Friday 9 April 2010

4:15 Aintree Grand National Special

It’s that time again.

The months, weeks, days, hours and minutes have been running down. And somewhere the sound of every passing second leads to a neigh bellowed from a retro alarm clock in the form of Red Rum, which jumps about the bedside table, announcing the start of a new day.
As one man wakes, a nation grows in excitement with thoughts of the John Smith’s Grand National Chase.

On Saturday 10th April, millions of betting slips will be scrawled with a time and destination (4:15 Aintree) detailing a selection of some forty horses competing in this racing spectacle, crowned with the excitement of placing a bet – to find that lucky winner.

This unique race is run over four and a half miles and includes thirty fences. It is often concluded by a thrilling battle to the finishing line.

Such is the broad appeal of the Grand National that families, friends and strangers alike come together to cheer their ‘winner’ home. It captures the minds with the feel-good factor of a bright, summer’s day. On this day, the gambler that hides within us all stirs, abuzz with activity, throughout households across the country. No other race could bring a smile to Auntie Mable’s face like Foinavon’s victory. Or stick in the memory so clearly as Red Alligator's win in 1968 just because you liked his snappy name. Who couldn’t be touched by the fairytale of Aldaniti and jockey Bob Champion, prevailing not only in a race that captured the heart’s of a nation but witnessed his courageous fight against cancer.

The Grand National gets people talking like no other race.

Since the very first running in 1839, won by a horse, which some may say was appropriately named Lottery, ridden by Jem Mason and trained by John Elmore, the Grand National has been transformed to the world’s most famous race. Fences such as Beecher’s Brook, St Valentines, The Chair and Canal Turn have become folklore adding to an occasion, which evokes excitement and anticipation as we live the race.

The Grand National tells a story – often one of hope over adversity.

The winner becoming immortalised within racing history: the losers often bravely returning to take a second chance.

The Grand National means many things to many people – but mostly it is fun – capturing the moment by taking a chance. Could you imagine any other time when your grandmother asks if you have a betting slip she can use!

To observe the myriad of ways people make their selections is a novelty in itself. From the old favourites: picking a lucky name to choosing your favourite coloured racing silks. Some will always go with the favourite. While others pick theirs from a hat. (Then quickly change their mind when realising it’s the outsider of the field!) Whichever technique you use, from reading the form to closing your eyes, pointing, and hoping beyond hope, for some it is a winning day.

Just ask all those who backed last year’s winner – Mon Mone at 100-1.

But what are we to make of this year’s spectacle?

As a starting point, it is interesting to note a few statistical facts, which suggest that it is difficult for runners carrying 11st 2lb or more to win. If this year follows a similar pattern then recent winners such as Mon Mone and Comply Or Die will need to buck a trend that has held strong since 1984.

Silver Birch, victor of the 2007 National, presently a reserve, is within the prime weight for success, but has the unenviable burden that no horse has won over the age of twelve since 1923. Whatever your process of elimination, you will need an aspect of luck.

Good luck!

The Grand National is never an easy race to assess – endless variable make huge-priced winners a possibility, however, the majority of winners come at shorter odds, often 20-1 and less.

Here are four candidates who have decent each way claims:

Trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh this partnership will be hoping for better fortunes than the disappointment of Kauto Star falling in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. One of the youngsters in the field at eight years old, this gelding by Primitive Rising has been a consistent type and a recent win should put him on good form for this. Having finished sixth behind Mon Mone in last year’s National, that experience should boost the chances of another clear round although he needs to avoid careless mistakes.

Owned by J. P. MacManus you can be confident this gelding will be fit and ready for this although the drying ground may be a concern. Taking his first run outside Ireland, Willie Mullins will be hoping his representative follows in the hoof prints of the durable Snowy Morning who has run well on his last two outings at Aintree. Arbor Supreme ran a creditable second last time at Leopardstown and certainly a newcomer to consider here.

A debutant for the Grand National, this grey gelding by Accordion will have lady luck on her side with Nina Carberry in the saddle. Having raced over 4 miles, this distance should be within his compass. After racing at Doncaster and Cheltenham, this ten-year-old trained by J.J.Quinn should be primed for a big run.

Evan Williams’ bay gelding has won over £270,000 in prize money and raced at the highest level including a Gold Cup. A lightly raced gelding he needs to come back from a disappointing effort back in November when pulling up. He ran with credit in last year’s National, finishing 4th, and if back to his best must have a good chance of making the frame once more.