Calm Down, Calm Down ……… The Grand National Punt !

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So the dust has just about settled from the Cheltenham Festival, I’ve got one or two horses that are in my mind for next year already – obviously the ‘Mighty Tent’ has already had a shilling of my money invested for next years Champion Hurdle, probably foolishly, as it’s still 350 odd days away and so much can happen in that time, however sentiment got the better of me. The others on the ‘radar’ are African Gold for the RSA Chase (currently available at 16/1), Champagne Fever for the Arkle (6/1 at the moment) and possibly At Fishers Cross for the World Hurdle (around 7’s) …. That said, I’m not going to be playing on any of these until the next National Hunt season is in full swing in October / November time.

Attention in the Jumps version of the sport now firmly turns to Aintree and the Grand National meeting which starts in a week, with the highlight of the meeting obviously the big one on Saturday, The Grand National. Even if you have no interest in horse racing, you’d know about the Grand National as it’s as much of an institution in this country’s calendar as the FA Cup Final, Wimbledon and Eurovision. Most people’s first memory of a horse race is gathering around the TV with the rest of the family to watch the drama of this great race unfold, holding on to the scrap of paper you’d drawn out of the family sweepstake. My first memory of the race that I can recall was Rubstic’s victory in 1979, and I can also remember that the three horses I’d picked out were pretty useless (nothing changes !!!), however I’m sure that my brother had the winner and collected the pot of about 20p….jammy git !!!!

Since that race, I can recall every contest since, as I became fascinated with the spectacle of these horses trying to negotiate the giant obstacles in the hope that my selections made it safely over the 30 fences of the 4 and a bit mile circuit. The lack of success in picking the winner should have been a clear message to me that this game was not for me, however I loved the race and looked forward to it every year. It wasn’t until 1988 that I bagged my first winner … Rhyme ‘N’ Reason was the superstar in question and the 50p e/w that I placed the week before the race at 14/1 was a right result. I remember being away at a College Sports Tournament in Lancaster for the weekend, and refusing to play in a hockey match because I wanted to sit and listen to the race on my Walkman (proper technology …. how cool !) …. And as my team mates took another pasting on the pitch, I was jumping around like a lunatic on speed  (not the drug of choice for a student  in the late 80’s, however you didn’t tend to jump around much after smoking dried banana skins !) cheering on Rhyme ‘N’ Reason to victory and my very nice return of £9.75…a small fortune for a skint student at the time !

Having worked in the betting industry for a number of years during the 90’s, Grand National day was always a mixed day of fun & stress …. The one day during the year when we opened up early, the one day when the shop was full literally from 9am until the race was under way, and the one day a less than orderly queue would form at the payout  the minute the result was in which stretched out of the shop door. It was funny watching all these once a year punters all lined up waiting to collect their winnings when we’d got about 6000 betting slips to try and settle.

National day did have its unexpected challenges though…The very first one I worked as a manager was in 1992. I’d set the shop up nice and neatly, copies of the Sporting Life adorning the walls, plenty of pens and blank betting slips for the once a year punters to throw around the shop floor. For a ‘back street’ bookies, it was looking fit for the day ahead. Next step was to flick the switch so that the screens with all the live info would be beamed into the shop….the switch was switched…..and the screens remained blank ….Fantastic, my first ever Grand National day running a betting shop and we had no screens, nothing at all to enlighten the masses as to the latest special offers (aka Mugs Bets !) The wonderful SIS engineers were called and we found out that the satellite dish had been interfered with, in fact the satellite dish had been positively demolished to the extent that instead of facing Aintree and receiving live pictures from the ‘Scouse Satellite’ , we were pointing more in the direction of Bangkok and were more likely to receive pictures of Naked Hermaphrodite Dwarf Jockeys firing Ping Pong balls out of various orifice. Although the regular clientele would more likely have enjoyed this show a little more than the usual Four Mile marathon around Aintree, the once a year punters may have found it a bit of a turn off ! The engineers did the job and fixed the dish, only for the micro film camera, that was used to take security copies of every bet we took , to break down about an hour before the race was due off, another emergency call, and another visit from the resident ‘camera mending man’ and we were finally sorted….of all days for things to go wrong, it had to happen on my first ever National Day in the bookies.

Over the next few years we had further fun and excitement to contend with, The National that never was in 1993 (my 2nd ever National running a shop) was a f*cking nightmare to put it mildly. How that ever happened I will never know, however what I do know is that we were still in the shop at about 9pm at night, settling bets and trying to get the tills to balance, whilst getting stuck into a case of Fosters. My other abiding memory of that day / night / following morning was being woken up by the cleaner in the toilets of the pub where we’d had our Grand National works p*ss up that night, as getting hammered whilst being on some mega strong pain killers and anti inflammatory tablets  which had been prescribed after a football injury a week before, which had DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL WHILST TAKING THESE TABLETS clearly marked on the bottle, resulted in me passing  out for about 6 hours whilst sitting on the throne !

1997 saw the ‘bomb threat national’, which resulted in the race not being run until the Monday …. Again, this caused major carnage within the betting shops. The punters wanted refunds, Then they didn’t want refunds, they wanted to change their selections, then they wanted to keep their selections….It was another nightmare, especially as sandwiched in between the Saturday and the Monday was a trip to Wembley to watch the mighty Leicester City in the League Cup (Coca Cola Heinz Baked Beans Milky Way Irn Bru Cup or whatever it was called at the time), which of course resulted in large amounts of alcohol being consumed, meaning the last thing I wanted on the Monday was another day of once a year vacant punters winding me up.

Nevertheless, these were all challenges at the time, but are now part of my very own bit of Grand National history, and in the years since Rhyme ‘N’ Reason gave me my very first National success as a punter, I’ve managed to land the winner of the race with Earth Summit in ’98, Numbersixvalverde in ’06 and the real icing on the Grand National cake was Mon Mome at 100/1 in 2009. In the last two years though it’s been a real case of second-itis …. 2011 saw Oscar Time outstayed by Ballabriggs and last year Sunnyhillboy got well and truly chinned right on the line by Neptune Collonges. Every time I watch a repeat of last years race I refuse to believe that my selection got beat, my horse was in front and without doubt the winner every inch of the run in apart from on the winning line (according to the judge – who I think was a relation of Stevie F*cking Wonder !)

When it comes to making my Grand National selection, I use the trends to try and come up with the successful horse, over the years the relevant trends have changed, in the late 80’s you had to make sure your selection wore a nice Fila Tracky top and a pair of Farahs, in the 90’s it was essential your horse dressed a little smarter, designer nags were the horses of choice so an Armani Noseband, Stone Island Saddle and Calvin Klein Horse Boxes were the order of the day. Into the 00’s and it was a bit of a free for all…..trends were all over the place however as long as your selection wasn’t a fatty that had to carry above 11stone come race day then all was good !

Seriously though, I chucked the form book almost out the window and now I just go on the ‘Trend Horses’ alone. With my recent success (and near misses) already listed this has been a source of reasonable success, especially with a 100/1 winner in Mon Mome a couple of years back topping up the coffers. It might not be a fool-proof, bomb-proof and any other proof you care to mention method, last years winner, Neptune Collonges, stuck two hooves up to just about every viable race trend going, however the real winner that finished second, Sunnyhillboy, was just about top of every trend for the likely winner of the race that was around. For me, the key criteria for any selection to hit are as follows –

Aged between 8 & 12, Run at least 10 times over fences (not hurdles), officially rated between 136 & 147, carrying 11st 5lb or less, won  a chase over 3m or more, last ran between 20 – 40 days, run between 4 – 6 times since August the previous year, only won a maximum of once that season, won a class 1 chase, run over the national fences at Aintree before and finally had been place in one of the nationals (Aintree, Irish, Welsh, Scottish or Midland) …. So not many trends to sift through !!!!

Luckily, I managed to sit down and go through every single one of the above for every single remaining entry last weekend. I have my eldest daughter to thank for this free time as I was sat waiting to become a Grandad for the very first time, and as every other member in my family was in a state of panic, I was cooly choosing this years Grand National winner (that is factually a lie …. I was sh*tting myself for the best part of 24 hours until ‘Grandpoppas Little Sossidge’ was born !!!) ….. The result of all this studying was as follows …..

The 2013 Grand National Winner is ……

RARE BOB

The 2nd Horse Will Be …..

OSCAR TIME

Select any of the following to fill the places …..

QUINZ, CHICAGO GREY, SWING B ILL, BALLABRIGGS

As for the rest of the runners …. Forget them, they will be ‘also rans’ !!!!

Now I’ve got to admit, this is not an exact science for selecting the winner of the years biggest race for ‘Joe Public’ however it’s as good as it gets when it comes to me selecting the winner. I managed to back Rare Bob on Betfair, once I’d settled on him as the winner, at odds 38 and 37/1 … then again at 33/1, however at the moment he is best price 28/1 with William Hills (25/1 everywhere else)….and if you want to back the 2nd selected horse, open an account with Batfair as Oscar Time trading at around 170/1 … and well over 20/1 just to be placed …. As opposed to around just 50/1 with the High Street bookie chaps.

We’re not going to win a million on the Grand National I’m afraid, but I’m seriously hoping that either RARE BOB or OSCAR TIME will prove to be proper ‘Trendy Horses’ come this time next week and will be added to my own Grand National history , joining Rhyme ‘N’ Reason, Earth Summit, Numbersixvalverde & Mon Mome as ‘my winners’ of the nations biggest race.  If they don’t, well whilst I was making my selection I emerged as the biggest winner in the world as I became a Grandad….No, scrap that, it’s Grandpoppa,  for the very first time, to a yet unnamed (and unraced) grandson who is very much the ‘apple’ of hiss Grandpoppa’s eye…..maybe he shouldn’t be named until after next weeks race as I reckon either BOB or OSCAR would be perfect !!!!

Good Luck with whatever you back in the Grand National …. As always, win or lose, as long as all the horses and jockeys return safe and sound then that is all that matters.

Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for the next update

 

Follow me on Twitter if you want – @grahameletts

For more Grand National or General Horse Racing / Betting Chat, check out the following on Twitter –

@JSGrandNational

@HORSERACINGGB

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@JPFestival

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And for the very best in racing updates and chat, including quality analysis and blogs check out the following –

http://www.JP festival.com

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