Cheltenham – PETER O’SULLEVAN NATIONAL HUNT CHASE

CHELTENHAM 12:30 – PETER O’SULLEVAN NATIONAL HUNT CHASE (AMATEURS) (CLASS 2) (5yo+) 4m

4/1 Ornais, 5/1 Over The Creek, 8/1 Back On Line, 9/1 Beantown, 12/1 Old Benny, Sandhurst, 14/1 Here´s Johnny, Ice Tea, 16/1 Leading Authority, 20/1 Menchikov, Niche Market, Oulart, 25/1 In Accord, RimSky, Sherwoods Folly, Sizing Australia, 40/1 Millards Lad, Pass It On, 50/1 Dreux, The King Of Angels.

SELECTION – OLD BENNY

* This is a 4m Novice Chase – the old National Hunt Chase
* The last 3 winners were 33/1 33/1 and 40/1 + a 25/1 as well 5 years ago
* OULART and DREUX look too exposed to be winning
* No horse like OULART had more than 15 Chase starts
* I dont want to bet any horse that ran within 14 days (1-61 record)
* IN ACCORD and OULART fail that
* Do not bet horses that ran with a 7 week or more absence
* Only the 1998 winner who was different class won this with an absence
* SIZING AUSTRALIA fails that
* You want at least 3 career starts – All winners since 1993 could say that
* SANDHURST fails that and has less experience than every other runner
* That Said I want to keep SANDHURST on my side as he is “Interesting”
* You want at least 4 runs that season
* The only time in 15 years the winner ran fewer than 4 times was in 1998
* Wandering Light ran just twice that year. He was different class that year
* The last 16 winners had the following races in the season they won
* They had 7-4-4-4-5-8-5-6-2-7-7-6-5-10-4-4 previous races that season
* OULART fails that
* BEANTOWN has ran just twice this season but again I want to keep him on side
* MENCHIKOV has ran just once this year and he is out
* PASS IT ON has ran just 3 times but will be respected for connections
* ORNAIS has had only 3 runs and is a 6 year old
* Horses aged 6 have a 0-43 record since 1989.
* This race looks too tough for them
* ORNAIS – THE KING OF ANGELS – DREUX are 6 year olds
* So to are SHERWOODS FOLLY – SIZING AUSTRALIA
* I want to oppose ORNAIS as a 6 year old and just 3 runs that year
* His worst two runs came at this track and he may be more of an Aintree horse
* His trainer has raised doubts about the Track as well
* OVER THE CREEK was 4th last time in the Reynoldstown beaten 27 lengths
* OVER THE CREEK is reasonably sound statistically despite being a 9 year old
* They dont score that well but they can win
* My objection to OVER THE CREEK is the same as it was for the Reynoldstown
* I hated the fact he came from the Welsh National
* He was 3rd in a hard race for the Welsh National and that may have knocked him back
* He had nothing to offer last time out and I would be wary about that
* Has he left his season behind at Chepstow would be my main worry
* Thats no more than a hunch but I opposed him correctly last time for the same reason.
* NICHE MARKET has two poor runs to put behind him
* Would be worried about his last 2 runs and he isnt from a stable with a festival pedigree
* LEADING AUTHORITY has form closely tied up and has a similar weak chance
* HERES JOHNNY has to put his last run behind him when jumping badly
* 22 of the last 24 winners had a 1-2-3-4 place last time out
* MILLARDS LAD has an outsiders chance much as he isnt the best age
* I cant fault ICE TEA statistically other than failing to place last time
* He isnt totally out of this but he will need a career best

SHORTLIST

BACK ON LINE -BEANTOWN -OLD BENNY -RIMSky -SANDHURST

Since 2002 the race conditions have changed. If we take the last 6 winners you will see that all winners came from 25f or shorter. There were no horses that ran over 3m 2f or more last time. That suggests to me these horses are slower and although they look better bets as they have less stamina to find they really are not as they lack the class of the speedier horses. Its almost the same as why 2 milers on the Flat do not win the St Leger despite being the proven stayers. In the last 3 renewals there were 21 horses that ran at 3m 2f or more on their last run and only 1 of these managed to scrape a place. I am going to follow this in this race and that means ignoring he horses that ran at beyond 25f last time out. These include BACK ON LINE and RIMSKI

* BACK ON LINE had an otherwise excellent profile in my view
* She is a Mare – and comes from a handicap but I am ok with that
* Loving Around (1996) was a Mare that won this from a handicap
* As she ran at over 25f last time I take her on
* She may also need softer ground
* RIMSky was placed in the Eider Chase last time out
* So to was the 1993 winner (Ushers Island)
* RIMSky loves soft ground and I wonder if it will be soft enough
* I reject RIMSky as he ran at 4m last time

This leaves 3

BEANTOWN -OLD BENNY -RIMSky -SANDHURST

I feel I have to give massive respect to SANDHURST but have to overlook him down to his lack of experience. SANDHURST has inexperience to worry about and thats a big problem. He looks a very interesting prospect and is clearly laid out for this and he looks a horse that has a lot of ability and I wouldnt put it past him to sicken me by winning but he is very inexperienced and has only ran in 1 completed chase as he fell at the last on his second run. BEANTOWN is interesting. He was second in this race in 2006 at 40/1 and that was an excellent run for such an inexperienced horse. Injury has held him back since but he won well last time and looks a big runner and he’s been Laid out for the race. What I dont like about him is the fact he is a 10 year old – and has just 2 runs this season.

OLD BENNY is therefore my choice and I am more than happy with him. He is held on form by Ornais last time out but this is a completely different test over a Mile more and I feel that suits me far more and I dont see any reason why this track should be a problem. That risk is factored into his price.

Posted under Major Horse Races

Grand National

Below is my Grand National Analysis from last year.

Hedgehunter did not do the business unfortunately however the 25/1 advised was great value compared to the 10 /1 starting price on the day.

Many of my clients traded back on Betfair for a risk free bet to nothing.

AINTREE 4:15 – JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL CHASE (HANDICAP) GRADE 3 (CLASS 1) (6yo+) 4m4f

5/1 Cloudy Lane – 9/1 Slim Pickings – 10/1 Comply Or Die – 12/1 Bewleys Berry – 12/1 Simon – 14/1 Chelsea Harbour – 16/1 Butlers Cabin  20/1 King Johns Castle – 20/1 Mckelvey – 22/1 Mr Pointment – 22/1 Point Barrow – 25/1 D’argent  – 25/1 Dun Doire – 25/1 Hedgehunter  25/1 Mon Mome – 25/1 Philson Run – 25/1 Snowy Morning -33/1 Lami – 33/1 Turko – 40/1 Black Apalachi – 40/1 Joaaci – 40/1 Kelami  50/1 Backbeat – 50/1 Baily Breeze – 50/1 Idle Talk – 50/1 Knowhere – 50/1 Vodka Bleu – 66/1 Fundamentalist – 66/1 Madison Du Berlais 66/1 Naunton Brook – 66/1 Opera Mundi – 100/1 Bob Hall  -100/1 Cornish Sett – 100/1 Hi Cloy- 100/1 Iron Man – 100/1 Milan Deux Mille   100/1 No Full – 100/1Tumbling Dice -150/1 Nadover – 500/1 Contraband

Statistics are no substitute for Judgement. They can help a great deal but it’s the Judgement that counts and the ability to define and interpret any statistics that is important and that’s what I hope to do with this year’s Grand National. As ever there is an overdose of trends and statistics that can be found anywhere and everywhere. Not many of them make any real sense or work as they should do. I have my own Unique set of trends this year that I feel will Unlock the winner. I intend to support and follow the statistics that make sense and that are undeniable. I intend to ignore the statistics that are simply wrong – misleading or misunderstood but I also want to highlight the real issues in the Grand National that are not in the Public Domain.

The Main point of trends and statistics is to Narrow the Field down as much as possible without missing the winner. There are some trends that are well known that do make sense and that cannot be ignored and I will start with these. It is an inescapabable conclusion that you do not want a 6 or 7 year old. There has not been one for 68 years and it’s pretty clear that it’s highly unlikely to be different this year.  In the last 16 years of the National only one horse aged 6 or 7 has even managed to finish the course. I have to ignore the slim claims of the 6 year olds TURKO , OPERA MUNDI and MILAN DEUX MILLE and the 7 year olds MADISON DU BERLAIS – IRON MAN – NO FULL ,  BOB HALL – NADOVER and IN THE HIGH GRASS. The field is now down to 31 runners.

SEPERATE ENGLISH HORSES

I take the view that before you apply trends in this race you have to separate the English Horses from the Irish horses. That’s something nobody else does but it makes perfect sense to do that if you think about it. The English horses have completely different seasons on different tracks and the Racing Calendar is geared to so types of races that you do not see in Ireland and many big races in England and Ireland are at different times of year and suit different types of horses. Training methods are different. The weather and ground is often different and whilst some Irish horses often race in England and vice versa you cannot escape the conclusion that the Irish horses get to Aintree having had a very different season and a separate type of preparation. As to which country holds the upper hand it’s been Ireland recently as they have won the last 3 runnings of the race and 4 of the last 5 runnings. I want to fully test all the English runners in this race and when I am satisfied that I have the very best English runners I will then consider them against their Irish opponents. I am looking at

* The English trained horses that ran in the Grand National since 1994

* The English trained horses that ran in 46 similar races run between January and June since 1998

* There has been 46 handicaps between 3m 7f and 4m 4f in Class 2 and higher during that time

EXPOSED ENGLISH HORSES

Having complied detailed statistics on horse racing every day for years much has been learnt along the way. What I have learnt is that when statistics Fail – or at least when the interpretation of them fails it is far more likely to have been done by a lighter raced and unexposed horse than an exposed one. Horses grow in strength and maturity but there comes a peak in their development when the improvement usually stops or declines and the handicapper catches up with them.  Horses that have yet to reach that point can do things that exposed horses cannot do. If a horse does something that’s never been done before it’s far more likely that the horse will have been unexposed and lighter raced than over exposed and lacking any great improvement. You have to put a Numerical value on how exposed is exposed before you can apply statistics about these types. It doesn’t matter what that number is. The higher the number of races a horse has had the less capable it will be of doing things other horses cannot do and that’s a really important point. Whether a horse has 5-10-15-20-25-30 runs before is all irrelevant until you compare that horse with others that have the similar level of exposure. For purposes of this piece of Analysis I am looking hard at the runners that are trained in England that have had over 20 career National Hunt Starts. Any horse that has over 20 National Hunt Career starts I intend to refer to as “Exposed”. Those horses with fewer National Hunt starts I will refer to as “Unexposed”.

EXPOSED HORSES WITH UNDER 5 RACES THAT SEASON

What strikes me as significant is how some English horses that look underraced and that have light seasons have appalling records in both this race and all similar races at this time of year. I don’t have a problem with an unexposed horse being lightly raced. It’s the exposed types that have over 20 national hunt races that are the problem and that fail.  MIINNEHOMA won in 1994 with just 2 runs that season but he was not exposed. There has not been an English exposed horse with a National with under  5 races that season and there has been well over a Hundred that tried and failed. That’s a Damming trend that shows that the only horses that can overcome a light season and lack of warm up runs are the lightly raced and progressive types. The exposed horses that have no progression and that have shown all their hand to the handicapper have failed miserably to win this race. Several were beaten favourites. Only last year we had 2 horses that started favourite that had under 4 runs that year. JOES EDGE and MONKERHOSTIN were both heavily backed into joint favouritism and both ran badly. Both were clearly over exposed and underraced.  Exposed horses win this race. Underraced horses can win this as well but combine an Exposed Horse with an Underraced one that had under 4 runs this season and you have miserable results. It is not just the National that these horses fail in. Look at the 46 other races I mentioned at the top of the piece.

* There has been 46 handicaps between 3m 7f and 4m 4f in Class 2 and higher between January and June since 1998
* Exposed English Horses (21 + National Hunt starts) that had Under 5 runs that season had a 1-259 record

I looked at all 46 similar races to this between January and June. These were all high class handicap chases over marathon distances. That tells me I have to avoid exposed horses that have had over 20 career starts when they have had very light preparations. In these 46 races English horses that can be said to be exposed with 21 or more previous races had a miserable 1-259 record when they had under 5 runs that season. The only horses that managed it was 2004 Scottish National winner Grey Abbey. In this race I would both confidently and automatically rule out Exposed English horses that have had a very light preparation as I consider them to be both underraced and ill-prepared. I List these Horses now and they include some fancied runners MADISON DU BERLAIS – CONTRABAND – CORNISH SETT all fail this statistic and are easy to oppose any way at huge prices but so to do some of the fancied horses.  D’ARGENT appeals to quite a few people around 40/1 but he fails my statistic with 26 career runs and just 4 runs this season where he only finished 3 of these races.  JOES EDGE started favourite last year but he has a horrible profile this year. Over exposed and with 2 runs this year he looks easy to discount. He has only completed in one run this season. I feel that MON MOME has been too lightly raced this year. Only finishing 2 of his 3 races he is not for me. Now we have two fancied horses that fail my main statistic in this race. Both MCKELVEY and SIMON also look the wrong types on this trend. MCKELVEY was second last year and ran really well but he was unexposed last year and had considerably more prep runs and 10lbs less weight and I don’t fancy him at all this year. SIMON also fails my statistic and he is harder to reject. I backed him ante post last year and selected him to win the race. SIMON fell when going really well 6 fences from home. He came into 2007 on a roll after two impressive wins. This year the main differences are that he carries 10lbs more weight this year. That’s quite a lot and you would have to satisfy yourself that he would have won last year to think he can carry 11st 7lbs this year especially for a horse that is not overbig. He had 5 runs last year in his preparation. He had ran 134 furlongs in his prep runs last year but this year he has had under 100 furlongs of racing in just 4 runs which included a race he did not complete. I thought long and hard about forgiving him and shortlisting him the combination of extra weight and an inferior preparation has left me thinking his chance came and went last year.

ENGLISH HORSES AGED 11 OR MORE WITH UNDER 5 RACES THAT SEASON

I said earlier how I am happy to consider horses with few runs this year as long as they are unexposed and that have under 20 career starts. What I don’t want to do is bet English horses aged 11 or more that have under 5 runs that season. I can’t have these horses regardless of how exposed they are. This is an age that really struggle to win long distance handicap chases at this time of year without several prep races. Since 1998 there has been 46 handicaps between 3m 7f and 4m 4f in Class 2 and higher between January and June. Horses aged 11 or more that had under 5 races that season had a 0-138 record.  It takes longer for older horses to get to a point where they have achieved full fitness and this is not a race for the Unfit. I don’t want to ignore that 0-138 record as it’s covering the 46 most similar races to this and 52 of those horses were in this race and none came second. This is why I feel the likes of 12 year old PHILSON RUN and 11 year old OSSMOSES are unlikely winners because of poor preparations. D’ARGENT also fails that with 4 runs this season as does BACKBEAT and JOES EDGE.

ENGLISH HORSES ABSENT 60 + DAYS

I very much doubt you will see an English horse defy an absence of 2 Months or more to win this race. Since 1993 there were 105 horses trained in England in this race that had been absent from the track 7 weeks or more and None of the 105 won. It goes deeper than that. I looked at 46 handicaps between 3m 7f and 4m 4f in Class 2 and higher between January and June. Only 1 managed to win. That was Gingembre who won the 2001 Scottish National with a 89 day absence and he went and won the following years Hennessy. The only winner with more than 2 months absence – I have to oppose these horses -  MADISON DU BERLAIS -  OPERA MUNDI -  JOAACI -  CORNISH SETT -  BACKBEAT

EXPOSED ENGLISH HORSES COMING FROM 22 FURLONGS OR SHORTER

What you find in these Long Distance Handicap Chases is that it’s very tough for a horse to take a radical step up in distance. It is not so hard for lighter raced horses but the exposed horses that try it have really struggled. Horses that have got to take the radical step up in trip between 2m 6f or less and 4m 4f or more have real Problems. That’s a 14 furlong hike in trip. Its almost 2 Miles and exposed horses do not seem to cope with it. There has been 38 that tried to do this in the Grand National and all 38 horses lost and in the last few years this has included 2 beaten favourites. It is not just the Grand National. I looked at all 46 similar races I have mentioned before. None of the 46winners managed such a radical step up in trip when so exposed and I have to oppose these types.  I also want to oppose horses that were exposed that ran over 3m 7f and further. You want a horse that finds some improved form and there is less chance of that when exposed and already running at similar extreme trips. These types don’t seem to have the speed or pace to cope with the better class horses that are running at slightly shorter trips. Exposed horses that come from races of 3m 7f or longer haven’t won the National in its recent history. What you also find is that in the 46 similar races like this in the first half of the year well over 100 horses tried to win a race under these circumstances and only one managed it and he was a high class horse in devastating form at the time. I am more than happy to rule out exposed horses that either a) Step up from 22f or less or b) Ran at 3m 7f or more last time.
These are rejected – FUNDAMENTALIST – VODKA BLEU – NADOVER – NAUNTON BROOK -

EXPOSED ENGLISH HORSES WITHOUT GRADE 1 FORM

It isn’t that hard to run in Grade 1 races. You have chances in Bumpers – over hurdles – through the Novice Chase ranks and when progressing into Graded Chases. I think you are far better off with a horse that has ran in Grade 1 chases but when a horse is exposed and has not yet done that I would be quite worried.  Don’t forget these horses are generally past their prime and have had over 20 career starts. If they have not progressed by that time into a Grade 1 race then I suspect they will lack the class to win a Grand National. We are not asking these exposed horses to have won a Grade 1 race – merely to have run in one.  Exposed horses that have never ran in Grade 1 class before have a 0-93 record in this race. That’s 0-93 record is a hint that these runners will lack the class and I oppose them

MADISON DU BERLAIS – SIMON – MCKELVEY – D’ARGENT
MON MONE – CORNISH SETT – NAUNTON BROOK – NADOVER -

REMAINING ENGLISH HORSES

Surely the rags IDLE TALK – KNOWWHERE and ARDAGHEY if running will lose for lack of class. These horses are in the 100/1 and over category and it would be a rare sight to see any win. I also want to oppose BUTLERS CABIN and MR POINTMENT. I am uncomfortable about the fact both have 3 runs this season when we know 4-6 runs scores significantly better.  BUTLERS CABIN is an 8 year old and there has been only 1 winning 8 year old that won a long distance Handicap Chase at this time of year with under 4 runs that season. That sole winner (Kendal Cavalier) back in 1998 at Cheltenham was coming through the Novice ranks. None like BUTLERS CABIN have been through the handicapping ranks when so underraced that season.  MR POINTMENT is a 9 year old and has a lot of weight with 11st 11lbs for a horse with only 6 chase runs and that’s his biggest flaw. He has also only had 3 runs that season. If you look at horses aged 8 or 9 since 1998 in all similar handicap chases none of the ones that had as few as 3 runs that season managed to win without coming 1st 2nd or 3rd on their latest start. All 74 lost. No horse aged 8 or 9 came into a long distance handicap chase and won it when lightly raced on the back of poor runs and both BUTLERS CABIN and MR POINTMENT have that against them. None also carried a high weight and it’s quite a very big weight he carries with 11st 11lbs. He really looks to have been harshly treated and any forgiveness I had in his handicap mark ended when seeing how badly he ran last time and how few runs he has had this season. Both MR POINTMENT and BUTLERS CABIN also come from handicaps with less than 8 runners in them and all 96 horses  that did that Lost.

BEWLEYS BERRY

This horse was leading in last year’s race when falling at Beechers on the second circuit. What I don’t like about him this year is that he had 7lbs less weight last year and a far better preparation. He has only run twice this year and that is a serious worry. MIINEHOMA won with just two runs but it should not be forgotten than he came from the Cheltenham Gold Cup and not through the handicapping system. I looked at every long distance handicap chase run in the first 6 months of the year and very few winners won with under 3 runs that season. None of these had a 7 week break that he also has to overcome. None of these ran as badly as he has on his latest start. BEWLEYS BERRY is technically an English horse that hasn’t ran in 7 weeks and very few English National winners defied that sort of absence and none with so few warm up races. I just do not see a case for a horse with only 2 runs this year and he is rejected

ENGLISH S H O R T L I S T

CLOUDY LANE – COMPLY OR DIE

At this stage I feel the only ENGLISH Horses that have the profiles to win this race are the market leaders CLOUDY LANE and COMPLY OR DIE and I will discuss this pair shortly. I want to turn my attention to the IRISH and FRENCH horses in the attempt to produce a shortlist that we can work from to produce the winner.  I certainly don’t see the French Bred horses KELAMI or L’AMI staying well enough to win. The well known “French Breds have not won this race since 1909″ is a fairly good statistic but of course it should be remembered that CLAN ROYAL placed in 2 recent Nationals and he was a French Bred horse. I still don’t see this pair winning and neither have had a happy time of things in this race before.  I can’t see Irish horses BAILEY BREEZE or IN THE HIGH GRASS should he run as being good enough. I don’t want BLACK APALACHI as I don’t see him as good enough.  He wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the race last year with his rating and he has not won since. SNOWY MORNING is very well treated in this race but you have to wonder about how badly he jumped last time.  He did not jump very well before that at Leopardstown either and he fell in the Hennessy before that. I worry about the big field for him.  I just feel they will be so cautious to get him into a Rhythm and jumping well that he may be over protected in the race and have lots of ground to make up and in that position one mistake could be fatal. He doesn’t look a good enough jumper yet to win.  DUN DOIRE is not a Grand National horse in my view and certainly not on this ground. He couldn’t cope with the race last year and he had more suitable ground last year and a better preparation. I don’t feel POINT BARROW is good enough at least not on the ground. He fell at the first last year but I can forgive him that but he was beaten off level weights by a 102 rated horse last time. I know that’s slightly misleading as the horse that beat him is now rated a lot higher and he probably was not there to win last time out but every time I look at him despite the fact that he passes almost all well known trends in the race I just don’t see him being good enough. KING JOHNS CASTLE does not look a proven stayer to me and when you consider he has yet to win at 3 miles or more as every past winner had the percentage call has to be to oppose him.

CHELSEA HARBOUR has two problems for me. One is that all his form is on soft and heavy ground and it looks like being a lot quicker than that.  The other thing I don’t like about him is that he is an exposed horse that steps up almost 2 miles in trip and that is not an easy thing to do. No English horses have done that but a couple of Irish horses have. BOBBY JO won the National stepping up in trip as an exposed horse but he was older and prepped over hurdles not fences and he had 16lbs less weight than CHELSEA HARBOUR and had won a Irish National. CHELSEA HARBOUR was a long way back when he ran in the Irish National and no Irish winner was an 8 year old in recent years and no 8 year old has won with his weight.  Back in 2003 MONTYS PASS also prepped at shorter and was also exposed but again he was older and had far less weight and he also prepped over hurdles. He also had Aintree form.  I just think a combination of several factors will leave him short.

CLOUDY LANE is rated 161 over fences but is allowed to run here from 141 and that makes him 20lbs well in and he has to be favourite. He is not without some cause for concern. The first has to be his price. He is Top price 6/1 and that’s asking a Lot of a horse with stamina doubts. I do not know what chance he has of staying 4m 4f. I think it’s a very tough one to call and better judges of such things than I remain undecided.  I don’t like the fact that he is not the biggest of horses. May not stop him but given the choice I would rather have a horse with more size about him. Whatever statistical bombs you throw at him you have to bear in mind the 20lbs in hand he has at the weights. CLOUDY LANE does fail some statistics but all horses will fail some statistics if you keep throwing stats at a horse. As an example there are a couple of trends doing the rounds that can be argued against. Some say the best record clearly comes from horses that won no more than 1 of their previous 6 races and having three consecutive wins as CLOUDY LANE offers hasn’t been the norm for National winners. That said LORD GYLLENE came here with a W W W 2 profile and that is not dissimilar and like CLOUDY LANE he ran in Novice races in his previous season which is another thing you really want to avoid. LORD GYLLENE’s win does allow you to look at CLOUDY LANE with more forgiving eyes but unlike LORD GYLLENE you can argue that CLOUDY LANE has no Grade 1 or 2 form – he also comes from a small field handicap (all 96 that did that lost) and perhaps more importantly he has flopped on both times he has ran in marathon trip handicap chases before. Throw in the fact all 42 English horses that won a handicap chase last time out lost in the last few years you can start to see some potential cracks in his armour. These Cracks and his low price and stamina doubts leave him wanting to respect him but not select him

SLIM PICKINGS was 3rd in last year’s race. Some say he is not a proven stayer but I watched the Video and saw him running on again at the death and I am in no doubt he stays. I think you can look at this horse from both a Positive and Negative Perspective. Starting with the Negative Perspective first. He has 9lbs more weight than he had last year which won’t be easy even if weight matters less this year which certainly looks to be the case.  I Also don’t like the fact that as he slipped up over hurdles in January he has only completed one full race since December 8th. That’s just 1 completed run in 119 days and that’s a big worry for a horse that is exposed.  I also worry about the fact he is exposed now and has to come from a 21f race (similar profile to Chelsea Harbour) and that’s something no English horse has done. However on the positive side he nearly won last year. Led until very late. That was a strong performance considering his trainer only had him for 2 runs before Aintree as he upgraded stables so he wasn’t able to be given the National Preparation that his current trainer may have given him. You can also argue that his 5th in the Racing Post Plate at Cheltenham was not the best preparation either. Overall I can see where the improvement can be made to help him win this year but the negatives against him Sap my confidence. He is exposed and is being asked to do something quite hard and that’s when he has had very little racing this year. That stops him being my selection.

COMPLY OR DIE has a sensible weight and is 11lbs well in. His win in the Eider Chase pushed his handicap mark up to 150 but he is allowed to race here from 139. Carrying Topweight in the Eider Chase and winning easily was an excellent run and if that has not left its mark then he has a serious chance. The Eider chase runners are 0-11 coming into this race but that can be ignored and Superior Finish was 3rd in this race (1996) coming from the same race and COMPLY OR DIE performed far better than he did in that race. I love the fact he isn’t over exposed and was a Grade 1 horse as a Novice. He has proved his stamina and if he doesn’t go backwards after Newcastle he has a serious chance. That said there are some question marks that do worry me. The fact he comes from a 4m + race doesn’t sit too comfortably.  There has been the possibility of a sea change since 2001 against horses that ran over 4m or more last time out. Between JANUARY and JUNE in the last 7 years there has been 29 handicaps between 3m7f and 4m 4f in Class 2 and higher.
Horses that came from 4 mile + races had a 0-84 record. There were winner’s pre 2001 but 0-84 since then is a concern considering 7 were beaten favourites. Yes COMPLY OR DIE was impressive last time but is it really a good preparation to carry 11st 12lbs and Topweight at Newcastle over 4m 1f on soft ground. Since 2001 no horse has overcome that and won a similar race. No horse has done that in this race either.  You also have the niggling doubt that all 42 English handicap chasers that came into the race on the back of a win lost. There is another trend that both COMPLY OR DIE and CLOUDY LANE both fail that troubles me as well. There are some Pretty Interesting Angles that illustrate just what kind of Grand National winner has come from England in the Past when running in Handicap Chases. If you take English horses in the Grand National that came from a handicap chase last time out – you find that when they were 1st 2nd 3rd 4th last time out as both COMPLY OR DIE and CLOUDY LANE were they had a very unimpressive 1-124 record. It was only done by Lord Gyllene in 1997. If you are English in this race and come from a Handicap you are clearly best if you are unplaced last time out. Incidentally SIMON – BUTLERS CABIN and D’ARGENT also have this stat against them. You can argue Lord Gyllene proves it can be done but those that have tried to win this race on the back of a 1-2-3-4 run in a handicap chase do have awful records. That worries me for COMPLY OR DIE and CLOUDY LANE much as both horses have significant ticks in several boxes.

Grand National Selection

HEDGEHUNTER

This horse has Topweight and many will have read the statistic that says only the immortal Red Rum has successfully carried more than 11st 5lbs since the 1950′s. That’s true but it doesn’t worry me too much this year. The Bottom weight this year has 10st 7lbs and there are not horses on 10st as their usually are that are getting lumps of weight. This year just 19lbs separates the whole field. The weights this year are generally believed to favour high weights and that’s in HEDGEHUNTER’s favour. Don’t forget that in the last 10 years we have had 4 horses that came second with 11st 10lbs or more. In 2006 HEDGEHUNTER was second himself with 11st 12lbs. HEDGEHUNTER is one of the best Grand National Horses seen in recent years.  This horse now has his 5th experience of this race. He was not out of this back in 2004 as an 8 year old when he fell at the last when in 3rd place. He then came back to win the race in 2005 carrying a weight many said he could not carry that year.  As Champion he came to defend his crown the following year. He was runner up in 2006 and that was a brilliant run as he had 11st 12lbs and had just had a hard race 3 weeks earlier in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when second.  HEDGEHUNTER then had his first poor run in the race in 2007 when coming 9th. I forgive him that as it’s so clear he had a awful preparation. He was dogged by an injury problem that restricted him to 2 hurdle runs in a year. He was not at all prepared for the 2007 race. HEDGEHUNTER is back this year as a 12 year old. Age and Weight are a problem but don’t forget there has been very few horses in history with an Aintree pedigree as good as this horse.  This year he has had a far better preparation and ran an excellent warm up race last time at Fairyhouse.  I do not think this horse can be counted out. Would you rather bet the favourite CLOUDY LANE at the same price that HEDGEHUNTER is to be placed? Don’t forget with 4 places you can get beaten a long way in this race and still win. The age/weight may tell later on in the race but can you name a horse that’s more likely to get round and that knows every inch of the track.  You have a favourite that may not stay. Many horses underraced this year and with questionable preparations. Over half the field will be 100/1 chances anyway. The list of horses you can line up that look like they can beat HEDGEHUNTER is not all that long in my opinion. Around 28/1 and over on the Exchanges and 11/2 for a place I think he is the bet here.

Consider the Market as well that concentrates Only on
IRISH TRAINED RUNNERS

7/2 SLIM PICKINGS – 5/1 CHELSEA HARBOUR – 7/1 HEDGEHUNTER – 7/1 KING JOHNS CASTLE – 7/1 SNOWY MORNING – 7/1 POINT BARROW – 10/1 DUN DOIRE – 22/1 BLACK APPALACHI – 28/1 BAILEY BREEZE – HI CLOY – NO FULL – TUMBLING DICE

Hedgehunter is 7/1 with W.Hill – stan james – Bet Direct
Hedgehunter is 13/2 with Paddy Power
Hedgehunter is 6/1 with BoyleSports – Blue Sq

This is a race where ONLY the Irish horses count. If you finish 6th behind 5 English horses you win. English horses are eliminated for betting purposes and it’s all about the Irish. HEDGEHUNTER is a better price to win this race than the favourite of the Grand National is to win the overall race. Why can HEDGEHUNTER not win this at 7/1. He seems a big price to me. Don’t forget that you have 4 horses here in BAILEY BREEZE – HI CLOY – NO FULL – TUMBLING DICE that are 150/1 and over on Betfair and BLACK APPALACHI is also around the 80/1 price range and these horses are simply not strongly fancied.  The ground is against DUN DOIRE and I don’t see him having the class. POINT BARROW has achieved far less in this race and I think his chance has gone. He looks to be on the decline to me and he has never smelt fancied for this race. SNOWY MORNING has jumping problems that could easily stop him and Ruby Walsh could have ridden him but has chosen HEDGEHUNTER. Surely there is a serious worry that KING JOHNS CASTLE won’t stay.  SLIM PICKINGS and CHELSEA HARBOUR are our big dangers but I explained earlier that SLIM PICKINGS has not had the best of Preparations and CHELSEA HARBOUR has never tested the Aintree fences. You have 3 places available for each way bets. HEDGEHUNTER could finish a long way behind and still you may keep your stake money. HEDGEHUNTER at 7/1 in this exclusive field with many doubtful profiles looks the best bet I can see in this year’s Grand National.

Posted under Major Horse Races