Monthly Archives: April 2012

A valuable lesson for women in how men prioritise

I’m celebrating the end of the winter NH season with a rare non-racing blog post from which I think we can all learn.

 

At dawn the telephone rings . . .

 

“Hello, Senor Rod? This is Ernesto, the caretaker at your country house.”

“Ah yes, Ernesto. What can I do for you? Is there a problem?”

“Um, I am just calling to advise you, Senor Rod, that your parrot; he is dead.”

“My parrot: dead? The one that won the International competition?”

 

“Si, Senor, that’s the one.”

“Damn! That’s a pity! I spent a small fortune on that bird. What did he die from?”

“From eating the rotten meat, Senor Rod…”

“Rotten meat? Who the hell fed him rotten meat?”

“Nobody, Senor. He ate the meat of the dead horse.”

 

“Dead horse? What dead horse?”

“The thoroughbred, Senor Rod.”

“My prize thoroughbred is dead?”

“Yes, Senor Rod, he died from all that work pulling the water cart.”

“Are you insane? What water cart?”

“The one we used to put out the fire, Senor.”

“Good Lord! What fire are you talking about, man?”

“The one at your house, Senor! A candle fell and the curtains caught on fire.”

“What the hell? Are you saying that my mansion is destroyed because of a candle?”

“Yes, Senor Rod.”

“But there’s electricity at the house! What was the candle for?”

“For the funeral, Senor Rod.”

“WHAT BLOODY FUNERAL?”

“Your wife’s, Senor Rod. She showed up very late one night and I thought she was a thief, so I hit her with your new Ping G15 204g titanium head golf club with the TFC 149D graphite shaft.”

SILENCE…

 

LONG SILENCE…

 

VERY LONG SILENCE . . .

“Ernesto, if you broke that driver, you’re in trouble my friend!”

First 3D horse racing film will be broadcast tomorrow by Sky

British Champions Series

The world’s first ever 3D horseracing film, a 24 minute documentary about the inaugural QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot last October, will be shown for the first time on Sky’s 3D channel tomorrow and can also be seen by racegoers at the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 May. 

Narrated by legendary broadcaster Sir Peter O’Sullevan, the film is a co-production between At The Races, QIPCO Holding and British Champions Series 

The outstanding quality of the racing, headlined by a ninth straight victory for the world’s best racehorse, Frankel, and the fantastic autumn sunshine at Ascot that afternoon made Britain’s richest ever raceday something special.  This film captures the atmosphere in a stunning way, with the 3D dimension bringing it to life as never before. 

The shots of the horses are simply breathtaking, allowing the viewer to get ‘up-close and personal’ with these majestic creatures and to see some of the world’s greatest racehorses as they have never been seen before. 

You are blown away when they break out of the starting stalls and you feel like you are travelling with them during the race.  You also get to stand inside the paddock while they are parading beforehand, seeing almost every hair on their coat, and again when they are washed down in some stunning post-race footage. 

Produced and edited by At The Races, the UK’s most watched dedicated horseracing channel, the ground-breaking feature was shot by 3D specialists Can Communicate using six state-of-the-art cameras and 26 staff.  

Each 3D camera was actually made up of two cameras, set up to capture action from different angles. Two sets of footage are therefore displayed to the viewer simultaneously, allowing the brain to determine depth and perspective. 

Bespoke rigs on the At The Races production allowed for smooth zooming, something difficult to achieve in 3D broadcast.  State-of-the-art post production systems have generated maximum impact and feature-film quality. 

You can catch it on the Sky 3D channel at the following times this week and next: 

Wednesday 25th April at 14.00 & 22.00; Thursday 26th April at 16.30; Saturday 28th April at 10.00; Monday 30th April at 13.00; Tuesday 1st May at 22.00; Thursday 3rd May at 15.30; Friday 4th May at 14.30 

At the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket on 5 and 6 May, a tented cinema will be sited on the Hyperion Lawn and will hold 20 people at a time.  Admission will be free on a first come, first served basis from the start of racing and throughout the afternoon. 

Rod Street, Chief Executive of British Champions Series Ltd, said: “We are big supporters of technical innovation and were therefore delighted to have backed this really exciting production. 

“I think it’s fair to say that QIPCO British Champions Day more than lived up to expectations  last year and this film captures the magnificence of the world class horses that took part in a way that has never been done before.” 

Matthew Imi, Chief Executive of At The Races, said: “We believe that racing is ideally suited to 3D broadcast and wanted to use the latest technology to capture the colour, impact and excitement of this exceptional day and really create something that can help promote QIPCO British Champions Day, Ascot Racecourse and British racing more generally around the world. 

“We are extremely grateful to Sheikh Fahad Al Thani for QIPCO’s support of the project and to all those at British Champions Series for their involvement. 

“It is also, of course, a real honour to have worked with Sir Peter O’Sullevan. His class matches that of the day itself and of the human and equine talent on display across possibly the best meeting to have graced a British racecourse.” 

The Grand National: a look at last year’s BHA Review Group report. Do we need a speed limit?



The Review process has been balanced, thorough and comprehensive. The Review Group, and the BHA Board, are confident that the 30 recommendations will help achieve the objectives of not only enhancing the safety and welfare of participants but also maintaining public confidence in both the sport, and the Grand National as a race.”

So said Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare at the BHA after that organisation’s review of the 2011 Grand National in which 2 horses died and 19 others failed to finish.

Last Saturday 2 horses died and 23 others failed to finish signifying that the enhancement of safety and welfare target was not reached.  A victory could be claimed on the ‘maintaining public confidence’ aspect as attendances, TV viewing and betting turnover was up.

But given that the review was so thorough and comprehensive, what else can be done?  What, if anything, did the review committee miss or get wrong last year?

In this article, I’ve listed selective extracts from the Review Group’s report, concentrating on the aspects most commonly discussed since Saturday:

  • Speed over the first few fences

  • The drops on the landing sides

  • Loose horses

  • Field size

  • The Start

At the end I offer some potential solutions to the speed issue by way of stirring up some creative thinking on the part of reformers.

NB, from here on in this document, any text not in italics is extracted directly from the review document; italicised text represents my comments.

Extracts from  the Grand National: A Review of safety and welfare, published November 2011

Since 2000, the race averages 28.39% fallers, compared to 21.48% for the other four races staged on the Grand National circuit.

The fence-by-fence Grand National faller data since 1990 highlighted that, the first 1 minute 35 secs up to and including jumping Becher’s Brook (Fence 6), accounts for over 53% of all falls in the race and 28% of unseated riders.

Fence 1 appears to exhibit a particular trait inasmuch as when it is jumped as the very first fence in the race its rates of 21.6% of all falls and 8.1% of all unseats compare with 0% for both categories when it is jumped on the second circuit (Fence 17).

Clearly, a significant number of runners will not set out on the second circuit having already fallen or pulled up but the Review Group
believes it is still a striking comparison and feels that it can at least in part be explained by the fact that most of the runners will never have seen an obstacle like a Grand National fence before.

On that basis, it supports a proposal made by the Aintree Executive that they seek to construct an Aintree-style fence at each of the major training centres and encourage trainers to school their runners over it.  This approach was previously adopted after the last major regulatory review of the Grand National in 1998. But there is a need to re-invigorate this practice.

In view of the unique fence design of the Grand National fences, the Aintree Executive shall again liaise with all major Jump training centres to develop the construction and encourage the use of a well maintained Aintree-style schooling fence for trainers to use at each centre.

Was this recommendation adopted post-1998?  If not, who was responsible for policing it?  Have the post-2011 recommendations been put in place at training centres?  You will see later in this piece that the review group were not happy to make decisions based on assumptions and yet they willingly do so here in regard to the ‘surprise’ to some horses of seeing a GN fence for the first time.

This ‘lack of experience factor’ was a view I shared until I read a post on TRF by the forumite known as Venture to Cognac. His research showed that a long list of horses with experience of the fences failed to get round on other occasions. Some, of course, failed at their first attempt, but many found their previous experience to be of little value. That list includes 16 winners of the Grand National. VTC makes the point too that his research highlights the fact that raising the standard of horses by way of ratings, won’t necessarily make much difference to the number of finishers.

Back to the report’s findings . . .

Recurring fall types

It was apparent that there was a recurring type of fall at two particular fences. At Fence 1, where in very recent times there have actually been few Grand National fallers (three in the past five years), those horses that fell had a tendency to overjump the obstacle and crumple on landing some distance further away from where horses would usually be expected to land. The same manner of
landing was not apparent when the runners jumped the fence on the second circuit, as the seventeeth fence of the race.

Reinforcing the possibility of a “first fence jumped” trend is the fact that the 1990 – 2011 Topham races (run on day two of the three-day Grand National Meeting over a distance of 2 miles 5 1/2 furlongs) has produced eighteen fallers at the first in the Topham (i.e. Fence 13 of the Grand National course) out of 112 in total and yet Fence 13 is not at all a higher risk fence when jumped in the Grand National.

Similarly, Fence 1 on the Grand National course – which is jumped as the fifth fence in the Topham – has had no falls or unseated riders whatsoever in the Topham since 1990.

Of further interest to the Review Group when looking at the Topham faller/unseated data is that the Grand National Fence 4 and Becher’s (in particular) again demonstrate faller and unseat percentages that are higher than all but the first in The Topham, i.e. Fence 13 in the Grand National. This is despite the fact that they are jumped as the 8th and 10th Fences respectively in the Topham.

Jockey feedback from the consultation sessions essentially stated that all the Grand National fences looked and rode well, and that very little, if anything, needed to be changed.

When presented by Review Group members with a) the faller statistics for Fences 1, 4 and Becher’s (Fence 6) and b) options for change, the jockeys acknowledged the logic of exploring a possible reduction in the effective drop of these obstacles as they were clearly amongst the fences with the highest faller rates.


Going too fast from the off?

The uniquely long run of 420 yards to the first fence – coupled with its higher than normal percentage of fallers (albeit less in recent years), many of which fell by over-jumping the obstacle – appears to indicate that speed is a risk factor in the early stages of the Grand National.

2000 – 2011 split timings data to each of the first ten fences was compiled for the Review Group with a view to establishing whether there was any clear correlation between the Going, early pace of the race and the number of early fallers/injuries.

However no such clear correlation appears to exist across the relatively small sample size of twelve races.

For instance, the fastest run to the first fence in the data set was 27.44secs in 2000 on Good Going. This resulted in five fallers. Yet the third slowest run to the first (in 2002: 29.00secs, also on Good Going) resulted in eight fallers and one unseated rider. Similarly, the 2000 Grand National was the fastest (of the twelve assessed) to Becher’s Brook and by the time that obstacle had been jumped there had been ten fallers; the 2002 running remained the third slowest to Becher’s but it too had seen ten fallers and two unseats after that fence.

Of the twelve races, the 2011 race holds a middling position of being the fifth slowest to the first and the fifth fastest to Becher’s Brook. In the 2000-2011 period the two renewals (2003 and 2005) with the least fallers/unseats up to and including Becher’s Brook were, respectively, the seventh and fourth fastest to reach the fence. Clear correlations between early speed and the Going and/or fallers are therefore not apparent.

Perhaps the group were seeking too many correlations here and relying heavily on accurate going descriptions for a specific section of the course – the first six fences which, it is worth repeating, have claimed 53% of total race fallers and 28% of total race unseats since 1990.  From a fence-count viewpoint, 20% of the fences here have accounted for a large % of falls/unseats.  On a time basis – duration of the race at standard time – 17.6% of the duration resulted in 53%/28% group of falls/unseats.

Back to the findings . . .

However, the Review Group supports the Aintree Executive’s plan to investigate the introduction of even more irrigation capability along the section of the Grand National course from the Melling Road to Becher’s Brook. The flexibility of being able to apply extra targeted irrigation to soften or slow down the ground, can only be a positive measure.

The Aintree Executive should investigate the feasibility of introducing additional irrigation capability to the section of the Grand National course running from the start along to Becher’s Brook. As long as irrigation is applied judiciously, with a view to providing Going just on the softer side of Good, there is no downside to seeking to implement an even more flexible watering capability along the part of the track where the majority of falls occur.

How would horses react from going from softish ground to good ground after fence 6 and, possibly more importantly, meeting that ground again on circuit 2? Also, were the weather  to take a sudden late turn for the worse, what would the effect be on that section of track?

Sectional timing

Notwithstanding the lack of clear statistical correlation between early speed and number of early fallers, the Review Group is still of the opinion – having reviewed the TV footage of all Grand Nationals from 2000 and listened to participant feedback – that the pace over the initial fences in the race is certainly faster than in any routine long-distance Steeplechase over traditional birch fences.
This pace appeared to be maintained up to and including the jumping of Becher’s Brook (Fence 6).

The Review Group and Aintree Executive concluded that more specific sectional timing research would be helpful in this area to fully understand the effects of early speed on the number of finishers in the race. The Group supports Aintree’s plan to investigate the possible use of speed and positioning technology (i.e. sectional timing equipment carried in the number cloth of every runner) to track the speed of all runners in future. This would improve statistical analysis of the pace of the race so that any correlations can be
drawn from the data.

The race is run just once a year so this seems to me a slightly daft proposal. How long would it take to build reliable data?  Given the furore raised by the last two runnings, we simply do not have time to wait ten years or more.

Currently, the Group can only make a subjective judgement on the basis of a) fairly basic split time data and b) TV footage – that the over-jumping falls at the first fence and high faller rate up to and including Becher’s Brook are due solely to the faster early pace of the Grand National in general when compared to more “routine” staying Steeplechases on other British licensed racecourses.

A blog post by Matt Bisogno featured this observation:

But I think there is a bigger issue that has not yet been adequately addressed, and I have a radical proposal to help address it. The issue is that of speed in the early part of the race. It has long been held that the way to win the Grand National is to be prominent early through a mad gallop, and to cling on late when stamina is running out.

Consider this: Neptune Collonges was last from the start and not prominent until Bechers second time (as the above image shows), so there is no necessity to be close up early.

More importantly, consider this: the first two furlongs of the Listed Further Flight Stakes, a 1m6f flat race, were run in around 27.5 seconds (hand timed) last week.

The approximately two furlong run* from the start of the Grand National to the first fence was completed this year in 26.5 seconds. Last year, it was a slightly more measured 27.6 seconds (all hand timed).

This is patently too fast, and extremely dangerous. And it creates a problem of momentum: once a rider has a horse travelling at that pace, trying to establish a position and a rhythm in the race, that rider must maintain the pace. Or at least feels he must.

*It’s 20 yards short of two furlongs

Matt goes on to suggest moving the start forward by a furlong, therefore reducing the race distance to 4m 3f.  The Review group did consider moving the start . . .

Options for Managing Initial Race Speed

In the meantime, the Review Group still wished to consider whether there were options that could be implemented now to materially reduce the initial speed. These were discussed with the sport’s participants.

The possibility of reducing the run to the existing first fence by bringing forward the start position found no support whatsoever from the jockeys consulted. They believed that to have any effect the start would need to be approximately 110yds from the first fence and this would result in less time for all the runners to find room before the obstacle. They felt that this could have the unintended consequence of increasing the number of incidents at the first fence. Some of the jockeys also felt that the pace would just rise soon after jumping the first if the run to it were reduced. They also pointed out that few runners are ever being vigorously ridden or pushed along “off the bridle” as they approach the first fence.

The majority of trainers consulted believed the start position should remain unchanged. However, there was some support for reducing the distance to the first fence on the basis that this approach was adopted in the Topham Chase from 2005 when the run to the first fence from its then two miles six furlongs start was reduced by half a furlong. There have been four fallers and just one unseated rider at the first fence in the subsequent seven renewals of the Topham Chase from the new start. Albeit it is probably too early to conclude statistically that this improvement is purely due to the new start position.

The trainers also believed that the jockeys had a responsibility to ride the Grand National sensibly at a maintainable gallop and that this should be emphasised at their pre-race briefing.  (Er, I think we know by now folks that this is simply not going to happen and there is plenty of evidence to back that up!)

The members of the Authority’s Course Inspectorate within the Review Group have reservations as to where a substantively shortened start position could be suitably located. Therefore, they did not support a reduced run to the first fence from 2012. Similarly, they do not believe there is real scope to significantly and safely bring forward Fence 1 towards the current start location, due mainly to the position of the Melling Road. Neither of the participant groups had supported that option when consulted.

They didn’t support what seems a very sensible idea because it presents a practical/logistical difficulty?

Sighter fence

The concept of an additional, smaller (but still Aintree-style) fence between the current start position and first fence was also discussed with the participant groups and within the Review Group. This was considered on the basis that it could help to decrease initial speed and then be removed ahead of the runners returning on the second circuit. The idea of a “sighter” fence was not supported, however, with most consultees believing it would simply increase the fundamental level of risk by effectively creating a 31st fence to negotiate, as well as provide less time for the jockeys to find racing room. Course topography also ruled out this option.

Whilst the possibility of bringing the current first fence closer to the current start position (or vice versa) found little support amongst the participant groups and brings with it practical challenges and potentially unintended consequences, both options should remain under close consideration beyond 2012.   The impact of the new changes to Fences 1, 4 and 6 (Becher’s Brook should dictate whether the start/first fence dynamic still needs to be altered in future.

Drop fences

The RSPCA among others, is keen to eliminate drop fences; according to the review group, that means altering almost every fence. Back to the findings . . .

Another unique aspect of the Grand National course fences is that virtually all of the obstacles have a “drop” to some degree when  measuring the height difference between the ground level at the take-off area and the ground level on the (lower) landing side of the obstacle. The professional survey work carried out since this year’s race shows that fourteen of the sixteen fences have an average drop of over four inches, when measured at five metre intervals across the width of the landing area, with the biggest being at Becher’s Brook (thirteen inches).

At Becher’s Brook (i.e. Fence 6 and 22) – the obstacle with the biggest drop on the landing side – the clear reason for most jockeys and horses parting company involved the horse being angled by the rider from a position opposite the middle of the fence towards the inner at take-off and either: • making a mistake and taking a very steep or rotational landing trajectory with the jockey often landing feet first, or; • jumping the fence well but nodding on landing and falling or unseating the jockey whilst sliding to a halt along the
ground.

The Start

At the Review Group’s consultation meeting with the jockeys, they reported that the methodology for starting the Grand National was good and they did not believe there was any need to change it. However, they all agreed that the horses should be on course at the start for as short a time as possible after the official Parade had taken place.

There was no suggestion from any of the participants consulted that the physical size of the start area negatively impacted on fairness or the welfare of the runners. It was noted, however, that the proximity and nature of the grandstands at Aintree contributed to high crowd noise levels as the runners approached the starting tape or if there was any perceived delay. By extension, the position of the start was also considered in relation to whether the initial pace of the race was a contributing factor to falls or injuries.

Loose horses

There is no doubt that loose horses can be a major danger to themselves, other participants or even Emergency Service personnel or spectators at any race meeting. Since 1990, three horses (16% of the total) have died during or very shortly after the Grand National from injuries sustained whilst riderless. Furthermore, it is impossible to plan exactly for what a loose horse might do next.  Consequently, it was important for the Review Group to clearly understand how riderless horses are managed by the Aintree Executive during the Grand National – particularly in the context of such a large footprint of flat land.

The Review Group fully appreciates the difficulties of controlling a unique site like Aintree and trying to catch all the loose horses in a timely manner. Since 2000, on average eighteen horses part company with their jockey during the race. Many will stop immediately and be caught straight away by the jockey, fence attendant, or horse-catcher. However, some do not, and it is important that the Aintree Executive does everything it can in this vital area.

The Aintree Executive informed the Review Group that on Grand National day a team of around 30 local horsemen are allocated sectors of the course, which they patrol to catch loose horses during and after the race.

Limiting the number of runners

It was clear to the Review Group from its analysis of all the TV footage of all the professional races staged on the Grand National course since 2000  that three incidents of multiple fallers/unseats/brought downs/refusals have occurred during the period reviewed:
• Fence 8 (Canal Turn), 2001: Nine horses;
• Fence 1, 2002: Nine horses;
• Fence 6 (Becher’s Brook), 2004: Eight horses
Incidents involving that number of runners are rare at other licensed Jumps racecourses, including Aintree’s Mildmay Course, and could therefore simply be a function of the Grand National fence design. At the same time, injury rates (on the basis of five years of nationwide Jump data) do appear to show an upwards trend as the numbers of runners increase, although this has not been validated by a statistical analysis, probably because of the small sample size.

A number of points suggesting a Safety Factor reduction to between 30-34 were made by the welfare organisations in their feedback to the effect that: • it is logical that if the number of horses exposed to the risk factors of the race is reduced, so too will the number of injuries and the likelihood of loose horses causing incidents; • no other Jumps race has a Safety Factor higher than 30 and yet the
Grand National’s is 33.33% greater than that figure.

The delegations of trainers and jockeys consulted by the Review Group unanimously supported the retention of a Safety Factor of 40. (Turkeys, voting and Christmas are words the review group might have considered on hearing this.)

The Review Group found no recurring trend whatsoever of horses systematically failing to get a clear sight of the fences as they prepared to jump them. Virtually all the fallers reviewed during that period had a clear run to the fence where they fell or unseated their jockey.

Furthermore, the Review Group considered research carried out through its Inspectorate team and established that the average available “width of fence per horse” on the Grand National course was comparable to the averages for all licensed Jumps courses, including the width of fence per horse at other very high profile jumps fixtures.

(NB, from here, my comments are no longer in italics)

So where now for the BHA and for the world’s greatest race?  Pressure from the public/media for a reduction in field size is the change most likely to be resisted by trainers and jockeys. If drop fences are to be altered again, they will need to consider which ones and to what degree they will change them.  The RSPCA seem strongly opposed to these drops and their fairly new Chief Exec, Gavin Grant could well push for the complete elimination of all drops.  Racing should not, I believe, underestimate Mr Grant’s ambition for change.  In a Radio 4 phone-in on April 17th, he said “”Unless the BHA really respond here, and are seen to respond, I think the days of NH racing and the Grand National are numbered”

The Review Group’s suspicion that speed over the first six fences plays a large part in non-completions was not fully reinforced by the 2012 stats (36% of fallers, 16% of unseats) but given that the figures are based on data since 1990, the group will be under pressure now, I believe, to act  ‘on the balance of probabilities’ rather than trying to gather further data by way of technology. With the first 95 seconds of the National accounting for well over 50% of  fallers/URs combined, that part of the race simply must be slowed.  But how?

Well, they might try the selective watering mentioned in the report.  Or they could opt for much more radical solutions like setting speed limits for that section, but how would you enforce any limit?

Maybe a rule could be brought in decreeing that any horse landing over the first in under 33 seconds is disqualified:  touching down over Becher’s in under 1 minute 50 (15 seconds longer than the average), means disqualification. Large digital clocks could be set high above each side of the first six fences . . .

What about replacing the turf on that 420 yard run to the first with a deep all-weather type surface, consistent and resistant to temperature and rain?

Or perhaps running  a lead vehicle on the inside track just after Melling Rd, travelling at a pre-agreed speed with the jockeys instructed not to pass, under penalty of disqualification, till after Becher’s? This is very practical from a logistics viewpoint: the old Grand Prix track at Aintree is still in excellent condition. Its back straight runs close enough to that line of fences for jockeys be to be able to see it easily, without it being a distraction.  In practise, I think the vehicle would need to pull a long trailer – with a large board/sign at the rear (good branding opportunity for the sponsors!)

What would you do? (Please leave your ideas in the Comments section below. Perhaps Aintree will pay a nice fat fee to anyone coming up with the answer!)

The full Review Group report is here

A few stats on the upcoming Punchestown festival

As ever, I’m grateful to Racenews for allowing me to reproduce this information. Please click the link below

Punchestown Stats

 

 

Is radical change the only answer for the long-term survival of the Grand National?

In the last 6 Grand Nationals, including today’s, 6 horses have died. Graphic Approach died some time after being injured in the 2007 race and I have not counted him.

In the same period, 5 horses died in The Topham and 1 in The Foxhunters. Six horses also died over hurdles at Aintree in the same period and two horses died in NH flat races (4 died over fences on The Mildmay course).

I could have carried on and dissected the stats by runner, by comparison to other courses etc., but in the end what will matter is how racing explains itself to the public on days like these and, crucially, how it keeps the welfare organisations on its side. I’ve long thought that the RSPCA’s support for NH racing is a short-head away from being untenable. The whip controversy did substantial damage to racing’s relationship with the RSPCA and I think today’s fatalities will see the boardroom door at RSPCA HQ finally slammed on the Grand National and, sooner rather than later, on NH racing itself.

I suspect there might well be some table-banging going on at the next Heineken board meeting too (they own the John Smith’s brand). And what about Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR)? They hold a prime hand of UK racecourses – Aintree included. JCR put all their profits back into racing but they run a tightly-focused organisation acutely tuned to the commercial impact of their decisions.  They’ll have little doubt that turnstile income won’t be affected by fatalities, but the change to CH4, the sensitivity of sponsors and the vulnerability of their brand to Animal Rights groups will need to be taken into consideration.

“They either take to them or they don’t”

So what is it about the race that causes carnage? Speed, say many professionals, and the temptation to go faster has been heightened by the changes intended to make the fences easier, the elimination of drops and shaving of heights.

Speed contributes, but I think the fences are the main problem.  Steeplechasers spend 99% of their careers jumping park fences (the standard black birch barriers you find everywhere except Aintree and at Cross Country courses).  Did you see Synchronised today when AP let him have a look at the first fence before cantering back to the start? Something spooked him there – it might have been the crowds or a camera or something, but it could have been the fence itself.

Why do some horses run well time and again at Aintree (Always Waining anyone?), while many pull up,  fall or refuse? Could it be simple unfamiliarity or fear?

The Grand National fences are built on a foundation of solid wooden stakes dressed with tons of spruce.  They’re dauntingly big and wide with an unusual colour, from a horse’s viewpoint. Racehorses like routine. Most don’t relish being asked  to face something they’ve never previously encountered.  Some, a rare few, find the experience refreshing and galvanising; others see it as an ordeal.

The performance of horses over Cross Country courses – Cheltenham’s being the only UK example – back up this theory. The same horses do well on these unusual tracks time and time again.

“Lessons will be learned”

Aintree and Racing plc cannot simply keep pleading this argument after each Grand National. Two horses died last year: ‘improvements’ were made: two horses died this year.

What will result from the review of this year’s race?

My opinion is that the only long-term solution will be to strip away the spruce, burn the wooden stakes and build standard steeplechase fences of regular height. A £1m prize will ensure the quality of the race and size of the field is not diluted, The extreme distance will still make it a unique test.  The public will not be discouraged from betting on it, horses will no longer be taken by surprise and more of them will survive the race.

The nostalgia branded on my heart will mourn the passing of these fences (I had the honour of writing the words inscribed on Red Rum’s gravestone and of being present, alongside Ginger at his burial), but I’d sooner see these fences consigned to history than lose the race itself.

 

What’s the star sign of your John Smith’s Grand National fancy?

IT’S IN THE STARS
If the formbook is too much of a mystery, have a look at your fancy’s horoscope on John Smith’s Grand National day. Or should that be horsoscope………
Capricorn
Vic Venturi (Jan 1,  2000)
Aquarius
Postmaster (Jan 28,  2002)
State Of Play (Feb 12,  2000)
Becauseicouldntsee (Feb 14,  2003)
Pisces
The Midnight Club (March 2, 2001)
Arbor Supreme (March 5,  2002)
Chicago Grey (March 6,  2003)
Synchronised (March 7,  2003)
Seabass (March 13,  2003)
Calgary Bay (March 16,  2003)
Aries
In Compliance (March 25,  2000)
Tharawaat (March 27,  2005)
Viking Blond (April 1,  2005)
Giles Cross (April 10,  2002 )
Junior (April 11,  2003)
Black Apalachi (April 13,  1999)
Deep Purple (April 14,  2001)
Always Right (April 15,  2002)
West End Rocker (April 18,  2002)
Weird Al (April 18,  2003)
Treacle (April 19,  2001)
Taurus
According To Pete (April 20,  2001)
Killyglen (April 20,  2002)
Tatenen (April 21,  2004)
Hello Bud  (April 24, 1998)
Neptune Collonges (April 25,  2001)
Planet Of Sound (April 25,  2002)
Ballabriggs (April 27,  2001)
Mon Mome (April 29,  2000)
Sunnyhillboy (April 30,  2003)
Alfa Beat (April 30,  2004)
Swing Bill (May 9,  2001)
Organisedconfusion (May 9,  2005)
Midnight Haze (May 12,  2002)
Gemini
Shakalakaboomboom (May 28,  2004)
Neptune Equester (May 30,  2003)
Cappa Bleu (June 6,  2002)
Quiscover Fontaine (June 11,  2004)
Cancer
On His Own (July 10,  2004)
I’m grateful to Racenews for allowing me to publish this article

GIngertipster’s horse-by-horse guide to the John Smith’s Grand National

I’m indebted to Gingertipster, a regular poster on TRF, for permission to re-publish his annual Grand National formguide

2012 AINTREE GRAND NATIONAL 4m4f

1) 13-P0311 SYNCHRONISED Saddlers Wells – Mayasta (Bob Back) 9-11-10
J P McManus / Jonjo O’Neill / A P McCoy (handicap mark in race 161-168 in future)
With big guns disappointing Synchronised won a substandard Gold Cup (3m2½f good), beating The Giant Bolster 2¼ lengths. Form which still gives a good chance of winning this. Now just 20 lbs worse off with The Midnight Club who was 63 lengths behind in 7th. 2010 Welsh National (3m5½f soft) and Midlands National (4m1½f heavy) winner Synchronised was suited by the test of stamina a strong pace provided at Cheltenham. Already 7 lbs well-in on official ratings and every chance of further progress at this extreme trip. Despite a roundish action is proven on good as well as heavy. Biggest problem to him winning could be the fences. Usually makes mistakes, doesn’t give them much room and sometimes skews on landing but has so far always found a leg.

2) 11/1121-4 BALLABRIGGS Presenting – Papoose (Little Bighorn) 11-11-09
Trevor Hemmings / Donald McCain / Jason Maguire (160-160)
Donald could become the first since father “Ginger”and Red Rum to win back to back Nationals. Not visibly well treated after upped 10 lbs for 2¼ length victory over Oscar Time giving him 5 lbs. 12 lbs worse off with 4th State Of Play 16¼ lengths away. Now a stone worse off with 6th The Midnight club who he beat a total of 27¼ lengths. The others who re-oppose did not finish. Almost lost 2010 Kim Muir after being clear over final fence, idling badly. It’s possible Ballabriggs is better than winning distances in the Grand National suggests, only doing just enough to win. Prolific winner of 6 of last 8 starts, only defeats in that time when unfit for National preps. Only one target this season. Best efforts so far on good, though impressive winner earlier in career on soft. Races prominently. Made one or two mistakes in last year’s race, particularly at Valentines, but generally jumps well.

3) 1/10P-13P WEIRD AL Accordian – Bucks Gift (Buckley) 9-11-08
Brannon, Dennis, Dick, Holden / Donald McCain / Timmy Murphy (159-164)
Moved to last year’s Grand National winning trainer Donald McCain at start of the season. Won Charlie Hall (3m1f good), beating Time For Rupert 3½ lengths with another 27 lengths back to a below par Chicago Grey, giving them both 3 lbs. Now only 6 lbs worse off with latter. Is well handicapped on evidence of finishing 10 lengths behind Kauto Star (2 behind Long Run) in Betfair Chase (3m Good-soft). It’s possible being held up in a strongly run race slightly flattered him. Put away until the Gold Cup 4 months later, usually runs well fresh but soon beaten after breaking a blood vessel, also bled in 2011 renewal. Ran poorly all three starts beyond 3m1f, but excuses each time. By Accordian who is a good stamina influence and brother to St Leger winner Sonus. Dam’s sire Buckley won Doncaster Cup. Weird Al has a good chance of staying the Grand National trip but will need a quick recovery. Acts on soft and good ground. Usually jumps well.

4) 106-P422 NEPTUNE COLLONGES Dom Alco – Castille Collonges (El Badr) 11-11-06
John Hales / Paul Nicholls / Daryl Jacob (157-162)
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls relies on this one time top class grey (almost white) to break his Grand National duck. Beaten just 7 lengths, 3rd in Denman’s Gold Cup (3m2½f) on good ground. Not as good nowadays but handicap mark reflects that. Best effort for some time upped to 3m4f on heavy latest start. Winner of 6 of 8 races on that surface. Found plenty and only went down by a neck trying to give 21 lbs (if taking in to account Harry Derham’s 7 lb claim) to Giles Cross. Now 2 lbs better off with that rival and officially 5 lbs well-in. Very genuine in a finish but has sulked if unable to get a prominent position. Usually jumps well despite his size. A still longer distance could bring Neptune Collonges closer to his best. Outsider with a chance.

5) 2F-0511 CALGARY BAY Taipan – Dante’s Thatch (Phardante) 9-11-06
Camilla Radford / Henrietta Knight / Dominic Elsworth (157-159)
Big brute, one of the best looking horses in training. Races off a mark 12 lbs higher than two starts ago (both handicap wins) raised 6 lbs each time. Jumped well last time out, giving 7 lbs and a 2½ length beating to Shakalakaboomboom, and only 1 lb worse off here. Failed to run to form all 5 attempts at further than 3 miles. Too free in 2010 Gold Cup (3m2½f). Fell at 4th only start beyond that distance in Grand National last year. Sire Taipan not noted for producing stayers. Calgary Bay seems highly unlikely to be suited by the trip especially if the ground turns testing. Raced mainly on good to soft or good. Seems to find more off the bridle than he used to.

6) F-6041UP ALFA BEAT Environment Friend – Belle D’anjou (Saint Cyrien) 8-11-05
Irvin Naylor / John Hanlon IRE / D N Russell (156-)
Weakened late, probably through lack of stamina, 4th in 2011 National Hunt Chase (4m good). Now 6 lbs worse off with winner Chicago Grey despite beaten 15¾ lengths. Never looked threat and Fell 15th in Topham over National fences. Bought and changed stables. First time blinkered, won Kerry National (at 3m a National in name only) for second successive year in September. Alfa Beat was put away afterwards and things haven’t gone right on return. Stumbled and unseated rider without an obstacle in sight. Then soon beaten and pulled up in Bobbyjo Chase in late February. Successful on firm and soft surfaces. Wears blinkers, as he’s done on last 3 starts.

7) F01/35-23 PLANET OF SOUND Kayf Tara – Herald The Dawn (Dubassof) 10-11-05
Charles Lloyd-Baker / Philip Hobbs / Richard Johnson (156-156)
Won Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup (3m1f Good) in 2010 in first time tongue tie (worn in every race since). Beat past his best War Of Attrition (levels) 3½ lengths. Reappearance 3¾ lengths 2nd trying to give 12 lbs to Carruthers in Hennessey. Form not worked out, first 6 home not won since. Disappointing 17 lengths behind Nacarat in Racing Plus (3m good). Best two performances over furthest he’s raced. Sire Ascot Gold Cup winner Kayf Tara. Distaff side mainly staying family. Great grand dam Frozen Dawn ran well in Welsh National, sister to Dawn Run’s dam and family of Scottish National winner Brasher. Planet Of Sound’s very best form is on good or good-soft. Can makes mistakes. Tongue tied.

8) 51U/022/2 BLACK APALACHI Old Vic – Hattons Dream (Be My Native) 13-11-03
Gerard Burke / Dessie Hughes IRE / Denis O’Regan (154-)
No teenager has won the Grand National since Sergeant Murphy in 1923. Different race nowadays. Of the last 800 horses in 21 years to run only 25 (3%) were 13 years old. So just one win in that time would turn a bad statistic in to a good one. Dropped to same mark (initially upped 5 lbs) as his 2010 Grand National 5 lengths 2nd on Good, receiving 1 lb from Don’t Push It. Only 3 lbs worse off with Hello Bud some 30 lengths behind. Absent almost 2 years and possible age is catching up with Black Apalachi, but don’t write him off. Encouraging 2nd in Bobbyjo Chase over inadequate 3m1f (heavy) on return. Making up many places in home straight. Has cheek pieces reapplied here, last 5 races with them having form figures of 11U22.

9) 6/3U34-1F DEEP PURPLE Halling – Seal Indigo (Glenstal) 11-11-03
Paul Green / Evan Williams / Jamie Moore (154-152)
Stable third string. Not ideal prep, already struggling when fell in Racing Plus Chase last time out (February). Deep Purple goes well after a break and won London National (3m5½f good-soft) on reappearance. Gave runner-up Do it For Dalkey 26 lbs and 3 length beating off a mark of 149; now 5 lbs higher. Possibly suited by very slow pace on first try over extreme trip. Not certain to stay 4½ miles. Dam winner up to 1½m, sire Halling and Deep Purple himself 1¼m performers on flat. Best on flat tracks and successful on ground no softer than good-soft. Can sulk if getting behind.

10) 31/321-02 JUNIOR Singspeil – For More (Sanglamore) 9-11-02
Middleham Park Racing LI / David Pipe / Tom Scudamore (153-158)
Winner at both Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival. Upped 19 lbs since impressive 24 length Kim Muir success. Beaten on the nod first chase start since; trying to give 22lbs to Ikorodu Road in Grimthorpe. Winner franked form by following up at Newbury by 4½ lengths off 3 lb higher mark. Junior now officially 5 lbs well-in. Formerly temperamental before joining David Pipe, application of blinkers and racing prominently. Yet to tackle more than 3m3½f. Record at extreme distances on the flat suggests excellent prospects of staying/improving at this trip if taking to Aintree. Never fallen but tends to flick through the top of his fences. Successful on most types of ground. Blinkered.

11) 10-U3032 CHICAGO GREY Luso – Carrigeen Acer (Lord Americo) 9-10-13
John Earls / Gordon Elliott IRE / P Carberry (150-)
Stable of 2007 Grand National victor Silver Birch. Chicago Grey won 2011 National Hunt Chase (4 miles Good) by 4½ lengths, from subsequent Scottish National winner Beshabar. Holds Alpha Beat (4th) on that form. Still every chance when unseating two out on reappearance (3m½f good-firm). Mark hasn’t dropped for two poor performances in Britain. 30 lengths 3rd to Weird Al in Charlie Hall (3m1f) and never travelling last of 7 in 3m3½f handicap. More encouraging latest start over inadequate 2½m (heavy) at Gowran Park. Staying on 16 lengths 2nd to eased Rubi Light (who gave 4 lbs). Again displaying tendency to make mistakes in closing stages. Return to a marathon trip should suit. Acts on any going. Always held up, which does not suit many Grand National winners. Tongue tied as usual.

12) 3100-015 TATENEN Lost World – Tamaziya (Law Society) 8-10-13
The Stewart Family / Richard Rowe / Andrew Thornton (150-148)
Not always the best of jumpers, likes to be on his own and often taken wide of his field; probably impossible here. Inconsistent, but genuine in a finish and seems an Ascot specialist these days. Goes well for Andrew Thornton. Outclassed 5th of 7 finishers there in Grade 1 Ascot Chase (2m5½f good-soft), 44 lengths behind winner Riverside Theatre. Officially 2 lbs badly in on Saturday. Tatenen won class 2 handicap (same course and going) penultimate start by a head, receiving 6 lbs from Imsingingtheblues. Upped 7 lbs looks harsh. Possibly best on good-soft or soft. Never convinced he truly stays 3 miles in 5 attempts, very doubtful to stay 4½m.

13) F11/-(1)1111 SEABASS Turtle Island – Muscovy Duck (Moscow Society) 9-10-12
Gunners Syndicate / Ted Walsh IRE / Ms Katie Walsh (149-)
Difficult horse to asses. Exceptionally progressive winner of last seven races (including point). Best effort yet last time out; won Grade 2 at Naas over just 2 miles (soft), gave 3 lbs and a length beating to Zaarito. Got back up despite mistakes at final two fences and looking set for third. Will be better over further than 2m so could still be well handicapped despite going up 35 lbs this season. Given impression when staying on over the furthest trip he’s tackled under rules (2¾m) should be suited by 3m+. Dual winner at that distance in points. Questionable whether he’ll stay 4½m. By soft ground miler Turtle Island. Some of his stock get 3 miles (like Bensalem) but few stay much further. Dam Muscovy Duck won over the furthest she raced, 2m3f hurdles. She’s closely related to Moscow Flyer; both by Moscow Society out of a Ducky mare. Moscow Society was a stayer, 2nd in Queens Vase (2m on flat) as a 3 year old. His progeny also include Grand National placed Snowy Morning. Seabass is usually a good jumper (at least is when leading/disputing it), usually a front runner when racing at shorter trips. Ran disappointingly only start on good going. However, although proven in very soft, such conditions may place too much emphasis on stamina. Ruby Walsh has chosen On His Own over Seabass and sister Katie now rides.

14) 000-1122 SHAKALAKABOOMBOOM Anshan – Tia Maria (Supreme Leader) 8-10-12
Liam Breslin / Nicky Henderson / Barry Geraghty (149-149)
Novice hurdle start last time can be ignored. Improved performer over fences. Jumped well to be 7th in Topham. Successful in 24 runner 3m1f (good-soft) handicap at Punchestown Festival. Just got home giving 2 lbs to Beautiful Sound. Won 3m1½f (furthest trip tackled) Cheltenham handicap on good. Going away at line in receipt of 3 lbs from Knockara Beau. Up 4 lbs, good 2½ lengths 2nd receiving 7 lbs to Calgary Bay in Skybet Chase (3m good). Now just 1 lb better off with winner and up another 5 lbs in his mark. Doubtful to stay 4½m. By Anshan; 3rd in 2000 Guineas though sired Grand National 2nd McKelvey, who’s dam’s sire Le Bavard was a much stronger stamina influence than Shakalakaboomboom’s, Supreme Leader. Raced mainly on good and good-soft.

15) 11PB-P1 WEST END ROCKER Grand Plaisir – Slyguff Lord (Lord Americo) 10-10-12
Barry Winfield & Tim Leadbeater / Alan King / Wayne Huchinson (149-149)
Brought down first Becher’s in last year’s race. Won Becher Chase (3m2f) over these fences in December by 22 lengths with 32 back to third. Now off 12 lbs higher mark which may seem lenient. However, it took a longer time per furlong than Ballagriggs National; bottomless ground prevented many horses acting on the ground, probably including second Niche Market. Unraced since that win in early December. Declared for prep run but pulled out due to ground being too firm. Although a dual winner on good ground West End Rocker is probably better with give and goes particularly well on heavy. Also successful in 2011 Totesport Classic Handicap (3m5f) on heavy. One to bear in mind if stamina is at a premium (on soft or heavy). Robert Thornton does not have a good record on him with 0 wins in 12 starts, Wayne Hutchinson 4 from 5.

16) 22-30112 ACCORDING TO PETE Accordian – Magic Bloom (Full Of hope) 11-10-12
Peter Nelson / Malcolm Jefferson / Harry Haynes (149-145)
Form of Kelso (2m6½f good) 2nd last time not worth a pinch of salt; both he and Ballabriggs stayers. Beat him 5¼ lengths and now 11 lbs better off. According To Pete won Rowland Meyrick (3m1f soft) by a length from Helpston, making all and finding plenty under pressure. Then won Peter Marsh (3m heavy) receiving 1 lb from Pearlysteps who he beat 3½ lengths. Done well to win two good handicaps, but neither looked chock full of progressive sorts. Now on a stone higher mark than 3 starts ago. Since the weights came out the Handicapper has reassessed According To Pete and is to carry 4 lbs less in future handicaps. Best form with give in the ground. Races prominently / tracks pace. Proven at 3¾m and should be suited by 4½m.

17) 14P1-B1 ON HIS OWN Presenting – Shuil Na Mhuire (Roselier) 8-10-11
Andrea & Graham Wylie / Willie Mullins IRE / Ruby Walsh (148-)
Like most of his intake from the owners, Willie Mullins improved On His Own to win Thyestes Chase (3m Soft) last time. Mightily impressive, leading a long way out to beat Tullintain 13 lengths giving 2 lbs. That his first completed start for the stable off an Irish Handicap mark of 125, now has an English mark 148 (though it’s a bit like centigrade and fahrenheit, with the Irish mark often around 7 lbs lower than English). Needs to improve again. Didn’t jump fluently in amongst horses held up penultimate start before brought down. Never fallen/unseated but can make mistakes. Successful going left-handed but has occasionally jumped right. Winner on Good as well as very soft. Just 7 starts over obstacles including 6 over fences. Sire Presenting gets plenty of quality stayers including last year’s winner Ballabriggs and Denman. Dam 3m1f winner by very strong stamina influence Roselier. Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride On His Own over Seabass.

18) 2113-1PP ALWAYS RIGHT Right Win – Kemal Brave (Kemal) 10-10-10
John Wade / John Wade / James Reveley (147-147)
Lot better chance than recent form figures suggest, Pulled up last time out in Grand National Trial (3m4f heavy) at Haydock. Going just as well as winner Giles Cross (now same terms) on home turn. 2 lbs worse off with 2nd Neptune Collonges. Mistake and rider soon called it a day 3 out. However, has had a breathing operation since. Only beaten a length in last year’s Scottish National (4m½f good), receiving 4 lbs from winner Beshabar off a mark of 142. Doing by far the best of those held up. Winner on reappearance at 2m6f½f from Skippers Brig (levels). If his operation has done the trick (it often does) would have a chance. Always Right had looked a progressive and accurate jumping stayer who’s effective on soft and good ground.

19) 3F2P/-133 CAPPA BLEU Pistolet Bleu – Cappagale (Strong Gale) 10-10-10
William & Angela Rucker / Evan Williams / Paul Moloney (147-147)
Impressive in 2009 Cheltenham Foxhunter. Possibly amiss 09/10 season, including when falling in Hennessey. First start since March 2010, won 3m handicap in November beating Tamarinbleu (level weights) a head, off a mark of 140, now up another 7 lbs. Also 7 lbs worse off with Killyglen who was 6 lengths away. Both 2nd (off 5 lbs higher mark) and 3rd winners since. Deserves credit for below-par 3rd in Welsh National (3m5f heavy). Best of those held up under possibly softer than ideal; best form so far on good-soft. 22 lengths 3rd giving 16 lbs to Le Beau Bai; has 15 lengths to make up on Giles Cross (winner since) but has 11 lb pull. Had easier race than first two at Ascot last time, mistake final fence while unsighted possibly costing victory behind Massini’s Maguire (who gave 1 lb). Sire Pistolet Bleu placed in Arc, has sired plenty of stayers including Eider and Scottish National winner (and 2nd) Merigo. Grand dam half sister to luckless Cahervillahow; disqualified Whitbread winner, 2nd in Hennessey as well as to Esha Ness in “Void” Grand National. Only 6 chase starts + 4 points Cappa Bleu is inexperienced but unexposed, especially at extreme trips. Tongue tied, as he has been in all starts under rules bar when pulled up.

20) U-345053 RARE BOB Bob Back – Cut Ahead (Kalaglow) 10-10-09
D A Syndicate / Dessie Hughes IRE / Bryan J Cooper (146-)
Inconsistent and often finds little off bridle; though ran well at Aintree in 3m1f Aintree handicap last two seasons. Challenging when unseating 2 out in 2011; placed year before. Fair 6¼ lengths 3rd gave Paddy Pub 15 lbs (+ 3 lb claim) in Leinster National (3m good-soft) last time out. All wins on soft/heavy, just as meritorious efforts when placed on good. Last win in January 2011 when blinkered for the first time. Below form 59 lengths 5th in Becher Chase (3m2f Heavy) giving a stone to winner West End Rocker. In 2009 Rare Bob was 12 lengths 4th in Irish National (3m5f good), gave 4 lbs (+ 3 lb claim) to Niche Marke. Fact he’s not raced as far since suggests connections thought he didn’t stay. Half brother Tiutchev (by weaker stamina influence Soviet Star than Rare Bob’s, Bob Back) better known at shorter distances; but stayed further with age, King George 2nd at 10, won Melling (3m1f) at 11. Dam from family of St Leger winner Cut Above.

21) 12-133F5 ORGANISEDCONFUSION Laveron – Histologie (Quart De Vin) 7-10-08
Grace Dunlop / Arthur Moore IRE / Ms Nina Carberry (145-)
This season’s form at shorter distances can almost be forgotten. 5th last time (2m2f soft). Two hurdle runs prior to falling at first penultimate start. Campaigned with the Grand National in mind to protect his mark. That handicap mark isn’t particularly lenient for what he’s done, but age and only once raced beyond 2m5f make him totally unexposed at extreme trips. Could improve significantly. Improved to win 2011 Irish National (3m5f) off an Irish mark of 132, receiving 7 lbs from Western Charmer. Now 10 lbs worse off with 3rd home Sunnyhillboy having beaten him just 6 lengths. Youngest to win the race since Rhyme ‘N’ Reason who went on to Aintree victory. Sire Laveron won German St Leger on the flat and French Champion Hurdle (3m1½f). Organisedconfusion is from the family of Nupsala (King George) and UcelloII (duel Grande Steeplechase De Paris 3m5f). Grand dam produced Aintree Fox Hunter winner Moncadou. Organisedconfusion has won on soft, that stand out win on good. Held up. Nina Carberry rode Character Building twice in this race, got around both times but gave him plenty to do on first occasion. Could this be a real “National Velvet”?

22) P/P-51423 TREACLE Zaffaran – Current Liability (Caribo) 11-10-08
Bjorn Nielsen / Tom Taaffe IRE / Andrew Lynch (145-)
Seemingly a career best last time, 7½ lengths 3rd to Quel Esprit (levels) in Grade 1 Irish Hennessey (good-soft). But taking out the winner, it looks a poor race of its type. 5½ lengths behind 2nd Roberto Goldback doesn’t sound quite so good. Treacle and winner not run, but all the other five well beaten since. Nearest at the finish and runs as if may improve for an increased test of stamina. Staying on 2nd in Paddy Power Chase penultimate start (3m good-soft) off an Irish Handicap mark of just 128. Didn’t jump well over Mildmay fences, 4th at Aintree in October (3m1f good). Out of form (after 3 pulled up’s) at 3m6f, only try beyond 3m1f in May. Sire Zaffaran a fair stamina influence, responsible for Gold Cup winner Looks Like Trouble. Treacle is effective held up or from the front, on soft or good ground.

23) 216-B430 THE MIDNIGHT CLUB Flemensfirth – Larry’s Peach (Laurence O) 11-10-08
Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE / Paul Townend (145-)
Favourite in last year’s Grand National. Reasonable 6th considering made a few errors, including a serious one at the 3rd and badly hampered 4 out. Finished 27¼ lengths behind Ballabriggs and now a stone better off with winner. Just 2 lbs difference with 4th State Of Play for 11 lengths deficit. The Midnight Club is racing off a 4 lb lower mark than in 2011. Difficult to asses form this term. 100/1, seemed to be given an easy ride in Gold Cup (3m2½f good) after mistake 1st and hampered 2nd fence. 63 lengths behind winner Synchronised and just 20 lbs better off. Two races over inadequate trips of around 2½m and brought down 4th only other starts since Aintree. Ruby Walsh didn’t seem to consider riding him this year, but shouldn’t be written off. Effective on good and heavy ground.

24) 3F/-52PP0 MON MOME Passing Sale Etoile Du Lion (New Target) 12-10-08
Vida Bingham / Venetia Williams / Aidan Coleman (145-140)
Won 2009 Grand National by 12 lengths, receiving 6 lbs from the 2nd Comply Or Die. Had a better chance than 100/1 SP suggested, however the form looks a little suspect. Pace slowed dramatically when both front runners fell at second Bechers, allowing the whole field to bunch up. Mon Mome fell the following year. Flattered 30 lengths 3rd to Imperial Commander in 2010 Gold Cup. Stayed on past beaten rivals who’d taken on the principles. Only form since and again flattered, when 2nd (3m2½f good-soft) beaten 4½ lengths trying to give winner Mostly Bob16 lbs. First two coming from way back. Three poor efforts afterwards and no encouragement last time out, 12th of 14 finishers. Although on a 3 lbs lower mark than when winning this, will be 5 lbs lower still in future handicaps. Goes on good and heavy ground.

25) 0P2F-60 ARBOR SUPREME Supreme Leader – Peter’s Well (Electric) 10-10-07
J P McManus / Jonjo O’Neill / M P Walsh (144-)
Not the best of jumpers, unseated and fell in the last two Grand Nationals for trainer Willie Mulluns. Lucky to get as far as 3 out in 2011 (beaten at time) after several mistakes. Prior to that running was a good 2nd behind The Midnight Club (levels) in Bobbyjo Chase (3m1f heavy). Now 1 lb better off for a length beating. Two poor runs over hurdles only starts this season since transferred to Jonjo O’Neil; unraced since December and has not run well fresh in the past. Is better over fences, but difficult to see him figuring. Sire Supreme Leader doesn’t get many that stay extreme distances, although Arbor Supreme has been successful at 3m6f, the furthest he’s raced away from Aintree. Winner on heavy and good ground. Inconsistent and gives the impression has his own ideas about the game. Tongue tied for the first time.

26) 3F-30P01 SUNNYHILLBOY Old Vic – Sizzle (High Line) 9-10-05
J P McManus / Jonjo O’Neill / Richie McLernon (142-152)
Improved to win Kim Muir (3m1½f good). Beat Becauseicouldntsee 4½ lengths giving 2 lbs, showing turn of foot to win going away. One notable error at top of the hill. One of the best handicapped horses in this field, now officially 10 lbs well-in. Raced mainly around 2½m, bred to get lot further. Sire Old Vic responsible for Grand National winners Comply Or Die and Don’t Push It. Grand dam Cauldron dam of Whitbread winner and National placed Brown Windsor. Sunnyhillboy’s only start beyond 3m1½f a good third in Irish National (3m5f good). Gave 7 lbs to Organisedconfusion, now 10 lbs better off with winner. Possibly best on good or good-soft. Not a natural jumper and sometimes makes mistakes. Held up.

27) F-030341 KILLYGLEN Presenting – Tina Maria (Phardante) 10-10-04
David McCammon / Stuart Crawford IRE / Robbie Power (141-)
Sometimes a weak finisher these days. Clear 3 out in November (3m good-soft) before going down by over 6 lengths; now 7 lbs better off with winner Cappa Bleu. Won uncompetitive 6 finisher conditions chase last time out (3m2f soft) gave 3 lbs and a 5½ lengths beating to Saddlers Storm. Now only 4 lbs worse off with In Compliance who he beat 36½ lengths. Killyglen’s first victory since Mildmay Novices at Aintree in April 2009. Travelled well for a long way in last year’s Grand National. Led at Valentines but just beginning to back pedal when falling 4 out (mistake at previous fence too). Goes in to this year’s race in better form and on a 5 lbs lower mark. Now better off with winner Ballabriggs (15 lbs), 4th State Of Play and 6th The Midnight Club both 1 lb. Successful on soft and good going. Sire Presenting (see On His Own) a good influence of stamina. Dam’s sire Phardante 2nd to Oh So Sharp in St Leger. Killyglen should stay further than 3m2f on breeding, but was also pulled up in 2010 Scottish National. Tongue tied as has been last 2 starts.

28) 2F-4010 QUISCOVER FONTAINE Antarctique – Blanche Fontaine (Oakland) 8-10-04
J P McManus / Willie Mullins IRE / D J Casey (141-)
Good 4th last April in 2011 Irish Grand National (3m5f good) on his only start beyond 2m5f, off an Irish Handicap mark of 142. Now a stone better off with winner Organisedconfusion who beat him 10½ lengths. Also 4 lbs better off with 3rd Sunnyhillboy for 4½ lengths. Ran in 2m hurdles since, successful penultimate start despite the trip (2m good). Quiscover Fontaine probably doesn’t have so much scope for further improvement as those two. Effective on good or heavy going.

29) 4-P13000 THARAWAAT Alhaarth – Sevi’s Choice (Sir Ivor) 7-10-04
Gigginstown House Stud / Gordon Elliott IRE / B T O’Connell (141-)
Winner of 2¾m (Heavy) handicap chase by 7 lengths, giving 8 lbs to Indifference Curve, off an Irish Handicap mark of 133. Upped 8 lbs for that and not been able to repeat the form since, yet his mark hasn’t dropped. Ran no better over hurdles latest start. Front runner or races prominently. Seems inconsistent but for when the mud is flying, last three wins have all come on heavy. However, those conditions will probably put far too great an emphasis on stamina. Stays 3 miles, the longest trip he’s tackled. Sire Alhaarth winner of Dewhurst (7f) and Prix Dollar (1m2f). Although is responsible for Chester Cup winner Admiral on the flat, few of progeny are stayers. Tharawaat already stays further than most jumps horses by Alhaarth. Effective with or without headgear. Tongue tied as he usually is, but blinkers are left off.

30) 2F-63F22 BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE Beneficial – Ath Dara (Duky) 9-10-03
Noel Glynn / Noel Glynn IRE / D J Condon (140-)
Career best effort last time despite setting a slow pace at 3m1½f on good not placing much emphasis on stamina. 4½ lengths 2nd receiving 2 lbs from Sunnyhillboy in Kim Muir (same terms here). Becauseicouldntsee has a bit to make up on the winner, but he’s well handicapped himself. Already proven at 4m, 2nd in 2010 National Hunt Chase. Acts on good and soft ground. Two falls in form figures doesn’t inspire confidence. Only got as far as second fence in last year’s race when not settling; generally jumps better than that. Displayed good technique and only one slight mistake at Cheltenham. Grand National tends to favour those ridden prominently.

31) 144/P3/4- STATE OF PLAY Hernando – Kaprice (Windwurf) 12-10-03
William & Angela Rucker / Evan Williams / Noel Fehily (140-140)
Lightly raced, last 4 starts include 3 Grand Nationals placed efforts, 4th 3rd and 4th again in 2011 off a 2 lbs higher mark than Saturday. Now 12 lbs better off with Ballabriggs for a 16¼ lengths beating. Just 2 lbs worse for 11 lengths back to a possibly below form The Midnight Club in 6th. 1 lb worse with 3 out faller Killyglen. Three Grand Nationals were on good or good-soft. Earlier in career won Charlie Hall on good-firm and Hennessey soft. Although is thought by connections to be ideally suited by less testing conditions these days. Another year on his back and jockey Paul Moloney has got off State Of Play to ride Cappa Bleu for same owner and trainer combination.

32) 2313P20 SWING BILL Grey Risk – Melodie Royale (Garde Royale) 11-10-03
David Johnson / David Pipe / C O’Farrell (140-138)
Proved suited by a step up to 3m½f, winning handicap chase at Cheltenham by 7 lengths from Stewarts House (levels) in November off 134. Placed twice off 141 since but the 11 year old has never won off as high a mark. Below form recently including in Topham, distant 6th when pulled up behind West End Rocker at Aintree. Poor 17th of 21 finishers last time out, 3 lbs worse off with the winner Sunnyhillboy and has 58½ lengths to make up. Been dropped 2 lbs in future handicaps. Swing Bill has been successful on all types of ground but the softer it is the less likely he is to stay. Although dam’s sire Garde Royale is a very good stamina influence, including being responsible for Grand National runner-up Royal Auclair – Few of Swing Bill’s sire Grey Risk (a miler himself)’s progeny stayed further than 3m over obstacles, including Thousand Stars. Wears cheek pieces for the first time since 2007 (3rd).

33) FP-26611 POSTMASTER Dansili – Post Modern (Nureyev) 10-10-02
The Bill & Ben Partnership / Tim Vaughan / Dougie Costello (139-139)
Fell at the first over these fences in Topham last year. First race for 7 months, successful last time out (Marh 27th) in Ludlow 4 finisher Hunter chase (2m4f good-firm). Didn’t take much winning and been reassessed 1 lb lower in future. Gave 6 lbs and a 2 ½ length beating to the poor jumping Bermuda Boy. Won 3m½f (good) handicap on penultimate start, off a mark of 132 (now 7 lbs higher). Receiving 1 lb from Ostland (winner since) and beating him 1¼ lengths. Most form on a sound surface though has won on soft. Furthest Postmaster has raced is 3m½f but is highly unlikely to stay 4½m. Sire and dam’s sire Dansili and Nureyev milers. Dam Post Modern out of the outstanding broodmare Modena. Which makes her a half sister to Irish Champion Stakes winner (Derby placed) Elmaamul and Oaks winner Reams Of Verse. Modena is a half sister to Zaizafon, dam of both Champion miler (including 2000 Guineas) Zafonic and Zamindar, sire of Arc winner Zarkava. Postmaster himself won over just 1m1f on the flat as a 5 year old. One thing the family are not known for is stayers! Tongue Tied as usual.

34) 3/P22-121 GILES CROSS Saddlers Hall – Mystockings (Idiot’s Delight) 10-10-01
KCMS Partnership / Victor Dartnall / Paddy Brennan (138-144)
Met Le Beau Bai twice this season. Firstly in the Welsh National (3m5½f heavy) going much the best two out, but having to settle for 2nd (for second year running) overhauled to be beaten 7 lengths giving 5 lbs. 11 lbs worse off with Cappa Bleu here for beating him 15 lengths. Giles Cross improved to win Grand National Trial (3m4f Heavy) at Haydock last time. With a 7 lbs pull (in receipt of 2 lbs) this time had just over 11 lengths to spare over 3rd Le Beau Bai. Again looked to be travelling well, but only clung on by a neck from the rallying Neptune Collonges. If 2nd jockey’s claim is taken in to account, Giles Cross is now 2 lb worse off with Paul Nicholls grey. Although himself officially 6 lbs well-in and one of the best handicapped horses in the field. Looking the Chepstow winner before failing and scrambling home at Haydock might suggest he’s getting to the end of his (stamina) tether. But all Giles Cross’ 5 victories have come by 2 lengths or less and may idle at sound of the crowd. Also 2nd 5 times and never out of the first 3 in 12 completed starts, so genuine enough. Might be wise to either back him each way or put a saver in the betting in running market at very short odds. Earlier won Southern National (3m4f soft) at Fontwell off a mark of 132 (now 138), gave a stone and 1¾ lengths beating to Rey Nacarado (winner on next start off 2 lbs higher). Giles Cross was one of just 3 to finish of 12 runners (2nd) in 2011 Eider (4m1f heavy) in near unraceable ground. And last of only 3 finishers in 18 runner Midlands Grand National (4m1½f heavy). So stays well. Developed an exceptional jumping technique (at least when racing prominently) over normal fences, enabling Giles Cross to often take lengths off rivals. Usual rider Dennis O’Regan can’t do the weight so Paddy Brennan takes over. Has won on good-soft, but goes particularly well on soft/heavy.

35) 21/10P-16 MIDNIGHT HAZE Midnight Legend – Gypsy Haze (Romany Rye) 10-10-00
Kim Bailey Racing Partnership / Kim Bailey / Sean Quinlan (137-137)
From the yard of Grand National winning trainer Kim Bailey. Like Mr Frisk, Midnight Haze usually races prominently, but didn’t do so at Cheltenham. Still in with a chance on the turn for home in the Cross Country Chase (3m7f good-firm), after down on his nose at the 21st fence. 12½ lengths 6th receiving 2 lbs from winner Balthazar King. Always up there with the pace penultimate start in Ludlow 3m1½f (soft) chase off a 9 lbs lower mark than Saturday. Giving 3 lbs and an 11 length beating to Inside Dealer. Setting a strong pace which had many in trouble (only 4 of 9 finished). Should be suited by the increased test of stamina. Winner on soft and good (probably good-firm) ground.

36) 044B-2(1)(1)0 VIC VENTURI Old Vic – Carmen Lady (Torus) 12-10-00
Seamus Dunne / Dessie Hughes IRE / Harry Skelton (137-)
“Unlucky” in the last two Nationals, unseated when hampered 20th in 2010, beaten at the time and brought down 2nd fence 2011. Won 8 runner, 5 finisher 2009 Becher Chase (3m2f soft) giving 20 lbs and beating Keenan’s Future (4th in today’s Fox Hunter) 5 lengths, off a mark of 148. Reappearance 2nd in what turned out to be a very poor grade 1 (Kauto Star pulled up) Punchestown Gold Cup (3m1f good) in May 2011; 11 lengths behind Follow The Plan (levels). Winner of two points afterwards. Well below form last time out in February, 12th of 13 finishers in 3m hunter chase (good-soft). Goes on soft and good going. By Old Vic, sire of Grand National winners Comply Or Die and Don’t Push It and (from this yard) runner-up Black Apalachi. Dam’s sire Torus responsible for Gold Cup winner Mr Mulligan. Should stay trip on breeding, but disappointed both starts in Irish National. Wears cheek pieces as usually does under rules.

37) 431U0-P3 IN COMPLIANCE Old Vic – Lady Bellingham (Montelimar) 12-10-00
Dessie Hughes / Dessie Hughes IRE / N P Madden (137-)
One time Grade 1 chaser, winner of 2006 John Durkan (2m4f heavy) by 2 ½ lengths from War Of Attrition (levels). Been on the downgrade for some time. Furthest he’s won is 2¾m and didn’t stay in last year’s National when 13th of 19 finishers, off a 4 lb higher mark than on Saturday. Also below form 6th, beaten 22 lengths in 2010 Topham. No form in two starts this season. Slowly away and pulled up in first of them. Not much better last time out, poor 3rd beaten 36½ lengths by Killyglen in 3m2f uncompetitive conditions chase (soft) and now only 4 lbs better off. Possibly best these days in small fields with give in the ground. Last win in February 2011, made all in 5 finisher Cashel Chase when blinkered for the first time. Won by 18 lengths only because the1\2 fav Quiscover Fontaine fell when gaining ground 2 out. Possibly of doubtful temperament these days. Is not blinkered.

38) 00-143P5 VIKING BLOND Varese – Sweet Jaune (Le Nain Jaune) 7-10-00
Caroline Mould / Nigel Twiston-Davies / Brian Hughes (137-135)
Stable won Grand National with Earth Summit and Bindaree. Viking Blond jumps well for a novice with only 5 chase starts. 15 lengths 3rd getting 3 lbs from winner Grands Crus in Newbury Grade 2 in November. Disappointed in both starts since. Didn’t look to be enjoying being crowded once losing a prominent position, pulled up in Welsh National (3m5½f Heavy). Last of 5 finishers last time out at Ascot, has 45 lengths to make up on 3rd Cappa Bleu and now only 2 lbs better off. Been dropped 2 lbs in future handicaps. Already stays further than most by sire Varese, but Viking Blond is lazy so is not typical. Dam’s sire Le Nain Jaune is responsible for Hennessey (3m2f) winner on disqualification Gingembre. Viking Blond stays 3m3f and should stay further if his mind lets him. Wears blinkers as usual.

39) PP-5U654 HELLO BUD Jurado – Orchestral Sport (Orchestra) 14-10-00
Seamus Murphy / Nigel Twiston-Davies / Sam Twiston-Davies (137-127)
Veteran out and out stayer. Did not win his first chase (outside points) until the age of 9. Unusually showed improved form at 11 to win 2009 Scottish National (4m½f good). Successful at 12 over National fences in 2010 Becher Chase (3m2f soft) off the same mark as Ayr of 133. Also finished 5th, receiving 13 lbs to Don’t Push It in 2010 Grand National. Now only 3 lbs better off with 2nd Black Apalachi for 30 lengths deficit. Handicapper seemingly bent over backwards to get this Aintree specialist in to the race. Given a mark 10 lbs more than he’d get in a normal handicap. Probably in process of running his best race this season; still travelling and jumping well (as usual) in front when taking the Canal Turn too tightly and unseating. Sometimes doesn’t find as much as expected under pressure. Fair effort penultimate start in Classic Chase (3m5f good-soft), possibly flattered able to dictate, 7 lengths 5th receiving 23 lbs from winner Hey Big Spender. Disappointing 4th last time out when expected by connections to run well. Beaten 33 lengths giving 10 lbs to Marufo, off a 7 lbs lower mark than Saturday. Possible Hello Bud is finally showing his age. Effective on soft and good-firm. Tongue tied as usual.

40) 315045 NEPTUNE EQUESTER Sovereign Water – All Things Nice (Sweet Monday) 9-10-00
Koo’s Racing Club / Brian Ellison / Felix De Giles (132-131)
Proved suited by the step up to 3m4f (good-soft) in November, off a mark 8 lbs including 5lbs out of the handicap lower than Saturday. Coming through from the back to win by 2 lengths, giving 11 lbs to Morning Moment. Neptune Equester has lost his form since, only beaten two of those to finish in his last 3 starts. Last last time out in March. Those backing him are relying on these unique fences bringing about a return to form. Goes on good and heavy ground.

Reserve) 32-3P40 ANY CURRENCY 9-10-00 (9-08)
Cash Is King / Martin Keighley (131-131)

Reserve) 4202650 OUR ISLAND 7-10-00 (9-07)
David Fox / Tim Vaughan (130-130)

Reserve) 31P/-FP33 ABBEYBRANEY 11-10-00 (9-05)
Sue Johnson / George Bewley (128-128)

Reserve) 5-341064 SMOKING ACES 8-10-00 (9-05)
J P McManus / Tom Taaffe IRE (128-)

John Smith’s Grand National – latest news snippets straight from Aintree press room

GOING CHANGED ON TUESDAY MORNING – BUT MAY BE AMENDED AGAIN AFTER DRY DAY

 

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NOW SOLD OUT AT AINTREE – EXCEPT FOR LIMITED AVAILABILITY IN RESTAURANTS

 

NEW ORDER FOR THE JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL

 

PERFECT PRACTICE FOR GILES CROSS

 

FIRST HORSE TO ARRIVE AT AINTREE

 

The official going at Aintree was changed this morning (8.45am, Tuesday, April 10) to:

 

Grand National Course – Soft (from soft, good to soft in places)

 

Mildmay Course – Chase & Hurdle Course – Soft, Good to Soft in places (from good to soft, soft in places)

 

This follows 15 millimetres of rain yesterday.

 

There was a very small amount of rain early today (0.2 millimetres) but it has been dry since, with the sun coming out from late morning,  so another change of the going descriptions is likely later on this afternoon.

 

The forecast is as follows

Today – bright day with some sunny spells, possible showers, some heavy – 10C.

Wednesday – dry start with possible showers, some heavy later (up to 3mm might fall) – 10C.

Thursday – remaining unsettled, possible showers (up to 2mm might fall) – 9C

Friday – sunny spells and possible showers (up to 2mm might fall) – 8C

Saturday – possible showers (up to 2mm might fall) – 8C

 

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NOW SOLD OUT AT AINTREE – EXCEPT FOR LIMITED AVAILABILITY IN RESTAURANTS

                                                         


The second and third days of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting, Friday (Ladies’ Day – April 13) and Saturday (John Smith’s Grand National Day – April 14), are sold out at Aintree – except for limited availability in restaurants. It is the earliest that both these days have sold out.

 

Tickets and badges are still available for the opening day of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting – Liverpool Day, Thursday, April 12.

 

NEW ORDER FOR THE JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL

 

The new handicap ratings, issued today by the British Horseracing Authority Head of Handicapping Phil Smith, mean there is a new numbering order for the five-day confirmations of the John Smith’s Grand National (see the bottom of this release for full details).

 

This has an impact on sweepstakes and if any of the remaining 47 horses has to drop out when the runners are declared by 10am on Thursday for Saturday’s race. The John Smith’s Grand National field is limited to 40 runners.

 

There are five horses grouped together on 10st and, if the top 40 all go forward on Thursday, the unlucky one of that quintet not to get a run will be Hello Bud who is now 41st in the pecking order.

 

Numbering at the bottom of the handicap

37 Midnight Haze

38 Vic Venturi

39 In Compliance

40 Viking Blond

41 Hello Bud

42 Neptune Equester

43 Any Currency

44 Our Island

45 Abbeybraney

46 Smoking Aces

47 Ballyvesey

 

PERFECT PRACTICE FOR GILES CROSS

 

Leading John Smith’s Grand National candidate Giles Cross had his first taste of Grand National-style fences this morning (Tuesday, April10) in a schooling session under his big-race jockey Paddy Brennan.

 

The 10-year-old’s trainer Victor Dartnall liked what he saw at his Devon yard and his morning’s satisfaction was completed by news of soft going at Aintree.

 

“The horse is in great form,” said Dartnall. “And we were delighted with him this morning. We’ve rigged up a couple of National lookalike fences and he jumped them beautifully. Paddy was very pleased with what he felt and we’re all looking forward to Saturday.”

 


Brennan, who had not ridden Giles Cross before, gets the chance to partner him in the big race because regular rider Denis O’Regan would struggle to do the weight of 10st 1lb. “He’s not a complicated ride,” added Dartnall.

 

Giles Cross, bred by his owner Kay Birchenhough, will be Dartnall’s first John Smith’s Grand National runner and, with the ground on the National course now soft after 15 millimetres of rain yesterday and with showery weather set to continue, is likely to get his preferred underfoot conditions.

 

“The softer the better for him,” added Dartnall. “He’s a heavy-ground horse, which is one reason why he’s run only 16 times in his life; he doesn’t get his conditions that often. If he gets his ground, he’ll run well. He travels, he jumps, he stays, he’s straightforward and very genuine.”

 

FIRST HORSE TO ARRIVE AT AINTREE

 

The early bird catches the worm or so they say, and the early bird at Aintree this year is the Oliver McKiernan-trained Follow The Plan, who arrived at the racecourse stables at 4am today (Tuesday, April 10) having travelled over from Rathcoole, Co Dublin on the evening tide.

 

Follow The Plan is entered in the Grade One Betfred Bowl on Liverpool Day, the first day of the 2012 John Smiths Grand National meeting, with Tom Doyle booked to take the ride in the £150,000 chase which is run over three miles and a furlong of the Mildmay Course.

 

McKiernan said of his charge: “Aintree is a big galloping track with fences which suit him well and he has come on for his last two outings, though it is quite a hot race on Thursday.

 

“We ran him in the race last year and it worked out well – he was third to Nacarat and he came out of it well.

 

“This would be half a prep for the Punchestown Gold Cup (April 25), which he won last year – it is hard to find a suitable race for him Ireland at the moment.”


 

 

UPDATED IN ORDER OF LATEST HANDICAP RATINGS

2012 JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL


Class 1, Grade 3, £975,000 total prize fund. 4.15pm, Aintree, Saturday, April 14, 2012, four miles and four furlongs. For seven-year-olds and upwards who, up to and including March 20, 2012, have been placed first, second, third or fourth in a chase of three miles or more and which are allotted a rating of 120 or more by the BHA Head of Handicapping following a review of the horses entered and after taking account of races run up to and including February 12, 2012. Horses who are not qualified for a rating in Great Britain or Ireland at closing may also be entered. Such horses may be eligible for a weight providing the handicapper is satisfied that the horse’s racecourse performances up to and including February 12 would merit a minimum rating of 120. To qualify, horses must have run at least three times in chases run under the Rules of Racing of the same Recognised Racing Authority up to and including February 12, 2012. At the handicapper’s discretion, such horses may be allocated a rating. The decision of the BHA Head of Handicapping shall be final. The British Horseracing Authority has modified Rule (F)42.2.1 for the purposes of this race, such that racecourse performances up to and including Sunday, February 12, may be taken into account. A novice horse shall only be qualified to run in this race if it has run a minimum of three times in chases in Great Britain, Ireland or France in accordance with Rule (F)42.5. Highest weight 11st 10lb – no penalties after publication of the weights. Entries closed January 31, entries revealed February 1 (82 entries), weights revealed February 14, first scratchings deadline February 28 (77 remained), second scratchings deadline March 20 (59 remained). Five-day confirmation stage April 9 (48 remain), Tuesday, April 10 (47 go forward) final declaration stage 10.00am, April 12. Maximum field size of 40, plus four reserves. Reserves have to be utilised by 9am on Friday, April 13. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Sunday, April 8.


 

Form  Horse    Age/Weight Owner    Trainer/Probable Jockey

1)13-P0311 SYNCHRONISED (IRE) 9-11-10 J P McManus Jonjo O’Neill/A P McCoy

2)11/1121-4 BALLABRIGGS (IRE)  11-11-09  Trevor Hemmings Donald McCain/Jason Maguire

3)1/10P-13P WEIRD AL (IRE)  9-11-08   Brannon, Dennis, Dick, Holden Donald McCain/Timmy Murphy

4)106-P422 NEPTUNE COLLONGES (FR) 11-11-06 John Hales Paul Nicholls/Daryl Jacob

5)2F-0511 CALGARY BAY (IRE)  9-11-06 Camilla Radford Henrietta Knight/Dominic Elsworth

6)F-6041UP ALFA BEAT (IRE)  8-11-05 Irvin Naylor John Hanlon IRE/ Davy Russell

7)F01/35-23 PLANET OF SOUND  10-11-05 Charles Lloyd-Baker Philip Hobbs/ Richard Johnson

8)51U/022/2 BLACK APALACHI (IRE) 13-11-03 Teresa Burke Dessie Hughes IRE/Denis O’Regan

9)6/3U34-1F DEEP PURPLE  11-11-03  Paul Green Evan Williams/Jamie Moore

10)131/321-02 JUNIOR   9-11-02 Middleham Park Racing LI David Pipe/Tom Scudamore

 

11)10-U3032 CHICAGO GREY (IRE)  9-10-13 John Earls Gordon Elliott IRE/Paul Carberry

12)3100-015 TATENEN (FR)  8-10-13 The Stewart Family Richard Rowe/Andrew Thornton

13)F11/-1111 SEABASS (IRE)  9-10-12 Gunners Syndicate Ted Walsh IRE/Ms Katie Walsh

14)000-1122 SHAKALAKABOOMBOOM (IRE) 8-10-12 Liam Breslin Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty

15)11PB-P1 WEST END ROCKER (IRE) 10-10-12  Barry Winfield & Tim Leadbeater Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson

16)22-30112 ACCORDING TO PETE 11-10-12 Peter Nelson Malcolm Jefferson/Harry Haynes

17)14P1-B1 ON HIS OWN (IRE)  8-10-11 Andrea & Graham Wylie Willie Mullins IRE/Ruby Walsh

18)2113-1PP ALWAYS RIGHT (IRE)  10-10-10 John Wade John Wade/James Reveley

19)3F2P/-133 CAPPA BLEU (IRE)  10-10-10 William & Angela Rucker Evan Williams/Paul Moloney

20)PU-345053 RARE BOB (IRE)  10-10-09 D A Syndicate Dessie Hughes IRE/Bryan Cooper

 

21)12-133F5 ORGANISEDCONFUSION (IRE) 7-10-08 Grace Dunlop Arthur Moore IRE/Miss Nina Carberry

22)P/P-51423 TREACLE (IRE)  11-10-08 Bjorn Nielsen   Tom Taaffe IRE/Andrew Lynch

23)3/216-B430 THE MIDNIGHT CLUB (IRE) 11-10-08 Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE

24)3F/-52PP0 MON MOME (FR)  12-10-08 Vida Bingham Venetia Williams/Aidan Coleman

25)0P2F-60 ARBOR SUPREME (IRE) 10-10-07 J P McManus Jonjo O’Neill

26)03F-30P01 SUNNYHILLBOY (IRE)  9-10-05 J P McManus Jonjo O’Neill/Richie McLernon

27)F-030341 KILLYGLEN (IRE)  10-10-04 David McCammon Stuart Crawford IRE/Robert Power

28)2F-4010 QUISCOVER FONTAINE (FR) 8-10-04 J P McManus Willie Mullins IRE/David Casey

29)4-P13000 THARAWAAT (IRE)  7-10-04 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE

30)42F-63F22 BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE (IRE) 9-10-03 Noel Glynn Noel Glynn IRE

 

31)P-0P0113 LE BEAU BAI (FR)  9-10-03 Glass Half Full   Richard Lee

32)144/P3/4- STATE OF PLAY  12-10-03 William & Angela Rucker Evan Williams/Noel Fehily

33)041-04400 ALWAYS WAINING (IRE) 11-10-03 Mr & Mrs Peter Douglas Peter Bowen/Tom O’Brien

34)2313P20 SWING BILL (FR)  11-10-03 David Johnson   David Pipe/Conor O’Farrell

35)FP-26611 POSTMASTER   10-10-02 The Bill & Ben Partnership Tim Vaughan

36)3/P22-121 GILES CROSS (IRE)  10-10-01 KCMS Partnership  Victor Dartnall/Paddy Brennan

37)21/10P-16 MIDNIGHT HAZE  10-10-00 Kim Bailey Racing Partnership Kim Bailey/Sean Quinlan

38)0044B-20 VIC VENTURI (IRE)  12-10-00 Seamus Dunne  Dessie Hughes IRE/Harry Skelton

39)431U0-P3 IN COMPLIANCE (IRE) 12-10-00 Dessie Hughes  Dessie Hughes IRE/Niall Madden

40)00-143P5 VIKING BLOND (FR)  7-10-00 Caroline Mould   Nigel Twiston-Davies

 

41)PP-5U654 HELLO BUD (IRE)  14-10-00 Seamus Murphy Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies

42)0-315045 NEPTUNE EQUESTER  9-9-09  Koo’s Racing Club  Brian Ellison

43)32-3P40 ANY CURRENCY (IRE) 9-9-08  Cash Is King Martin Keighley/Alain Cawley

44)0-4202650 OUR ISLAND (IRE)  7-9-07  David Fox Tim Vaughan

45)31P/-FP33 ABBEYBRANEY (IRE)  11-9-05  Sue Johnson George Bewley/Ryan Mania

46)05-341064 SMOKING ACES (IRE)  8-9-05  J P McManus Tom Taaffe IRE

47)12-20P30 BALLYVESEY (IRE)  7-9-02  Roddy Owen & Paul Fullagar Peter Bowen

47 still going forward  

16 Irish-trained

 

NR SADDLERS STORM (IRE) 10-9-05 R T & J McLoughlin/Billy Moffett Tony Martin IRE (ran yesterday & cannot now take part)