John, Paul, George & Ringo…Forget Beatle Mania…The Grand National Review

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As I mentioned in my previous blog about the Grand National, there’s always a story that comes out of the race that people will remember and talk about for years to come and this year it was going to be all about the first lady jockey to ride the winner of the great race. The press seemed to whip half the country up into some sort of punting fervor that Katie Walsh, sister of master horseman Ruby (he may have girls name, but he’s a bloke !) was going to ride Seabass, trained by her dad Ted , to victory. Now call me a cynic, however I have a feeling those bookie chaps were well and truly behind the creation of  this ‘good news story to be’ as it meant that the once a year punters would all jump upon the ‘Seabass Express’ and part with their hard earned £1 each way. So you ask, why would the bookies want to promote this story so the whole world and his mother would back Ms Walsh and Seabass for victory ? …. Well it’s simple, it’s because Young Katie, and even younger Seabass couldn’t possibly win the race. I know that’s a very brave thing to say after the race but all you needed to do was look at the facts, Seabass finished third in 2012, a good run yes, but he just didn’t quite last home, the two that finished in front pulled away up the long run in whereas Seabass was somewhat one paced. Fast forward to this year’s race, and Seabass was expected to carry even more weight than last year, and against arguably against better opposition….and to top it off, Seabass didn’t even appear in the top 16 when I looked at the race trends, and of course if those once a year punters Doris, Daisy and Dotty had known that, then the pension money would have been invested elsewhere. As it happens, Seabass was sent off at ridiculous short odds of 11/2, 5 and a Half to One for those not up on the nuances of betting odds, and promptly finished an unlucky for many 13th, beaten some 86 lengths. Yes, I could have told you that before the race ……. If you’d only asked !!!!!

The Grand National meeting started on Thursday, and the scene was somewhat set when the days winners included a 100/1 shot, with the highlight of the first day being the Aintree Hurdle where some familiar animals were on show. The race was won by Zarkander, ridden by Ruby Walsh (he rode the finish like a Man …. Not a Girl !!!) who beat one of the Cheltenham winners, The New One by just half a length. The one thing I took from this race was the confirmation that The New One is a seriously good horse. Some have questioned if he was worried out of it when it mattered having just about hit the front just after the last hurdle, some questioned the ride given to the runner up by his jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, however what I’ll say is that for a 5 year old, The New One is a horse I will follow all next season as he’ll improve again and despite the defeat on Thursday, he’s a proper battler. If this horse doesn’t win another very good prize next year I’d be amazed.

Friday was all about TWO horses, both MIGHTY in their very own way however they both gave stunning performances. Of course, My Tent or Yours, or ‘The Mighty Tent’ as he SHOULD be known gave a performance of brilliance by winning the Novice Hurdle although he didn’t beat an awful lot it proved that he is some machine…..The winner of the Champion Hurdle next year at the festival, oh I think so !!!! (that is unless Mr Henderson, Ap & JP decide he’s going chasing ….. Please don’t do it …. Save it until the year after …. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE … I have some money to recover !!!). Incidentally, The ‘Mighty’ Tent was the first of the ‘Famous Five’ Million Pound Punt selections to come out and win since Cheltenham.

The second horse was of course Sprinter Sacre. What can you say about this proper freak of equine nature….He is pure brilliance. He dispatched two very good animals in Cue Card & Flemenstar as if they weren’t even there. This is the first time he’s raced over 2m 4f over fences, some questioned whether he would be as good ….. Fools ….. if he had fingers, he’d be sticking two of them up at all the doubters as he was simply pure class. Now I need to boast about something else here…I said immediately after Sprinter Sacre won the Arkle at Cheltenham in 2012 that he struck me as a horse that would easily stay 3miles and further and that he should be aimed at the Gold Cup, and I’m telling you again, I’m right, without doubt I am right…This horse would, I am certain win the Gold Cup, and if Nicky Henderson came out and said he was being aimed for the ‘big one’ at next year’s Festival then without doubt he’d be around 6/4 at best in the betting. One comment sticks in my mind that his illustrious trainer came out with a couple of weeks ago when he announced he’d be stepping up in distance at Aintree. He said the only reason he’d not done it so far is because he’d be lapping all the other horses. Go on Nicky, be brave, aim him for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham next year, you know you want to, don’t wait until 2015, he might as well start winning them in 2014 as he’ll keep on winning them for the next five years he’s that good….plus I’ve had a couple of quid on at 28/1 !!!!

So, on to the big race on Saturday….and it was the first year that Channel Four have had the pleasure of broadcasting from Aintree. The BBC gave up the Horse Racing ghost last year, deciding that it wasn’t part of their ‘core sport offering’ … F*ck me Auntie, Fake Tanned C List celebs dancing on a Saturday night isn’t ‘core entertainment’ in my eyes but you still broadcast it. It’s a shame though that Big Mac was ditched by C4 at the end of last year as it would have been great entertainment seeing him surrounded by Tango looking Scouse Birds all bevvied up on Blue Nun whilst the local Scallies relieved him of his gold bracelets and rings (am I stereotyping ????). The advert for the National that had been aired for a couple of weeks prior to the race was very entertaining….horses running through the streets and back gardens of Liverpool was very impressive (makes a change from the ‘Huyton Youth’ running through the streets and back gardens from the Old Bill after nicking garden tools for their scrap metal ….. am I stereotyping again ?) The finest part of the trailer however, was the scene with the horses jumping over parked cars in a Liverpool street … this however was obviously not in Liverpool though, we’ve been ‘hoodwinked’ by the makers of this fine piece of visual trickery. How do I know this ??? … Look at the cars that the horses jump, they have wheels on and are not standing on bricks, so they’re quite obviously not in the streets of Merseyside !!! (Calm Down, Calm Down …. I just had to do it, I’m only joking !!!)

My selections then, Rare Bob was the main one, and Oscar Time was the second. And the result, Rare Bob finished 5th …. Oscar Time came 4th.  I’m taking that as a moral victory, in fact, scrap that, it was a victory…. If you backed them both each way with the right bookie who paid out on the first five places then you’d be quids in. I’m not going to declare I’m now a champion tipster, ‘cos I’m not, however I know one or two people that, for some strange reason, followed my two selections and made a bob or two, if you did, happy days and well done …. But whatever you do, don’t expect it to happen again in a hurry !!!

I had a short list of 16 horses before the race….Ok, I know, 16 is not a SHORT LIST, and as it was such a big list (these were all picked on trends alone) I only went with the two at the top of the list,Rare Bob and Oscar Time, the others I left alone as even I wouldn’t back 16 horse s in one race (honest, I wouldn’t !!!) After the race I looked at my ‘not so’ Short List, and the first six home were all on that list….and as it was pointed out to me, maybe I should have backed all 16 as I would have bagged the winner at 66/1 !

On to the race winner then, Auroras Encore, trained by Sue Smith, wife of the ‘oh so happy’ former top show jumper Harvey Smith. To be honest, for any students of form, you’d have put a line through this one pretty early. Ok, he was 2nd in last year’s Scottish Grand National, but apart from that he’d done sweet bugger all since. He wasn’t the best jumper by any means in the race and was being ridden by a Jockey who’d never had a ride in the Grand National before …. However despite all of that, he was still a reasonably ‘trendy horse’ for the race…..and of course he hosed up by 9 lengths, and did it impressively too.  You have to mention what a perfect ride Auroras Encores pilot for the day gave the horse, Ryan Mania is not one of the leading lights in the world of jump jockeys, the most winners he’s ever ridden in a season is 31 and a couple of years ago he packed the game in because he was frustrated at the lack of opportunities he had due to all the abandoned meetings thanks to the fine British weather. For a jockey, if you’re not race riding, you’re not earning a living. You have to take your hat off to the boy, he got back in the saddle and was rewarded on Saturday with the biggest day of his riding career to date, forget Beatle-Mania in Liverpool last Saturday, for those who backed the winner, it was a real case of Ryan-Mania !!!

With the highs of horse racing, you will, of course, get the lows, and not 24 hours after tasting victory in the world’s biggest horse race, the Grand National winning jockey was being flown to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle from Hexham Racecourse in the back of an Air Ambulance after being unseated and trampled on by his mount. Thankfully, what looked a very nasty incident, and with memories of recent tragic incidents at Cheltenham still fresh in many people’s minds, it would appear the injuries are not as bad as first thought and Ryan Mania could be back in the saddle riding sooner that we all expected…and good luck to him as that is certainly 24 hours he’ll never forget !

One other thing from the Grand National, only two horses fell in the race, no horse died in the race, and all jockeys returned in one piece (on Saturday anyway !) …. That’s a bonus after what happened over the last couple of years. I don’t want to be controversial, it not my style (?!?!) however I think the race has just slightly lost that little edge of the ‘ultimate challenge’ for horse and jockey. I may be a lone voice in thinking that, then again I might not be, I don’t want to see horses injured or being killed in any race however maybe the ‘Grand’ is slowly being removed from the Grand National and it is very slowly becoming just another ‘big handicap’ race in the National Hunt calendar.

 

Right, that’s the Grand National done with for another year, where do we head next then in our pursuit of punting riches ….. Well, coming up we’ve got the Scottish National, the Punchestown Festival (Irelands Cheltenham … sort of !), The 1000 & 2000 Guineas at Newmarket (Flat Racing …. Yaaaawwwwwwn !), then we’re heading into the summer meetings, Epsom, Ascot etc etc, so there’s plenty to get stuck into …. I suppose I better get studying !!!!

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog, the support and feedback, both good and bad is really appreciated …. I’ll update over the next couple of weeks, however feel free to leave a comment or let me know if you hit your own personal jackpot at Aintree.

Follow me on Twitter if you want – @grahameletts

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