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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.

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