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Who Wins the Grand National?

Hi all,

Inside today’s main piece I’m looking at the type of horse that wins the Grand National. Plus, I’m previewing Saturday’s Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton.

Cheltenham Festival Handicap Entries Revealed

The entries for the Cheltenham Festival handicaps were revealed on Wednesday lunchtime.  For the second year running entries for the festival handicaps are down.  Just 588 entries were made for the nine races compared with 676 in 2021.

The entries are down for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, 47 compared to 55 last year. There are also few entries for the Coral Cup 72 (87 last year). The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual sees 38 compared to 47 in 2023 and Trustatrader Plate Chase has seen 58 compared to 64 12 months ago.

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Not unsurprisingly there’s a high representation from across the Irish Sea with 46% of total runners in the handicaps being trained in Ireland. The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on the first day of festival, see’s 30 of the 47 entries trained in Ireland (64 per cent).

It’s not all bad news the Ultima Handicap Chase has nine more entries than last year. There are 13 more entries for the Pertemps Hurdle Final and 18 more entries for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.

A more significant date for the diary is next Wednesday when the festival handicap weights will be announced.

Grand National Weights Announced

It was a busy day for the BHA on Wednesday. Besides the revealing of the Cheltenham Festival Handicap entries the 2024 Grand National weights were unveiled at St George's Hall in Liverpool.

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King George VI Chase winner Hewick was allocated top weight of 11st 12lb (169). Last year’s winner Corach Rambler has 11st 2lb (159). Connections will be hoping that top weight does run. With a field of just 34 runners the last horse guaranteed a place is Latenightpass 10st 6lb (149). Of course, plenty will drop away between now and final declarations. But it will still be an anxious wait for the connections of Kitty’s Light and Panda Boy both allocated 10st 3lb (146). Although I suspect both horses will just about sneak in at the foot of the weights.

The unveiling of the weights has seen Vanillier go to the head of the ante post betting. Due in part to Tom Segal putting him up in his Pricewise column. Last year’s runner-up gets a 9lb pull in the weights with Corach Rambler for a 2 ½ length beating. He’s a nicely treated horse and has been trained for the race. However, horses who placed in a previous Grand National (not won) are 0 winners from 39, 8 placed since 2008.

Who Wins the 2024 Grand National?

I will take more of a look at the Grand National once the Cheltenham Festival is out of the way. For now, the 2024 Grand National will I think be won by a horse with the following traits.

  • Trained in Ireland.
  • They will be aged seven to nine (all the last six winners).
  • Have run in Graded company either over fences or hurdles (all the last six winners).
  • Will have finished in the first two on one of their three previous starts (all the last six winners).

In essence, the alterations to the Grand National fences have transformed the nature of the race significantly. Nowadays, the ideal contender is typically a younger horse, possessing a certain degree of class, displaying recent good form, and relatively untested over marathon trips. Dodgy jumpers used to have no chance in the race but today they do provided they stay.

While it's not impossible for older or more experienced stayers to emerge victorious – occasional surprises will remain part of the races allure – the prevailing trend suggests that younger, less exposed horses are more likely to secure victory in most instances in the race.

Looking Ahead to the Weekend

Kempton’s Coral Trophy Handicap Chase, older readers will remember this race as the Racing Post Chase which the sports trade paper sponsored between 1988 & 2011, is Saturday’s most valuable race. Past winners of the race include the likes of Desert Orchid, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason and Rough Quest. The latter two won this before going onto success at the Grand National at Aintree.

Trends:

Looking at the race trends which contain 16 winners from 225 runners, 51 placed. There are a few trends that are worthy of consideration when trying to find the winner of the race.

Chase Wins – 1 to 5 – 16 winners from 204 runners, 47 placed.

Maximum Distance Won: 2m 4f to 3m 1 ½ f – 15 winners from 165 runners +13.5, 41 placed.

Age: 7yo to 9yo – 15 winners from 170 runners +8.50, 39 placed

Last Time Out Placing: 1st, 2nd, or 3rd or Pulled up – 12 winners from 108 runners +3.95, 29 placed.

The above four trends have identified 14 of the last 16 winners of the race and the last 11.  

Contenders:

Thirteen ran last year, but this time around, we had just 14 entries at Monday’s final confirmation stage. It’s could turn out to be reminiscent of the 2019 renewal when only 10 horses were declared. Fingers crossed, we don’t, as its Saturday’s most valuable race, boasting a £150,000 in guaranteed prize money

Flegmatik, last year’s runner-up, bounced back to winning way over C&D last month. The sponsors have installed him as the 4/1 favorite. Despite carrying an extra 3lb, his liking for the track gives him solid claims.

There’s been support this week for Scottish Grand National & Bet365 Gold Cup Winner Kitty’s Light. He was runner-up in 2022 but the 3-mile distance might be a tad short for this seasoned 8-year-old.

Killer Kane, a dual C&D winner, was only fifth last year.Don’t underestimate him—he’s a reliable jumper, and his 12/1 odds seem fair.

Bowtogreatness, still seeking that elusive win over fences, went close in a valuable 3m 1f handicap chase at Aintree last April. His mark suggests he’s a contender, but probably wouldn’t want the ground too testing.

The Chris Gordon-trained Lord Baddesley has been supported in the ante-post betting. This 9-year-old produced a career best when finishing a close second to Inch House at Newbury last time. With stamina for 2m 6 ½ f, he might even stretch to 3 miles. Keep an eye on him, especially if the ground dries out.

Solo, winner of the Grade 2 Pendil Novices Chase at this very meeting last year, is of interest. While he comfortably stays 2m 4f, the leap to 3 miles is uncharted territory. His rating of 149 presents a challenge, but trainer Paul Nicholls knows how to work magic—he previously won this race in 2015. Solo certainly deserves a place on the shortlist.

Thursday Preview

Once again, the best of the action comes in Ireland as Thurles hosts the day’s most valuable card. The feature races are the Grade 3 BoyleSports Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle (3:23) and the Listed Irish EBF Colreevy Mares Novice Chase (2:23). The latter race sees a rare British trained runner as Stuart Edmunds has declared Marsh Wren. It’s good to see a British trained runner head to Ireland for a race and hopefully the trainer has spotted a winning opportunity for the mar.

Willie Mullins trains three of the six runners in the Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle.  The master trainer doesn’t have the favourite though which is the Gordon Elliott trained Staffordshire Knot. The 6-year-old improved to win a Down Royal maiden (2m 1f) last time and can progress further for today’s step up in trip. The pick of the Mullins trio could be Largy Hill who got off the mark at the second attempt over hurdles at Cork last time and is another capable of better.

Short-priced horses are the theme of the day. Besides Marsh Wren and Staffordshire Knot at Thurles. Cover Up is fair favourite for the 6f handicap at Newcastle (6:00). The 4-year-old took his record to 3 from 7 when winning over C&D 12 days ago. Up 6lb and in a better race but he quickened up nicely to win his race last time and can defy it. The only slight niggle is stall 1 but apart from that he’s got the sort of chance his 6/4 odds suggest.

The ones I fancy today are to short for single selections but for those of you like your multiple I wouldn’t you off a cheeky Trixie.

Good luck with your Thursday bets.

John

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