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Wednesday 18 December 2013

Is the Grand National still the toughest test?

Yesterday's horseracing wasn't up to much and didn't warrant a blog entry. As such, I pondered the jump racing scene and watched a few old video's on the internet, including a replay of the 1967 Grand National won by Foinavon. I was given a book token by one of my son's for my recent birthday, and used the proceeds to purchase the book "Foinavon – the story of the Grand National's biggest upset" written by David Owen (published by Wisden Sports Writing). This is a superbly written book which captures all the magical threads that make-up such an event, and weaves them together into a story that would make an incredible movie – except nobody would think it possible!
I remember watching the 1967 Grand National on a small black & white tv screen when I was aged only 7yo and the images are indelibly printed on my mind. It is a great shame in this increasingly commercial world that an event that happened nearly 46 years ago is not able to be shown on the internet for free except with "official" movietone or pathe film versions. The commentary of Irishman Michael O'Hehir, stationed at Becher's Brook, is one of live televisions greatest sound-bites and horseracing fans should not be denied access.
Reading the book and watching the videos has made me wonder whether, if Foinavon was running today, he would even get a run in the National. I've even started thinking - with all the modifications to the fences, the reduction in the distance of the race, and the movement in the racing calendar (from 1st Saturday in April to the 2nd Saturday in April) which virtually guarantees good ground – is the Grand National still the toughest test for horse and rider in the National Hunt calendar?
Onto today's racing, and we have a couple of decent meetings at Newbury and Ludlow. I don't like being critical of the easyodds alert system as it has done me proud over the past 4 years since I started using is but, since they updated the site about 3 weeks ago, it has become a real trial updating my alert list and it is affecting my performance. In the 12:50 at Ludlow, my alert list runner is BOBCATBILLY who impressed me when winning his chase debut LTO over C&D. He's been raised 8lb for that win to OR118 but that should not stop him, even so this looks competitive. At odds of just 2/1, he's not a value wager, and in this 8-runner race it may be worthwhile looking at an eachway wager on Be All Man who tries this 2m4f trip for the first time as a chaser but has won over 2m4f as a hurdler and is 7/1.
Next up in the 2:25 at Ludlow is RYDALIS. I'm not sure this hors stays 3-mile even tho' he's a C&D winner on soft ground (actually dead-heated having looked the winner when clear at the last fence). I was on Cootehill LTO when he only just failed over 3m2f here and he's another "plodder" beyond 2m4f who has gone up 5lb for that last run which looks harsh. As such, this race looks at the mercy King Massini, and the odds of 2/1 (BetVictor and Stan James) look generous, as he's 13/8 in places.
At Newbury, I have a few alert runners entered, starting with a couple in the 12:40 GAS LINE BOY and MIDNIGHT PRAYER. Altho' I think Gas Line Boy looks on a rating he can win from, MIDNIGHT PRAYER could end up a 150+ rated horse before the end of this season and current odds of 15/8 look very generous.
In the 1:40 at Newbury, alert horse MR MUDDLE makes a fairly quick reappearance for Sheena West and this game horse looks ahead of the handicapper and, having won over 2m5f as a hurdler, this trip of 2m2f & 110 yards is within his scope as a chaser. Again, odds of 2/1 look interesting.
Finally, in the 2:15 we have alert list runner GULLINBURSTI, and this is no easy task with the opposition – Poungach, Super Duty, Hadrian's Approach - all proven chasers. The highest rated, and best off at the weights, is GULLINBURSTI but the best odds available of just 7/4 leave no room for error.
With none of my alert list runners trading at odds of 9/4 or greater, I'm not advising a wager today.

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