Tidal Bay, aged 43 and a half, the choice for Crabbie’s Grand National
That’s the age in human years that Tidal Bay is, according to research by equine vets (see table below).
Tidal Bay’s horse age is 13. All racehorses have their official birthday on January 1st. He was born on May 12th 2001 so is ‘actually still 12 – confusing, eh?).
Tidal Bay first ran in March 2006. Thirty-six horses in the original list of 115 entered to compete against him in the National weren’t even born then.
Tidal Bay has always been in the headlines. Here’s his form for the first three seasons : 22/111221/111211
And yet it wasn’t long before he was branded with the Timeform squiggle – a symbol denoting unreliability. He’d developed the habit of dropping himself out of contention, no matter how hard his jockey worked to keep him interested. Frequently, he’d decide very late in a race, ‘Oops, time I was cracking on!’ And he’d tear through the field to either win or finish very close. His formline during that period was: 122345/24174/3226U/32541
In many outings, his jumping was suspect, losing ground at fences but always managing to find a way over (he has never fallen).
After unseating his rider in the 2011 Grand National, Tidal Bay left Howard Johnson to join Paul Nicholls. Mr Nicholls took a few races to find the key to TB’s character: here’s his formline since joining the yard: 32541/121-1532
Tidal Bay, unusually for a top class horse has always mixed ‘chasing and hurdling. He’s won 8 over fences and 7 over hurdles, among those races, three Grade 1s and three Grade 2s.
So why should he be my choice for the Crabbie’s Grand National? Because if with everything you knew about Tidal Bay, you were to sit down and design the perfect race for him, I believe this is it. The 2014 race will be much different from the 2011 one, where he unseated. Since then, the wooden cores of the fences have been replaced with pliable plastic and the fences are much less punishing.
It’s unlikely that TB will have an error free round, but the loose green spruce which makes these fences look so big, is easily brushed through, these days (rightly so, to preserve the future of the race). Far fewer horses will fall and that means the chances of TB or any other horse being brought down is much reduced.
But the key to him is that he has the class to either lie up with the leaders, or, if the pace is too hot (which I think it will be ), to sit in his favourite position near the back and switch on his cruise control. He’ll drift through the race taking little out of himself and as the last fence looms, cruise control will be switched off. Approaching the Elbow, overdrive will be engaged and I expect to hear the biggest cheer at Aintree since Red Rum’s third National victory in 1977.
If you need further persuading, Tidal Bay will carry half a stone less in the National than he would in any other handicap ‘chase. This is because the Grand National is treated as an extraordinary race by the handicapper. Not reason enough to merit favourable treatment for the best horses, but that’s an argument for another day and in this case, I’m happy to take advantage of it.
Tidal Bay, with top weight of 11.10, is officially the best horse in the race. He will carry 7lbs less than he should in a ‘normal’ handicap. The track and distance are tailor-made. He will need some luck in running but not nearly so much as he’d have needed previously.
Tidal bay can be backed at around 20/1. But Betvictor offer 16/1 with the concession of a free bet to the value of your stake if he is a non runner (in all ante-post bets without special conditions, your money is lost if the horse doesn’t run).
Ladbrokes offer an outstanding 25/1 which is sure to disappear in the next 24 hours, and I think it’s worth taking the chance he’ll definitely run for the sake of grabbing this huge price.
The greatest test of a horse’s popularity is the number of people cheering him home when they haven’t backed him. Don’t be left out, add a bet to the cheer! Good luck to Tidal Bay and all other horses and jockeys in this great race, the Crabbies Grand National on April 5th.