Gingertipster’s horse-by-horse guide to the Grand National
Gingertipster writes frequently on The Racing Forum. He produces the best big race guides I’ve seen outside of the pro publications and he’s been kind enough to allow me to republish here. Soll, who is a late sub, will be added tomorrow by Ginger.
The figure to the left of each horse’s name is its official handicap rating. The higher the rating the better the horse, although that is supposed to be equalised by the better horses carrying more weight. It doesn’t work out exactly in the National – for example Imperial Commander is rated 158 and should be carrying 10lbs more than Forpadydeplasterer, rated 148. But the handicapper makes special allowance for better horses in the National.
GRAND NATIONAL Aintree 4m3½f
158 Imperial Commander 12 11-10 Nigel Twiston Davis 1U1P/2
Despite top weight is well handicapped on 2010 Gold Cup win. Encouraging first run for year and ten months in January. On the face it Imperial Commander can be expected to come on for the run, ½ length 2nd to Cape Tribulation (who gave 6lbs) in Argento Chase. However, has excellent record fresh/at Cheltenham and now a veteran; it’s possible won’t improve significantly from reappearance. Cape Tribulation went on to be 21¾ lengths 5th to Bobs Worth in Cheltenham Gold Cup next start; a race Imperial Commander missed with an infection. Yet to race at extreme distances but stays on at the finish of races to suggest he’ll get the trip. Usually jumps well and races at or near the pace.
157 What A Friend 10 11-9 Paul Nicholls P/33F7-8
Never dangerous 8th in Racing Plus Chase only start this term. Winner at Aintree over normal obstacles, but didn’t appear to take to these fences when pulled up in 2011 Grand National. Increasingly looks temperamental and difficult to win with. Run style (held up/dropped out) doesn’t generally lend itself to this race. Likely to stay this trip. Part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.
156 Weird Al 10 11-8 Donald McCain PF-4PP
Seems an Autumn horse, winner of Charlie Hall and good 10 lengths 3rd to Kauto Star in Oct/Nov 2011. Only form this season 4th of 5 runners in same race. Intermittent breathing problems probably a reason for a loss of form/enthusiasm. Usually travels well when on song; never going and pulled up last time out in Denman (Aon) Chase last time. Fell 4 out in Grand National when already beaten last year and just 3 lbs better in now. Possibly best with give in the ground and yet to prove stamina.
155 Quel Esprit 9 11-7 Willie Mullins (Ire) 113-04
Likes to get on with things, Quel Esprit usually races to the fore and unlikely to be suited by this test. First run for 9 months in February, bad mistake 5 out and bit below best; 25¼ lengths last of 4 finishers behind Sir Des Champs in Grade 1 Irish Hennessey. Seemingly outstayed when 11½ lengths 3rd to China Rock in 3m1f (heavy) Punchestown Gold Cup last season. Quel Esprit has disappointed on good ground, but soft/heavy will place even more emphasis on stamina.
154 Big Fella Thanks 11 11-6 Tom George 7/U312
Part owned by Seb Coe, Big Fella Thanks may be one for the back to lay traders, 7th or better in three Grand Nationals. Comes there travelling like a winner but failing to get home. In fairness his finishing effort at shorter trips can leave a lot to be desired too; so it may not be purely down to stamina. Looked winner off a 6 lbs lower mark in Becher Chase (3m2f heavy) in November, only to once again fold on run-in for 3rd. Despite beaten 1¾ lengths is now 7 lbs worse off with fast finishing 2nd Join Together. Big Fella Thanks today runs off a higher mark than he’s previously carried around here, same one as when 5 lengths 2nd (giving 12 lbs) to Pacha Du Polder at Newbury (2½m) last time out. Won penultimate start off 9 lbs lower mark. Short run-in from last at Wincanton helping his idling tendency. Suspect temperament is holding Big Fella Thanks back.
154 Seabass 10 11-6 Ted Walsh (Ire) 1113-23
Could this be the year of a true National Velvet? With Seabass as The Pie and trainer’s daughter Katy Walsh taking Liz Taylor’s role. Seabass came close 12 months ago when 3rd off 5 lbs lower mark than today. Now 5 lbs better off for beaten 5 lengths by 2nd Sunnyhillboy. 7 lbs worse off with 4th Cappa Bleu for 7 lengths, 13 lbs with 6th Ballabriggs for 12¼ lengths and 5 lbs with On His Own, who was going well when coming down at second Bechers. Seabass had looked to be going best between last two fences and 90 yards shorter trip this year may work in his favour. Couple of prep races have gone well; 2nd over inadequate 2 miles over hurdles and good 3rd to Roi Du Mee (winner since) in Grade 2 Bobbyjo Chase (3m1f) last time. Seabass a bit better than distance beaten suggest, winner having run of the race out in front. Consistent, equally effective on soft or good ground and jumps well; Seabass is a likeable individual who may have more improvement in him.
154 Roberto Goldback 11 11-6 Nicky Henderson 7-1U355
Seemed at least as good as ever first start for present trainer in November off 4 lbs lower mark of 150; giving 6 lbs and a 9 lengths beating to Duke Of Lucca. Race not worked out well, first five home failing to win since. May flatter Roberto Goldback and form doesn’t look as good now as it did at the time. Not given hard races in last three starts with this as a known target. Last time out gave 14 lbs and beaten 14 lengths 5th to Opening Batsman in Racing Plus Chase off this same mark. Unseated in Hennessey at Newbury but generally jumps well. Yet to prove stamina beyond 3m1f.
152 Sunnyhillboy 10 11-4 Jonjo O’Neil P912-5P
Quickened in to a clear lead on run-in of Grand National until pegged back and headed on line. Sunnyhillboy is 5 lbs worse off for 5 lengths back to 3rd Seabass; 12 lbs worse off for 12 lengths with 4th Cappa Bleu and 19 lbs worse with 6th Ballabriggs for 17¼ lengths. In good form at time of 2nd place; running off the same 142 mark as when successful on previous start in Kim Muir at Cheltenham; full 10 lbs higher today. Jumped better than previously for his best two performances, both on good ground. More improvement can not be ruled out and chance could be enhanced if AP McCoy decides to ride. McLernon became unbalanced after Aintree elbow and less forcefully ridden close home than winner Neptune Collonges. However, Sunnyhillboy reportedly returned with an injured tendon; so there’s also a chance he’s not be up to producing 2012 form. Poor form of two hurdle races this season don’t mean anything, trained specifically for the Grand National.
152 Ballabriggs 12 11-4 Donald McCain 1/46-P73
Dropped 8 lbs since 6th last year, making more mistakes than when victorious. Now 19 lbs better off with runner-up Sunnyhillboy for 17¼ lengths, 13 lbs better off with 12¼ lengths to make up on 3rd Seabass, 6 lbs better with 4th Cappa Bleu for 5¼ lengths. Three runs this season told us little, with this race the one and only target. Pulled up in Becher Chase on reappearance. 2 lbs worse off with Oscar Time for beating him 2¼ lengths in 2011. Ballabriggs always prominent that day, reportedly thinking of holding him up today. Fairly handicapped and shouldn’t be dismissed entirely. But although both Amberleigh House and Red Rum won as 12 year old veterans for trainer’s father Ginger; it’s asking a lot for Ballabriggs to regain the trophy off a 2 lbs higher mark than in 2011.
151 Teaforthree 9 11-3 Rebecca Curtis 11-8620
Ever since an always prominent slick round of jumping to win 4 mile National Hunt Novice Chase (good) at 2012 Cheltenham Festival, this big horse has looked an ideal Grand National candidate. Although now 11 lbs worse off with 2nd Harry The Viking for just 2 lengths, Teaforthree has improved since. Best run ½ length runner-up to Monbeg Dude in Welsh National (3m5½f heavy), first two 11 lengths clear of the field. Previously showed he’s no sluggard, not persevered with once beaten in Newbury’s Hennessey Gold Cup. 26¾ lengths 6th, getting 14 lbs from subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth. Trainer said Teaforthree did not take to being away from home overnight and failed to eat up when below form in Haydock Grand National Trial last time out. Will travel on the day to Aintree. Type to bounce back, progressive before Haydock and equally effective on heavy or good ground. Bears repeating Teaforthree is normally an exceptional jumper.
150 Across The Bay 9 11-2 Donald McCain 3-11271
Raced as if extreme distances should suit, but never appealed as a Grand National type. Gives impression needs to lead and even then often hard driven to do so, making mistakes. Probably best allowed to dominate small fields nowadays. Wind operation, blinkered and tongue tied, won substandard Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle (heavy) last time out in typical Across The Bay style. Below form 7th in Welsh National, retreating after mistake and headed. Only 5 lbs worse off for 28 length victory over Cappa Bleu in Carlisle (3m½f heavy) Graduation Chase in November, looks unreliable form, it being runner-up’s reappearance. Across The Bay has shown best on soft ground.
150 Join Together 8 11-2 Paul Nicholls 1P3-72P
“Pulled up” last time out, but Join Together possibly has a valid excuse, soon beaten after badly hampered by a runner falling in front of him in Grimthorpe Chase. Only second season chaser but already has Aintree experience. Now on a 2 lbs higher mark than when 2nd to Hello Bud over Aintree fences in Becher Chase (3m2f heavy), jumping impressively and staying on powerfully; in front just after the line. Now 7 lbs better off with 3rd Big Fella Thanks despite beating him 1¾ lengths. Join Together may improve significantly for extreme trip. Acts on both heavy and good ground. Trainer/jockey combination won 2012 Grand National with Neptune Collonges.
149 Colbert Station 9 11-1 Ted Walsh (Ire) 13-5211
Could be AP McCoy’s ride. Easy winner in December of Leopardstown Paddy Power Chase off 132 Irish mark (now BHA 149). Irish marks are usually lower than BHA, effectively more like a 12 or 14 lb rise than 17 but still a fair rise. Gave 2nd Romanesco 7 lbs and 5½ lengths beating. Runner-up franked form with 3½ lengths 3rd in Kim Muir off 5 lbs “higher” BHA (effectively sameish) mark as Leopardstown. In an attempt to protect Grand National chances, connections of Colbert Station took advantage of a lower hurdles mark last time out. Surprisingly not run since and inexperienced for a Grand National. Only 5 chase starts, but already has a good record in big fields (28 Leopardstown). Recent improvement is on a soft surface although probably equally effective on good. Yet to race further than 3m½f but plenty of stamina in pedigree. Sire Witness Box’s progeny usually stay well, Monbeg Dude, Godsmejudge etc. Unraced dam’s sire Commanche Run won St Leger.
148 Forpadydeplasterer 11 11-0 Thomas Cooper (Ire) 2P1536
Ex-top class 2 miler, on the downgrade nowadays. Below form since winning 6 runner conditions chase at Thurles in November. Slowly run race should not be taken as proof Forpaddytheplasterer stays 3 miles, let alone 4m3½f. Awful win to run ratio for one of his ability/ex-ability; that success a first since 2009 Arkle. Often makes mistakes so all-in-all not the best Grand National prospect.
Andrew J. McNamara
148 On His Own 9 11-0 Willie Mullins (Ire) P1/B1F-1
Justifiably favourite for this after fell at second Becher’s Brook last year. On His Own apparently going best of all at the time and jumped well up to that point. Difficult to imagine him not at least involved in the finish with a clear round. Surprisingly left on same mark by the handicapper, rated as if finishing 4th, 2 lengths in front of Cappa Bleu. On His Own now better off by 10 lbs with 2nd Sunnyhillboy, 5 lbs with 3rd Seabass; worse off by 2 lbs with 4th Cappa Bleu and 8 lbs with 5th Ballabriggs. Protecting his handicap mark – connections only raced him once since Aintree, easily winning 2m5f Grade 2 hurdle when expected to need the race. On His Own probably has more improvement in him, winner of four of five completed starts over fences (brought down on his other uncompleted start). Effective on heavy or good ground and the one they all have to beat here.
147 Joncol 10 10-13 Paul Nolan (Ire) 7-35233
One of the biggest horses in this field. Ex-top class staying chaser, well handicapped on form of 2010 Irish Hennessey victory. Unable to produce that level on recent starts. 24¾ lengths 3rd behind Sir Des Champs last time in latest Hennessey probably sums him up these days. Can jump right-handed which to say the least is not ideal for Aintree, especially the Canal Turn. Connections at pains to avoid Cheltenham/good ground in the past and Joncol seems best on soft/heavy.
146 Balthazar King 9 10-12 Phillip Hobbs P0F1-12
Ignore the “F” in form figures, fell on the flat when colliding with rails, usually jumps well. Stays well too and good record in X-country chases at Cheltenham. 11 lengths 2nd to Uncle Junior (levels) there in November last time out and winner at 2012 Cheltenham Festival. Supposedly a non-runner at latest Festival due to softer ground, but has good form on at least good-soft. No show there may help Balthazar King’s Grand National chance. Not run for 141 days which is undoubtedly a positive. An exceptional record fresh judged from sportinglife.com. Won last 5 starts after a 60+ day break including on reappearance over Cheltenham’s conventional fences, giving Galaxy Rock 2 lbs and a length beating. Balthazar King now on 7 lbs higher mark. Some may look better handicapped or have more improvement in them, but the race could play to Balthazar King’s strengths.
145 Cappa Bleu 11 10-11 Evan Williams 1334-22
There are grounds to think Cappa Bleu is better than he’s shown. 4th in Grand National last year. Now 12 lbs better off with 2nd Sunnyhillboy for 12 lengths, 7 lbs better off with 3rd Seabass for 7 lengths and 2 lbs better off with On His Own who was going well when falling at second Bechers Brook. 6 lbs worse off with 6th Ballabriggs for beating him 5¼ lengths. That doesn’t tell the whole story; Jockey Paul Moloney in my opinion late in asking for maximum effort and made up a lot of ground/places on the run-in. Appearing to have running left in him at the line. Wouldn’t have won, but could’ve finished closer. Equally effective on good or heavy ground. Did well to finish 2½ lengths 2nd off today’s mark, giving 7lbs to Vino Griego at Ascot (3m soft). Again not given the best ride; on a horse needing a test at the trip Moloney held Cappa Bleu up for a late run off a slowish pace – not making a move until late. Saint Are and The Rainbow Hunter 6 and a further 1¾ lengths behind in 3rd and 4th, Major Malarkey and Tatenen (well beaten) all off the same marks as today. Winner franked the form when good 1½ lengths 2nd off a 7 lbs higher mark next time out at Cheltenham Festival. Cappa Bleu should be much better suited by Aintree conditions than any of those Ascot rivals.
145 Oscar Time 12 10-11 Martin Lynch 2/4-4U60
Now off the same mark as when 2¼ lengths 2nd in 2011 Grand National and 2 lbs better off with winner Ballabriggs. However, missed 2012 race with a tendon strain. Despite the “4”s and “6” in form figures has beaten only 3 horses home out of 42 rivals since Aintree. Last of 17 in March on latest occasion. Now 12 years old and best is probably behind him. Owners son amateur Sam Waley-Cohen rides, unable to draw his 5 lb claim but with a good record over these fences.
144 Always Waining 12 10-10 Peter Bowen 4091-78
Two poor runs this season don’t look encouraging, but trainer has once again hit top form at this time of year and Always Waining loves these fences at this meeting. Winner of the last three Topham Trophies here (2m5½f). However, he’s not getting any younger and on a 6 lbs higher mark than he’s ever been successful off of. Doubtful stayer too, appears to barely get 3 miles and even disappointed even around here over 3m2f (heavy). Although may not have been ideally suited by the ground that day, over 55 lengths behind winner West End Rocker when 4th in Becher Chase.
144 Tatenen 9 10-10 Richard Rowe 15U-676
Tatenen became disappointing for Paul Nicholls after starting favourite for Arkle Chase. New lease of life transferred to Richard Rowe, but still inconsistent and sometimes makes mistakes. Only wins in last 23 starts in same race two years running (2m5½f Ascot good-soft) in 2011/12. Unseated Canal Turn first time around in Grand National. 21½ lengths 6th in Grand Annual to Alderwood who gave 1 lb (2m Soft) last time. Outpaced and unable to get customary prominent position, staying on late past beaten horses. Tatenen needs further than 2 miles these days but it appears not 3m+.
143 Treacle 12 10-9 Tom Taaffe (Ire) 423F-71
Only got as far as 10th, already beaten when fell heavily in last year’s National and off a long time afterwards. Seemingly nowhere near best last time out despite winning 5 runner conditions chase (3m2f heavy). Getting on top at final fence to win by 4 lengths from Ninetieth Minute (who’s now 6 lbs better off). Could look well handicapped if 3rd in 2012 Irish Hennessey (3m good-soft) can be believed. Treacle now 12 lbs better off with winner Quel Esprit for 7½ lengths and 11 lbs better for 2 lengths with 2nd Roberto Golback. However, nothing Treacle’s done before or since suggests he’s capable of repeating the form. Runs as if will stay this trip and best with soft in going description.
A. E. Lynch
142 Lost Glory 8 10-8 Jonjo O’Neil 011611
Prolific winner, gone up 25 lbs winning 4 of last 5 starts between June and October; unraced since. Now on 7 lbs higher mark than when winning soft ground 3 mile handicap chase at Chepstow for latest success, giving 10 lbs and 1¾ lengths beating to Mostly Bob; staying on well. Also won on a firm surface. Progressive chaser but six months break suggests some sort of injury. Only first of his 7 wins have come after a long break, AP McCoy on board for all victories. Below form 2nd for Richie McLernon at furthest trip tackled (3½m good), not jumping as well as he can. However, the way Lost Glory won at 3¼m suggests will stay further.
142 Swing Bill 12 10-8 David Pipe P-P1440
Easy to spot, Swing Bill is almost white. Below best 10th in Grand National last year, now off 2 lbs higher mark. Good close 4th to Hello Bud in Becher Chase (these fences) off this 142 rating. 2 lbs better off for 2 lengths with fast finishing 2nd Join Together and 9 lbs better with 3rd Big Fella Thanks (winner since) for a nose. Swing Bill wasn’t stopping at the end of 3¼m on heavy. Winner of amateurs handicap for second successive year at Cheltenham in November (3m½f good-soft). That came off a mark of 134 and this 12 year old has never been successful off as high a rating as today’s. Disappointing 16th in Kim Muir last time out, possibly not at his very best in the Spring.
142 Saint Are 7 10-8 Tim Vaughn 01-F430
Best performances of each full season to race have come at Aintree, so there’s a chance will show improved form. But those wins have not come over National fences. Saint Are usually belts one or two (fell in Hennessey) and will need to improve his jumping. Although rarely foot perfect, his best rounds seem to be when kept away from others; not easily done amongst 40 horses. Winner of 3m1f (good) listed handicap chase at this meeting last year (now on a 5 lb higher mark) by ½ length from Battle Group (levels), with 16 back to the 3rd. Ran well at Ascot (3m soft) 8½ lengths 3rd to Vino Greigo penultimate start, always up with pace. 6 lengths behind 2nd Cappa Bleu, 1¾ in front of 4th The Rainbow Hunter with Major Malarkey and Tatenen well beaten; due to renew rivalry with all four on same terms. Only 12th of 24, amateur ridden and held up in Kim Muir last time. Should stay further than 3m1f.
141 Chicago Grey 10 10-7 Gordon Elliott (Ire) B-0U631
2011 National Hunt Chase winner (4m Good). Chicago Grey could be well-handicapped; seemed back to form last time despite trip plenty short enough. 25/1 winner of 4 runner (2½m heavy) Grade 2 on February 13th. Looked temperamental in the past but may be that’s changed with a breathing operation. However, race fell apart with favourites Rubi Light and Hidden Cyclone going off too quick, setting it up for the stayer. Neither has reached the racecourse since. 2nd Foildubh (levels, beaten 2½ lengths) ran for first time this Tuesday; franking the form by winning another 4 runner Grade. Take Chicago Grey’s last run out and need to go back some way to find best form. Encouraging though it was, debatable if he should be so short in the betting in the face of a 4 runner race, where just one other might have ran to form. Not his fault brought down at 5th last year, but two unseats and a fall in last 16 races plus numerous mistakes. Usually held up/dropped out the back, not ideal for the National unless a change of tactics or they go off at an overly strong pace. Stable comes in to the meeting in cracking form.
141 Quiscover Fontaine 9 10-7 Willie Mullins (Ire) 10F-685
10½ lengths 4th to Organisedconfusion in 2011 Irish Grand National, gave winner 10 lbs and 3rd Sunnyhillboy (improved significantly since) 3 lbs, 4½ lengths in front. That a first try at staying trip (3m5f Good). Fell 17th in 2012 Grand National and long way below form in three races since. Stays 3m5f when going not too testing, but effective at 2 miles and far from certain to get this trip.
140 Rare Bob 11 10-6 Dessie Hughes (Ire) 3B8-643
Brought down at 5th in last year’s Grand National and remote 5th of 14 in 2011 Becher Chase (3m2f Heavy) Rare Bob lost lot of ground late on. Stays 3m5f under faster conditions, 4th in Irish National (Good) back in 2009. Races prominently but often finishes weakly. Only one win (first time blinkered) in last 21 starts. Good 3rd in Leinster National (only 3m) last time out, again finding little.
140 The Rainbow Hunter 9 10-6 Kim Bailey 4-311P4
Ran well enough at Ascot last time (3m soft). 7¾ lengths to make up on the 2nd Cappa Bleu and 1¾ to 3rd Saint Are all off the same marks as today. Of the three, Rainbow Hunter probably the least capable of adapting to Aintree, often makes mistakes. Three chase wins all in single figure sized fields, two falls in double figure fields. Sire a Chester Cup winner and The Rainbow Hunter runs as if will stay further than 3 miles. Pulled up penultimate start with breathing problem.
140 Becauseicouldntsee 10 10-6 Noel Glyn (Ire) 63PP45
2nd in 2010 National Hunt Chase (4m Good). Hasn’t got past first Canal Turn in two efforts in Grand National. Best form/jumps better/more ethusiastic able to race with at least a share of the lead. Looked as if going to take a hand in finish of Kim Muir at Cheltenham last time but reverted to type and found nothing off bridle. Stays well but difficult to win with. Possibly a Cheltenham specialist.
140 Harry The Viking 8 10-6 Paul Nicholls 12P-P90
Looked ideal Grand National candidate in March last year. 2nd to Teaforthree (much improved since) in 2012 National Hunt Chase (4m Good). Harry The Viking could be reasonably handicapped if able to reproduce that level. Pulled up in Scottish National soon afterwards and largely disappointing since. However, some signs of return to form last time out, 10th of 24 in Kim Muir at Cheltenham. In contention for a long way and possibly needed first run for 3½ months.
139 Mr Moonshine 9 10-5 Sue Smith 360264
Ran well off a 1 lb higher mark than today in Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby in December. 11 lengths 2nd receiving 2 lbs (+3 lbs jockeys claim) from winner Cape Tribulation (winner of Argento Chase since). Mr Moonshine disappointed in two subsequent outings. Won 3¼ mile hurdle earlier in career as if suited by a test of stamina. Runs most of his best races at or near the front.
138 Mumbles Head 12 10-4 Peter Bowen 1133FP
Good 3¾ lengths 3rd to Marufo in veterans chase (conventional fences) at Aintree in October, giving 16 lbs to winner. Mumbles Head fell at first fence in Becher Chase (National fences) there next time. Never travelling only subsequent start in December but stable now in better form. Suited by around 3 miles, not given the impression needs any further. Veteran but was still improving at 11.
138 Pearlysteps 10 10-4 Henry Daley F2PP-44
Just 7th in Chicago Grey’s 2011 National Hunt Chase (4m Good) only time Pearlysteps has raced beyond 3m2½f. Jumping is at its best when able to race prominently and it can fall to pieces entirely if in amongst horses. Below form last four starts, including latest occasion, 4th to Ballyoliver at Ludlow (trainer’s local track) where stable companion was a well backed favourite (2nd).
137 Ninetieth Minute 10 10-3 Tom Taaffe (Ire) 3F6042
Not so good over fences as he was over hurdles, Ninetieth Minute won 2009 Coral Cup Hurdle at Cheltenham. Only one win over fences in uncompetitive 6 runner novice by 18 lengths February 2012. 2nd to Treacle last time out (3m2f Heavy). Looking the winner but not for the first time found little. Now 6 lbs better off for 4 lengths, but less likely to be suited by the trip than stable-mate. Fell mid-race in last years Irish National, only race over further than 3¼m (3m5f Good-soft).
137 Auroras Encore 11 10-3 Sue Smith OP45F5
Three good runs culminated in excellent head 2nd giving 9 lbs to winner Merigo in Scottish National (4m½f Good) in April last year. Auroras Encore raced up with the pace and looked the winner jumping the last, just caught on line. Now off 6 lbs lower mark. Shown very little in 6 starts this season, last one in March. However, vast majority of Auroras Encore’s best lifetime efforts have come in the Spring, including winning over hurdles at this meeting in 2008. Can hit one, but his chance could be under-estimated, more so if stable show signs of a return to form before Saturday.
136 Tarquinius 10 10-2 Gordon Elliott (Ire) P11420
Below form 14th of 17 when joint favourite for Leinster National (3m Soft) latest start in March after 7 weeks off (a long break for him). Type to bounce back. Improved form since moving to Gordon Elliot, winning three races between 2¾m and 3m1f in December/January. Also good 2nd penultimate start in Thyestes Chase (3m1f Heavy) off an Irish handicap mark of 123. Getting 1 lb from enigmatic winner Jadanli; beaten a head staying on well with 13 lengths back to the 3rd. Now on a BHA handicap mark of 136 which looks excessive. However, unexposed as staying chaser for current yard. Best form for previous one Charlie Mann at extreme trips (3m6f) so could yet improve further, particularly as stable are in top form. Genuine and finds plenty under pressure. Going could be a concern, only raced on soft surface but an outsider to consider at three figure prices.
134 Any Currency 10 10-0 Martin Keighley 614U49
Rare win on first start for 5 months in October (3m3½f Good). Now off 7 lbs higher mark. Unseated at Canal Turn in Becher Chase (3¼m Heavy) over these fences. 9 lengths 4th giving 19 lbs to winner Chac Du Cadran (3¾m Soft) off this 134 mark penultimate start. Under pressure a long way out for AP McCoy. Disappointing 9th in X-Country Chase last time. Sometimes throws the towel in. Out and out stayer these days, suited by a strongly run race.
134 (133) Poker De Sivola 10 10-0 (9-13) Ferdy Murphy 76U1/-57 NON-RUNNER
Now off 2 lbs lower mark than when winning 2011 Whitbread Gold Cup (3m5½f Good-firm). Nowhere near that form in just two races on possibly unsuitable ground since. Although a bit of encouragement on latest occasion in December, needing the race when last of 7 in Becher Chase over these fences (3¼m Heavy). Also won 2010 National Hunt Chase (4m Good), now 6 lbs better off with runner-up Becauseicouldntsee who was 2¼ lengths back. Best on a sound surface. Well handicapped if back to his best, but that’s a very big IF.
134 (133) Major Malarkey 10 10-0 (9-13) Nigel Twiston-Davis 2P-265P
Good neck 2nd off 1 lb lower mark to Lively Baron in 5 runner uncompetitive handicap on reappearance in December. Major Malarkey has been a long way below form in three races since. Only jumped two fences last time out (March) reportedly lost his action and pulled up. Best effort last season, when 2nd to Master Overseer in Midlands National (4m1½f Good-soft) off a 6 lbs lower mark than today. Inconsistent staying chaser with his own ideas about the game.