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Foxrock May Go To Irish National

While racking up his fourth consecutive win for connections over the weekend, Foxrock, under the guidance of jockey Katie Walsh, boosted his Grand National 2017 claims in fine style at Gowran Park.

Winning the Tetrarema Cup Hunters Steeplechase was just what Foxrock needed before connections decide where he goes to next as both the Aintree National and Boylesports Irish National are on the cards.

Walsh said: “It's more than likely he will go for the Irish or English next. Fairyhouse would look the more obvious as it's only over the road and he's 4lbs better off.

“But if it was going to be a very dry April then Barry (Connell, owner) may be tempted to run in Liverpool. At this stage it looks more like Fairyhouse”.

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As potential Grand National winners go, Foxrock really ticks quite a few of the boxes. Yes, he would carry 4lbs more than at Fairyhouse if he ran but he has carried 12 stone for all three of his last races, compared to the 11-02 he has been given for Aintree.

His last four races have been won on either Soft or heavy ground and considering he needs dry ground to really kick into gear and make an impact, one can only imagine how good he would be on nice dry spring ground at Aintree.

Katie Walsh has been on board for all four of his latest wins and her partnership with Seabass, also trained by her father Ted Walsh, was what put her straight into the history books so if she wants to be the first female jockey to ever win an Aintree Grand National then Foxrock really is her best shot this year.

I understand why Fairyhouse looks like such an attractive proposition. Little or no travelling time bodes well for the horse, 4lbs less is 4lbs less so why carry more than he has to. Not to mention the distance of the Irish National is more than half a mile shorter with significantly less runners and while the prize money isn't as good, it's certainly not to be sniffed at with the winner walking away with €270K.

Could connections be blamed for opting to stay in Ireland? Of course they couldn't. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't rather see Foxrock take his chances over the Aintree fences and really have a shot at the Grand National with Katie Walsh on board.

His current antepost odds for the Aintree Grand National are around 25/1 which provides excellent value for money if he he opts to go there. While his BoyleSports Irish Grand National ante-post odds are around 20/1.

Picture by: PA Wire/PA Wire/PA Images

95 Remain In Grand National 2017

It's been an interesting couple of weeks since the weights for the Randox Health Grand National 2017 were announced by the BHA Handicapper, Phil Smith. In an unprecedented move, Gigginstown boss, Michael O'Leary, almost instantly ruled out his top weighted horse, Outlander in protest of the 11-10 he was given. He then followed that up by also declaring that neither Empire Of Dirt or Don Poli would run.

That was then compounded by the possibility that all of the Gigginstown horses would be withdrawn from the Aintree National and would instead be entered and run in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on April 17th. However, as the first set of declarations were revealed today, it would seem that O'Leary has had a small change of heart and kept a couple of potential Gigginstown runners in contention. Those are Lord Scoundrel, Road To Riches, Roi Des Francs, Wounded Warrior, Measureofmydreams, Rouge Angel and Thunder And Roses and Killer Crow. That's just eight from the original 16 that were entered.

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But the removal of so many Gigginstown horses does have a couple of up sides. Firstly, it allows the likes of Pleasant Company, O'Faolains Boy, Highland Lodge and Bishops Road to secure their places in the line-up. Secondly, it also evens up the playing field so that no one owner or trainer dominates so many of the entries which is ultimately fairer in the overall scheme of things.

Of course conversely, not many connections will be happy about the fact that the removal of the four top weighted horses, including Champagne West from trainer Henry De Bromhead, means that all of their potential runners will now carry 4lbs more. Those that had been in the sweet spot such as Foxrock, Blaklion and Caroles Destrier are now all perilously close to the traditional ‘unwinnable' weight of 11stone+.

Those that have been removed are:

  • Outlander
  • Champagne West
  • Empire of Dirt
  • Don Poli
  • Devils Bride
  • Clarcam
  • Tiger Roll
  • A Toi Phil
  • The Game Changer
  • Triolo D'Alene
  • Vieux Morvan
  • Gallant Oscar
  • Tour Des Champs
  • Dromnea
  • Otago Trail

The remaining potential runners are:

HORSE
Age
Wgt
Owner
Trainer
1)
CARLINGFORD LOUGH (IRE)
11
11-10
J P McManus
John Kiely IRE
2)
THE LAST SAMURI (IRE)
9
11-09
Paul & Clare Rooney
Kim Bailey
3)
ALARY (FR)
7
11-08
Ann & Alan Potts
Colin Tizzard
4)
ALELCHI INOIS (FR)
9
11-07
L McMahon/Mrs F Murphy/F Mangan
Willie Mullins IRE
5)
MINELLA ROCCO (IRE)
7
11-06
J P McManus
Jonjo O'Neill
6)
MORE OF THAT (IRE)
9
11-05
J P McManus
Jonjo O'Neill
7)
SHANTOU FLYER (IRE)
7
11-04
Carl Hinchy
Rebecca Curtis
8)
LORD SCOUNDREL (IRE)
8
11-04
Gigginstown House Stud
Gordon Elliott IRE
9)
PERFECT CANDIDATE (IRE)
10
11-04
ISL Recruitment
Fergal O'Brien
10)
SAPHIR DU RHEU (FR)
8
11-04
The Stewart Family
Paul Nicholls
 
11)
ROAD TO RICHES (IRE)
10
11-03
Gigginstown House Stud
Noel Meade IRE
12)
SAUSALITO SUNRISE (IRE)
9
11-03
Diana Whateley
Philip Hobbs
13)
ROI DES FRANCS (FR)
8
11-02
Gigginstown House Stud
Gordon Elliott IRE
14)
CAROLE'S DESTRIER
9
11-02
Carole Skipworth
Neil Mulholland
15)
FOXROCK (IRE)
9
11-02
Barry Connell
Ted Walsh IRE
16)
WOUNDED WARRIOR (IRE)
8
11-01
Gigginstown House Stud
Noel Meade IRE
17)
WONDERFUL CHARM (FR)
9
11-01
Robin Geffen & Sir John Ritblat
Paul Nicholls
18)
TENOR NIVERNAIS (FR)
10
11-00
Boultbee Brooks Ltd
Venetia Williams
19)
BLAKLION
8
11-00
Sarah Such & Gino Paletta
Nigel Twiston-Davies
20)
DROP OUT JOE
9
11-00
The Jesters
Charlie Longsdon
 
21)
LE MERCUREY (FR)
7
10-13
Chris Giles & Colm Donlon
Paul Nicholls
22)
MAGGIO (FR)
12
10-12
Douglas Pryde/Jim Beaumont
Patrick Griffin IRE
23)
THE YOUNG MASTER
8
10-12
Dajam & The Old Masters
Neil Mulholland
24)
CAUSE OF CAUSES (USA)
9
10-12
J P McManus
Gordon Elliott IRE
25)
REGAL ENCORE (IRE)
9
10-12
J P McManus
Anthony Honeyball
26)
VIEUX LION ROUGE (FR)
8
10-11
Prof Caroline Tisdall & John Gent
David Pipe
27)
DEFINITLY RED (IRE)
8
10-11
Phil Martin
Brian Ellison
28)
UCELLO CONTI (FR)
9
10-11
Simon Munir/Isaac Souede
Gordon Elliott IRE
29)
DOUBLE SHUFFLE (IRE)
7
10-11
Crossed Fingers Partnership
Tom George
30)
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (FR)
10
10-11
Mrs Julian Blackwell
Venetia Williams
 
31)
PLEASANT COMPANY (IRE)
9
10-11
Malcolm Denmark
Willie Mullins IRE
32)
ONE FOR ARTHUR (IRE)
8
10-10
Two Golf Widows
Lucinda Russell
33)
BALLYNAGOUR (IRE)
11
10-10
Allan Stennett
David Pipe
34)
JUNCTION FOURTEEN (IRE)
8
10-10
Martin St Quinton & Tim Syder
Emma Lavelle
35)
VIVALDI COLLONGES (FR)
8
10-10
The Gi Gi Syndicate
Paul Nicholls
36)
O'FAOLAINS BOY (IRE)
10
10-10
Trembath, Hyde, Outhart & Hill
Rebecca Curtis
37)
HIGHLAND LODGE (IRE)
11
10-10
Bowes Lodge Stables
James Moffatt
38)
BISHOPS ROAD (IRE)
9
10-09
Alan Halsall
Kerry Lee
39)
VICS CANVAS (IRE)
14
10-09
Bodeen Bandits Partnership
Dermot McLoughlin IRE
40)
LORD WINDERMERE (IRE)
11
10-09
Dr Ronan Lambe
Jim Culloty IRE
 
41)
ZIGA BOY (FR)
8
10-09
Axom LI
Alan King
42)
SAINT ARE (FR)
11
10-09
David Fox
Tom George
43)
VICENTE (FR)
8
10-09
John Hales & Ian Fogg
Paul Nicholls
44)
MEASUREOFMYDREAMS (IRE)
9
10-08
Gigginstown House Stud
Noel Meade IRE
45)
RAZ DE MAREE (FR)
12
10-08
James J Swan
Gavin Cromwell IRE
46)
STELLAR NOTION (IRE)
9
10-08
Roger Brookhouse
Henry de Bromhead IRE
47)
JUST A PAR (IRE)
10
10-08
Paul Barber & the late Graham Roach
Paul Nicholls
48)
ROGUE ANGEL (IRE)
9
10-07
Gigginstown House Stud
Mouse Morris IRE
49)
SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR (IRE)
10
10-07
J P McManus
Jonjo O'Neill
50)
PENDRA (IRE)
9
10-07
J P McManus
Charlie Longsdon
 
51)
COCKTAILS AT DAWN
9
10-07
Robin Geffen & Sir John Ritblat
Nicky Henderson
52)
AS DE MEE (FR)
7
10-07
The Stewart Family & Judi Dench
Paul Nicholls
53)
SEVENTH SKY (GER)
10
10-07
Fidelma Toole
Charlie Mann
54)
THE ROMFORD PELE (IRE)
10
10-06
Trembath & Outhart
Rebecca Curtis
55)
THUNDER AND ROSES (IRE)
9
10-06
Gigginstown House Stud
Mouse Morris IRE
56)
GAS LINE BOY (IRE)
11
10-06
The Three Graces
Ian Williams
57)
GOODTOKNOW
9
10-06
Burling Daresbury MacEchern Nolan Potter
Kerry Lee
58)
LA VATICANE (FR)
8
10-05
Maria Bukhtoyarova
David Pipe
59)
DOCTOR HARPER (IRE)
9
10-05
The Johnson Family
David Pipe
60)
BLESS THE WINGS (IRE)
12
10-04
Adrian Butler/S P O'Connor
Gordon Elliott IRE
 
61)
KNOCK HOUSE (IRE)
8
10-03
Tim Leslie
Donald McCain
62)
HADRIAN'S APPROACH (IRE)
10
10-02
Richard & Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes
Nicky Henderson
63)
SAMBREMONT (FR)
7
10-01
Shanakiel Racing Syndicate
Willie Mullins IRE
64)
POTTERS CROSS
10
10-01
Conyers, O'Reilly, Roddis, Zeffman
Rebecca Curtis
65)
BENBENS (IRE)
12
10-01
Sarah Such & Gino Paletta
Nigel Twiston-Davies
66)
STRAIDNAHANNA (IRE)
8
10-01
Margaret Scholey & Ray Scholey
Sue Smith
67)
VIVA STEVE (IRE)
9
10-01
Paul & Clare Rooney
Fergal O'Brien
68)
POLIDAM (FR)
8
10-00
Simon Munir/Isaac Souede
Willie Mullins IRE
69)
LAMB OR COD (IRE)
10
10-00
Terry Warner
Philip Hobbs
70)
MILANSBAR (IRE)
10
10-00
Robert Bothway
Neil King
 
71)
CLOUDY TOO (IRE)
11
10-00
Formulated Polymer Products Ltd
Sue Smith
72)
VYTA DU ROC (FR)
8
9-13
Simon Munir & Isaac Souede
Nicky Henderson
73)
STREETS OF PROMISE (IRE)
8
9-13
Gempro
Michael Scudamore
74)
BEEVES (IRE)
10
9-12
Paul & Clare Rooney
Jennie Candlish
75)
ROYALE KNIGHT
11
9-12
Chris Stedman & Robert Corsan
Dr Richard Newland
76)
OUT SAM
8
9-11
Swanee River Partnership
Warren Greatrex
77)
SIZING COAL (IRE)
9
9-11
Alan & Ann Potts Partnership
Jim Dreaper IRE
78)
GOULANES (IRE)
11
9-11
Roger Brookhouse
Neil Mulholland
79)
LESSONS IN MILAN (IRE)
9
9-11
Trevor Hemmings
Nicky Henderson
80)
ALFIE SPINNER (IRE)
12
9-11
Alan Beard & Brian Beard
Kerry Lee
 
81)
EMPEROR'S CHOICE (IRE)
10
9-11
The Bellamy Partnership
Venetia Williams
82)
MOUNTAIN KING
8
9-11
Jack McKay/Paul McKay/Mark McKay
Gordon Elliott IRE
83)
DARE TO ENDEAVOUR
10
9-10
Aidan J Ryan
Eric McNamara IRE
84)
SILVER MAN
10
9-10
John Wardle
Jo Hughes
85)
FATHER EDWARD (IRE)
8
9-10
Fergus Wilson
David Pipe
86)
SAMINGARRY (FR)
10
9-10
Nigel Hawke Racing Club & Partner
Nigel Hawke
87)
ALVARADO (IRE)
12
9-09
William & Angela Rucker
Fergal O'Brien
88)
MILBOROUGH (IRE)
11
9-09
Helen Cross
Ian Duncan
89)
THE CRAFTY BUTCHER (IRE)
10
9-08
P Byrne/P W Mullins/D Ryan/I Madigan
Willie Mullins IRE
90)
WALDORF SALAD
9
9-08
Alan Parker
Venetia Williams
 
91)
KATENKO (FR)
11
9-07
Andrew Brooks
Venetia Williams
92)
FEDERICI
8
9-06
Jon Glews
Donald McCain
93)
GONE TOO FAR
9
9-05
Fergus Wilson
David Pipe
94)
RACING PULSE (IRE)
8
9-05
Carl Hinchy
Rebecca Curtis
95)
KILLER CROW (IRE)
8
9-04
Gigginstown House Stud
Gordon Elliott IRE

Grand National Trial Review

The Grand National Trial took place on Saturday afternoon at Haydock Park and it contained no less than seven runners that have also been entered for the Aintree marathon in April. Those horses were Blaklion, Houblon Des Obeaux, Vicente, Vieux Lion Rouge, Gas Line Boy, Tour Des Champs and Goodtoknow.

Some may argue that the Haydock race was all but a trial in name as we have not seen the winner of this contest go onto lift the Grand National in the same season. Suny Bay, the 1997 winner, did go onto finish second at Liverpool in the National, while the 2005 winner, Forest Gunner, went onto run a respectable fifth. However after this latest renewal many people are of the opinion that one of those horses that ran well on Saturday may buck this trend on April 8th.

With the Grand National in mind it is certainly worth analysing how each of the engaged horses faired at Haydock and looking at their prospects in the “big one”.

Vieux Lion Rouge (Place in the weights: 40, Current odds 12/1)
Vieux Lion Rouge put himself firmly at the head of the market for the Grand National at Aintree in April after winning the Grand National Trial. David Pipe's eight-year-old is now as low as 12-1 favourite with some bookmakers for the world’s greatest steeplechase on April 8th.

Vieux Lion Rouge finished seventh in last year's Grand National behind Rule The World and he showed his liking for the Aintree fences with victory the Becher Chase in December.

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Vieux Lion Rouge was allotted 10st7lb when the weights were revealed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London last week and that now appears to be a very generous weight given his exploits on Saturday. In a race that was dominated by the three front-runners, Gas Line Boy made the running to three out where Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion took over to dominate the finish.

There was nothing between them over the last two fences, but Vieux Lion Rouge found that extra spurt for Tom Scudamore to win by three and a quarter lengths from Blaklion with Vintage Clouds 18 lengths back in third.

David Pipe said: “He's changed a lot, as he never used to find much at the end of his races. As a French horse he's quite a late maturer, running in the National last season made a man of him.

“I wasn't confident he was going to win as it's a long straight and Tom wasn't sure what he had left.

“He's going back to Aintree with experience over the fences and he proved today he doesn't need soft ground.

“We can look forward to April now.”

His rider Tom Scudamore said: “He never used to finish off his races, but running in the National as a novice made a man of him.

“He was foot-perfect in the Becher and was foot-perfect today. He wasn't the greatest jumper before he ran in the National last year.

“We can head to the National now with confidence and a few pounds up our sleeves, we hope.”

Blaklion (Place in the weights: 24, Current odds 16/1)
Blaklion will carry 10st 10lb in the National and will be 3lb better off at Aintree with Vieux Lion Rouge on this latest running. Twiston-Davies is no stranger to National success winning it twice with Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002). He was obviously delighted with the result.

He said: “We'll win the National and forget about being second today. He's had a long time off and that should put him spot on for Aintree.

“He was much more like his old self. His jumping was spot on at almost every fence and even when he was tired he put himself right, and that's what you need for Aintree.”

Gas Line Boy (Place in the weights: 63, Current odds 100/1)
The eleven-year-old led for the best part of three miles in the Grand National Trial before tiring and fading back to fourth place. Gas Line Boy ran in the 2015 renewal of the Grand National where he fell at the first so the fences are an unknown for him.

Ian William’s veteran performer looks likely to get into the race on the day but whether his stamina will hold out over 4.5 miles is debatable. He looks to be the sort who will be in the front rank for a long way before being taken on in the last mile.

Houblon Des Obeaux (Place in the weights: 37, Current odds 50/1)
Venetia Williams’ ten-year-old has run solid efforts in the Welsh National and the Classic Chase at Warwick so far this season but was never a contender in the Grand National Trial and ran a pretty flat race, finishing eighth of the nine finishers.

He can be forgiven that run but the indicators are he probably needs a fairly wet Grand National to be seen to any effect.

Vicente (Place in the weights: 50, Current odds 33/1)
Paul Nicholls’ runner finished last on Saturday afternoon but it is more than likely he was not fully wound up for that race. Winner of last year’s Scottish Grand National, Nicholls rates this horse as his best Grand National hope this season. Rest assured Vicente will be a different horse altogether on April 8th and previous Scottish Grand National form has been key in recent seasons.

Tour Des Champs (Place in the weights: 73, Current odds 66/1)
The ten-year-old was pulled-up at Haydock and was struggling with the pace from a very early stage. It would be a surprise to see him make the cut at No.73 in the weights and his trainer Sam Drinkwater will be praying for rain one suspects.

Goodtoknow (Place in the weights: 64, Current odds 66/1)
The suspicion was with this Kerry Lee trained horse that he would need bottomless ground at Haydock to figure but the rain never came. The nine-year-old was tailed off when he was pulled-up five from home.

Again, this is another Grand National runner that will need a wet Aintree Festival to have any kind of chance in the feature race.

Picture by Clint Hughes PA Archive/PA Images

Goodtoknow Could Be Headed To The National

The Kerry Lee trained horse Goodtoknow is on a roll and with a win at Hereford two weeks ago, his chances of making the cut for the Grand National 2017 have definitely been given a boost. It was a great performance in the Handicap Chase for the nine year old chaser and his trainer is more than pleased with its potential effect at Aintree.

Both Goodtoknow and his stablemate Mountainous put on a show during the race, with Goodtoknow leading home the latter horse. Lee has been having an amazing season so far, following up a season of success from last year.

She managed to finish last season with a Welsh National win and a Warwick’s Classic chase win and for a trainer who only made her debut last season, this is impressive to say the least. Lee is very quickly making a name for herself in this industry and is sure to have another successful season if Hereford is any indication.

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There were a total of 11 runners in the Handicap Chase at Hereford but because of the conditions only three of them managed to make it to the finish. Mountainous and Goodtoknow led the pack, with Streets of Promise coming in third. Streets of Promise has been fair to middling in his races so far this season, with a smattering of third and fourth places being earned.

It wasn’t a close race by any stretch of the imagination but it was a good one none the less for the two Lee horses. The ground was soft but heavy in parts, making for difficult conditions for the horses and jockeys alike. Navigating the track was a battle in itself and it was clear to see from the start that all of the runners would not be making it to the finishing line.

Lee herself stated that the two had been in peak form during the race and that their jockeys served them well. She’s right in this regard as Richard Patrick and Jake Greenall both handled the tough conditions well, giving plenty of guidance to the horses. It was a nail biting finish for Lee, as she stated she just couldn’t tell which of the two would win.

Joking after the race, Lee stated that pundits were asking which horse she would bet upon that morning. Her advice was a reverse exacta as there was no way she could pick from the two that had been on such top form. She now has her fingers crossed that the win will be enough for the BHA Handicapper to take notice of Goodtoknow when it comes to revealing the weights for the 2017 National – but it will still be a close call.

But before the Grand National in April, plans are to send Goodtoknow to Haydock on Saturday for the upcoming Grand National Trial for which he has odds as short as 10/1, with Betfair. That's a far cry from the current ante-post Grand National odds of 66/1 which will probably drop like a stone if he is successful at Haydock.

Undoubtedly, Goodtoknow will once again be partnered with jockey Jake Greenall who avid racing fans may recognise as the son of former chairman of Aintree, Lord Daresbury which may just give him an edge when it comes to knowing his way around the course.

However it all pans out for connections, Lee’s horses are definitely ones to watch in the run up to the Grand National and they may just surprise us further in their next races.

Alvarado Pins National Hopes On Handicapper

Historically if your horse is within the first 75 when the weights are announced by the BHA Handicapper, you have a pretty good shot at making the line-up for the Grand National.

This is largely in part to horses getting multiple race entries, such as at both Aintree and Cheltenham, and connections opting for the latter and bypassing the Grand National Festival.

Horses get entered but subsequently get injured, they also get withdrawn if the weight they are allocated is deemed to high for them to take the chance over such a long distance and for some, much closer to the day, the ground doesn't go their way and trainers opt for alternative races such as the Scottish Grand National which takes place a couple of weeks later.

For those reasons, and probably a few more, the number of horses originally entered into the National gets whittled down and as those at the top half of the list are taken out those on the lower weights get moved up the pecking order and closer to the final forty that will compete on the day.

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In 2013 84 horses got an entry. Viking Blond was at number 76 when the weights came out having been allocated 9-07. He ultimately made it into the top 40, was bumped up to 10-00, the minimum you can run off in the Grand National. Likewise in 2014 when 115 were entered and Swing Bill was given 10-01 and found himself in spot number 79. He too ultimately made the cut.

In 2015 the number of entries dropped slightly to 98 of which Royale Knight was at number 68 after the weights were announced. A higher calibre of entries meant the Official Rating of the runners had also gone up and now 138 was the lowest OR of the forty National runners – up from 131 in 2013.

In 2016 things changed again. With some spectacular entries such as Don Poli, Many Clouds, Silviniaco Conti and Valseur Lido all potentially in the running and a bumper crop of entries at 126, many assumed it would be par for the course when it came to defections and that those who found themselves somewhere in the middle of the table would still have a decent shot of making the final cut. However, fewer than expected were withdrawn, only 19 in total which meant that the Romford Pele was the last to book his place on a staggering official rating of 145.

So now it's 2017 and the likes of Alvarado find themselves in very precarious positions when it comes to this year's renewal of the Grand National. A runner that finished fourth in both the 2014 and 2015 runnings, he missed the cut in 2016. Clearly a horse still in his prime he went to the Scottish Grand National where he finished in second place behind Vincente.

His problem this season is that he is currently running off a handicap of around 135 and based on last year, this is not high enough to secure him a place. His opportunity to be viewed more favourably by the BHA Handicapper suffered a set back when he fell in the Becher Chase back in December and his chance to boost his credentials, before the weights are revealed next Tuesday, didn't go to plan when he could only manage 6th place at Musselburgh in the bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase last Saturday.

Trainer Fergal O'Brien remains optimistic though saying: “His handicap mark is not something we worry about and if he misses out hopefully he can go one better in the Scottish National.”

It would be great to see Alvarado back around the National course and maybe if the declaration stages go his way we might just see him there again on April 8th. For now though his best chance is with the Handicapper.

Ziga Boy Wins at Doncaster and will be Running at Haydock

Connections of Ziga Boy are looking ahead to possible Grand National qualification as they gear up for Haydock. The eight year old has been in his element recently, slamming the competition in the run up to Aintree with his recent big win in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster and with his place booked in the upcoming Grand National Trial at Haydock, it could be the boost his credentials need if he wants to line-up at Aintree on April 8th.

Trainer Alan King will be hoping for him to do well at the upcoming National trial on the 18th of February, at least as well as he did at Doncaster which will have hopefully raised his rating enough to allow him to make the cut when the BHA Handicapper reveals the weights on February 14th.

Prior to the Doncaster win his rating was 137. Last year, when he was entered into the National he was given 141 and that still wasn't enough to qualify when no horses below 145 made the cut. Thankfully the handicapper has given him a helping hand in the race to make the cut for the Grand National by raising his rating to 147. Incidentally, those on an OR of 147 ran off 10-06 in 2016 so definitely an advantageous weight.

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Dan Downie, the racing manager for Ziga Boy’s owners, said that the horse was doing well after Doncaster, with no injuries or warnings to speak of. He said that Ziga Boy had basically mirrored the performance of last year and that it had all just fallen into place for the horse. With the entry into the Grand National Trial at Haydock being received, they’ll need to think about whether they’re ready for this horse to go for the toughest race.

Ziga Boy is owned by Axom, a syndicate that is notorious for being selective about the horses that they offer to their members and only ever have a few of them at a time. Their members will be watching patiently while the Grand National Trial takes place, with more than a few of them likely to be at the edge of their seats.

Historically, Ziga Boy has always done well in Doncaster, having won at the race last year too so this was a record breaking moment for as he was the first to clinch a double victory in the history of the race. He smashed the 71 year record and has set himself up well for the rest of the season.

This significant change in the rankings could have a knock on effect with regards to the 40 runners we see in the Grand National. If Ziga Boy manages to make it there, he might just unseat a more favoured pick to do so. With Haydock fast approaching, the battle for a place in the Grand National is likely to heat up shortly.

14 Year Old Vics Canvas to Compete in the Grand National

This April, Vics Canvas will try to become the oldest winner of the Grand National in more than 150 years. The Dermot McLoughlin trained chaser will be 14 years old but his track record shows that he's got just as much chance as anybody, the only issue is that he hasn't actually run this season.

A leg injury has prevented him from having run outs so far this season with his trainer describing the injury as a knock on the joint with a small crack, nothing overly concerning but cause for a rest for the horse.

As a younger horse, his career didn’t get off to the best start because he suffered from stomach ulcers. This led to slow start and it wasn’t until the age of seven that he actually gained any momentum. He did well in the Cork Grand National back in 2014 and his trainer believes he still has a lot of potential despite his age.

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He ran in last year's National and got off to a spectacular start but bad luck hampered his chances when he had a minor stumble. Despite that, he still managed to get around and finish in third place, which is a great achievement though, understandably disappointing for his trainer and connections.

McLoughlin is a prolific trainer and has the eye for horses that are still willing to race. He said that although Vics Canvas is getting on in years, he’s not a heavily raced horse. He’s also never sustained a major injury that has taken longer than a few weeks to recover fully from. As a chaser he's had 11 chase starts returning a win and five places which, for his age, isn't as many as you would expect.

His trainer described him as being in good condition and enthusiastic about racing and is hoping this continues to be the case come April.

This horse may be a bit older than many other of his fellow entrants but he definitely shouldn’t be counted out of the race. Last year he went off at 100/1 which would have been a huge win for those who backed him each way but he would have to make history on April 8th as he would be the only horse to win the race at the age of 14, though one 15 year old has one it in the past.

Peter Simple is the oldest ever winner of the Grand National, though things were rather different when he won back in 1853. The advantage that this horse had was that he’d already won the race a few years prior, something that Vics Canvas has not.

The pundits don’t really know how to take this entry into the race, with bookmakers taking a wide range of bets on him. Although he is older, he does have a number of selling points that could place him above others in the race. Just last he smashed records as the only 13 year old to run in the Grand National since 1969. Add to this the fact that he won’t be raced before then and readers can see why he’s hard to place.

The BHA will also need to sign off on Vics Canvas before he heads to the starting gate. Depending on the rating and weight he is given by the BHA Handicapper next week, he might not even make the cut but if he does, he’ll still be inspected on the morning of the race.

Prior to that he could even be pulled at one of the declaration stages as it's up to the BHA to certify that horses are safe to compete in what is steeplechasing’s most difficult race. They have a duty of care to the horses and they won’t hesitate to pull the racer if he proves not to be up to the task.

But should he be given the green light then keep him in mind as a stalwart who can get around the course with the potential to cause an upset.

Many Clouds To Take On Thistlecrack

What a weekend of racing it's shaping up to be. With high profile races looking set to light up both Cheltenham and Doncaster, the biggest clash looks like Many Clouds V Thistlecrack.

In what is being described a dress rehearsal for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, these two mighty powerhouses are going head-to-head at Cheltenham in the Cotswold Chase which is one of nine races on a bumper Cheltenham card, as both the Glenfarclas Chase from November and last weekend’s Ascot Clarence House have been rescheduled and added to the meeting

There are 11 entries for the race, including two previous winners of the race, Many Clouds and Smad Place, who both also won the Hennessy Gold Cup.

But Thistlecrack is the odds-on favourite and is as low as 4/11 to reign supreme on the day. Many Clouds is a relatively close second with the bookmakers on 11/2 so still money to be made for those who thinks he has what it takes to end Thistlecrack's supreme run of form.

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Unfortunately with such supreme talent set to line-up and the bookmakers only paying out on the first two home, it doesn't look like there's not much value to be had in the betting unless something goes very wrong on the day.

Interestingly enough both trainers are also very optimistic about their chances and seemingly relishing in the challenge each of them faces.

Colin Tizzard, trainer of Thistlecrack, said: “Whatever turns up we’ll take them on.

“It’s a bit frozen at the moment but if we get a chance and Tom Scudamore’s available we’ll give him a school first.”

While Oliver Sherwood added: “It’s a hot race but you want the best races to be like that.

“He’s won it and been second in it. You should never be frightened of one horse but we’ve got to the point where he needs the match practice.

“It’s all systems go. Ideally it will be this, one more race and Aintree. If he runs really well we’d look at the Gold Cup.”

While Sherwood didn't mention the Grand National 2017, it is understood that Many Clouds will at least get another entry before connections determine whether or not he will run in it.

Last year, he enjoyed an impressive build up to the race, on the back of his 2015 National win and while he had a lovely trip around the inside, he lost momentum with a notable blunder at the 26th before gradually getting tired as well as reportedly losing a front right shoe.

Can The Red Lion Roar In The Grand National?

With the entry deadline for the Grand National 2017 drawing ever closer, many trainers are now confirming which of their hopefuls will get saddled up for the big day on April 8th. Confirming his own plans for this year's renewal is David Pipe who is hoping to give Vieux Lion Rouge another crack at the Aintree fences.

This will be the second opportunity for Vieux Lion Rouge who also ran in 2016 managing to get around the course successfully to finish in seventh. With another year under his belt and appearing in fine form, connections are no doubt hoping that he can go six places better and actually win it this year.

While winning the Grand National 2017 will be a mammoth task, it's certainly not beyond his reach and his recent win in the Aintree Becher Chase, over the National fences, will only further add to his already impressive credentials.

James Reveley saddled him last year but Tom Scudamore is the jockey he pairs with on a more regular basis and looks likely to continue that partnership for the Grand National.

As the Becher Chase was his only run out this season so far, it's very likely that he will get another opportunity to stretch his legs before the big day with David Pipe saying: “He will probably have one run before Aintree.

“I don't think he will run before the weights come out. He will still be borderline to get into the race.

“He is rated 146 but in all these handicaps the bottom mark is going up, whether it is Cheltenham or Aintree.

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“He seems to be finishing his races better of late as he has not always finished his races that well. He really saw it out well in the Becher. He is definitely getting stronger.

“He jumps them (Aintree fences) better than park fences. When we bought him as an unraced three-year-old I didn't think he would be running in the Grand National, but these things happen, thank goodness.”

While only two eight year olds have managed to bag the coveted Grand National since 2000, there's nothing to suggest that Vieux Lion Rouge can't make it three.

Bindaree won it in 2002 with Many Clouds achieving the same feat in 2015. He, of course, looks set to take another crack at the race and odds for both are pretty close but just edging in favour of Many Clouds but if Vieux Lion Rouge can continue his good form then I would definitely consider him for a cheeky each-way bet closer to to the day.

Valseur Lido Likely Out For The Season

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It has definitely been a year of ups and downs for Gigginstown House Stud as no sooner had they made the announcement that Don Cossack was to be retired they then had to break the news that their top chaser Valseur Lido is likely to miss the rest of the season.

The decision to retire Don Cossack, at just 10 years old, was taken after he suffered a recurrence of a tendon injury first sustained last April.

The current Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, had a spectacular career with 12 wins and four places from 19 chase starts, notching up in excess of £900K in prize money.

Quoted on his Betfair blog, Elliott said: “I am very sad to report that Don Cossack has suffered a setback and will now be retired.

“We found that he had a bit of heat in his leg on Monday and we've made the decision to call time.

“It's a real sickener for Gigginstown, myself, Bryan Cooper and the whole yard. We knew it was never certain we would get him back to the racecourse and even after that, to get him back to his best, but we were hopeful and he was on track for a run at Gowran Park next month.

“He's a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing.”

Two days later and it was the turn of trainer Henry de Bromhead to announced that his Gigginstown chaser, Valseur Lido, the Grade 1 winner, had sustained an injury on the gallops and was being assessed.

“He is currently in Fethard equine hospital after picking up a knock on the gallops this morning,” the trainer said.

The extent of the injury remains unclear, but De Bromhead added: “At the moment, I am waiting to hear back from the vet, but there is a strong possibility that he is out for the season.”

Valseur Lido began his season with a wide-margin victory in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal in November before finishing fourth in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown last month.

The eight year old had been pencilled in for both the Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup at Cheltenham as well as being a 25/1 antepost chance for the Grand National 2017.