Tidal Bay, aged 43 and a half, the choice for Crabbie’s Grand National

Tidal Bay
Tidal Bay


That’s the age in human years that Tidal Bay is, according to research by equine vets (see table below).

Tidal Bay’s horse age is 13. All racehorses have their official birthday on January 1st.  He was born on May 12th 2001 so is ‘actually still 12 – confusing, eh?).

Tidal Bay first ran in March 2006. Thirty-six horses in the original list of  115 entered to compete against him in the National weren’t even born then.

Tidal Bay has always been in the headlines.  Here’s his form for the first three seasons : 22/111221/111211

And yet it wasn’t long before he was branded with the Timeform squiggle – a symbol denoting unreliability. He’d developed the habit of dropping himself out of contention, no matter how hard his jockey worked to keep him interested. Frequently, he’d decide very late in a race, ‘Oops, time I was cracking on!’ And he’d tear through the field to either win or finish very close. His formline during that period was: 122345/24174/3226U/32541

In many outings, his jumping was suspect, losing ground at fences but always managing to find a way over (he has never fallen).

After unseating his rider in the 2011 Grand National, Tidal Bay  left Howard Johnson to join Paul Nicholls. Mr Nicholls took a few races to find the key to TB’s character: here’s his formline since joining the yard: 32541/121-1532

Tidal Bay, unusually for a  top class horse has always mixed ‘chasing and hurdling. He’s won 8 over fences and 7 over hurdles, among those races, three Grade 1s and three Grade 2s.

So why should he be my choice for the Crabbie’s Grand National? Because if with everything you knew about Tidal Bay, you were to sit down and design the perfect race for him, I believe this is it. The 2014 race will be much different from the 2011 one, where he unseated. Since then, the wooden cores of the fences have been replaced with pliable plastic and the fences are much less punishing.

It’s unlikely that TB will have an error free round, but the loose green spruce which makes these fences look so big, is easily brushed through, these days (rightly so, to preserve the future of the race). Far fewer horses will fall and that means the chances of TB or any other horse being brought down is much reduced.

But the key to him is that he has the class to either lie up with the leaders, or, if the pace is too hot (which I think it will be ), to sit in his favourite position near the back and switch on his cruise control. He’ll drift through the race taking little out of himself and as the last fence looms, cruise control will be switched off. Approaching the Elbow, overdrive will be engaged and I expect to hear the biggest cheer at Aintree since Red Rum’s third National victory in 1977.

If you need further persuading, Tidal Bay will carry half a stone less in the National than he would in any other handicap ‘chase. This is because the Grand National is treated as an extraordinary race by the handicapper. Not reason enough to merit favourable treatment for the best horses, but that’s an argument for another day and in this case, I’m happy to take advantage of it.

Tidal Bay, with top weight of 11.10, is officially the best horse in the race. He will carry 7lbs less than he should in a ‘normal’ handicap. The track and distance are tailor-made. He will need some luck in running but not nearly so much as he’d have needed previously.

Tidal bay can be backed at around 20/1. But Betvictor offer 16/1 with the concession of a free bet to the value of your stake if he is a non runner (in all ante-post bets without special conditions, your money is lost if the horse doesn’t run).

Ladbrokes offer an outstanding 25/1 which is sure to disappear in the next 24 hours, and I think it’s worth taking the chance he’ll definitely run for the sake of grabbing this huge price.

The greatest test of a horse’s popularity is the number of people cheering him home when they haven’t backed him. Don’t be left out, add a bet to the cheer!  Good luck to Tidal Bay and all other horses and jockeys in this great race, the Crabbies Grand National on April 5th.

Horses v Humans age scale
Horses v Humans age scale

Long Run should skip the Gold Cup and be trained for the National

Long_Run_CheltenhamI was pleased to hear that Long Run scoped dirty and that it was nothing physical from that bad blunder he made in yesterday’s Charlie Hall.  His consistency and attitude are rare and he’s still only 8. I don’t think he has gone downhill in the way his mark suggests – he was simply overrated on the two big races he won back to back.

In his King George in 2011, he met a sick Kauto Star, a two mile four horse in Riverside Theatre, then the usual suspects – Nacarat, Planet of Sound etc. He went up 17lbs for that, then three more were added when he ran down a pair in the Gold Cup who’d exhausted themselves battling from three out off a pace that had been hot throughout – SWC arguably outrode the pros that day. Remember too, that the second fav, Imperial Commander, pulled up (bled & lame).

He’s never been a 182 horse for my money. His mark now, 171, is about as good as he’s ever been, though I’d maybe allow a couple of pounds deterioration and put that down to very tough races. The Battle of the Somme he had in winning the 2012 KG would have finished quite a few horses. He’s hellish tough, though I’d find it hard to believe these constant challenges at the top level haven’t taken something out of him.

For me, he is what he’s always been; an out and out stayer. Against top class opposition he needs the desperate ground he got in the KG last year (worst going in the race since 1937), or hara-kiri performances by the other jocks in setting an unsustainable pace. In a fairly run Grade 1 on reasonable ground at 24 to 26 furlongs, he simply hasn’t got the pace at the business end.

As for Harry Topper – there’s a horse with an engine. He travelled farther than everything else in the race yesterday, walked through one fence, clattered a few more and pulled some double-jointed moves to stay upright. He looks as honest as you could wish for and if he can regain his confidence, he’d be a threat at the top level.

He was on the deck in his final two outings last season and went at many of the fences yesterday with obvious trepidation. I think an extreme close-up might have shown him shutting his eyes on take-off and hoping for the best!

K Bailey has a job on his hands in rebuilding  this horse’s belief in himself, but if he achieves it, HT would be a very lively Gold Cup outsider. And if his jumping doesn’t get better, oddly enough, he’d be tailor-made for the National. With the cores gone from those fences now (thankfully), HT would just barrel his way through the loose spruce. And if Long Run were mine, that’s where he’d be going next year. I’d miss the Gold Cup and send him to Aintree. Ninety nine percent of his errors are at his back end, and he’d just pull the spruce down and stay forever. And guess which jockey currently has the best strike rate over the National fences?

Richard Pitman talks about his ride on Crisp in the 1973 Grand National

I finally got round to editing this. It was shot before the 2013 Grand National – the 40th anniversary of Crisp’s heartbreaking defeat by the great Red Rum.  Richard sat with me on a bench outside Uplands, the famous yard he rode for in one of the best eras of National Hunt racing. Uplands had the first Millionaire’s Row (that I can remember, anyway), with horses like Crisp, Pendil, Bula, Lanzarote and Killiney. Richard was stable jockey at the time. He took a lot of stick from some for his ride on Crisp, but has always been his own fiercest critic. In this video he tells his story of the race.

The bench we’re sitting on has a plaque dedicated to Fred Winter. Richard talks about it, and Fred toward the end of the video.

You’ll hear the occasional passing horsebox in the background, although it’s never too intrusive.

Anyway,click here to see it.

Factfiles for all 40 John Smith’s Grand National runners

national_startThere are several individual factfiles for National runners elsewhere on my blog (see factfile tag at foot of this post).

But all 40 runners are covered in this PDF, kindly provided by Racenews – just click the link below to read it or download it.


My thoughts on the race are here

Good luck to you and to all jockeys and horses in the world’s greatest race.


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.



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.


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


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 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.


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



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


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


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.

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