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Grand National Recap

Hi all,

Inside you can read my review of Aintree’s Grand National Festival.

Grand National Maximus

A decent breeze and some sunshine meant the Aintree ground continued to dry out on Saturday. However, its was still soft on times.

After all the discussion for the last week or so the Grand National was won by the joint favourite. A thrilling race but ultimately an easy winner in the shape of I Am Maximus.

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As the race unfolded, the competition remained fierce with half of the field still in the mix approaching the second last fence.  At the elbow Minella Indo appeared poised to give jockey Rachel Blackmore a second Grand National success, but I Am Maximus surged ahead in the final half furlong, winning by a commanding 7 ½ lengths, with Delta Work taking second and Minella Indo third.

While it's important not to draw definitive conclusions, it's clear that the Grand National now favours the classier horses. Notably, the top four finishers had all previously won Grade 1 chases.

I had doubts about I Am Maximus's jumping, but he proved me wrong with his performance. Though not flawless, his jumping held up, aided by a slower pace in the early stages that suited him.

As mentioned in Saturday's preview, trainer Willie Mullins sees I Am Maximus as a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender, but significant improvement in his jumping will be necessary to challenge the likes of Galopin Des Champs.

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Of the rest

Last year’s winner, Corach Rambler unseated his rider at the first fence. Meetingofthewaters showed promise approaching the last, but ultimately lacked the stamina to sustain a challenge on the run in. Galia Des Liteaux was another who didn’t stay and likely would have preferred softer ground.

Gina Andrews had a great spin on Latenightpass who was still bang there at the last after strong showing and some good jumping. He only faltered after the last due to his limitations as a stayer, highlighting that the Grand National is no longer solely a test of jumping prowess.

There were no evident hard-luck stories, although joint favourite Limerick Lace's race was effectively ended by a significant mistake at the 27th fence, leaving her with no chance thereafter.

I wasn’t convinced that I Am Maximus jumping would hold up. Hands up I was wrong, that said his jumping wasn’t perfect. The fact that they didn’t go fast in the early stages was a bonus for the winner whose jumping wasn’t truly tested. As I said in Saturday’s preview Willie Mullins thinks he could be a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse. However, his jumping will have to improve plenty if he’s to beat Galopin Des Champs.

Grand National Provides Much-Needed Positive PR Amidst Historical Shadows

The race will have provided the sport with some much-needed good PR. Yes, we know the Grand National isn’t the race it was when the likes of Red Rum and Gritter were winning it. But then I can remember the days when they pulled dead horses out of the way so the remaining runners could jump Bechers for a second time. I can also remember Brown Trix crashing into the brook and almost drowning before being put down. Thankfully the race will never provide us with such horrific scenes.

On a less optimistic note, it seems that several of my friends, who typically place only one bet per year on horse racing, opted out of participating in this year's National. Could it be that the once-a-year punters are beginning to lose interest in the race? It's a suspicion I can't help but entertain.

I’m not doing an in-depth review of the first two days of the meeting, but I will highlight a handful of performances.

Thursday – Day 1 Highlights

Sir Gino, who missed the Triumph Hurdle, made a successful comeback in the Grade 1 Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle. While his victory wasn’t spectacular it was decisive. His jumping seemed a bit rusty, which needs improvement if he's to compete as a serious Champion Hurdle contender next season. While I personally lean towards seeing him transition to novice chasing, trainer Nicky Henderson appears inclined to keep him over hurdles for now.

My standout performance on Thursday was produced by Gerri Colombe in winning the Grade 1Bowl Chase. Looking at Racing Post Ratings (RPR) he was 5lb below his Gold Cup runner-up performance so didn’t have to be at his best to beat a rejuvenated Ahoy Senor. It was a slowly run race which didn’t suit the winner, but he’s got a great battling attitude which was needed to get up close to home.

Friday – Day 2 Highlights

Inothewayurthinkin showed that stamina is his big strength when winning the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices' Chase. My inclination would be to think that he only reproduced his recent Kim Muir performance in victory. Indeed, I suspect the third Heart Wood would have won if the race had been run over two miles four furlongs. Inothewayurthinkin is a strong stayer and there’s still room for improvement in his jumping for him to be Gold Cup standard next season.

Mystical Power who had been outstayed in the Supreme at Cheltenham last time, was better suited to the speedier Aintree track. He travelled well once more and his jumping is nimble. He’s not short of pace but he just does not want to show it once he hits the front. He Idled at Cheltenham after showing his speed to the lead and then got outstayed. He got to the front here and idled once more. Mystical Power crying out of better ground, and it will be interesting to see if connection run him on the flat this summer.

Jonbon bounced back to winning ways in the Grade 1 Melling Chase. It was Jonbon’s first start at 2m 4f and he proved his stamina. Indeed, the step up in distance really suited him and he finished his race off as strongly as runner-up Conflated. On the evidence of this performance, he must have a good chance of staying three miles. He’ll surely be aiming at the Ryanair Chase next season rather than the Champion Chase.

Aintree Grand National Festival Verdict

Aintree’s Grand National Festival provided us with great racing and thrilling finishes.  You couldn’t really fault it to be honest. I’m one of a minority who think Aintree is more enjoyable than Cheltenham. The reason why is that it’s three days not four which means it's the perfect mix of Grade 1 races and big field handicaps. It also doesn’t suffer from the padding that Cheltenham does by having an extra day. 

I tend to do well at Aintree punting wise and despite no winners on Day 1 I still came out of the meeting with a profit which was pleasing for myself and those of you joined Victor Value for the meeting. Arizona Cardinal and Cruz Control provided me with the profit, and it could have been even better if Langer Dan and Conflated had won their respective races.

Value punters don’t get many chances at these big meetings, so you must make sure your darts hit the target which I achieved with Arizona Cardinal and Cruz Control. Arizona Cardinal’s win in the Topham Chase stood out for me as it was a 24-runner handicap where I only had one pick after Lounge Lizard was a non-runner. I look for horses that I think are underestimated by the market rather than looking purely for winners and the patient approach paid dividends on Friday and Saturday.

Monday Preview

It’s the Go North Cab On Target Final Handicap Hurdle (Series Final) (4:00) at Kelso this afternoon. The race has been rescheduled from Kelso’s last meeting which was cancelled due to waterlogging. Sometimes it can pay to go with the obvious picks which I have done here.

Eire Street bids for the hat trick after wins at Carlisle & Ayr. Both of those successes came on heavy ground, but he should be equally as effective on better ground. He’s been raised 8lb for his latest win but that doesn’t look to harsh as he looks progressive. Kilta got off the mark at the fourth attempt when winning on handicap debut at Southwell (2m 3f) two starts back. The 7-year-old then ran just as well in defeat when a ½ length 2nd of 8 at Haydock 26 days ago. He’s up 5lb but is another who looks progressive and should be suited by the step up to 2m 5f.

I find it hard to split the pair in truth so might go with both given their currents odds.

Good luck with your Monday bets.


5 thoughts on “Grand National Recap”

  1. Yes, whilst i understand the reasons for the changes the ‘Irish’ national has become a nothing race lacking excitement and an element of the unknown and unpredictable. Gut reaction after the race was to reach for you tube and watch reruns of the mayhem of years gone by. Who can forget the likes of the Red Marauder year using just one example with horse pile ups, loose horses everywhere and jockeys chases their horses down the track in the hope of remounting. Give me the Welsh national any day now, British trained horses you can have a bet if you so desire and the true test of a stayer.

  2. I still think the National gets a lot of interest from what i seen on Saturday from the once a year punters.
    One thing they all say is “its a lottery,is it”
    I tell them no now the way is was before and say back at the head of the betting.
    They are surprised me saying that but it becoming so ,almost every year now.
    I do point out that the first ever winner was Lottery.That gets a laugh.

  3. I realise this is going to be very controversial but here goes.

    We had the greatest race is the world in the Grand National back in the day but now sadly it is just another glorified handicap. When the fences were bigger the race offered excitement and thrills all the way around. You were always in with a chance as anything could happen at any time.
    Once a year punters who looked forward to having a bet on the National now don’t bother as there is no excitement any more. People all over the world were enthralled with it but not any more.

    Watching Saturdays race was like watching any other chase….the fences now are too small. just hurdles with brush on the top. Even I and friends who have been watching the National for 50+ years have no real interest any more than any other race,

    Of course nobody wants to see fatalities but did we really have to reduce the fences quite so much…I don’t think so. In my opinion we have ruined a spectacle. If we are really worried by the injuries etc then just stop racing altogether!

    I do not wish to offend it is just my take on a lost spectacular.

    1. Shaun,

      Personally, I don’t think your thoughts are controversial. You have pointed out a problem for the cheerleaders in the media.

      An ordinary staying handicap chase won’t attract the global audience that old National attracted. It was a unique race, that’s why it had such a global reach. I noticed ITV audience figures were down which tell you all you need to know about the direction of people’s views on the race.

      This idea that because so many horses were in contention two out the once in a year punter will keep coming back is nonsense. The danger and the thrills have been stripped from the race and the lottery aspect is leaving the building.

      At the end of your comment, you’ve also identified another problem. Jump racing involves injuries and unfortunately deaths. You either accept that or draw stumps and end jump racing. I suspect wider societal changes will lead to the latter anyway.

      1. Thank you for your reply John.

        You also made a valid point which I intended to mention too…..and that was the fact that 3 out there was still over half the field that were in with a chance. When did you see that before?

        Sadly as I said in my earlier missive, the race has been ruined.

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