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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.

Long Shots For The Grand National 2016

This week you will be inundated in the newspapers and on betting related websites who are all focusing on the principle runners in this year’s Grand National.

Very little attention will be paid to those horses that are priced up at much larger odds but plenty of them are what you could deem “sleepers”, or long shots, in the handicap.

It always pays to think outside the box when punting on the Grand National 2016, so here are a few of those long shots that may just wake up on Saturday 9th April at 5.15pm.

Shutthefrontdoor (20/1)

The Jonjo O’Neill trained Shutthefrontdoor is a horse that has been trained entirely with the Grand National in mind this season.

Owned by JP McManus, Shutthefrontdoor was the ante-post favourite in the lead-up to the race twelve months ago, and finished in a creditable fifth place last season under A.P McCoy.

After two modest outings at Aintree and Newbury in this year’s campaign, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if Shutthefrontdoor showed his true potential over the National fences, and looks to be solid each-way value at 20/1.

Former Irish Grand National winners like Shutthefrontdoor (2014 winner) have gone on to win the English equivalent regularly over the last twenty years so that is another positive you can give to the nine-year-old.

 

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Kruzhlinin (20/1)

Kruzhlinin won at Kempton on his first start for Philip Hobbs in January and ran a solid enough race when fifth to Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival last month despite hitting every other fence. He is much better suited to flat tracks like Aintree where he can get into a better jumping rhythm.

With 10st 7lb to shoulder, he may very well cap the finest season in the career of Richard Johnson, the champion jockey elect, and would give Johnson his very first Grand National victory in nineteen previous attempts. It would be quite some story, one totally made for Aintree.

Two years ago, at the age of seven and then trained by Donald McCain, Kruzhlinin had a go at the National and got round to be a distant tenth. He then came back that December to put in a decent round in the Becher Chase.

Now trained by Hobbs it is his belief he will be a much stronger spring horse.

Triolo D'Alene (20/1)

Britain’s most famous race is one of the few to have eluded Nicky Henderson and he has given Jerry McGrath his first ride in the National aboard Triolo D’Alene.

McGrath has some rapport with 20-1 chance Triolo D’Alene as they coasted clear in a Listed chase at Kempton in early January.

Henderson will be hoping the former Hennessy winner, who took the 2013 Topham Chase over the National fences, fares better than in his attempt two years ago, when he was pulled up before Becher’s Brook second time around after making a mistake.

Now at the peak Grand National age of nine, he may be better suited to the race this year after all his previous knee and breathing problems.

 

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Gallant Oscar (20/1)

Gallant Oscar has some top handicap form to his name, notably at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals last season. He's been bought along very quietly this term by the shrewd Tony Martin stable with this race in mind and he really caught the eye at Naas earlier this month.

Morning Assembly (25/1)

Morning Assembly showed what a useful chaser he is on his day when fourth in the Ultima Chase, having cruised into the race before becoming outpaced towards the end.

Pat Fahy's stable star claimed the scalp of this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack as a novice a couple of seasons ago, but has since spent the best part of two years on the sidelines.

A reproduction of form anything like the Don Cossack result and nine-year-old gelding enters calculations here at a handsome price.

O’Faolains Boy (25/1)

After a quite spell in the doldrums the Rebecca Curtis stable has suddenly sprung back into action with a few winners this week and more importantly, just in time for Aintree.

O’Faolains Boy ran a fine race for a long way before fading in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the nine year-old is another one worthy of consideration for the Aintree marathon.

Effective on all types of going, O’Faolains Boy is a former RSA Chase winner and has never fallen throughout his career.

Provided that his Cheltenham exertions haven’t had taken too much of an effect, O’Faolains Boy could give the popular Welsh trainer, and birthday girl this week, her finest day as a trainer yet.

Onenightinvienna (33/1)

The Philip Hobbs-trained seven-year-old runs in the colours of Judith Luff, whose late husband Peter owned the 1986 Aintree hero West Tip. What a story it would be if the same colours were ridden to victory again, thirty years later.

Since an early season Exeter triumph, Onenightinvienna has kept good company. He disappointed on his latest appearance in the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot but that probably came too soon after his Kempton run.

If you go back to his run at Cheltenham earlier in the season, he was only two and a half lengths behind Blaklion, who of course went on to win the RSA Chase.

Ucello Conti (33/1)

Gordon Elliot is no stranger to winning the Grand National having won it as a relatively unknown trainer with Silver Birch in 2007.

Elliot is banging in the winners left, right and centre at the moment and his Ucello Conti has all the right credentials to run a big race at a juicy price.

Two fine efforts in the top Irish handicap chases, most recently in the Thyestes where Jacques Ricou took a rather unconventional route around the course, give massive grounds for optimism for the National itself.

Owners Mr Simon Munir and Mr Isaac Souede are very clever at placing their horses with trainers who can land the big race winners and this appears to have been their Grand National plot horse for some time.

 

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