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Friday 29 March 2019

2019 Grand National - some early thoughts

There's been a massive gamble on TIGER ROLL, and judging by his last couple of wins he's better than ever this season however his win over the Cross-Country course at Cheltenham is difficult to evaluate (but it certainly looked good).
He's no sort of price for a race as competitive as the Grand National, and as I tipped him to win the race last year I think I'm better-placed than most to give a fair and impartial view of his ability to win the race for a 2nd time next week.
He made a few errors last year, notably resulting in jockey Davy Russell losing his irons, and he also wandered about in the final 200 yards of the run-in losing a significant advantage to just last out and hold on at the line.
With Bristol De Mai a definite non-runner the weights will go up 4lb, so Tiger Roll will carry 11st 5lb which is 6lb more than he carried last year, and weight does matter in these marathon races and especially so when in a race like the Grand National as the pace is unrelenting.
If he gets round (and there is always an "if" in a race like the Grand National), then he will be in there with a great shout.  With the likelihood of having 10-plus stablemates running in the race - it may look like a the Tour De France protecting the team leader - there may be one or more stablemates in with a chance at the 2nd-last fence, and at that point "team tactics" have to go!
Which ones that Gordon Elliott will declare to run is debatable, and it's unlikely Alpha Des Obeaux will run (has a bruised foot), and I'm not sure that The Storyteller should be in the race as his best form is at 2m4f.  Outlander looks seriously out of his depth in this off OR158. We have not seen much of Don Poli since he was 3rd to Sizing John (who went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup) in Feb 2017, but he would need to at his best to be in with a chance off OR157.
The 11yo Mala Beach looks to have his best days behind him and will struggle off OR156. Shattered Love is another who looks best at 2m4f, but he did win a Grade 1 novice chase over 3-mile - however, the front 2 in the betting (Monalee and Rathvinden) fell, so that form isn't strong. It was Jury Duty who was 2nd in that race and while he hasn't set the world alight, he looks fairly treated on OR151 and comes here on the back of 2 recent wins, the last one over 3m2f.
Noble Endeavour has had a couple of runs this season after a 2-year break, and this marathon trip looks to be in his compass, and this 10yo could well be staying-on strong  The ground will likely be too quick for Monbeg Notorious, but he is a staying chaser; and I really do not know why they've entered Blow By Blow (except as a "spoiler").  General Principle will likely be better aimed at the Irish National (a race he's already won) on 22nd April, that this.
It's doubtful that any of those rated lower than General Principle (Nr 46 on OR144) will get into the race, so the only other Elliott entry to consider is the 8yo DOUNIKOS who was last seen winning the Grand National Trial (handicap) over 3m4f at Punchestown on 10th February.  He was ridden that day by Davy Russell, but he's certain to take the ride on Tiger Roll. So we know he will stay this sort of trip, and the ground will suit, it's whether he will get a run. If he does, he has (in my opinion) an outstanding chance, so I've taken the 100/1 available on Betfair. If he doesn't then I will likely be able to recover my losses (and more) in the Irish Grand National later in April.   
Those entries not attached to the Elliott stable that (at this stage) hold a realistic chance are:-
Lake View Lad, although he would prefer soft ground, so if there is rain next week (unlikely) he could be worth a wager. But then, the same can be said for last years runner-up Pleasant Company as on good-to-soft ground in 2017 he was well beaten despite finishing. 
RATHVINDEN has been aimed at this race since winning the 4-mile novice NH Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival. A top-class novice hurdler, he missed 3 years to injury before being brought steadily through the novice chase ranks in 2017. He probably would have contested the 2017 and 2018 Gold Cups but for the injury, and when he won LTO (respected Bobbyjo Chase) he looked like there was plenty of improvement in him and OR154 looks a very fair rating.
Rock The Kasbah will love the ground and stay this trip, but he does like things to go his way, and when they don't he chucks the towel in; so I get the feeling that he's one who will not enjoy this race. 
In the recent Cheltenham Gold Cup, trainer Patrick Kelly was given some criticism (including by me) for his preparation of Presenting Percy, and he can recoup his reputation if MALL DINI runs a big race.  A winner of the competitive 3-mile handicap hurdle at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, we know he stays well and he will handle the likely "good" going at Aintree. His trainer knows how to get him fit for a target race, and he will be well up for it next week, and I think he will be right there at the business end.
There are only two others that I think have a chance of winning the race and they are Vintage Clouds and Singlefarmpayment.
I'm sure there will be plenty scoffing at me including Singlefarmpayment, as he's been 2nd no less than 9 times and on 4 occasions the margin of defeat has been only a few inches. But the horse stays well, jumps well, is a very strong traveller, and he's unlikely to be worried out of the race if jumping the last fence well clear of the remainder.  His recent run will have prepared him well, and if this were any other handicap race he'd be trading at around 12/1 and not 66/1.
I've been saying for 12 months that Vintage Clouds will win a "National" and he's run 7th in the April-2018 Scottish National; 4th in the Jan-2018 Welsh National; and 3rd in the April-2018 Scottish National. He stays well, travels well and has a very similar profile to that of Singlefarmpayment, yet he's only 14/1 - which should make you realise what great value Singlefarmpayment is.
There was only one other horse that I was considering, but that was Blaklion, and he was declared a non-runner this morning.

A more detailed look will be posted on the evening before the race.

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