Thomas

156 Weird Al 10 11-8 Donald McCain PF-4PP
Seems an Autumn horse, winner of Charlie Hall and good 10 lengths 3rd to Kauto Star in Oct/Nov 2011. Only form this season 4th of 5 runners in same race. Intermittent breathing problems probably a reason for a loss of form/enthusiasm. Usually travels well when on song; never going and pulled up last time out in Denman (Aon) Chase last time. Fell 4 out in Grand National when already beaten last year and just 3 lbs better in now. Possibly best with give in the ground and yet to prove stamina.
Timmy Murphy

155 Quel Esprit 9 11-7 Willie Mullins (Ire) 113-04
Likes to get on with things, Quel Esprit usually races to the fore and unlikely to be suited by this test. First run for 9 months in February, bad mistake 5 out and bit below best; 25¼ lengths last of 4 finishers behind Sir Des Champs in Grade 1 Irish Hennessey. Seemingly outstayed when 11½ lengths 3rd to China Rock in 3m1f (heavy) Punchestown Gold Cup last season. Quel Esprit has disappointed on good ground, but soft/heavy will place even more emphasis on stamina.

154 Big Fella Thanks 11 11-6 Tom George 7/U312
Part owned by Seb Coe, Big Fella Thanks may be one for the back to lay traders, 7th or better in three Grand Nationals. Comes there travelling like a winner but failing to get home. In fairness his finishing effort at shorter trips can leave a lot to be desired too; so it may not be purely down to stamina. Looked winner off a 6 lbs lower mark in Becher Chase (3m2f heavy) in November, only to once again fold on run-in for 3rd. Despite beaten 1¾ lengths is now 7 lbs worse off with fast finishing 2nd Join Together. Big Fella Thanks today runs off a higher mark than he’s previously carried around here, same one as when 5 lengths 2nd (giving 12 lbs) to Pacha Du Polder at Newbury (2½m) last time out. Won penultimate start off 9 lbs lower mark. Short run-in from last at Wincanton helping his idling tendency. Suspect temperament is holding Big Fella Thanks back.
Denis O’Regan

154 Seabass 10 11-6 Ted Walsh (Ire) 1113-23

Seabass with Ted and Katie Walsh
Seabass with Ted and Katie Walsh

Could this be the year of a true National Velvet? With Seabass as The Pie and trainer’s daughter Katy Walsh taking Liz Taylor’s role. Seabass came close 12 months ago when 3rd off 5 lbs lower mark than today. Now 5 lbs better off for beaten 5 lengths by 2nd Sunnyhillboy. 7 lbs worse off with 4th Cappa Bleu for 7 lengths, 13 lbs with 6th Ballabriggs for 12¼ lengths and 5 lbs with On His Own, who was going well when coming down at second Bechers. Seabass had looked to be going best between last two fences and 90 yards shorter trip this year may work in his favour. Couple of prep races have gone well; 2nd over inadequate 2 miles over hurdles and good 3rd to Roi Du Mee (winner since) in Grade 2 Bobbyjo Chase (3m1f) last time. Seabass a bit better than distance beaten suggest, winner having run of the race out in front. Consistent, equally effective on soft or good ground and jumps well; Seabass is a likeable individual who may have more improvement in him.

154 Roberto Goldback 11 11-6 Nicky Henderson 7-1U355
Seemed at least as good as ever first start for present trainer in November off 4 lbs lower mark of 150; giving 6 lbs and a 9 lengths beating to Duke Of Lucca. Race not worked out well, first five home failing to win since. May flatter Roberto Goldback and form doesn’t look as good now as it did at the time. Not given hard races in last three starts with this as a known target. Last time out gave 14 lbs and beaten 14 lengths 5th to Opening Batsman in Racing Plus Chase off this same mark. Unseated in Hennessey at Newbury but generally jumps well. Yet to prove stamina beyond 3m1f.

152 Sunnyhillboy 10 11-4 Jonjo O’Neil P912-5P
Quickened in to a clear lead on run-in of Grand National until pegged back and headed on line. Sunnyhillboy is 5 lbs worse off for 5 lengths back to 3rd Seabass; 12 lbs worse off for 12 lengths with 4th Cappa Bleu and 19 lbs worse with 6th Ballabriggs for 17¼ lengths. In good form at time of 2nd place; running off the same 142 mark as when successful on previous start in Kim Muir at Cheltenham; full 10 lbs higher today. Jumped better than previously for his best two performances, both on good ground. More improvement can not be ruled out and chance could be enhanced if AP McCoy decides to ride. McLernon became unbalanced after Aintree elbow and less forcefully ridden close home than winner Neptune Collonges. However, Sunnyhillboy reportedly returned with an injured tendon; so there’s also a chance he’s not be up to producing 2012 form. Poor form of two hurdle races this season don’t mean anything, trained specifically for the Grand National.

152 Ballabriggs 12 11-4 Donald McCain 1/46-P73
Dropped 8 lbs since 6th last year, making more mistakes than when victorious. Now 19 lbs better off with runner-up Sunnyhillboy for 17¼ lengths, 13 lbs better off with 12¼ lengths to make up on 3rd Seabass, 6 lbs better with 4th Cappa Bleu for 5¼ lengths. Three runs this season told us little, with this race the one and only target. Pulled up in Becher Chase on reappearance. 2 lbs worse off with Oscar Time for beating him 2¼ lengths in 2011. Ballabriggs always prominent that day, reportedly thinking of holding him up today. Fairly handicapped and shouldn’t be dismissed entirely. But although both Amberleigh House and Red Rum won as 12 year old veterans for trainer’s father Ginger; it’s asking a lot for Ballabriggs to regain the trophy off a 2 lbs higher mark than in 2011.
Jason Maguire

151 Teaforthree 9 11-3 Rebecca Curtis 11-8620
Ever since an always prominent slick round of jumping to win 4 mile National Hunt Novice Chase (good) at 2012 Cheltenham Festival, this big horse has looked an ideal Grand National candidate. Although now 11 lbs worse off with 2nd Harry The Viking for just 2 lengths, Teaforthree has improved since. Best run ½ length runner-up to Monbeg Dude in Welsh National (3m5½f heavy), first two 11 lengths clear of the field. Previously showed he’s no sluggard, not persevered with once beaten in Newbury’s Hennessey Gold Cup. 26¾ lengths 6th, getting 14 lbs from subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth. Trainer said Teaforthree did not take to being away from home overnight and failed to eat up when below form in Haydock Grand National Trial last time out. Will travel on the day to Aintree. Type to bounce back, progressive before Haydock and equally effective on heavy or good ground. Bears repeating Teaforthree is normally an exceptional jumper.

150 Across The Bay 9 11-2 Donald McCain 3-11271
Raced as if extreme distances should suit, but never appealed as a Grand National type. Gives impression needs to lead and even then often hard driven to do so, making mistakes. Probably best allowed to dominate small fields nowadays. Wind operation, blinkered and tongue tied, won substandard Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle (heavy) last time out in typical Across The Bay style. Below form 7th in Welsh National, retreating after mistake and headed. Only 5 lbs worse off for 28 length victory over Cappa Bleu in Carlisle (3m½f heavy) Graduation Chase in November, looks unreliable form, it being runner-up’s reappearance. Across The Bay has shown best on soft ground.
Henry Brooke

150 Join Together 8 11-2 Paul Nicholls 1P3-72P
“Pulled up” last time out, but Join Together possibly has a valid excuse, soon beaten after badly hampered by a runner falling in front of him in Grimthorpe Chase. Only second season chaser but already has Aintree experience. Now on a 2 lbs higher mark than when 2nd to Hello Bud over Aintree fences in Becher Chase (3m2f heavy), jumping impressively and staying on powerfully; in front just after the line. Now 7 lbs better off with 3rd Big Fella Thanks despite beating him 1¾ lengths. Join Together may improve significantly for extreme trip. Acts on both heavy and good ground. Trainer/jockey combination won 2012 Grand National with Neptune Collonges.
Daryl Jacob

149 Colbert Station 9 11-1 Ted Walsh (Ire) 13-5211Colbert
Could be AP McCoy’s ride. Easy winner in December of Leopardstown Paddy Power Chase off 132 Irish mark (now BHA 149). Irish marks are usually lower than BHA, effectively more like a 12 or 14 lb rise than 17 but still a fair rise. Gave 2nd Romanesco 7 lbs and 5½ lengths beating. Runner-up franked form with 3½ lengths 3rd in Kim Muir off 5 lbs “higher” BHA (effectively sameish) mark as Leopardstown. In an attempt to protect Grand National chances, connections of Colbert Station took advantage of a lower hurdles mark last time out. Surprisingly not run since and inexperienced for a Grand National. Only 5 chase starts, but already has a good record in big fields (28 Leopardstown). Recent improvement is on a soft surface although probably equally effective on good. Yet to race further than 3m½f but plenty of stamina in pedigree. Sire Witness Box’s progeny usually stay well, Monbeg Dude, Godsmejudge etc. Unraced dam’s sire Commanche Run won St Leger.

148 Forpadydeplasterer 11 11-0 Thomas Cooper (Ire) 2P1536
Ex-top class 2 miler, on the downgrade nowadays. Below form since winning 6 runner conditions chase at Thurles in November. Slowly run race should not be taken as proof Forpaddytheplasterer stays 3 miles, let alone 4m3½f. Awful win to run ratio for one of his ability/ex-ability; that success a first since 2009 Arkle. Often makes mistakes so all-in-all not the best Grand National prospect.
Andrew J. McNamara

148 On His Own 9 11-0 Willie Mullins (Ire) P1/B1F-1
Justifiably favourite for this after fell at second Becher’s Brook last year. On His Own apparently going best of all at the time and jumped well up to that point. Difficult to imagine him not at least involved in the finish with a clear round. Surprisingly left on same mark by the handicapper, rated as if finishing 4th, 2 lengths in front of Cappa Bleu. On His Own now better off by 10 lbs with 2nd Sunnyhillboy, 5 lbs with 3rd Seabass; worse off by 2 lbs with 4th Cappa Bleu and 8 lbs with 5th Ballabriggs. Protecting his handicap mark – connections only raced him once since Aintree, easily winning 2m5f Grade 2 hurdle when expected to need the race. On His Own probably has more improvement in him, winner of four of five completed starts over fences (brought down on his other uncompleted start). Effective on heavy or good ground and the one they all have to beat here.
Ruby Walsh

147 Joncol 10 10-13 Paul Nolan (Ire) 7-35233
One of the biggest horses in this field. Ex-top class staying chaser, well handicapped on form of 2010 Irish Hennessey victory. Unable to produce that level on recent starts. 24¾ lengths 3rd behind Sir Des Champs last time in latest Hennessey probably sums him up these days. Can jump right-handed which to say the least is not ideal for Aintree, especially the Canal Turn. Connections at pains to avoid Cheltenham/good ground in the past and Joncol seems best on soft/heavy.

146 Balthazar King 9 10-12 Phillip Hobbs P0F1-12
Ignore the “F” in form figures, fell on the flat when colliding with rails, usually jumps well. Stays well too and good record in X-country chases at Cheltenham. 11 lengths 2nd to Uncle Junior (levels) there in November last time out and winner at 2012 Cheltenham Festival. Supposedly a non-runner at latest Festival due to softer ground, but has good form on at least good-soft. No show there may help Balthazar King’s Grand National chance. Not run for 141 days which is undoubtedly a positive. An exceptional record fresh judged from sportinglife.com. Won last 5 starts after a 60+ day break including on reappearance over Cheltenham’s conventional fences, giving Galaxy Rock 2 lbs and a length beating. Balthazar King now on 7 lbs higher mark. Some may look better handicapped or have more improvement in them, but the race could play to Balthazar King’s strengths.

145 Cappa Bleu 11 10-11 Evan Williams 1334-22Cappa Bleu
There are grounds to think Cappa Bleu is better than he’s shown. 4th in Grand National last year. Now 12 lbs better off with 2nd Sunnyhillboy for 12 lengths, 7 lbs better off with 3rd Seabass for 7 lengths and 2 lbs better off with On His Own who was going well when falling at second Bechers Brook. 6 lbs worse off with 6th Ballabriggs for beating him 5¼ lengths. That doesn’t tell the whole story; Jockey Paul Moloney in my opinion late in asking for maximum effort and made up a lot of ground/places on the run-in. Appearing to have running left in him at the line. Wouldn’t have won, but could’ve finished closer. Equally effective on good or heavy ground. Did well to finish 2½ lengths 2nd off today’s mark, giving 7lbs to Vino Griego at Ascot (3m soft). Again not given the best ride; on a horse needing a test at the trip Moloney held Cappa Bleu up for a late run off a slowish pace – not making a move until late. Saint Are and The Rainbow Hunter 6 and a further 1¾ lengths behind in 3rd and 4th, Major Malarkey and Tatenen (well beaten) all off the same marks as today. Winner franked the form when good 1½ lengths 2nd off a 7 lbs higher mark next time out at Cheltenham Festival. Cappa Bleu should be much better suited by Aintree conditions than any of those Ascot rivals.
Paul Moloney

145 Oscar Time 12 10-11 Martin Lynch 2/4-4U60
Now off the same mark as when 2¼ lengths 2nd in 2011 Grand National and 2 lbs better off with winner Ballabriggs. However, missed 2012 race with a tendon strain. Despite the “4”s and “6” in form figures has beaten only 3 horses home out of 42 rivals since Aintree. Last of 17 in March on latest occasion. Now 12 years old and best is probably behind him. Owners son amateur Sam Waley-Cohen rides, unable to draw his 5 lb claim but with a good record over these fences.

144 Always Waining 12 10-10 Peter Bowen 4091-78
Two poor runs this season don’t look encouraging, but trainer has once again hit top form at this time of year and Always Waining loves these fences at this meeting. Winner of the last three Topham Trophies here (2m5½f). However, he’s not getting any younger and on a 6 lbs higher mark than he’s ever been successful off of. Doubtful stayer too, appears to barely get 3 miles and even disappointed even around here over 3m2f (heavy). Although may not have been ideally suited by the ground that day, over 55 lengths behind winner West End Rocker when 4th in Becher Chase.

144 Tatenen 9 10-10 Richard Rowe 15U-676
Tatenen became disappointing for Paul Nicholls after starting favourite for Arkle Chase. New lease of life transferred to Richard Rowe, but still inconsistent and sometimes makes mistakes. Only wins in last 23 starts in same race two years running (2m5½f Ascot good-soft) in 2011/12. Unseated Canal Turn first time around in Grand National. 21½ lengths 6th in Grand Annual to Alderwood who gave 1 lb (2m Soft) last time. Outpaced and unable to get customary prominent position, staying on late past beaten horses. Tatenen needs further than 2 miles these days but it appears not 3m+.

143 Treacle 12 10-9 Tom Taaffe (Ire) 423F-71
Only got as far as 10th, already beaten when fell heavily in last year’s National and off a long time afterwards. Seemingly nowhere near best last time out despite winning 5 runner conditions chase (3m2f heavy). Getting on top at final fence to win by 4 lengths from Ninetieth Minute (who’s now 6 lbs better off). Could look well handicapped if 3rd in 2012 Irish Hennessey (3m good-soft) can be believed. Treacle now 12 lbs better off with winner Quel Esprit for 7½ lengths and 11 lbs better for 2 lengths with 2nd Roberto Golback. However, nothing Treacle’s done before or since suggests he’s capable of repeating the form. Runs as if will stay this trip and best with soft in going description.
A. E. Lynch

142 Lost Glory 8 10-8 Jonjo O’Neil 011611
Prolific winner, gone up 25 lbs winning 4 of last 5 starts between June and October; unraced since. Now on 7 lbs higher mark than when winning soft ground 3 mile handicap chase at Chepstow for latest success, giving 10 lbs and 1¾ lengths beating to Mostly Bob; staying on well. Also won on a firm surface. Progressive chaser but six months break suggests some sort of injury. Only first of his 7 wins have come after a long break, AP McCoy on board for all victories. Below form 2nd for Richie McLernon at furthest trip tackled (3½m good), not jumping as well as he can. However, the way Lost Glory won at 3¼m suggests will stay further.

142 Swing Bill 12 10-8 David Pipe P-P1440
Easy to spot, Swing Bill is almost white. Below best 10th in Grand National last year, now off 2 lbs higher mark. Good close 4th to Hello Bud in Becher Chase (these fences) off this 142 rating. 2 lbs better off for 2 lengths with fast finishing 2nd Join Together and 9 lbs better with 3rd Big Fella Thanks (winner since) for a nose. Swing Bill wasn’t stopping at the end of 3¼m on heavy. Winner of amateurs handicap for second successive year at Cheltenham in November (3m½f good-soft). That came off a mark of 134 and this 12 year old has never been successful off as high a rating as today’s. Disappointing 16th in Kim Muir last time out, possibly not at his very best in the Spring.

142 Saint Are 7 10-8 Tim Vaughn 01-F430
Best performances of each full season to race have come at Aintree, so there’s a chance will show improved form. But those wins have not come over National fences. Saint Are usually belts one or two (fell in Hennessey) and will need to improve his jumping. Although rarely foot perfect, his best rounds seem to be when kept away from others; not easily done amongst 40 horses. Winner of 3m1f (good) listed handicap chase at this meeting last year (now on a 5 lb higher mark) by ½ length from Battle Group (levels), with 16 back to the 3rd. Ran well at Ascot (3m soft) 8½ lengths 3rd to Vino Greigo penultimate start, always up with pace. 6 lengths behind 2nd Cappa Bleu, 1¾ in front of 4th The Rainbow Hunter with Major Malarkey and Tatenen well beaten; due to renew rivalry with all four on same terms. Only 12th of 24, amateur ridden and held up in Kim Muir last time. Should stay further than 3m1f.
Dougie Costello

141 Chicago Grey 10 10-7 Gordon Elliott (Ire) B-0U631Chicago Grey
2011 National Hunt Chase winner (4m Good). Chicago Grey could be well-handicapped; seemed back to form last time despite trip plenty short enough. 25/1 winner of 4 runner (2½m heavy) Grade 2 on February 13th. Looked temperamental in the past but may be that’s changed with a breathing operation. However, race fell apart with favourites Rubi Light and Hidden Cyclone going off too quick, setting it up for the stayer. Neither has reached the racecourse since. 2nd Foildubh (levels, beaten 2½ lengths) ran for first time this Tuesday; franking the form by winning another 4 runner Grade. Take Chicago Grey’s last run out and need to go back some way to find best form. Encouraging though it was, debatable if he should be so short in the betting in the face of a 4 runner race, where just one other might have ran to form. Not his fault brought down at 5th last year, but two unseats and a fall in last 16 races plus numerous mistakes. Usually held up/dropped out the back, not ideal for the National unless a change of tactics or they go off at an overly strong pace. Stable comes in to the meeting in cracking form.

141 Quiscover Fontaine 9 10-7 Willie Mullins (Ire) 10F-685
10½ lengths 4th to Organisedconfusion in 2011 Irish Grand National, gave winner 10 lbs and 3rd Sunnyhillboy (improved significantly since) 3 lbs, 4½ lengths in front. That a first try at staying trip (3m5f Good). Fell 17th in 2012 Grand National and long way below form in three races since. Stays 3m5f when going not too testing, but effective at 2 miles and far from certain to get this trip.

140 Rare Bob 11 10-6 Dessie Hughes (Ire) 3B8-643
Brought down at 5th in last year’s Grand National and remote 5th of 14 in 2011 Becher Chase (3m2f Heavy) Rare Bob lost lot of ground late on. Stays 3m5f under faster conditions, 4th in Irish National (Good) back in 2009. Races prominently but often finishes weakly. Only one win (first time blinkered) in last 21 starts. Good 3rd in Leinster National (only 3m) last time out, again finding little.

140 The Rainbow Hunter 9 10-6 Kim Bailey 4-311P4
Ran well enough at Ascot last time (3m soft). 7¾ lengths to make up on the 2nd Cappa Bleu and 1¾ to 3rd Saint Are all off the same marks as today. Of the three, Rainbow Hunter probably the least capable of adapting to Aintree, often makes mistakes. Three chase wins all in single figure sized fields, two falls in double figure fields. Sire a Chester Cup winner and The Rainbow Hunter runs as if will stay further than 3 miles. Pulled up penultimate start with breathing problem.

140 Becauseicouldntsee 10 10-6 Noel Glyn (Ire) 63PP45
2nd in 2010 National Hunt Chase (4m Good). Hasn’t got past first Canal Turn in two efforts in Grand National. Best form/jumps better/more ethusiastic able to race with at least a share of the lead. Looked as if going to take a hand in finish of Kim Muir at Cheltenham last time but reverted to type and found nothing off bridle. Stays well but difficult to win with. Possibly a Cheltenham specialist.

140 Harry The Viking 8 10-6 Paul Nicholls 12P-P90
Looked ideal Grand National candidate in March last year. 2nd to Teaforthree (much improved since) in 2012 National Hunt Chase (4m Good). Harry The Viking could be reasonably handicapped if able to reproduce that level. Pulled up in Scottish National soon afterwards and largely disappointing since. However, some signs of return to form last time out, 10th of 24 in Kim Muir at Cheltenham. In contention for a long way and possibly needed first run for 3½ months.
Ryan Mahon

139 Mr Moonshine 9 10-5 Sue Smith 360264
Ran well off a 1 lb higher mark than today in Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby in December. 11 lengths 2nd receiving 2 lbs (+3 lbs jockeys claim) from winner Cape Tribulation (winner of Argento Chase since). Mr Moonshine disappointed in two subsequent outings. Won 3¼ mile hurdle earlier in career as if suited by a test of stamina. Runs most of his best races at or near the front.
Peter Buchanan

138 Mumbles Head 12 10-4 Peter Bowen 1133FP
Good 3¾ lengths 3rd to Marufo in veterans chase (conventional fences) at Aintree in October, giving 16 lbs to winner. Mumbles Head fell at first fence in Becher Chase (National fences) there next time. Never travelling only subsequent start in December but stable now in better form. Suited by around 3 miles, not given the impression needs any further. Veteran but was still improving at 11.
Jamie Moore

138 Pearlysteps 10 10-4 Henry Daley F2PP-44
Just 7th in Chicago Grey’s 2011 National Hunt Chase (4m Good) only time Pearlysteps has raced beyond 3m2½f. Jumping is at its best when able to race prominently and it can fall to pieces entirely if in amongst horses. Below form last four starts, including latest occasion, 4th to Ballyoliver at Ludlow (trainer’s local track) where stable companion was a well backed favourite (2nd).

137 Ninetieth Minute 10 10-3 Tom Taaffe (Ire) 3F6042
Not so good over fences as he was over hurdles, Ninetieth Minute won 2009 Coral Cup Hurdle at Cheltenham. Only one win over fences in uncompetitive 6 runner novice by 18 lengths February 2012. 2nd to Treacle last time out (3m2f Heavy). Looking the winner but not for the first time found little. Now 6 lbs better off for 4 lengths, but less likely to be suited by the trip than stable-mate. Fell mid-race in last years Irish National, only race over further than 3¼m (3m5f Good-soft).
Niall Madden

137 Auroras Encore 11 10-3 Sue Smith OP45F5
Three good runs culminated in excellent head 2nd giving 9 lbs to winner Merigo in Scottish National (4m½f Good) in April last year. Auroras Encore raced up with the pace and looked the winner jumping the last, just caught on line. Now off 6 lbs lower mark. Shown very little in 6 starts this season, last one in March. However, vast majority of Auroras Encore’s best lifetime efforts have come in the Spring, including winning over hurdles at this meeting in 2008. Can hit one, but his chance could be under-estimated, more so if stable show signs of a return to form before Saturday.

136 Tarquinius 10 10-2 Gordon Elliott (Ire) P11420
Below form 14th of 17 when joint favourite for Leinster National (3m Soft) latest start in March after 7 weeks off (a long break for him). Type to bounce back. Improved form since moving to Gordon Elliot, winning three races between 2¾m and 3m1f in December/January. Also good 2nd penultimate start in Thyestes Chase (3m1f Heavy) off an Irish handicap mark of 123. Getting 1 lb from enigmatic winner Jadanli; beaten a head staying on well with 13 lengths back to the 3rd. Now on a BHA handicap mark of 136 which looks excessive. However, unexposed as staying chaser for current yard. Best form for previous one Charlie Mann at extreme trips (3m6f) so could yet improve further, particularly as stable are in top form. Genuine and finds plenty under pressure. Going could be a concern, only raced on soft surface but an outsider to consider at three figure prices.

134 Any Currency 10 10-0 Martin Keighley 614U49PARADE
Rare win on first start for 5 months in October (3m3½f Good). Now off 7 lbs higher mark. Unseated at Canal Turn in Becher Chase (3¼m Heavy) over these fences. 9 lengths 4th giving 19 lbs to winner Chac Du Cadran (3¾m Soft) off this 134 mark penultimate start. Under pressure a long way out for AP McCoy. Disappointing 9th in X-Country Chase last time. Sometimes throws the towel in. Out and out stayer these days, suited by a strongly run race.
Ian Popham

134 (133) Poker De Sivola 10 10-0 (9-13) Ferdy Murphy 76U1/-57  NON-RUNNER
Now off 2 lbs lower mark than when winning 2011 Whitbread Gold Cup (3m5½f Good-firm). Nowhere near that form in just two races on possibly unsuitable ground since. Although a bit of encouragement on latest occasion in December, needing the race when last of 7 in Becher Chase over these fences (3¼m Heavy). Also won 2010 National Hunt Chase (4m Good), now 6 lbs better off with runner-up Becauseicouldntsee who was 2¼ lengths back. Best on a sound surface. Well handicapped if back to his best, but that’s a very big IF.

134 (133) Major Malarkey 10 10-0 (9-13) Nigel Twiston-Davis 2P-265P
Good neck 2nd off 1 lb lower mark to Lively Baron in 5 runner uncompetitive handicap on reappearance in December. Major Malarkey has been a long way below form in three races since. Only jumped two fences last time out (March) reportedly lost his action and pulled up. Best effort last season, when 2nd to Master Overseer in Midlands National (4m1½f Good-soft) off a 6 lbs lower mark than today. Inconsistent staying chaser with his own ideas about the game.

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All the latest news for The John Smith’s Grand National meeting

js logoJohn Smith’s Grand National Day at Aintree – Saturday, April 6 – is now sold out in all enclosures which means over 70,000 will watch the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National.

Racegoers can purchase tickets and badges on the gate for the first two days of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting – Grand Opening Day tomorrow, Thursday, April 4 and Ladies’ Day, Friday, April 5.

Advance bookings are 10 per cent up for tomorrow so a new record crowd of more than 30,00 is expected for Grand Opening Day, while the attendance on Friday will be in excess of 50,000

JOHN SMITHS’ GRAND NATIONAL RUNNER TARQUINIUS SOLD TO NEW OWNER

Tarquinius, a runner in the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National, has been sold to a new owner three days before the big race on Saturday

Richard Gilbert, who has horses in training with Lucinda Russell, Chris Grant, Rose Dobbin and Keith Dalgleish, has bought the 10-year-old Turgeon gelding in a deal brokered by bloodstock agent Tom Malone.

Tarquinius is trained by Gordon Elliott in Co Meath, a trainer who knows all about what it takes to win the John Smith’s Grand National, and he will continue to train the horse.

Gilbert said of his purchase today “I don’t have a staying chaser at the moment and the fact that he had an entry in the John Smith’s Grand National was an added bonus.

“I have two other runners at the John Smith’s Grand National meeting – Montoya’s Son (trained by Chris Grant) in the Grade Three John Smith’s Topham Chase and Rathvawn Belle (trained by Lucinda Russell) in the Listed John Smith’s Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race on Friday.

“Tarquinius will run in my name, although my other horses run under my company banner, because I didn’t have a horse in Ireland and I didn’t have time to sort out a company registration with Weatherbys Ire.”

Tom Malone added: “Because he held an entry in the John Smiths’ Grand National as well as being well handicapped over hurdles, we felt we should go for him. He is a horse who could stay in the big chases or go well over hurdles in Ireland. We could have a lot of fun with him.”

Richard Gilbert is the managing director of Straightline Construction Co Ltd, a construction firm based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, which specialises in the external refurbishment of houses throughout the north east. Straightline works in partnership with local authorities and social housing landlords to implement the government’s decent homes standard and modernisation programmes.

Gilbert, 34, was formerly a director of Aroma Wines, a fine wine brokers in the north east, and played rugby as a loose head prop until recently. He said “I found that it didn’t look very good coming into work with a black eye.”.

A lifelong fan of horseracing, Gilbert added: “There is no better spectacle than racing, and even better if you have a horse involved.”

“I have had horses for six to seven years, though I don’t ride myself. As a former prop, I don’t really have the build for it, though my wife Katherine rides. Katherine and I will both be there on Friday and Saturday.”

THE RUNNERS FOR THE 2013 JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL KNOWN TOMORROW MORNINGXChorses

The deadline for trainers and owners to take horses out of the Grand National is tomorrow (Thursday, April 4) at 10am.

There are 46 horses going forward this afternoon following Quinz’s withdrawal today because of a poor scope, Quinz’s scratching late this afternoon because of the same reason and the non-qualification of Romanesco after he ran in the Irish Grand National on Monday.

This means that both Major Malarkey, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, and the Jo Hughes-trained Soll get in the race.

Ruby Walsh has been confirmed as the rider of the 7/1 John Smith’s Grand National favourite with Betfred, official betting partner of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting.

The maximum number of runners is 40 on Saturday in the £975,000 race over 30 fences and four miles, three furlongs and about 110 yards.

There will be 40 declared runners and up to four reserves known before 11am tomorrow. The reserves will be utilised if there any non-runners by 9am on Friday, April 5.

THE 2013 JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONALPARADE

Class 1, Grade 3, £975,000 total prize fund. 4.15pm, Aintree, Saturday, April 6, 2013, about four miles, three and a half furlongs. For seven-year-olds and upwards who, up to and including March 18, 2013, have been placed first, second, third or fourth in a chase of three miles or more and which are allotted a rating of 120 or more by the BHA Head of Handicapping following a review of the horses entered and after taking account of races run up to and including February 10, 2013. Horses who are not qualified for a rating in Great Britain or Ireland at closing may also be entered. Such horses may be eligible for a weight providing the handicapper is satisfied that the horse’s racecourse performances up to and including February 10 would merit a minimum rating of 120. To qualify, horses must have run at least three times in chases run under the Rules of Racing of the same Recognised Racing Authority up to and including February 10, 2013. At the handicapper’s discretion, such horses may be allocated a rating. The decision of the BHA Head of Handicapping shall be final. The British Horseracing Authority has modified Rule (F)42.2.1 for the purposes of this race, such that racecourse performances up to and including Sunday, February 12, may be taken into account. A novice horse shall only be qualified to run in this race if it has run a minimum of three times in chases in Great Britain, Ireland or France in accordance with Rule (F)42.5. Highest weight 11st 10lb – no penalties after publication of the weights. Entries closed January 29, entries revealed January 30 (84 entries), weights revealed February 12, first scratchings’ deadline February 26 (73 go forward, 11 scratched), second scratchings’ deadline March 19 (57 go forward, 16 scratched). Five-day confirmation stage April 1, (49 go forward, 8 scatched) final declaration stage 10.00am, April 4 (two more out beforehand). Maximum field size of 40, plus four reserves. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Sunday, March 31. Weights raised 4lb since original weights.

Form Horse Age/Wgt Owner Trainer/Probable Jockey

1) 51U/1P/-2 IMPERIAL COMMANDER (IRE) 12-11-10 Our Friends in the North Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies

2) P/33F0-0 WHAT A FRIEND 10-11-09 Ged Mason & Sir Alex Ferguson Paul Nicholls/Sam Thomas

3) 3PF-4PP WEIRD AL (IRE) 10-11-08 Brannon Dick Holden Donald McCain/Timmy Murphy

4) 1113-04 QUEL ESPRIT (FR) 9-11-07 Red Barn Syndicate Willie Mullins IRE

5) 40/-U312 BIG FELLA THANKS 11-11-06 Crossed Fingers Partnership Tom George/Denis O’Regan

6) 1113-23 SEABASS (IRE) 10-11-06 Gunners Syndicate Ted Walsh IRE

7) 0-1U355 ROBERTO GOLDBACK (IRE) 11-11-06 Simon Munir Nicky Henderson

8) P012-5P SUNNYHILLBOY (IRE) 10-11-04 J P McManus Jonjo O’Neill

9) 1/46-P03 BALLABRIGGS (IRE) 12-11-04 Trevor Hemmings Donald McCain/Jason Maguire

10) 11-0620 TEAFORTHREE (IRE) 9-11-03 T437 Rebecca Curtis

11) 3-11201 ACROSS THE BAY (IRE) 9-11-02 Scotch Piper Syndicate Donald McCain/Henry Brooke

12) 1P3-02P JOIN TOGETHER (IRE) 8-11-02 Ian Fogg & Paul Barber Paul Nicholls/Daryl Jacob

13) 413-5211 COLBERT STATION (IRE) 9-11-01 J P McManus Ted Walsh IRE

14) 2P1536 FORPADYDEPLASTERER (IRE) 11-11-00 Goat Racing Syndicate Thomas Cooper IRE/Andrew McNamara

15) P1/B1F-1 ON HIS OWN (IRE) 9-11-00 Andrea & Graham Wylie Willie Mullins IRE/Ruby Walsh

16) 0-35233 JONCOL (IRE) 10-10-13 Kay Browne Paul Nolan IRE

17) P0F1-12 BALTHAZAR KING (IRE) 9-10-12 The Brushmakers Philip Hobbs

18) 1334-22 CAPPA BLEU (IRE) 11-10-11 William & Angela Rucker Evan Williams/Paul Moloney

19) 2/4-4U60 OSCAR TIME (IRE) 12-10-11 Robert Waley-Cohen/Sir Martin & Steve Broughton Martin Lynch IRE

20) 44001-00 ALWAYS WAINING (IRE) 12-10-10 Peter & Linda Douglas Peter Bowen

21) 15U-606 TATENEN (FR) 9-10-10 The Stewart Family Richard Rowe

22) 423F-01 TREACLE (IRE) 12-10-09 Bjorn Nielsen Tom Taaffe IRE/Andrew Lynch

23) 011611 LOST GLORY (NZ) 8-10-08 J P McManus Jonjo O’Neill

24) P-P1440 SWING BILL (FR) 12-10-08 David Johnson David Pipe/Conor O’Farrell

25) U01-F430 SAINT ARE (FR) 7-10-08 David Fox Tim Vaughan/Dougie Costello

26) B-0U631 CHICAGO GREY (IRE) 10-10-07 John Earls Gordon Elliott IRE

27) 010F-605 QUISCOVER FONTAINE (FR) 9-10-07 J P McManus Willie Mullins IRE

28) 3B0-643 RARE BOB (IRE) 11-10-06 D A Syndicate Dessie Hughes IRE/Bryan Cooper

29) 04-311P4 THE RAINBOW HUNTER 9-10-06 May We Never Be Found Out Partnership Kim Bailey

30) F-63PP5 BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE (IRE) 10-10-06 Noel Glynn Noel Glynn IRE/Martin Ferris

31) 12P-P00 HARRY THE VIKING 8-10-06 Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason, Ron Wood & Peter Done Paul Nicholls /Ryan Mahon

32) 2360264 MR MOONSHINE (IRE) 9-10-05 April Strang-Steel, Douglas Pryde & Jim Beaumont Sue Smith/Peter Buchanan

33) 1133FP MUMBLES HEAD (IRE) 12-10-04 Patricia Thompson Peter Bowen/Jamie Moore

34) F2PP-44 PEARLYSTEPS 10-10-04 The Glazeley Partnership Henry Daly

35) 3F6042 NINETIETH MINUTE (IRE) 10-10-03 Dermot Cox Tom Taaffe IRE/Niall Madden

36) 0P45F5 AURORAS ENCORE (IRE) 11-10-03 Douglas Pryde, Jim Beaumont & D P van der Hoeven Sue Smith

37) P11420 TARQUINIUS (FR) 10-10-02 Richard Gilbert Gordon Elliott IRE

38) 614U40 ANY CURRENCY (IRE) 10-10-00 Cash Is King Martin Keighley/Ian Popham

39) 2P-265P MAJOR MALARKEY (IRE) 10-9-13 Baker, Dodd & Cooke Nigel Twiston-Davies/Tom Scudamore

40) 621B-001 SOLL 8-9-12 Derrick Mossop Jo Hughes/Mark Grant

41) /5000/P-P BACKSTAGE (FR) 11-9-12 MPR & Capranny Syndicate Gordon Elliott IRE

42) 023P25 VIKING BLOND (FR) 8-9-11 Caroline Mould Nigel Twiston-Davies

43) 2161-30 CLOUDY LANE 13-9-10 Trevor Hemmings Donald McCain

44) 000165 PENTIFFIC (NZ) 10-9-08 P Sinn, P Lawrence, L Sutcliffe, M Smith Venetia Williams

45) 0/44-060 GULLIBLE GORDON (IRE) 10-9-06 Yeh Man Partnership Peter Bowen

46) P-22150 MORTIMERS CROSS 12-9-06 John Needham John Needham

ROMANESCO (FR) 8-9-11 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE nq

QUINZ (FR) 9-10-10 Andrew Cohen Philip Hobbs – taken out today

POKER DE SIVOLA (FR) 10-9-13 David Johnson Ferdy Murphy – scratched today

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FANTASTIC JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL MELLING CHASE ON FRIDAY

£200,000 John Smith’s Melling Chase 2m 4f Friday, April 5, 2013

NO. FORM HORSE AGE/WEIGHT TRAINER JOCKEY

1 2-1511 Cue Card 7-11-10 Colin Tizzard Joe Tizzard

2 211-46 Finian´s Rainbow 10-11-10 Nicky Henderson A P McCoy

3 1-1132 Flemenstar 8-11-10 Peter Casey AndrewLynch

4 3-1253 For Non Stop 8-11-10 Nick Williams Noel Fehily

5 R3042R Mad Moose 9-11-10 Nigel Twiston-Davies Sam Twiston-Davies

6 11-111 Sprinter Sacre 7-11-10 Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty

GOING REMAINS THE SAME

The going remains the same at Aintree after another dry day. Selective watering was carried out today to maintain the current ground descriptions.

Grand National course- Good to Soft, Good in places
Mildmay & Hurdle courses – Good, Good to Soft in places

Andrew Tulloch, Regional Head of Racing North West and Clerk of the Course at Aintree, said this afternoon: “We have watered around fences 13 and 14 on the Grand National course

“It was a warm morning but has clouded over this afternoon. It is likely to be cloudy tomorrow as well.

“We will keep an eye on the ground going forward. If we need to water during the meeting, we can do as we have the necessary facilities. We will monitor everything tomorrow and see how things go. Saturday may be a bit warmer but also cloudier.

“We are not losing a lot of moisure in the ground because of plant growth or through evaporation

“We have had a hard winter and there has been little grass growth because of the low temperatures. The courses are looking great but we would have liked some grass growth.

“The advantage of the Grand National course is that we don’t race down the inside of it in December at the Becher meeting so there is plenty of fresh ground which has not been raced on for a year.”

FIRST HORSES TO ARRIVE FOR THE 2013 JOHN SMITHS’ GRAND NATIONAL MEETING

The first horse to arrive at Aintree for the 2013 John Smiths’ Grand National meeting was Whodoyouthink, trained by Oliver McKiernan on the Curragh, Co Kildare, Ireland.

Whodoyouthink, who reached Aintree yesterday evening (Tuesday), runs in the Grade One Betfred Bowl (2.30pm) tomorrow, Grand Opening Day, Thursday, April 4.

Others at Aintree include Mouse Morris’s charge, First Lieutenant, who also lines up in the Betfred Bowl, along with Quito De La Roque, trained by Colm Murphy, who hails from Gorey in Co Wexford, plus Carlito Briganti, trained by Gordon Elliott in Co Meath, who runs in the Grade One Betfred Manifesto Novices’ Chase (4.50pm, Thursday).

Co Meath trainer Peter Casey’s stable star Flemenstar arrived overnight and takes on Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card in the Grade Two John Smith’s Melling Chase on Ladies’ Day, Friday, April 5 at 3.05pm.

The first John Smiths’ Grand National runners are due to arrive at Aintree this evening.

iStock_000016070653SmallFATHER HOPES DAUGHTERS AVOID EMERGENCY AND DEFY GRAVITY IN JOHN SMITH’S FOX HUNTERS’ AT AINTREE TOMORROW

Bedfordshire farmer Simon Andrews, who won the 1988 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase on Newnham, will be a proud spectator tomorrow when his two daughters line up in the famous ‘amateurs’ National’.

Gina, 21, takes her second ride in the race and again partners Emergency Cover, on who she was 10th last year, while Bridget, 19, makes her debut over the big fences when teaming up with Defying Gravity.

Their father admits: “Both girls have seen the video of me winning on Newnham a good few times – and no, it’s not in black and white!

“To be honest the girls have little chance of winning, but the same could be said of Newnham, who started as a 50/1 shot, and there was plenty of 66/1 on course. I had won point-to-points on him and we gave him a little practice in a Leicestershire maiden hunter chase when he was third, but he was the most brilliant jumper, and they needed to be at Aintree in those days.

“The following year I rode him in the Grand National and we finished 10th, and we later took him to America for the Maryland Hunt Cup. We fell at the fourth.

“We’ll walk the course in the morning, but there’s not much advice I can give. You just go out there and ride it like it’s another race. You give a horse a kick – rather than take a pull – because the ditches are wide, and if your horse takes to the place you are in for a fantastic ride. Both Gina and Bridget are on horses that have a reasonable chance of getting round and that would be a good achievement.”

Two previous winners are in the line-up among the 25 runners, namely Cloudy Lane, who won last year, and Silver Adonis, who teams up once again with Tom Weston, his rider when successful on 2010. Keenan’s Future, who was fourth last year, and Boxer Georg and Offshore Account, who were second and third in 2011, are others with experience of the contest.

Two riders – Sam Waley-Cohen and Katie Walsh – will be getting their eye in over the spruce fences before riding in Saturday’s John Smith’s Grand National. Walsh, third in last year’s big race on Seabass, rides his stablemate Battlefront – both horses are trained by Katie’s father Ted, while Battlefront is owned by her mother Helen. He had compiled nine straight wins in Irish point-to-points, but his winning sequence was ended when third in a hunter chase at Fairyhouse in February – the winner, Warne, is in opposition again tomorrow for trainer Brian Hamilton.

Waley-Cohen, who rides Oscar Time in the big one having finished runner-up on him to Ballabriggs in 2011, partners Cottage Oak for Cheshire trainer Joe O’Shea in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase. The 10-year-old has the best recent form among the 25 runners having finished third in last month’s CGA Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when Paddy Gerety was in the saddle. Waley-Cohen’s Aintree experience and excellent record over the National fences has led to his booking.

John Ferguson, racing and bloodstock advisor to Sheikh Mohammed, saddles Earth Dream who will be a first ride over the fences for the trainer’s son, James, and while champion trainer Paul Nicholls saddles two runners he also faces opposition from his mother-in-law, Fiona Browne. Mrs Browne saddles Bold Addition, a very impressive winner of two hunter chases this season, while Nicholls calls upon Gwanako, the mount of Jody Sole, and Rebel Du Maquis, who is partnered by Britain’s reigning champion point-to-point rider Will Biddick.

Denman’s brother Silverburn, who was runner-up to Bold Addition on his latest outing, represents trainer Evan Williams, while another Welsh runner, Silver Story, is trained by Tim Vaughan’s brother, William.

Aintree chairman Lord Daresbury has an interest in the race via Cool Friend. He owns a leg in the mare and she is trained and ridden by his son Oliver, whose brother Thomas won the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase in 2009 on Trust Fund.

The 2013 John Smith’s Grand Nationalbinoculars

John Baker, Regional Director North West of Jockey Club Racecourses, will welcome the media to Aintree Racecourse at 12.25pm tomorrow in the media centre.

Five minutes later at 12.30pm, he will hold a press conference about the changes made to the Grand National course.

Please find below a summary of the changes and other measures in place for the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National, plus a document which was circulated to jockeys.

The changes Aintree has made to the course, in particular the Grand National fence frames, have received a wealth of positive publicity.

John Smith’s Grand National Key Points

The Grand National is woven into the fabric of British culture and, while the race is designed to be a unique and tough test, Aintree Racecourse ensures it is as fair and as safe as possible.

Nothing has greater importance to Aintree than the safety and welfare of horses and riders. The racecourse constantly strives to improve this further.

Aintree is conscious of the responsibility to ensure the Grand National is run as safely as possible, while maintaining the race as a unique sporting challenge.

The changes and investment made over recent years are good for the race and for racing.

Qualification

The minimum age for entries is seven.

All entries must have been placed first, second, third or fourth in a chase over three miles during their career.

The current rider eligibility criterion has been expanded to require at least 10 of the minimum 15 career wins to have been in chases.

Grand National start

Changes implemented to the Grand National start this year can be summarised as follows:

The start has been moved forward by around 90 yards for this year, away from the crowds and grandstands.

The “no-go” zone defined by a line on the track has been extended from 15 yards to around 30 yards from the starting tape this year.

The starter’s rostrum has moved this year to a position between starting tape and “no-go” zone to reduce potential for horses to get on top of the starting tape prematurely.

More user-friendly start tapes are being used this year, with increased visibility.

The BHA has been working with jockeys since the autumn in a concerted drive to alter jockey behaviour at jump starts, with the aim of redressing the sometimes much faster approaches towards the tape which can occur in bigger races. This has involved a more consistent methodology across the starters’ teams in the application and enforcement of the Rules at the start of a race.

A specific briefing between the starter’s team and jockeys takes place on Grand National day.

Additional measures have been put in place to minimise the possibility of a riderless horse travelling an extended distance before being caught prior to the start.

Fence cores

Aintree and the British Horseracing Authority have been involved in a three-year research and development programme looking at alternative fence construction for the Grand National course. This specifically focused on utilising materials other than the timber and protective rubber padding that used to make up the central frame of a fence.

Following the successful trial of prototype fences with a different frame at the Betfred Becher Chase meeting in December, Aintree now has 12 fences with plastic cores around the Grand National Course. The remaining three fences, which are open ditches, have had the wooden frames replaced by traditional birch.

Fence heights remain unchanged.

Becher’s Brook

Forming part of the racecourse’s on-going programme of works, Becher’s Brook has undergone further levelling of the wider landing zone, correcting the settlement which occurred following works carried out in 2011.

This has not changed either the dimensions or the character of the fences (the current drop, the difference in height between the level of the ground on take-off and landing, will remain at 10 inches on the inside of the course and six inches on the outside of the course).

Landing areas

Following the 2011 Review, the landing area of the first fence was levelled to smooth out undulations existing in the natural terrain. This process has now been extended to fences four, five and 13.

All works were carried out last summer to ensure time for the course to settle before the racing which took place in December of 2012.

Field size

Following the extensive 2011 Review into the Grand National, the BHA agreed to maintain the current safety factor at 40 horses. Detailed analysis in the 2012 annual review found no evidence that horses were unsighted when jumping fences. Through consultation with jockeys and trainers, there was general acknowledgement that the Grand National course is wide enough to accommodate the current number of runners. In fact, evidence does not suggest that changing the number of runners will have a positive effect on the race. During the 1990s, when average field size was 33 runners, a reduced percentage of fallers was not recorded.

Further watering investments

To enable the Aintree team to deliver its commitment to producing the safest jumping ground possible, in addition to the £150,000 invested in 2011, a further £100,000 was invested after last year’s race in further improving the watering system to ensure Aintree continues to deliver the best possible ground for jumping.

Riderless horses

Following investments in 2009 to create bypassing lanes and a catching pen at Canal Turn, an additional catching pen has been created for this year in the region of fence four to assist in the catching of riderless horses and mitigate the risk of injury if running loose.

Parade

There are new arrangements for the parading runners in the John Smith’s Grand National on Saturday (April 6) at Aintree.

In order to reduce the time that horses are saddled and mounted prior to the start, horses will not be sorted into racecard order on the course.

Instead, horses numbered 1-20 will be saddled in the pre-parade ring and horses 21 to 40 in the stables.

There will be Aintree and BHA personnel in the stables and pre-parade ring, assisting to place horses in number order.

This will hopefully mean that horses will enter the parade ring in number order, and then also leave the parade ring in number order. Once on the course, the parade will commence immediately.

Aintree has produced a joint submission in association with the Professional Jockey Association, which is detailed below.

This has been sent to all jockeys in the UK and made available to jockeys in Ireland, including amateurs.

The vital part our Jockeys play in the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National

This year, probably more than ever before, the eyes of the world will be focused on Aintree Racecourse when the tape rises for the start of the 2013 Grand National meeting at Aintree tomorrow.

Aintree Racecourse has consulted owners and trainers too and would now like to detail to jockeys just how vital their role is.

Facts which may surprise you

*An average of 53 per cent of all National falls and 28 per cent of unseats occur before Foinavon first time. That is one and a half minutes into a nine-minute plus race.

*In 2012, the slowest horse to the first fence was the close second Sunnyhillboy and the winner Neptune Collonges was 12th slowest.

*Sunnyhillboy was travelling five mph slower than the fastest horse to the first, Giles Cross.

*Little Josh was the fastest horse to the first in the Topham Chase, yet was travelling at the same speed as the slowest horse in the Grand National, Sunnyhillboy.

*All horses will be carrying speed tags as they did in 2012.

Course Changes

1. The fence frames have all changed from the wooden frames to EasyFix plastic birch dressed, as before with spruce. Open ditches are birch, dressed with spruce. This means that the fences are kinder if a horse makes a mistake.

2. The height and width of all fences is exactly as before so to all intents and purposes they are the same except, as we say, more horse friendly.

PLEASE NOTE:
New Grand National fences have been erected at David Pipe’s, Malton, Lambourn and the Curragh.

3. For the Grand National, the start has been moved forward 90 yards to create a quieter environment and hopefully reduce the tension for all concerned. The line will be well back from the tape and jockeys will be requested to line up at or on the line, prior to the starter starting the race.

4. Running rails have been realigned at Becher’s, Foinavon, and Canal Turn. There will be an additional catching pen at the fourth fence.

Jockeys should note that the shortest route from Becher’s to Foinavon and the Canal Turn is actually mid to outer.

5. One of the beauties of the Grand National course is the width and we encourage all jockeys to walk the course beforehand.

The Parade

The parade concept will change. Horses will not be required to sort themselves out into race card order in front of the stands.

Horses will instead be sorted into number order in the parade ring and this will be facilitated by horses 1-20 being saddled in the pre-parade ring and 21-40 in the stables.

Horses will then leave the parade ring in number order, turn left on to the course and commence the parade immediately. If any horse has lost its place, the parade will continue as is and any horse out of order will stay in the position found.

Horses then parade as normal, canter down to the first and then back behind the start line.

Welfare and other facts to remember

*Six hundred million people watch the race worldwide.

*It is an iconic sporting event and the most watched annual sporting event on TV

*The race is being run for the 166th time and is part of our heritage.

*It is racing’s shop window and we know jockeys do, and need to continue to, show the race great respect.

*Each and every participant – jockeys, trainers and owners – has a personal responsibility

*We know yours and your horse’s welfare is uppermost in your mind -please be aware of public perception.

*At the end of the race all unplaced horses must remain mounted until in the wash down area.

*At the start please respect the starter and his team. False starts – regardless of whose fault they are – suit nobody and create an appalling impression.

*Please remember: the early pace.

Pre-race Briefing

As last year, there will be briefing well before racing starts on Saturday and all jockeys riding in the Grand National will be required to attend.

We are all ambassadors for the race. We all need to savour the day and together you can do your profession and our sport proud.

As  ever, I’m indebted to Racenews for providing the above content

Don’t bet a loser in the National before it even starts – avoid SP betting

riskThe recent guest article from Geoff Banks drew quite a bit of interest. Geoff sent me another one, which is a bit more technical, so I thought I’d write an article on how the world Geoff works in affects the one most readers will be familiar with – the betting shop, the online punt, the odds your horse wins (or loses) at.

Geoff is one of the traditional bookies you see at a track, standing on a stool, ‘shouting the odds’ in the betting ring.

For those unfamiliar with the impact the on-course betting ring (where all the individual bookmakers stand, competing for your money) has on day-to-day prices in betting shops and online, here’s a potted explanation centred on the Grand National.

Hopefully it will stop you betting at SP in future Nationals, as well as giving you some background if you choose to read Geoff’s latest article.

“What’s the SP?” An expression that’s made its way into everyday speech in some parts of the UK. It means, ‘What’s the news on a particular matter, what is the conclusion, how did it finish.”

The saying originated in betting. SP stands for Starting Price, the odds that are used to settle  off-track bets placed in shops or online (unless you’ve taken a previously agreed ‘early price’ or ‘board price’).  The SP matters.  A lot. It’s the equivalent of declaring a share price in a market. Those holding  ‘share options’ – winning betting tickets, collect at the rate decreed by the SP. Bets cannot be settled until the SP is known.

So who decides what the SP is for each race, and how?

Although the bulk of bets on any horse race, perhaps up to 99%, are placed away from the racecourse – online, in High St shops or by phone – the prices on offer by the bookies, like Geoff Banks, who stand at the racetrack offering odds, are the prices which determine the SP.cash

But not all bookmakers’ prices are monitored to decide on the SP. The Starting Price Regulatory Committee employ agents who use a sample of between 6 and 24 track bookmakers to decide SPs (at poorly attended race meetings that sample is permitted to drop to a minimum of 3).

The agents (SP validators) monitoring the sample of bookmakers are impartial. Their job is to favour neither punter nor bookmakers when deciding the price.

The criteria the agents use is:

The starting price for each horse is the market price at the off generally available to good money on the boards of those bookmakers in a sample whose each-way terms for a given race most closely reflect the each-way terms on offer for that race in the off-course retail market.

“Good money” is defined thus:

Generally that offered by a Starting Price Qualified Bookmaker who, in the judgment of the SP Validator following consultation with the Betting Operator, is prepared to lay a single bet to lose at least £500 on each horse in a scheduled race at that meeting.

So, supposing there are £10 million pounds worth of winning bets in Saturday’s Grand National: the winner has been on offer at the track at odds of around 16/1 to 18/1 among the 24 sampled bookmakers. The SP agents, who use software to access the prices these bookmakers have been offering, might decide that 18/1 was marginally the dominant price. Declaring an SP of 18/1 rather than 16/1, in this example, costs the bookmakers £180m rather than £160m.

Off-course (retail) bookmaking is a huge business – worth many billions. If you were the boss of Hills or Ladbrokes and a two point difference in the SP could cost you an awful lot of money, what would you do? You would find out which horses were being bet most with you and you’d then send someone to a racecourse to bet those horses in the hope of shortening the SP and therefore your financial liability.

And that is exactly what big bookmakers do, especially at major meetings like Cheltenham or Aintree. But the problem Ladbrokes/Hills have is that they do not know the identity (at least they are not supposed to know) of the bookmakers being used as a sample that day by the SP agents.

It’s a bit like the old stories from the pop business of record execs finding out which sample of record shops were being used by the compilers of the charts. They’d then send people to buy hundreds of records at each of these shops.

natapwinpost

Here is a concrete example from 2010. On the morning of the Grand National, Don’t Push It, the eventual winner, was on offer at 20/1. It was the mount of AP McCoy and many of the once-a-year punters latched on to it leaving the major High St bookies with large liabilities. Those bookies had their team on-course at Aintree pour money onto Don’t Push It in the five minutes or so before the off. The SP was seriously affected by that exercise and Don’t Push It was returned at 10/1, saving the big bookies a comparative fortune.

Don’t Push It’s SP on Betfair – an exchange which matches punter against punter and takes the bookmaker out of the middle – was 18/1.

This is not unusual for the Grand National. On-course punters that day are often very inexperienced and will simply bet their fancy without trying to work out the value of doing so at the price on offer.  On-course bookmakers can’t be blamed, I suppose, for taking advantage of this; the equivalent of holiday cost being much higher during school breaks. If there’s one thing better for businesses than a captive market, it’s a captive market of rookies.

The overall value a punter gets from the SP in each race is measured by what is called the overround. Each price represents a percentage value – for example 1/1 is 50%, 5/1 is 16.7%: these are supposed to reflect the percentage chance of that horse winning. The bookmaker’s intention is to have every horse in the race priced so that the total hits 100% + his profit margin. That margin is called the overround.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a big betting race, but many racegoers at Cheltenham are knowledgeable on betting and a have a strong feel for value.

The overrounds in the past five Gold Cups on the left, those on the Grand National, on the right:

113/152

120/155

119/155

116/146

117/147

A stark example of the effect of weight of money placed by professionals attempting perfectly legal price manipulation. In most betting markets, the shortening of one price leads to the lengthening of another. The figures above show that such a system worked well at Cheltenham, but worked poorly (from the punter’s viewpoint) at Aintree.

Aintree bookmakers might plead that the pure volume of business, especially in the run-up to the off of the National makes it very difficult to alter prices – all their time is spent taking bets. But the Cheltenham betting ring is also manic and they seem to have little problem adjusting prices there.

Anyway, beware on Saturday. If you don’t put your bet on before then, do not take SP on the day – take an ‘early price’.

From a value viewpoint, a number of bookmakers are offering ¼ the win odds on EW bets for the first 5 places. Betvictor offers first 6 places although, as Geoff points out in his article, many of these concessions are blunted by the reduction in overall pricing of all horses, thus boosting that bookie’s profit margin, his overround.

As for tips on the race, I’ll be posting mine in the middle of the week. My current shortlist, along with best prices available, and, in order of my preference is:

Join Together  20/1

Teaforthree  16/1

Colbert Station  12/1

Quel Esprit  50/1

Saint Are 50/1

Ninetieth Minute 100/1

I’m certain (on the basis of this article alone) Join Together will start a fair bit shorter than 20/1 and I think he is very good value with Totesport/Betfred.

And for all Betvictor has chopped most prices to compensate for paying 6 places, he is biggest on Ninetieth Minute who has a quirky style of running and who jumps carefully. He’s the type who will either decide early in the race it is not for him, or one who will pick his way round and might well run on late to finish in the first 6.

Betvictor also offers non-runner-no-bet, so Ninetieth Minute (his last run in England brought a win at the Cheltenham festival) is worth a small EW bet.

A best odds check can be seen here

Good luck

Joe

The 100/1 Grand National winner that changed my life

FoinavonIn the spring of  1967, I was 13-years-old. Walking through the local park with my father, we met a friend of his who’d just come out after watching the Grand National. I’d never seen an adult so excited as he talked of the shock result of the 100/1 chance who’d won the race. His graphic description of the mayhem at the 23rd fence, the remounting of the favourite, the pursuit of the no-hoper who’d been too slow to get caught up in the fracas which had brought the remainder of the field to a standstill, fired my imagination. I decided to learn more about the Grand National and about horse racing.

I’ve been captivated ever since. Much of my racing ‘education’ came from reading Dick Francis’s great racing mysteries. In the early ’90s I published my own racing mystery, Warned Off, co-written with an early hero of mine who became a great friend, Richard Pitman, whose own Grand National memory on Crisp was much more affecting than mine. In the mid 90s I got a job at Aintree.

That seed sown by the tale of Foinavon, the 100/1 no-hoper, grew to make a huge impact on my life and I was delighted to get a message from David Owen today telling me about a book he’d written, Foinavon, The Story of the Grand National’s Biggest Upset

Here’s a taster from David who is a former sports editor of The Financial Times

It was the upset to end all upsets. On 8 April 1967 at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool, a 100-1 outsider in peculiar blinkers sidestepped chaos extraordinary even by the Grand National’s standards and won the world’s toughest steeplechase.

The jumps-racing establishment – and Gregory Peck, the Hollywood actor whose much-fancied horse was reduced to the status of an also-ran – took a dim view. But Foinavon, the dogged victor, and Susie, the white nanny goat who accompanied him everywhere, became instant celebrities. Within days, the traffic was being stopped for them in front of Buckingham Palace en route to an audience with the Duchess of Kent. Fan mail arrived addressed to ‘Foinavon, England’. According to John Kempton, Foinavon’s trainer, the 1967 race ‘reminded everyone that the National was part of our heritage’.

Foinavon’s Grand National victory has become as much a part of British sporting folklore as the England football team’s one and only World Cup win the previous year. The race has even spawned its own mythology, with the winner portrayed as a horse so useless that not even its owner or trainer could be bothered to come to Liverpool to see him run. Yet remarkably the real story of how Foinavon emerged from an obscure yard near the ancient Ridgeway to pull off one of the most talked-about victories in horseracing history has never been told.

Based on original interviews with scores of people who were at Aintree on that rainswept day, or whose lives were in some way touched by the shock result, this book will use the story of this extraordinary race to explore why the Grand National holds tens of millions of people spellbound, year after year, for ten minutes on a Saturday afternoon in early spring.

I wish David luck with the book.

If you want to read Warned Off, it’s available as an eBook and paperback. The eBook is £2.50 and you can read the reviews and find out more by clicking the image below.

WarnedOff

Almost all you could want to know about the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National

spyglassI’m grateful to my friends at Racenews for this highly detailed Grand National briefing.  You can read it/download it by clicking the link below.

JSGN13MEDIAGUIDEFINAL

I’ll be posting my tips for the National in the week running up to the race which takes place on April 6th. All my blog posts are notified to my twitter followers.

You can follow me on twitter here

WarnedOff

Grand National meeting: entries and quotes for Topham and Fox Hunters’

js logoVAUGHAN TARGETS JOHN SMITH’S TOPHAM CHASE WITH TARTAK

Entries are announced today for the £120,000 John Smith’s Topham Chase and the £40,000 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase, both run over two miles, five and a half furlongs of the famous Grand National course at Aintree Racecourse early next month.

The John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase takes place on the first day of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting, Grand Opening Day, Thursday, April 4, while the John Smith’s Topham Chase is one of the highlights on Ladies Day, Friday, April 5. Together with the John Smith’s Grand National, worth £975,000 and run on Saturday, April 6, they form the races over the Grand National fences. The other 18 contests at the John Smith’s Grand National meeting are run over the fences of the Mildmay course and the hurdle course.

The John Smith’s Topham Chase has attracted a fine entry of 54 including Always Waining, who captured the race for an unprecedented third consecutive time last season. The 12-year-old, trained by Peter Bowen, is also among the latest acceptors for the John Smith’s Grand National which were revealed yesterday.

Tartak boasts some high-class form at Aintree, having captured the Grade Two Manifesto Novices’ Chase in April, 2009. Tim Vaughan’s charge also finished fourth in the 2010 and 2011 renewals of the Grade One John Smith’s Melling Chase when trained by Tom George, but broke a blood vessel on his first attempt over the Grand National fences in last season’s John Smith’s Topham Chase, coming home 15th.

The 10-year-old finished a staying-on third in the Byrne Group Plate over two miles and five furlongs at the Cheltenham Festival on his latest start, beaten 13 and a half lengths on March 14.

Vaughan, whose stables are in South Wales, revealed: “Tartak had a stretch and canter yesterday morning and he seems in great old nick. If we can get him in the John Smith’s Topham Chase, he will definitely run.

“That seems to be his trip and if we get some drying ground, you never know because he seems to be in the form of his life.

“He has been running on predominantly the wrong ground all winter and in fairness to him, when he got his ground at Cheltenham last week, he ran an absolute blinder. If he took that forward to Aintree, I would like to think he would have a sensible chance.

“The handicapper has given him a chance and, if he gets a bit of luck in running, it looks to be the ideal opportunity for him. We know he likes Aintree and his jumping was exemplary at Cheltenham so I don’t think the fences will bother him.”

Seven-time champion jump trainer Paul Nicholls has five entries, the most of any handler, headed by the unexposed six-year-old Pacha Du Polder. A lot was expected of the French import after a Grade Two victory at Ayr in April and, following three disappointing displays this season, he lived up to his reputation with a gutsy front-running success in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury on March 2.

Somerset-based Nicholls could also run last year’s third Fistral Beach and There’s No Panic, who chased home Soll in an extended three-mile handicap chase at Sandown on March 9, plus Rebel Du Maquis, a recent close second in a Taunton hunter chase and also entered in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters Chase,and Criqtonic, a winner at Wincanton last month.

Irish champion jump trainer Willie Mullins proved he has his string in fine form when saddling five winners at the Cheltenham Festival last week and the County Carlow handler can choose between classy chaser Call The Police and Lambro.

Walkon and Nadiya de La Vega, who were second and third in the valuable Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, could run for trainers Alan King and Nicky Henderson respectively.

Gloucestershire-based Nigel Twiston-Davies is a great supporter of races over the Grand National fences and may be represented by last year’s seventh Little Josh, who got the better of Gansey in a thrilling finish to the Betfred “Goals Galore” Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree over the Grand National fences in December, when Tranquil Sea, trained by Edward O’Grady in Ireland, was third.

Philip Hobbs could send out two possible runners – last year’s runner-up Chance Du Roy and Planet Of Sound, who led the field for much of the race in the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National.

Other notable entries include Grade Two scorer Rathlin, from the stable of Irish handler Mouse Morris, and 2012 Betfred Becher Handicap Chase third Big Fella Thanks, who is also going forward in the John Smith’s Grand National, in which he has finished seventh (2011), fourth (2010) and sixth (2009).

NORTHERN IRISH CHALLENGER WARNE TARGETS JOHN SMITH’S FOX HUNTERS’ CHASE

Cloudy Lane gave the McCain family another success over the Grand National fences in last season’s John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase and is one of 35 entries for this year’s renewal.

The 13-year-old has yet to recapture that form this season and was beaten a long way by subsequent CGA Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup third Cottage Oak at Haydock Park in February.

But Cloudy Lane, trained by Donald McCain, has an excellent record over the Grand National fences – having also finished sixth and eighth in the 2008 and 2010 John Smith’s Grand Nationals respectively.

Other potential runners with winning course form include 2008 John Smith’s Topham Chase hero Gwanako, from the stable of Paul Nicholls who has also entered Rebel Du Maquis, and Marilyn Scudamore’s Silver Adonis, who was the shock 50/1 winner of the 2010 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase.

Warne, trained in Northern Ireland by Brian Hamilton, has been in good form this season, having won over a similar trip at Fairyhouse last month in impressive fashion by five and a half lengths. On his penultimate appearance over three miles at Leopardstown on February 9, he came home ninth behind dual Cheltenham Foxhunter scorer Salsify.

Hamilton revealed: “The plan is to run Warne in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase. He has been in very good form since his win at Fairyhouse and we decided straight after to let him take his chance at Aintree.

“The reason we did not go to Cheltenham with him is because three miles, two and a half furlongs is too far for him. He is quite trip dependent and that is why we planned to go to Aintree – we never even thought about going to Cheltenham.

“The three miles at Leopardstown was too far for him. He travelled as well as Salsify and Tammys Hill but jumped the second last and fell in a hole. An extended two and a half miles is his ideal trip.

“He has plenty of pace and travels well through his races and better ground will definitely benefit him as well.

“He is a very good jumper – quick and accurate – and I am hoping he gives a good account of himself. If he jumps round, he would have to have a good chance.”

Willie Mullins’ Boxer Georg may bid to go one better than in 2011 when he was narrowly denied by Baby Run and the third that day, Grade One winner Offshore Account, trained by Tracey Bailey, could make his fifth start over the Grand National fences.

Other notable entries include Denman’s full-brother Silverburn, now in the care of Welsh handler Evan Williams. The 12-year-old took the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle in 2007 and has made a good start to his hunter chasing career, scoring easily at Musselburgh in February before finishing the eight-length second to the Fiona Browne-trained Bold Addition, who has won both his races this season and is part-owned by (his former trainer) Paul Nicholls, at Warwick on March 10.

Vic Venturi, formerly trained in Ireland by Dessie Hughes, has run in the John Smith’s Grand National three times and won the Betfred Becher Chase over the big fences in 2009.

 

 

THE JOHN SMITH’S FOX HUNTERS’ CHASE

Class 2, £40,000 total prize fund. 3.40pm, Aintree, Thursday, April 4, 2013, two miles about five and a half furlongs over the Grand National Course. For six-year-olds and upwards which, after October 2010, and before March 19, 2013, have finished first, second or third in a Hunters’ steeple chase on two occasions OR have finished first, second or third in a Hunters’ steeple chase on one occasion and have won either another steeple chase (Hunters’ steeple chases included) or an Open Point-to-Point steeple chase. Weights: 12st, mares allowed 7lb. To be ridden by Amateur Riders holding ‘Category B’ permits to ride, or Amateur Riders riding under the provisions of Rule (D)27. Entries closed March 18, entries revealed March 19 (35 entries). Six-day confirmation stage March 29, final declaration stage 10.00am, April 3. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Monday, March 18.

Form  Horse    Age Owner     Trainer

36506-3 BATTLEFRONT (IRE)  11 Helen Walsh    Ted Walsh IRE

11/22-11 BOLD ADDITION (FR)  8 Nicholls, Browne & Friends Syndicate  Fiona Browne

1002-43 BOXER GEORG (IRE)  11 William Murray/Keith Murray  Willie Mullins IRE

03-0004 CARSONSTOWN BOY (IRE) 9 J T Monaghan    Colin McBratney IRE

2161-30 CLOUDY LANE  13 Trevor Hemmings   Donald McCain

36214-3 COOL FRIEND (IRE)  10 Stephen Evason   Oliver Greenall

0P4113 COTTAGE OAK (IRE)  10 R J Hewitt    Joe O’Shea

6P/PP2-5 DEFYING GRAVITY (IRE) 10 I P Crane    Laura Pomfret

3001-0P EARTH DREAM (IRE)  10 The Bloomfields Partnership  John Ferguson

0/10000- EMERGENCY COVER (IRE) 10 Nigel Padfield    Nigel Padfield

3-22405 FAIRWOOD PRESENT (IRE) 15 Jonathan Caulkin   John Buxton

0/5/-2  FAMILY OFICIAL (IRE) 11 Mary Twohig    Mary Twohig IRE

P2-12FU FLAMING GORGE (IRE) 8 A Fool & His Money   Fleur Hawes

5/232/15- FRESH AIR AND FUN (IRE) 10 Mrs D J Ralph    Alastair Ralph

3P/-0241 GENTLE GEORGE  10 B J Mould    Steve Flook

1F-4411 GWANAKO (FR)  10 The Stewart Family   Paul Nicholls

32U-0P6 HARPS COUNSEL (IRE) 11 Cathal  McGovern   Stephen Magee IRE

FFPP3P KEENAN’S FUTURE (IRE) 12 Stephen Rea    Stephen Rea

3/03U-P1 KILDONNAN   14 Neil Mechie    Neil Mechie

34560-2 MOON OVER MIAMI (GER) 12 Drew Holmes    Drew Holmes

2  MOURNE PADDY (IRE) 9 Stuart Crawford   Stuart Crawford IRE

33/P1U-4 OFFSHORE ACCOUNT (IRE) 13 N Sutton    Tracey Bailey

13P-343 ON BORROWED WINGS (IRE) 10 William & Angela Rucker  Angela Rucker

2-  OWENACURRA (IRE)  8 S C Robinson    Rose Grissell

4061F-P PRESENTANDCORRECT (IRE)12 Mr & Mrs Tim Sage   Tim Sage

1/-12132 RASH MOVE (IRE)  12 K Hutsby    Fred Hutsby

1/10-602 REBEL DU MAQUIS (FR) 8 Kathy Stuart & Paul Nicholls  Paul Nicholls

2P410-P SILVER ADONIS (IRE)  12 Lesley Sluman & Maz Scudamore Marilyn Scudamore

5/B5-113 SILVER STORY  10 N B Jones    William Vaughan

F443/1-2 SILVERBURN (IRE)  12 Cath  Williams    Evan Williams

03626-2 SIZING AMERICA (IRE) 12 The Good, The Bad & The Handsome Sally Randell

255212  TARTAN SNOW  13 R V Westwood    Stuart Coltherd

0/42P2-6 TWIN JOY   10 Patrick Joseph Redmond  Liam Kenny IRE

0R4-663 VIC VENTURI (IRE)  13 S W Dunn    Stephen Rea

02/-4101 WARNE (IRE)   9 Mrs C Magill    Brian Hamilton IRE

35 entries

8 Irish-trained

THE JOHN SMITH’S TOPHAM CHASE (HANDICAP)

Class 1, £120,000 total prize fund. 3.40pm, Aintree, Friday, April 5, 2013,two miles about five and a half furlongs over the Grand National Course. For five-year-olds and upwards. Penalties: after March 24, a winner of a chase 4lb, no penalty to increase a horse’s weight above 11st 12lb. Entries closed March 18, entries revealed March 19 (54 entries).Six-day confirmation stage March 30, final declaration stage April 4. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Monday, March 18.

Form  Horse    Age Owner     Trainer

4001-00 ALWAYS WAINING (IRE) 12 Mr & Mrs Peter Douglas  Peter Bowen

2-06541 ARCTIC BEN (IRE)  9 Mrs A Timpson    Henry Daly

5351PF BENNYS MIST (IRE)  7 Mezzone Family   Venetia Williams

40/-U312 BIG FELLA THANKS  11 Crossed Fingers Partnership  Tom George

21U214 BILLY CUCKOO (IRE)  7 Gap Personnel    Tony Coyle

4-F2113 CALL THE POLICE (IRE) 10 DD Racing Syndicate   Willie Mullins IRE

12-0F04 CHANCE DU ROY (FR) 9 Miss I D Du Pre   Philip Hobbs

1U1-442 CHESTNUT BEN (IRE)  8 John Bourke    Gary Brown

212-441 CRIQTONIC (FR)  6 Axom XXXIII    Paul Nicholls

3141rP  DASHING GEORGE (IRE) 11 Dr Richard Newland   Dr Richard Newland

4F4261 DIAMOND FRONTIER (IRE) 10 John Wade    John Wade

12-1120 DUNOWEN POINT (IRE) 7 Tim Leslie    Donald McCain

P0/1P33- FISTRAL BEACH (IRE) 10  Graham Roach    Paul Nicholls

34-522P GANSEY (IRE)   11 Trevor Hemmings   Sue Smith

100-050 GIORGIO QUERCUS (FR) 8 Seasons Holidays   Nicky Henderson

F-3054P GONEBEYONDRECALL (IRE) 10 Noel Glynn    Noel Glynn IRE

0/44-060 GULLIBLE GORDON (IRE) 10 Yeh Man Partnership   Peter Bowen

154P3P GUS MACRAE (IRE)  9 Quicksilver Racing Partnership  Rebecca Curtis

1-P4006 HECTOR’S CHOICE (FR) 9 James and Jean Potter   Richard Lee

P6244F JAMSIE HALL (IRE)  10 Teresa Mangan   Gordon Elliott IRE

236-146 LAMBRO (IRE)  8 Byerley Thoroughbred Racing  Willie Mullins IRE

544-142 LARKS LAD (IRE)  9 Pitman Gold Syndicate IV  Jonjo O’Neill

2-35143 LAST TIME D’ALBAIN (FR) 9 Fontstown Syndicate   Liam Cusack IRE

513F2U LEAC AN SCAIL (IRE)  12 Mrs J Drake    Joanne Foster

00-1FP0 LITTLE JOSH (IRE)  11 Tony Bloom    Nigel Twiston-Davies

40-4434 MAC AEDA   9 Mrs D W Davenport   Malcolm Jefferson

15-3004 MANGER HANAGMENT (IRE) 8 Kevin Brennan    Barry Brennan

6-P561P MINELLA THEATRE (IRE) 10 Alan Hill    Lawney Hill

30B152 MISTER FIRST (FR)  7 Bill Hennessy    Robert Hennessy

F60323 MONTOYA’S SON (IRE) 8 Straightline Construction Ltd  Tim Vaughan

236026  MR MOONSHINE (IRE) 9 Mrs Strang-Steel, Mr Pryde & Mr Beaumont Sue Smith

0-13U3P NADIYA DE LA VEGA (FR) 7 J P McManus    Nicky Henderson

3F4252 ODYSSEAS (FR)  10 Mrs Jean Porzier   Yann Porzier FR

210P62 ORPHEUS VALLEY (IRE) 10 No Horse Box Syndicate  Tom Gibney IRE

F1-P2P1 PACHA DU POLDER (FR) 6 The Stewart & Wylie Families  Paul Nicholls

006020  PACO JACK (IRE)  9 C Beirne    Philip Rothwell IRE

230-530 PLANET OF SOUND  11 Charles Lloyd-Baker   Philip Hobbs

34F610 RATHLIN   8 Gigginstown House Stud  Mouse Morris IRE

1/10-602 REBEL DU MAQUIS (FR) 8 Kathy Stuart & Paul Nicholls  Paul Nicholls

3P0456 REGAL D’ESTRUVAL (FR) 8 Paul Jenkins    Dr Richard Newland

343020  RENARD (FR)   8 ROA Arkle Partnership   Venetia Williams

F10203 ROMANESCO (FR)  8 Gigginstown House Stud  Gordon Elliott IRE

0//21F2/-0 ROYAL DE LA THINTE (FR) 8 Alan & Ann Potts Partnership  Jim Dreaper IRE

3F213P SIZING SANTIAGO (IRE) 7 Yeh Man Partnership   Peter Bowen

21B-001 SOLL    8 Derrick Mossop   Jo Hughes

4U-P1P5 STATE BENEFIT (IRE)  8 Michael Buckley   Nicky Henderson

P-64361 STORMING GALE (IRE) 7 Tim Leslie    Donald McCain

141120  SWIFT ARROW (IRE)  7 Mrs C Strang Steel   Donald McCain

644043  TARTAK (FR)   10 Power Panels Electrical Systems Ltd Tim Vaughan

1P4432 THERE’S NO PANIC (IRE) 8 The Stewart Family   Paul Nicholls

253255  TRANQUIL SEA (IRE)  11 Dermot Cox/Nelius Hayes  Edward O’Grady IRE

10-2P30 TRIOLO D’ALENE (FR) 6 Mr & Mrs Sandy Orr   Nicky Henderson

5P-22P5 WALKON (FR)   8 McNeill Family    Alan King

22P323 WHITE STAR LINE (IRE) 9 Patsy Byrne    Dessie Hughes IRE

54 entries

12 Irish-trained

1 French-trained

I’m indebted to Racenews for the above content