Montjeu’s son, 200/1: can he win the National?

John Smith’s Grand National* entry, Our Monty has been trading at around 200/1 on Betfair these past few days and that is way too big in my opinion.

UPDATE: Our Monty caught a foot infection and has now been withdrawn from the race:

got into the race and is now (Wednesday) around 75/1 and still good value in my opinion.

A maximum of 40 runners will line up for the big race next Saturday and Our Monty is number 48 on the list so he needs a few withdrawals to get a run.  One horse, Our Monty’s stablemate, Ballytrim has already been taken out of the race (lame) and, sadly, One Cool Cookie – alongside Our Monty in the weights with 10stone 3lbs – suffered a fatal accident on the gallops.

So Our Monty needs six horses above him in the weights to come out at the next declaration stage – noon on Monday 4th April – to be sure of a run. Doubtless there will be some defectors on Monday and, possibly, between Monday and Saturday; the key will be whether those withdrawn are above him in the weights and, therefore, before him in the queue awaiting a chance to run. Four reserves will be chosen and they will wait in the wings in case a horse is withdrawn late in the week.

The good news is that trainer Willie Mullins is reported today as saying the horse will be left in till the final stages to face the ballot for a place in the line-up. If Our Monty is unsuccessful in that ballot, bets on him are void and his supporters get their money returned.

Mr Mullins said in his Racing Post column last weekend that he believed Our Monty had been overlooked and that the horse was very well. If he makes it to the post  on Saturday, it will be Our Monty’s first run since 15th November 2009 when he won the Paddy Cork Grand National. Here’s his form comment for that victory:

Settled in mid-division on inner, mistake 6 out, smooth progress to track leader entering straight, switched left to stands’ side and disputed 3 out, led next, cruised clear before last, very easily (op 2/1 tchd 11/4

The quote from jockey David Casey after that race was:

“I’d have no problem riding him over any trip. He could make an Irish National horse.”

Our Monty’s next outing after Cork was to be in the Coral Welsh Grand National. He was as short as 8/1 for that before being withdrawn.

I don’t know why the horse has been off so long – I suspect a tendon injury has kept him out.  However, Mr Mullins said last week that the horse is very well and they simply ran out of time in trying to find a prep race for him this season.

Our Monty’s full form panel appears at the foot of this article.  He has won and been placed on the Flat. Over jumps he’s won at 2miles 1furlong and at 3m 4f. He has victories on good to firm ground and on heavy.  Such versatility can be the sign of a very decent horse.

Our Monty joined the Mullins yard in late 2009 and is unbeaten in three runs since, winning each easily. He’s not that big but jumps well.  He fell first time out over fences but in four subsequent ‘chasing runs he has made just one mistake.  The trends boys will tell you that a horse with just five steeplechasing runs is one to avoid due to the experience needed in the National, and there’s plenty evidence to support that theory.  But  I never let trends put me off if the value is there.

Ruby Walsh is understandably committed to The Midnight Club and David Casey rides Arbor Supreme. If Our Monty gets in, he’ll make a  fine ‘spare’ ride and spark a few big dreams for some surprised jockey.

If Our Monty does not get into the National, watch out for him wherever he appears next.  He has an entry in Friday’s John Smith’s Topham Chase and has also been entered for the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on April 23rd.

If you can get on at odds above 25/1 for the National with a guarantee of money back if he is balloted out, you will have had value.  Taking the current huge prices available on the betting exchanges (Our Monty can be backed place only at what, in my opinion, should be his win price, around 24/1) is a no-brainer.

Good luck

*I get no payment or reward for anything that features here.  I mention sponsor’s names whenever I can because I believe they deserve support from anyone publishing articles about racing.

The Grand National: should the BBC stop slowmo replays of fallers in the best interests of racing?

The BBC’s coverage of the John Smith’s Grand National has become much more of a ‘people’s event’ over the past few years. The corporation does a fine job of informing and entertaining; a tough recipe to get right given the mix of highly knowledgeable fans and the once-a-year punters who form the vast majority.

Given racing’s ambitions to attract more people to the sport, I suspect that the BBC’s post-race analysis does those ambitions no favours.

Big broadcasters are pretty damn proud of the power of their software, and editors seem especially keen to highlight the ‘benefits’ of super-slow-motion.  Somersaulting horses, spilling brightly-silked jockeys across the Liverpool turf, is, I admit, very hard to resist from a drama viewpoint.  And no doubt many watch these shock and awe slowmo re-runs with that fascination that compels human beings to ‘rubber-neck’ at road accidents and street fights.

But, when the credits roll, how many once-a-year fans will be left with the impression that this is a fine sport at which to spend a day out?  Not a lot, I suspect.

Maybe the BHA has some figures.  Is there any noticeable upsurge in racecourse attendances in the weeks after the National?  Have surveys ever been done to test the effect Grand National coverage has on the image of the sport in general?

I accept that people want to know ‘where your money went’.  But couldn’t the BBC utilise its brilliant technology in creating an entertaining virtual re-run offering a much ‘softer’ summary of where horses left the race?  Keep the live footage for all the best bits of the race and show them as often, and from as many angles as you like, but please, BBC, stop concentrating on replays of fallers.

Show them once, if you must, at normal speed.  Frustrating as this might be to your ‘creatives’, you’d be doing the racing industry a considerable service.

Paddy Brennan loses stable jockey post

Paddy Brennan is no longer stable jockey at the Twiston-Davies yard. Sam Twiston-Davies will be the stable’s first choice, although Brennan will continue to ride for the yard on a freelance basis.

Head of the Our Friends In The North Syndicate Ian Robinson said, “It’s sad but probably inevitable, given the rapid rise of Sam who after all is the trainer’s son. Paddy will retain the ride on Imperial Commander until he decides he doesn’t want it, his relationship with the horse has been a critical part of our success. Paddy has 100% belief in the horse and the horse has 100% belief in Paddy. We also have 100% belief in Paddy, he is one of the very top horsemen in the business and we will look to use him on our other horses whenever we can”

BHA: Blocked Hearing Announcements please

Thoroughbreds are nervous creatures. Many are calm around the familiarity of the yard but start fretting as soon as the horsebox ramp is lowered.  At the centre of attention in the parade ring, PA announcements ringing out, music sometimes blaring from ‘on-course entertainers’,  highly strung horses can get into a lather, physically and mentally.

You need only stand by the paddock rail to see ears flicking, eyes rolling and jittery movements (and, as the old one goes, the horses are just as bad).

At the 2011 Cheltenham festival, some trainers fitted earplugs to their horses in the hope that ‘hearing no evil’ might help them remain calm and conserve energy.  Prior to the use of earplugs, there is no telling how many anxious horses left their chances (and punter’s money) behind the stands.

The use of earplugs need not formally be declared by trainers so I don’t know how many festival losers wore them.  But two winners did: Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly and Gold Cup winner Long Run.  Both horses were well supported in the market.

Racing Enterprises Ltd CEO, Rod Street’s recent blog entry contained these words:

“On the subject of betting, whilst we’ll wait for the detailed review of our recent survey, I do sense that racing does not maximise what should be a symbiotic relationship with existing punters who have telling and knowledgeable contributions to make. Again, social media provides the platform for feedback from punters who often feel at the wrong end of the queue when it comes to representation in the industry and regularly cite a lack of transparency over the industry’s workings. This is a challenge racing must meet. We need to find a means through which those punters know that their constructive viewpoints can make a difference”

Rod has the toughest job in racing, in my opinion, but he is steering the industry in the right direction; public airing of his views on testy subjects like the importance of off-course punter are refreshing. I doubt he would have put those words down without thorough consideration.

So it’s time the words were backed up with action.  £20,000 is needed to fund database changes so that punters can be informed when a horse is fitted with earplugs. The fact that the information should be out there seems not to be in dispute. The problem is the admin costs in making appropriate changes to the database – put at £20,000.

Austerity is in vogue but trying to make a virtue of it for such a paltry sum in a £billion industry is plain daft.

Racing wants more from ‘the betting industry’: the betting industry is funded by the punter. He is paying the piper and is entitled to call the tune, even if an animal he bets on might be unable to hear it.

Imperial Commander finished for the season

Imperial Commander won’t run again this season. Ian Robinson, head of the Our Friends in the North syndicate said “I have spoken to the other members and to the trainer and jockey and Imperial Commander will now head to Ireland for his summer holiday.

“The horse is well but he is best fresh and we wanted to end the speculation about a run at Aintree or Punchestown. Hopefully he will be back next year for another crack at the Gold Cup”

Why bother studying festival form? Should we just back Ruby and Mullins, lay AP and PFN for a fat profit?

Figures for the past five festivals suggest a cold-blooded approach to profit might well be best served by backing certain jockeys and trainers and laying others. But is it as straightforward as it seems?

Listed below are the records for jockeys, trainers and Ruby/trainer combinations over the past 5 festivals.

In order the list reads:

number of runners/rides

number of winners

strike rate

return on investment at Betfair odds where 100% = break even

cash profit/loss at £100 unit stakes (Betfair commission omitted)

Ruby Walsh







AP McCoy





£3,158 loss


Barry Geraghty







R Johnson







R Thornton







Willie Mullins







PF Nicholls





£4,301 loss


NJ Henderson





£3,530 loss


Alan King





£3,512 loss


D Pipe





£2,559 loss








NB this combination ran at a slight loss before the victory of Final Approach last week








Interesting that the 100 non-Walsh ridden runners for PFN produced just 4 winners and a substantial loss for backers. Also, the 70 (from 100) non-Walsh ridden Mullins horses also managed just 4 winners.

Ruby’s 7 ‘outside rides didn’t provide a winner. Following Ruby when riding for his two main ‘suppliers’ brings this result:






Building a ‘system’ on betting Ruby’s mounts would need to be a long-term strategy.  Had you begun following Ruby on day one of the 2007 festival, you would not have gone into profit until he rode American Trilogy (returned at 22.2 on Betfair) to win the County Hurdle in 2009.

Also, layers will be a shade wiser come next March and Ruby’s mounts will get tighter in price though whether they are ‘overbet’ to the extent that AP’s are (on the basis of these figures) is debatable.

Still, AP backers since 2007 would never have reached profit at any time; the bottom of their punting pit, at £100 stakes, being as low as £4,351 in losses.

A judicious combination of backing Ruby and laying AP might prove the best solution.

Good luck

Twitter Tipster Trophy winner: Paddy Power’s Studio Team with three winners and a return of £148.

Paddy Power’s democratic Studio Team chose 1 selection each and came up with the winning entry:

Big Bucks  Won 10/11

Hurricane Fly  Won 11/4

Cue Card 4th

Sizing Europe  Won 10/1

Total return £148.16

The team  – Thom Malone, Patrick Kennelly, Paul Ryan and Robert Catteson has won a £250 free bet on the John Smith’s Grand National courtesy of Iain Turner at, proceeds to go to the charity of the team’s choice.

Runner-up was Ben Aitken

Loosen My Load Jewson 3rd 11/2

Divers Centenary Chase  Won 10/1

On The Fringe Foxhunters 4th

Sir Des Champs M Pipe Conditional Hdl Won 9/2

To all the brave Celebs who agreed to take part, a big  . . .