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Saturday 11 April 2015

This is it! The 2015 Grand National

The culmination of the 3-day Aintree is the running of the Crabbie's Grand National Chase at 4:15pm this afternoon. Possibly not the test of horse and rider it once was, but still a difficult race to win and one that needs an element of luck in running.

Before that, yesterdays selection Cue Card ran a brave race and I thought he was going to win when going-on after 4-out, but Don Cossack was phenomenal. I've rated the race thru' Johns Spirit who ran a cracker to be 3rd, and in my opinion DON COSSACK ran the performance of the season and I've rated it at 181.

On to todays racing at Aintree, and I have already looked at the National runners earlier in the week and produced a preliminary shortlist. With so little chasing experience (the Irish National is nowhere near as tough a race as this to win), I just cannot have the fav Shutthefrontdoor who is to be ridden by AP McCoy. The greatest jump jockey of all time has said he will retire immediately if he wins, but I think he'll be around a bit longer yet. Expect a mountain of money on him today and I expect he'll start as the 6/1 fav, maybe even shorter. As I rate him a 25/1 chance, there is no value whatsoever in him.

Before I go on, check out the bookies terms before having a wager. Bet Victor are paying 6-places to quarter-odds a place, and Bet365, Skybet, Boyles, Paddy Power, Stan James, Ladbrokes and Corals are paying 5-places, but William Hill are only paying 4-places! If you bet with Bet365 use their special Grand National page as they are refunding 50% of all stakes up to £125 win or lose.

This year looks a particularly tricky race to work out and I would suggest having 3 or 4 selections at eachway with the hope of finding the winner and a couple of places.

Rocky Creek should be the fav, and 11st 3lb is a cracking weight for this race. I expect him to finish in the 1st-5 home. Odds of 10/1 (Bet365, Boyles, Stan James and Ladbrokes) look fair for a ew wager.

The Druids Nephew looks ideal for this and comes here on the back of a LTO win at Cheltenham. He will be up there in contention from a long way out and odds of 14/1 look very generous to me as he should be trading at 10/1.

Soll is another who comes into this race bang in form, and he's completed the National course before, back in 2013 he was 7th in the race. He looks much improved now and odds of 20/1 look fair value.

An old friend of mine is Godsmejudge, and he may not have run well LTO but he's been aimed at this race all season.  Currently 22/1, he should be trading under 16/1 in my opinion.

The last one on my shortlist is First Lieutenant who is the ride of talented female jockey Nina Carberry. This one has shortened in the market from 33/1 on Wednesday to 20/1 now and will be the subject of a hot of support from once-a-year punters, so may get shorter in the market yet. The value has gone on this horse now (in my opinion) as he's a 25/1 chance.

I've also had an antepost wager on Spring Heeled, but I've lost confidence in this horse. He may run a big race but I cannot see him winning.

I have an antepost wager on Godsmejudge already, so today I'm adding:
The Druids Nephew with £5 eachway at 14/1,
Soll with £5 eachway @ 20/1
If you don't already have a wager on Godsmejudge, then place £5 eachway on him at 22/1.
Place the wagers with Bet365 and take advantage of the money-back offer.

Good luck!

Friday 10 April 2015

Aintree meeting Day 2 - 10th April 2015

No winners yesterday from our two selections, but we had a good run from our eachway wager on 25/1 chance BABY MIX. He looked like being placed until getting squeezed and losing a fair few lengths at the 3rd-last fence when badly hampered by the weakening fav Next Sensation. Even so, he stayed-on to be only just over a length off 4th place. There were some good performances yesterday and I was most impressed with CLARCAM in the opening race over 2m4f as he won this with a tonne in-hand. This 5yo could be exceptional next season.
The running style of SILVINIACO CONTI means that he only ever seems to do just enough to win as he is a relentless galloper. I rated it a solid performance but not his best ever (that was - in my opinion - his first King George win) and I have it about 7lb shy of Coneygree in the Gold Cup last month.

The opening couple of hurdle races look very tough today, so I'm starting my assessment with the Mildmay Novices Chase at 2:50pm over 3m1f. This looks a good novice chase, and the fav Saphir Du Rheu did me a favour when winning the Cleeve Hurdle at the Cheltenham Trials meeting in January, and then was only beaten by the winner in the World Hurdle at the Festival. Reverting to chasing today, he could take some beating as he looked a serious chaser in the making when winning at Exeter in December. However, odds of just 2/1 are poor value considering he is untried as a chaser at this trip, and his jumping fell apart at Kempton when he last went chasing. For me, the value in the race is CAROLES DESTRIER at 7/1 with Bet365 who pay quarter-odds a place. He's proven at 3-mile, comes here fit and well having bypassed Cheltenham, and has an exceptional speed rating.

Next up is the Betfred Melling Chase over 2m4f at 3:25pm and we have a tremendous quality field for this, one that would grace any festival in any year - absolutely top class. The race fav is Champagne Fever and he missed his run in the Champion Chase last month when bitten by a stablemate. Personally, I just don't think he's shown he is good enough yet over fences and I have him at 158+. The ground will possibly be too quick for Don Cossack, who was 2nd in the Mildmay Novice Chase over 3m1f last year. I wagered on Al Ferof antepost for the Ryanair Chase, and he missed that race thru' injury. He has perhaps the best form on paper this season judged on his win at Ascot last November, and he ran a solid race in the King George over a trip that is too far for him. Odds of 13/2 look generous in my opinion for a horse who goes best when fresh.
The last time Cue Card ran over this trip was when he was 2nd in this race in 2013 to Sprinter Sacre, recording a career-best of 174 in my book in the process. He's not looked near that level of form this season over 3-mile and this drop in trip could be the making of him. It is a small leap of faith, but odds of 7/1 could look extremely generous come 3:30pm. Course winner Balder Succes will love todays trip and ground, and he has youth on his side, so he won't be far away. It will surprise me if Sire De Grugy stays this trip, and he's never looked happiest around Aintree on his previous visits here.  John's Spirit is an autumn horse, and doesn't look good enough as do the others - Simply Ned, Wishful Thinking and Croco Bay.

For me, it's between Al Ferof, Cue Card and Balder Succes, and at the odds CUE CARD is the selection as he's always been a better horse than Al Ferof, and if Cue Card were not running then I'd be all over Al Ferof at 13/2 given the form that Paul Nicholls has his stable in.

Aintree 2:50 CAROLES DESTRIER, £5 eachway @ 7/1 (Bet365 quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
Aintree 3:25 CUE CARD, £5 eachway @ 7/1 (Bet365 quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
plus a £5 eachway double
Total stakes = £30

Thursday 9 April 2015

Aintree meeting Day 1 - 9th April 2015

What a cracking weekend of horseracing we have ahead of us, with the climax on Saturday being the Grand National. I'll be posting a blog on each of the 3 days of racing, and I'll also be posting on twitter (@wayward_lad) throughout the days' racing.  We have some tremendous racing today, including the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl Chase over 3m1f, and the spectacle of the Crabbie's Fox Hunters' Chase over the National fences for amateur riders.

Before we go into assessing the races, take note that at Aintree the top trainers dominate the meeting: those with the perfect combination of high strike-rates and most individual winners are Henderson, Nicholls, Hobbs, Twiston-Davies, and King. A special mention should also be made for Peter Bowen, and Tom George - but the likes of Pipe, O'Neill and McCain don't do well here.

The opening race at 1:40pm is a Grade 1 novice chase over 2m4f, and this will be a trip into unknown stamina territory for most. The race fav Josses Hill has not looked like staying 2m4f in a couple of attempts to date so I'm happy to oppose him. And the Nicholls entry Vibrato Valtat has not looked a 2m4f horse either. Clarcam just doesn't look good enough to justify his OR153 rating, and while Three Kingdoms has won over this trip as a hurdler, he doesn't look a natural jumper of a fence. That takes me to CASH AND GO who has won both his completed chases (he unseated his rider on his chase debut in February). He has come to chasing late being an 8yo, and he won easily LTO at Towcester over a similar trip with NTO winner Crazy Jack beaten a distance (34-lengths). A good handicap hurdler on his day, he's not a 20/1 chance - yet those are his odds with Bet365.

Next on the card at 2:15pm is a juvenile hurdle over 2m1f and I will be very surprised if the Henderson entry HARGAM does not win this. Henderson supplied the 1st-3 in this years Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and none of his rivals today look capable of beating him.

The feature race is at 2:40pm and the Betfred Bowl has some of those beaten in the Cheltenham Gold Cup seeking to find recompense. Last year, Silviniaco Conti came here and won this race after running in the Gold Cup. The next day, Holywell came out and won the Grade 1 novice chase over C&D in a much faster time beating what looks in hindsight to have been a much stronger field. He also beat "Conti" in the Gold Cup last month, staying on much stronger than his rival. We will see improved form from Conti today, but this track also suits Holywell and I favour his chances. Of the others, Ma Filleule even with the 7lb mares allowance should not prove good enough. This trip is a couple of furlongs too long for Menorah and so it is more likely that Smad Place will take 3rd place. Holywell should win this but, at just 2/1 he's not an advised wager from me as I don't advise wagers at odds less than 9/4.

The Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f is at 3:25pm, and this race looks interesting. I make no bones about it: I was surprised by the performance of Arctic Fire in the Champion Hurdle last month. Whether this 6yo can repeat that level of performance over this trip is debateable. Ex-Champion hurdler Jezki is - in my opinion - not a natural hurdler! He makes far too many errors costing him ground and energy, and you just have to wonder how good he would be if he did hurdle cleanly. In his favour today is that he has won a Grade 1 hurdle over this trip in Ireland, so stamina is not an issue for him - but is he good enough?  Last year, I tipped Rock On Ruby in this race at 14/1 and at 100/30 without the fav - and he came 2nd beaten just a head. He's only 4/1 this year, but he has the form in the book and hasn't looked like he's feeling his age in he last couple of races. With nothing else likely to come close in this ROCK ON RUBY at 4/1 (with Bet365, Paddy Power and Bet Victor) looks the wager.

I'm going to pass on the Fox Hunters Chase at 4:05pm, as you really do need luck in running to win this race, and move on to the next race on the card at 4:40 which is a 2-mile handicap chase.  Next Sensation and Ned Buntine finished 1st and 4th in the same race at Cheltenham, and they will be in the shake-up. Claret Cloak was the 7/2 fav for this last year and ran 3rd off OR146 but, now rated 7lb higher, is unlikely to better that effort. This race looks the sort to throw-up a long priced winner and I'm going to go a bit left-field and nominate a horse that has been on my alert list for a couple of years, but has spent most of that time off the track - BABY MIX. Last seen at Ascot in December 2013, he's been injured since then having probably picked up the injury in that race. Why he's on my list is due to the race before that when he walloped Turn Over Sivola (now rated OR139) by 18-lengths at level weights. As such, his rating today of OR135 looks very workable. Add to that he's a front-running sort and he looks an interesting eachway wager at 25/1 with Bet365 and Betfred.

Todays Selections
Aintree 3:25 ROCK ON RUBY, £10 win @ 4/1 (Bet365, Bet Victor, and Paddy Power)
Aintree 4:40 BABY MIX, £5 eachway @ 25/1 (Bet365 and Betfred, both quarter-odds 1,2,3,4)
Total staked = £20

Don't forget to take a look at my Grand National page for my assessment of the runners in the world's greatest race.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Grand National 2015 Preview

The blog has been going great guns since Christmas Day, and has returned the best performance for a jumps season since I started blogging in March 2010. This weekend we have the Aintree meeting culminating in the Grand National itself, and I'm attempting to find the winner.

Keep an eye on the bookmaker offers as Bet Victor go 6-places eachway to quarter-odds. There are a number of bookies paying 5-places: Bet365, Skybet, Boyles, Paddy Power, and Sporting Odds; plus a number of smaller bookies - so don't be tempted to place and eachway wager with the likes of Brtfred, Stan James, Ladbrokes, Coral or Hills who are only paying to 4-places.

Starting from the top-weight Lord Windermere, I'd be very surprised if this horse even finished the race. He may be a Gold Cup winner but he's just too slow. I really like Many Clouds and the Hennessy winner has a great profile for this, but I feel the ground won't be soft enough for him. The 7yo Unioniste is just too young to win, as races of this marathon nature require experience. I much prefer his stablemate Rocky Creek as the 9yo is at his peak and ran an excellent 5th in the race last year off a 3lb higher rating. He hit the front too early (4-out) last year and, if his jockey can hold off making his move till after the Melling Road, he will have a great chance.

For a horse with so few wins on his scoresheet, First Lieutenant has excellent credentials for this. He has been super consistent and one of his 3 chase wins was here in the grade 1, Aintree Bowl in 2013. He will love the ground, and is sure to stay this sort of trip. The booking of Nina Carberry is very interesting. The 11yo Balthazar King was 2nd in this last year and has been aimed to go one-better this time. However, he's on a 3lb higher rating and will need a bit of luck in running. Retiring Champion Jockey AP McCoy will be on Shutthefrontdoor, but this 8yo will be having only his 7th chase race and even tho' he won the Irish National last year (off OR142) he will need the luck of the Irish to win this off OR153. The form of that Irish win isn't strong (in hindsight) and neither is the form of his sole run  this season when winning at Carlisle last November.

I will be very surprised if last years winner Pineau De Re can repeat that victory off an 8lb higher rating of OR151 as, unlike last year, we have to take his well-being on trust. To be a serious contender in the National, a horse has to have at least won a chase race over 3-mile or more, and Ballycasey hasn't. There are a couple of horses that I've had an antepost wager on - and Spring Heeled is one of them. The form of the 2014 Kim Muir Chase at the Cheltenham Festival is top notch, and Spring Heeled won it. The doubt over him is the form of his trainer Jim Cullotty (who hasn't trained a winner in months). If this horse is fit enough then he will be good enough. Rebel Rebellion is another from Paul Nicholls and tho' this horse has been in top form this season, he is another who hasn't won a chase beyond 2m5f.

Dolatulo is a progressive chaser who will enjoy the ground and stay the trip. Just an 8yo, he's run 1st or 2nd in 8 of his 13 chase races to date, including winning his latest over 3m1f at Wetherby. On the downside, he did not seem to enjoy his run here over the National fences last December. It's likely Paul Nicholls will have 4 runners in the race, including Mon Parrain. This horse will jump the National fences but whether he runs or sulks we won't know until the race starts. On a good day he will be there at the finish. The 2nd of my antepost wagers is on Carlito Brigante. Once a newar top-class staying hurdler, he's not hit the same heights as a chaser despite looking like progressing as a top novice. What put him in my picture was his convincing win when stepped-up to a trip over 3-mile at Kelso last October when he carried 11st 12lb to victory with some serious handicappers well beaten behind him. He will love this ground and could be bang there at the business end.

Night In Milan has looked to be in the handicappers grip this season, and while the trip and ground will really suit him, I can't see him winning off OR146. As for Rubi Light, he hasn't won beyond 2m4f. The Druids Nephew has winning form over 3-mile and will enjoy the ground - he also comes into this race on the back of a tremendous win at Cheltenham. As such, he's the best handicapped horse in the race, and the odds of 14/1 that are available look generous. Cause Of Causes comes into this race perhaps a year too early being just a 7yo - but he has run in 11 chase races, winning LTO at Cheltenham. He is also very well handicapped but, as he's a horse who will be held-up till late in the race, he will need luck in running.

Godsmejudge came close to winning his 2nd Scottish National in April last year off OR145, and has been aimed at winning this race all season. If he can repeat the performance of his Scottish National run then he will come very close to winning as I reckon he's 10lb better than OR145 at his best. At 22/1 with Bet Victor, he strikes me as the best value eachway wager in the race. The horse who beat him in that Scottish National was Al Co, and they meet on level terms in this. The 5lb swing to Godsmejusge will be enough to reverse the places in my opinion but, also, Al Co needs the ground "good" or better to show his best form. I've never thought of Monbeg Dude as a potential Grand National winner due to his "hold-up" running style which doesn't suit this race (the pace is relentless from the off); but he's looked held by the handicapper this season, and I can't see him winning a race anywhere with a rating greater than OR138, and he runs in this off OR144.

All the best form of Corrin Wood has been shown on soft/heavy ground, and much the same can be said of The Rainbow Hunter. As for Saint Are, he may have run a cracker over the National fences last December, but that was off OR127 and, while he is improving, he's now up 16lb to OR143 for beating 6 rivals at Catterick in a class 3 chase. The 11yo Across The Bay has all his form on soft/heavy ground, and Tranquil Sea at 13yo is just too old, and I have to say the same about the 14yo Oscar Time.

Rebecca Curtis has raced up the training ranks in recent years and you cannot underestimate her horses, but Bob Ford needs soft/heavy ground and may not yet have recovered from his effort when winning the West Wales National at Ffos Las in January. When Super Duty ran 2nd in the Kim Muir in 2013, I thought he was a potential National winner. He's had his problems but, when he's fit and well he's much better than his current OR141 rating. Unfortunately, his last couple of runs suggest he still has his problems. Wyke Hill is another horse best on soft/heavy ground. However, Gas Line Boy is an interesting contender. If he can get prominent early and into a good rhythm then he's the sort who will be there till the end. The worry is that the early pace may be too quick for him and he will lose interest, but he's not a 100/1 chance which are the odds offered about him by Paddy Power.

The 11yo Chance Du Roy was 6th in the National last year off OR143 and tho' he's rated 2lb lower this time, it wont be enough. The 2012 Eider Chase winner Portrait King seems to run his best races in smaller fields (less than 12 rivals) and is hard to predict. The Irish horse Owega Star has never won a chase race beyond 2m6f, and the same applies for the French raider River Choice who does not look like he will stay 3-mile, let alone 4-mile-plus! The lightly raced 10yo Court By Surprise comes into this off a very long break of 154-days, and that may be too much to overcome. However, he does look the ideal type to do well. Last years 4th Alvarado returns off a 1lb higher rating, having run just once in the past year. He was well off the pace last year, passing half-a-dozen beaten horses on the run-in and it is hard to see him running a winning race this year. Another 10yo Soll, has finally shown his potential this season having moved to the stable of David Pipe but, even so, he was well beaten in the 2012 National off OR132. If you can overlook that run, then he looks to hold a decent chance off OR139 as he's currently rated OR146 by the handicapper for future races.

Having run in only 4 chase races, it is unlikely that Ely Brown will take part. The trainer of last years winner also runs Royale Knight this year and he looks very interesting. Holding plenty of jumping experience, since winning the 3m6f Durham National he's been confined to hurdle races to preserve his handicap rating.  However, I think he's just a bit too slow for this race.

Shortlist (with best available odds):
Rocky Creek @ 10/1
First Lieutenant @ 33/1
Spring Heeled @ 22/1
Carlito Brigante @ 66/1
The Druids Nephew @ 14/1
Godsmejudge @ 22/1
Court By Surprise @ 50/1
Soll @ 20/1

I've place antepost wagers on
Spring Heeled
Carlito Brigante
and Godsmejudge

I would certainly not put anyone off having an eachway wager on The Druids Nephew (14/1) and Soll (20/1), First Lieutenant (33/1) and Court By Surprise (50/1) - remember that Bet Victor are paying to 6th place. Whereas Rocky Creek looks a bit short to me at 10/1, and I'll pass on him.