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Friday 14 April 2023

Grand National 2023 - The runners

The most famous horserace in the World, the Grand National, is run next Saturday 15th April at Aintree.  This spectacular race is like no other, a unique course, unique fences, and the longest race in the calendar.

What do we know going into this year's race? With 5 winners in the last 10 years at odds of 25/1 or longer, you cannot discount the chance of any particular horse. Last years winner Noble Yeats won with 10st 10lb off OR147, and this year he is set to carry 11st 11lb off OR166.  Personally, I don't think he's a 19lb better horse (OR166 less OR147), but he has improved and will stay every yard. If he's near the front with 2 fences to go then he's going to be thereabouts.
The horse he beat into 2nd, Any Second Now, carries 11st 12lb (4lb more than last year, when rated OR159), and he has been aimed at this race all season, he won't be far away at the finish, and at 16/1 he looks fair eachway value - however, I can't see either of this pair winning.
Before I go any further, the place terms will be generous on this race, with every major bookie going 6-places 5th odds-a-place, and Skybet going 7-places. We could see a couple more bookies going 7-places on the morning of the race, so be sure to check. 
The 9yo Galvin is set 11st 11lb, and is a horse with abundant stamina. If you compare his performance when 4th in the 2022 Gold Cup with Noble Yeats' performance in this years Gold Cup they are about the same, yet Galvin is 20/1.
Fury Road has won at 3-mile, but he looks a better horse over shorter trips and I can see him not finishing. A point to remember is that most of those who do not finish are pulled-up; any lack of stamina will be found out over this 4-mile, 2-furlong trip. 
There is no lack of stamina in The Big Dog, but he's not the best jumper of a fence; I feel he will be caught out at some point. I think the same of Capodanno, who was a promising novice chaser but he's only run once in the past 12 months; he's not for me.
Last year, Delta Work was 3rd with 11st 9lb and he has 5lb less to carry this year. However, despite leading to the 2nd last fence he had no more to give and he does not look to have a winning chance. 
The 11yo Sam Brown is a classy horse at his best, and soft ground and this trip will not phase him, but he can get left behind. If he stays in-touch  until the 2nd circuit he could be able to figure in the finish, so the 80/1 offered by Bet365 looks interesting (66/1 elsewhere).
Lifetime Ambition is another who looks likely to struggle to stay beyond 3-mile; the ground looks very soft on parts of the course which will find out the doubtful stayers. 
Carefully Selected was a top novice chaser, then was off the track for 3 years till reappearing on 27Dec. That was just a pipe-opener, as he won the renowned Thyestes Chase (h'cap) on 26Jan.  A poor run LTO, as he probably "bounced", he has top claimer Michael O'Sullivan and could do well.
Last year, Coko Beach was in the front-rank for a long way till his stamina gave out, and with soft ground I fear the same fate again this year, even if he's held-up early on. The same applies to Longhouse Poet who also failed to stay last year on better ground. 
We could see a decent performance from Gaillard Du Mesnil, if he's recovered from him recent Cheltenham win; but I fear this trip will find him out.  
Darasso does not look capable of staying the trip.  However, Le Milos should have no problem, and he looks to have had a perfect preparation this season, which saw him win the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury.  I will be honest: he's looked my idea of the winner of this race for some time.  Odds of 16/1 are available. 
Escaria Ten didn't stay the trip in last years National, so I have to strike through him. Whereas The Big Breakway should have no problem with this trip having run 2nd in the Welsh National in December, carrying the massive weight of 11st 13lb. He could go very well in this race, and I'm surprised that he's available at 40/1.
I cannot see Cape Gentleman staying the trip and finishing this race. I cannot say the same about the French-trained Roi Mage. He has run a massive 38 times as a chaser (mainly in France), so he's unlikely to find improvement on what we've seen, but he's certain to stay the trip - however, he may do it in his own time.  The same can probably be said for Diol Ker who has been well beaten in 3 races beyond 3m1f.
The National always has some odd runners in it, and the 7yo A Wave Of The Sea is such a horse: he's run in 21 chase races and never won beyond 2m4f, despite attempting 3-miles 7 (yes seven) times.
Trainer Donald McCain always has a runner (his dad Ginger McCain trained 3-time winner Red Rum), and this year his entry is Minella Trump: he has won on sift ground over 2m4f but he may find this trip too much for him.
Vanillier, who won the Albert Bartlett hurdle over 3-mile as a novice hurdler, should be able to stay this trip, but his overall chase form looks too weak for this race. 
Velvet Elvis has always failed at trips beyond 3-mile when asked, and he's unlikely to figure.
Trainer de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore combine on Ain't That A Shame (best odds 8/1) and it's no surprise to see this horse head the betting. A lightly race 9yo, he looks sure to stay the trip, but he can lack pace in the final stages. Should be placed, but I can't see him winning. 
Recent Cheltenham Festival winner Corach Rambler should relish this race and ground, and if he's close to the front with 2 fences to jump he will be tough to beat. My worry is that he likes to run at the back of the field early-on, and he risks being hampered. 
Enjoy D'Allen never went beyond the 1st fence last year, and that's not a good omen, especially as he's shown nothing in the past year to suggest he could go well in this race.
Before last year, there had not been a winning 7yo since 1940, so it's unlikely that there will be 2 in-a-row. Mr Incredible has abundant stamina, but he could not win a tough handicap chase at Cheltenham last month, so maybe next year for this one. 
Mister Coffey just plods along at his own pace, and I expect that's what he will to in this race.
Venetia Williams produced Mon Mome to win this race at 100/1, and her Cloudy Glen could go well if not losing touch as he seems to have lost his mid-race pace these days. 
Hill Sixteen has run well over this course before, but not in the National. He's been prepared for this race, but the way he ran a couple of weeks ago suggests the horse will not be in the mood. 
Gabbys Cross is unlikely to stay the trip as he's not won beyond 2m6f. 
A late jockey booking is Jack Foley (only 3 rides in the past 2 weeks) on Recite A Prayer. Why connections could not find a rider earlier I don't know as this horse has stamina to burn, and he's trained by Mullins. A 3rd in the Cork National, 2nd in the Kerry National, and winner of the Killarney National, I'm surprised regular rider Danny Mullins is on Capodanno. The worry is that he does not go well off a long break, and he last ran on 27Dec when well beaten. 
Eva's Oskar has run some fine races this season, stays well and handles soft ground. Carrying 12st LTO in the 4-mile-plus "Eider" Chase found him out, and with just 10st 2lb in this, he has to be on the shortlist at odds of 80/1 with Skybet.
Trainer Sam Thomas has had a great season, and his Our Power has contributed to that success. But I feel he may be a tad outclassed in this race, and the soft ground may well find him out. 
Dunboyne is another plodder who struggles to get his head in front when it matters, he's not for me.
Trainer Peter Bower loves Aintree, but his Francky Du Berlais is here only to give his owners a day out as he's unlikely to stay this marathon trip.
Fortescue lost his rider 4-out last year in this race when beaten, and pulled-up in the Welsh National on soft ground: I can't see him doing any better this year.
Back On The Lash is too slow to figure in this race, and Born By The Sea is another very doubtful stayer.  
My Shortlist is:-
Noble Yeats @ 12/1
Sam Brown  @ 66/1
Le Milos @ 16/1
The Big Breakway @ 40/1
Corach Rambler @ 10/1
Eva's Oskar @ 80/1
Personally, I think this is a very open race, and we could see 8 or 10 runners at the 2nd-last fence holding a potential winning chance (and that is exactly what happened). If we do, then it's anyone's race. Regards Noble Yeats and Corach Rambler, I think they are too short in the betting in such an open & competitive race to recommend as a wager; by all means have a punt on them if you want to, but "win-only", as they both hold "win-or-bust" chances.  
My "nap" is LE MILOS and I'm having £5 eachway on him @ 16/1.
I'm having £2 eachway on the other 3: Sam Brown @ 66/1; The Big Breakaway @ 40/1; and Eva's Oskar @ 80/1. That's £22 staked.
Post-race analysis: spot-on with Corach Rambler, on my shortlist and he won well. I did say he was a "win-only" wager.  I also said Noble Yeats was a "win-only" wager, and he ran 4th. Le Milos looked like being placed at the final fence, but faded on the run-in. The Big Breakaway and Sam Brown were fallers on the 1st-circuit which was disappointing. Eva's Oskar was going well, but he jumped into the back of Delta Work (who had made a bad error and was losing his jockey) and his jockey was knocked off - very unlucky considering we know the horse stays very well, but that's the Grand National, nothing is guaranteed.

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