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Fully updated John Smith’s Grand National preview with recommended bets and stakes from Gingertipster

I’m indebted to Gingertipster for allowing me to publish his fine article on the big race.  Ginger writes on the excellent The Racing Forum.


Aintree 4:15 JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL 4m4f
Have added the percentage chance I believe each horse has of winning (Don’t Push It 8.5%) percentage converted to odds (11/1) and my price (8.5%) plus a “bookies mark up” (1.5%) added to make 9/1. There is also a trainer form rating (Jonjo 8/10).
Where a horse is available at a bigger price with bookmakers, it is at the bottom of each write up (Majestic Concorde I rate 3.25%, is available @ 49/1 which is 2%, a difference of 1.25% (3.25 – 2 = 1.25).

1. 1-P070 Don’t Push It (23 days) 11 11-10 (CD) Jonjo O’Neil 160 8.5% 11/1 (9/1)
Now on 7 lbs higher mark for 5 length 2010 success (153), from Black Appalachi, State Of Play 10-11 well beaten 3rd. Trainer in excellent form at the time. Don’t Push It goes in to race in better form than last year. 10th of 23 Pertemps (3m) Hurdle, outpaced before staying on. Often made mistakes and inconsistent over conventional fences, yet took well to Aintree. Fact no top weight has won since Red Rum is a coincidence. If both first 11-5 and second 11-6 had carried top weight of 11-10 last year; 20 lengths back to third suggests they’d still finish 1st and 2nd. Top weights have a good strike rate of placing. Ground was good last year, probably equally effective on soft. Trainer form (TF) 8/10 A P McCoy

2. 4-3226 Tidal Bay (22 days) 10 11-9 Howard Johnson 159 1% 100/1 (50/1)
6th in Gold Cup is fair form, but again looked irresolute. Dropping himself out before staying on passed beaten rivals. Flattered second to Imperial Commander in Betfair Chase, out the back when winning rider went for home in earnest a long way from home. Tidal Bay is temperamental and unlikely to take to Aintree. Not sure to stay the trip, but laziness will help in that respect. TF 9/10 B Hughes

3. 11-524 What A Friend (22 days) 8 11-6 Paul Nicholls 156 4.75% 20/1 (15/1)
Well-handicapped. 4th in Gold Cup under Saturday’s rider Darryl Jacob, showing more enthusiasm than usual in first time blinkers. Threw away winning chance in AON chase time before, found little and hung in behind winner. Won twice at this meeting. Doubts remain if headgear will work second time and/or if he’ll take to these unique fences. Needs holding up until the last moment. TF 8/10 D Jacob (blinkered b)

4. U-7744 Vic Venturi (23 days) 11 11-6 (C) Dessie Hughes (Irish trained) 156 1% 100/1(50/1)
12 lengths behind The Midnight Club in Bobbyjo (3 m) Chase last time. Under sustained pressure some way out and outpaced. Won 2009 Becher Chase (3m2f), but failed all three attempts at 3m5f+, twice in Irish National. Out of contention when unseated Grand National. Looks Exposed. TF 9/10 A Lynch (cheak pieces cp)

5. 2/1-31 Majestic Concorde (101 days) 8 11-5 Dermott Weld (Irish) 155 3.25% 28/1 (22/1)
Jumped well when winning Paddy Power Chase (good) at Leopardstown (Dec 29th) on his first try at 3 miles, unraced since but runs well fresh. Pace wasn’t good there and won through speed. Though judged by his flat career, 4th in Chester Cup, has plenty of stamina. Probably equally effective on soft and good going. Lightly raced and could improve again. TF 8/10 Mr R McNamara 54/1 (1.43% difference)

6. 42F14 Or Noir De Somoza (132 days) 9 11-5 David Pipe 155 0.3% 300/1 (100/1)
Ex-French. Off 8 months prior to only previous run for Pipe yard, at inadequate trip of 2m1f. 22 lengths 4th of 5 to Master Minded in 09 Victor Chandler. Better than that. Won Grade 2 Prix Georges in 09 (2m6f); 4th of 9 (trained by C Avert) to top French horse Rubi Ball in same race last time. Won listed chase penultimate start. Raced almost exclusively on a soft surface. 3m+ form figures read F97F. Sire produced stayer Poker De Sivola, but dam won hurdle at only 1m7f. TF 8/10 B Gerraghty (cp first time tongue tie t)

7. F24-41 Dooneys Gate (65 days) 10 11-4 Willie Mullins (Irish) 154 0.25% 400/1 (125/1)
Won Kilcash Chase (2 ½m) Clonmel, made most under trainer’s son last time out. Ran well, mistake 3 out over these fences in Topham Chase to be 4th off 9 lbs lower mark than Saturday (improved since). Stays 3 miles, but unlikely to get 4 ½. Effective on good and heavy ground. 8/10 Mr P W Mullins

8. -2F44 Big Fella Thanks (35 days) 9 11-1 Ferdy Murphy 151 2.5% 40/1 (28/1)
In truth never run to his best when going in to two Grand Nationals a well-handicapped horse. Stamina doubts remain. Now off 5 lbs higher mark than when 4th as favourite last term (146), after improved run in Greatwood at Newbury. Fair 4th in same race off 149 last time. Poor finisher, often cruising over final fence only to find little. Jumping not yet as good for new yard this season. 7/10 G Lee

9. 05-244 The Tother One (70 days) 10 11-0 Paul Nicholls 150 0.5% 200/1 (80/1)
Well-handicapped on 4th in Hennessey Gold Cup off a mark 6 lbs higher than on Saturday. Trip should not be a problem. However, is a poor jumper, inconsistent, temperamental and with a poor strike rate since novice hurdle days. Highly unlikely to take to this test. 8/10 Mr R Mahon

10. 11-112 Ballabriggs (35 days) 10 11-0 Donald McCain 150 5.25% 18/1 (15/1)
On short-list since winning Fulke Walwyn at Cheltenham Festival in 2010, upped 10 lbs for that. In clear lead over the last before tied up badly, just got home (3m1½f). Value more than winning distances. Again found less than expected when beaten at Kelso last time (2¾m). Has a good win to run ratio and usually jumps well. Trained by son of Ginger McCain of Red Rum fame. 6/10 J Maguire

11. 133-21 The Midnight Club (45 days) 10 10-13 Willie Mullins (Irish) 149 11.75% 15/2 (13/2)
On pure form not especially well-handicapped. However, breeding and style of running suggest he’s capable of considerably better over further. Never nearer 3rd in both Spa Hurdle (3m) and Jewson Handicap (2m5f) at Cheltenham Festival. Outpaced before staying on best of all each occasion. By Flemensfirth, sire of Imperial Commander, Time For Rupert, King John’s Castle (2nd in National). Out of 3 mile winner from family of Toby Tobias. Unlucky 2nd Thyestes Chase, then won Bobbyjo (3m). Travelled and jumped well, idled run-in and better than distances indicate. Stable mate Arbor Supreme now 10 lbs better off for just length beating. Equally effective on soft and good. 8/10 R Walsh 10.5/1 (3.05% difference)

12. 9P-F58 Niche Market (35 days) 10 10-13 Paul Nicholls 149 7% 14/1 (12/1)
Ideal Grand National type. Won 09 Irish National (3m5f) under H Skelton. Trained by Bob Buckler prior to this season. Dropped 7 lbs since placed for second time in Hennessey Gold Cup. 5th off 156, 3rd off 148 in 09. Despite reappearance fall usually jumps well, best on good or good-soft ground. Disappointed in Grand National when then trainer out of form and hold up tactics used; usually races prominently. Had wind operation prior to last run and trainer has excellent record with such horses. 8th in Greatwood Chase last time came over wholly inadequate trip of 2 ½ miles. 8/10 H Skelton 25/1 (3.16%)

13. 21-071 Silver By Nature (49 days) 9 10-12 Lucinda Russell 148 9.5% 10/1 (8/1)
Well-handicapped. Easy 15 length winner of Haydock National Trial (3½ miles, soft), off 1 lb higher mark (149). Runner-up Ballyfitz franked form with 2nd in Midlands National. Slightly rounded action and form indicate preference for a soft surface. However, trainer’s other half Peter Scudamore believes it’s just a need for a test. Sire Silver Patriarch won St Leger (good-firm) and grand dam Dalkey Sound 2nd Scottish National (good). Every chance more to come at 4½m. Jumps well. Seeks to be first grey and Scottish winner since Nicholas Silver and Rubstic. 10/10 P Buchannan 20/1 (4.74%)

14. 57011 Backstage (34 days, point) 9 10-12 Gordon Elliott (Irish) 148 4.75% 20/1 (15/1)
Well backed for this after small Point to point win in Ireland. Trained by up and coming and 07 (Silver Birch) National winning trainer. Connections believe best on sound surface. Encouragingly, travelled well in Grand National before brought down 20th fence last year (same mark as Saturday). 3m1f winner. Dam more a speed influence and not certain to get significantly further. 7/10 P Carberry (t)

15. 1-753F Chief Dan George (25 days) 11 10-12 James Moffatt 148 0.8% 125/1 (66/1)
6 lbs higher mark than when winning 2010 William Hill (Spinal Research) Handicap Chase (3m½f good); fell in this year’s race. Not looked in same form so far this season. Inconsistent profile, but possibly best in the Spring nowadays. Only 4 lbs better off with Ballabriggs for 8 length beating at Kelso. 5th in 2009 Scottish Grand National (4m) implies he’ll stay this trip. 5/10 P Aspell (cp)

16. 56242 Calgary Bay (70 days) 8 10-10 Henrietta Knight 146 0.25% 400/1 (125/1)
One of best looking horses in training. Good 2nd to Wishfull Thinking (2m5f good-soft) off 143 last time. Jumped well but found little. Best performance to win Doncaster handicap (3m good-firm) by 7 lengths off 142. Unlikely stayer, took hold and didn’t get home 2010 Gold Cup (3m2½f). 5/10 H Frost

17. P-2536 Killyglen (35 days) 9 10-10 Stuart Crawford (Irish) 146 0.8% 125/1 (66/1)
Ex-English top novice for Howard Johnson, won Mildmay Novices Chase at Aintree (3m1f good-soft). Also ran well to be 2nd to Wogan in 2010 Grimthorpe (3m2f good-firm). Well-handicapped on that form. Changed stables and yet to prove as good; bit free in same race, weakened in straight last time, 6th of 8 finishers. Possibly needs to lead / view of the front to jump fences well and maintain enthusiasm. Inconsistent. Best runs on good-firm to good-soft. 7/10 D O’Regan

18. 52-263 Oscar Time (45 days) 10 10-9 Martin Lynch (Irish) 145 5.5% 18/1 (14/1)
First race for 7 weeks, travelled well long way, 3rd to The Midnight Club in Bobbyjo. Now 4 lbs better off for 5 length beating. Fitness possibly played a part but often finds little. No need for pressure to win Irish Paddy Power (3m). Upped 17 lbs, looked Irish National (3m5f) winner on turn for home. Length down at last yet lost another 3½ on short run-in. Plenty of stamina in dam’s pedigree, however most of sire Oscar’s progeny don’t need a test. Oscar Time is certainly not crying out for a trip. Raced mainly on a soft surface. Jumps well. Jockey trying two feats, first winning amateur since Marcus Armytage on Mr Frisk and Gold Cup / National double. 8/10? Mr S Whaley-Cohen

19. 0-1131 Quinz (42 days) 7 10-8 Philip Hobbs 144 4.5% 22/1 (16/1)
Racing Post Chase winner (3m soft), looked beaten as Mount Oscar came upsides, fought back and going away again at line. Progressive and well-handicapped if form can be believed, almost every other runner error prone. 7 year old but French breds mature quicker. More experience than most novices, mistakes all three chase starts last season. Only loss this term behind Time For Rupert. Jumps far better nowadays, possibly needs to race prominently to continue to do so. Winner on good-firm and soft. Should get further than 3m but another 1½m is questionable. 7/10 R Johnson

20. 212-42 Becauseicouldntsee (101 days) 8 10-8 Noel Glynn (Irish) 144 4.25% 22/1 (16/1)
Not seen since late December. Now 2lbs better off with Majestic Concorde for a 2½ length beating when second in Irish Paddy Power (3m soft). Just one mistake of note in National Hunt Chase (4m Good) at Cheltenham as a novice last year. Every reason to believe will be better than ever returned to an extreme trip and is built for Aintree. Lively outsider. ? D Russell33/1 (1.31%)

21. 00-06P Comply Or Die (42 days) 12 10-8 (CD) David Pipe 144 1% 100/1 (50/1)
2008 Winner and runner up in 2009. Nowhere near that form, 12th of 14 finishers off a mark of 153 in 2010. Obviously trained for this, but no real promise in three starts this term. Pulled up in almost unraceable ground in Eider Chase last time. Best blinkered, on good or good-soft. Likes to race prominently / have some room. Veteran and probably on the downgrade. 6/10 T Murphy (b)

22. FF25P Quolibet (25 days) 7 10-8 Jonjo O’Neil 144 0.05% 2000/1 (800/1)
50/1 pulled up only British start in Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham last time. 5th penultimate start, trained by Francois Doumen; 6 lbs better off for just 2 lengths behind Or Noir De Somoza in (2¾m heavy). Poor strike rate, unproven over further and had three falls in a row. 8/10 M P Walsh (ftb)

23. 1FP18P Grand Slam Hero (63 days) 10 10-7 Nigel Twiston-Davies 143 0.3% 300/1 (100/1)
Fruitful summer campaign, won all four completed starts including Summer Plate. Still looked on upgrade after final success (August, 3m1½f). Now off 5 lbs higher mark. Never jumping with any fluency in two well spaced out races since. Possibly something physically wrong. 7/10 A Coleman (t)

24. 44/P3- State Of Play (364 days) 11 10-6 Evan Williams 142 2.25% 40/1 (28/1)
Placed in two Grand Nationals, not seen since but great record fresh. Dropped 3 lbs for finishing 3rd he might seem well treated. However, 4th off a mark of 150, then 3rd from 145; and now only 10 lbs better off with Don’t Push It for 25 length beating. Trainer considers him best on a sound surface although won 2006 Hennessey on softish ground. Probably only place prospects again. 6/10 P Maloney

25. 1-11P5 King Fontaine (25 days) 8 10-6 Malcom Jefferson 142 0.125% 800/1 (250/1)
Several jumping errors last two starts. Only 5th off 2 lbs better mark in Spinal Research Chase, 32 lengths behind winner Bensalem. Pulled up in another big field (3½m). Not many sired by King’s Theatre are true stayers. Upped 13 lbs since last win. Proven on heavy and good going. 9/10 D O’Regan

26. 341U In Compliance (20 days) 11 10-5 Dessie Hughes (Irish) 141 0.3% 300/1 (100/1)
By Old Vic, sire of first two home in 2010 and dam’s sire Montelimar responsible for Hedgehunter. However, weakened late over furthest he’s tackled so far, 3m1f, in 2007 Punchestown Gold Cup (best season to race). Well fancied for 2007 Gold Cup before injury. On downgrade. Unseated last time, not first mistake. First time blinkered, easy lead to win penultimate start (2m2f soft). 9/10 L Aspell (cp)

27. 75P-1P Hello Bud (84 days) 13 10-5 (C) Nigel Twiston-Davies 141 2% 50/1 (33/1)
Age statistics are against him, but unlike most teenagers was still improving at 11, so age is not as big a worry. Won 09 Scottish National (4m Good-firm) off 133. Successful again off same mark in Becher Chase (3¼m Heavy) in November. Looked weak race for the money and 8 lb rise bit harsh. 5th in Grand National, off just 1 lb lower (140) than Saturday. Pulled up in Classic Chase last time out. Races up with pace and sometimes finds less than expected off the bridle. 7/10 S Twiston-Davies (t) 54/1 (0.19%)

28. 07-11P West End Rocker (49 days) 9 10-5 Alan King 141 3.25% 28/1 (22/1)
Acted on soft to win Classic Chase at Warwick (3m5f). Upped 8 lbs for ¾ length victory over Minella Boys with 8 back to Incentivise, idled and more in hand than distances indicate. Has action which suggests will be at least as good on a sound surface. Possibly lost action and quickly pulled up on heavy last time out. Lightly raced stayer, lively outsider if all is well with him. 8/10 R Thornton 49/1 (1.25%)

29. 207710 Santa’s Son (22 days) 11 10-5 Howard Johnson 141 0.05% 2000/1 (800/1)
Appeared back to some form with this trainer, won 2½m hurdle penultimate start. Possibly amiss, 100/1 16th of 18 in Grand Annual (2m½f) last time. Often sulks if unable to lead. Won on soft and firm surface. No win in 7 attempts at 3m+ earlier in career, unraced at trip since 2007. 8/10 J Moore (t)

30. 21-046 Bluesea Cracker (45 days) 9 10-4 James Motherway (Irish) 140 4% 25/1 (20/1)
Trying to become first of her sex to win since Nickel Coin in 1951. Recently purchased by JP McManus. Off 13 weeks prior to last of 6 finishers final start. Every chance before turn and heavily eased after chance had gone in Bobbyjo (3m). Fair 4th at Cheltenham in November (3m3f½f good-soft) penultimate start. Improved form, won Irish National last season (3m5f heavy), finding much more than runner-up Oscar Time who is 5 lbs better off for 4½ lengths. Stayers on both sides of pedigree, including Grand National runner-up (to Grittar) Hard Outlook. Could improve further back up in trip. Raced almost exclusively on a soft surface. A McNamara ? 31/1 (0.875%)

31. 391059 That’s Rhythm (120 days) 11 10-4 Martin Todhunter 140 0.1% 1000/1 (300/1)
In and out of form. Disappointing 9th in December, possible physical problem. Fair 14 lengths 5th in Charlie Hall penultimate start. Bangor specialist, all 3 wins there, latest by 9 lengths off 133 3m½f good-soft. Also effective firm surface. Fallen in last two Scottish Nationals. 7/10 J Reveley

32. 2111/0 Surface To Air (27 days) 10 10-4 Chris Bealby 140 0.2% 500/1 (150/1)
Progressive form before reportedly suffered a tendon injury when winning 4 mile Summer National in June 08 (third win in succession). First run since then, last of 10 in handicap hurdle at Market Rasen. Impossible to know if he’s still got any ability. Form on good and good-soft. 3/10 T Messenger

33. 234PP Piraya (23 days) 8 10-4 David Pipe 140 0.05% 2000/1 (800/1)
Back to his recalcitrant days, pulled up in Byrne Group Handicap last time out. Good placed efforts earlier in season, 2nd to Woolcombe Folly at 2m1f and 3rd to Mount Oscar at 2½ miles. Yet to run to form at 3 miles plus in Britain, despite many tries. 13th of 14 finishers in Grand National. 8/10 J Farrelly (cp t)

34. F-8P5P Can’t Buy Time (23 days) 9 10-4 Jonjo O’Neil 140 0.125% 800/1 (250/1)
Lightly raced. Bad mistake and pulled up last time out in Fulke Walwyn. Best start this term when 6¼ lengths 5th off 142 to Tartak in 2m5f handicap at Cheltenham in January. Winner of same race off 141 in 2010. Unseated and fell in two Grand Nationals. Travelled well long way, failed to stay when favourite, 4th in 09 National Hunt Chase. Winner on soft and good. Inconsistent. 8/10 R McLernon

35. 30563 Character Building (35 days) 11 10-4 John Quinn 140 1.5% 66/1 (40/1)
Balls of steel needed by jockey; won 09 Fulke Walwyn (3m1½f good-soft) off 139, led on line. Pulls himself up in front and inconsistent. 7th (off 145) in Grand National, made up a lot of places on final circuit and now off 5 lb lower mark. 12 lbs better off with Don’t Push It for 36 lengths. Fair 14 length 3rd off 135 last time (3m2f good). Should be suited by a return to further. Could we have a real National Velvet in the year of Elizabeth Taylor’s death? 7/10 Ms Nina Carberry

36. 51P/52 Ornais (36 days) 9 10-4 Paul Nicholls 140 0.2% 500/1 (150/1)
Good novice in 07/08, difficult to know how much ability retains. Nowhere near best in 2 hunter chases on first starts for 2 years, latest at Newbury (2m6½f). Runs with a low head carriage (long neck). Stamina doubts, only 5th when had form to win 4 mile 08 National Hunt Chase. 8/10 N Scholfield (t)

37. 2U-9P2 Arbor Supreme (45 days) 9 10-3 Willie Mullins (Irish) 139 4% 25/1 (20/1)
Well-handicapped. Length 2nd to The Midnight Club in Bobbyjo Chase. Oscar Time 4 lengths, Vic Venturi 7, and Bluesea Cracker 20 lengths back. Yet is respectively 10, 6, 12 and 1 lb better off with all of them. Rider cajoled an effort out of Arbor Supreme, never going for “everything”. Seemed less than willing in the past, best handled tenderly. Did not take to Aintree last year, already beaten when unseating at the Chair. Inconsistent. Stays at least 3¾ miles, acts on good and heavy. 8/10 D Casey

38. 5U-42P Royal Rosa (91 days) 12 10-3 Howard Johnson 139 0.1% 1000/1 (300/1)
Lightly raced, poorly handicapped veteran. Pulled up as if something troubling him last time in Welsh National. Placed for second time in Becher (3¼m), 1¼ lengths 2nd. Strangely now 3 lbs worse off with winner Hello Bud, off just 125. Unseated in Grand National. 33 lengths 6th from 18 lbs out of weights in 08 Scottish National. Possibly best on soft surface. Inconsistent. 9/10 P Gallagher (cp)

39. 13-3011 Skippers Brig (35 days) 10 10-2 Nicky Richards 138. 3.75% 25/1 (20/1)
Upset one of the ante-post Grand National favourites, and now 8 lbs better off with Ballabriggs after beating him 1¾ lengths at Kelso (2¾m good-soft) last time. Obviously 4½m is a different proposition, but Skippers Brig is proven at a stiff 3 miles and bred to get further. Sire Zaffaran a stayer, dam unraced half sister to 3m1f winner Skippers Cleuch and dam’s sire Roselier a massive stamina influence. Skippers Brig is lightly raced and capable of improvement. Possibly needs it on the soft side and unbeaten on heavy. Interesting outsider if getting a run. 7/10 D Elsworth 43/1 (1.48%)

40. 1d10019 Golden Kite (27 days) 9 10-2 Adrian Maguire 138 0.25% 400/1 (125/1)
Prolific winner of 7 of his last 14 starts. Improved to win Munster “National” (only 3m, good) penultimate start, making all off 128. First start since when disappointing 9th of 14 finishers (2m7f heavy) over hurdles on March 13th, should come on for the run. Already outstayed pedigree, By Anshan out of a mare by Strong Gale. Best on goodish ground. 6/10 S Hassett

Bookmakers seem to have reduced their prices before putting them up again for tomorrow, so am including betfair prices.

Verdict:
Don’t Push It is top weight; but at the weights, should beat all who take him on again from last year. Would’ve made him a saver bet, had he not been backed this morning. Price now represents his chance.
The Midnight Club seems to have been laid out for this race for a considerable time, often running at trips shorter than is likely to suit. May be capable of significantly better at this extreme distance and 10.5/1 looks very reasonable.
We know Silver By Nature gets marathon trips and will be off an 11 lbs higher mark in future handicaps. What is more, trainer Lucinda Russell has had 4 winners from 8 starts in April already, ranging from 9/4 to 5/1. Going is a worry, but I’d make him favourite had it been soft. Although the Topham time suggests it is now Good. Around 20/1 looks outstanding value, well worth taking a chance on the ground,
Something which also applies to Skippers Brig. With probable watering, hopefully it won’t be too bad. Skippers Brig proved he is just as effective on good-soft last time. Bred to get the distance and on the up.
With Nicholls’ enigmatic What A Friend taking the “first string” role, we’ve seen Niche Markettake a drift. Does not seem to be any justification and attractively priced at 25/1 on betfair, provided he gets his usual prominent position. Ground will be very much in his favour.
West End Rocker has the look of a Mon Mome, seemed an improving stayer before disappointing last time where he did not act on heavy ground.
The one two of the Irish Paddy Power look interesting. Majestic Concorde is lightly raced and could improve at this trip judged by his flat form. Becauseicouldntsee, is unexposed and proven at 4 miles. Though have been put off by the long break since his run, so just a saver.

These are the bets I recommend:
21 points @ 10.5/1 The Midnight Club
24 points @ 20/1 Silver By Nature
16 points @ 25/1 Niche Market
7 points @ 49/1 West End Rocker
8 points @ 43/1 Skippers Brig
8 points @ 54/1 Majestic Concorde
3 points @ 33/1 Becauseicouldntsee
87 points

Or if you want it put another way:
24% of over all stake @ 10.5/1 The Midnight Club
28% @ 20/1 Silver By Nature
19% @ 25/1 Niche Market
8% @ 49/1 West End Rocker
9% @ 43/1 Skippers Brig
9% @ 54/1 Majestic Concorde
3% @ 33/1 Becauseicouldntsee

12 favs out of 20 finished in first 4 (5 winners) in last 20 runnings of John Smith’s Grand National: full stats here #GN2011

FATES OF THE FAVOURITES

The last 20 years have seen five market leaders succeed, while seven have finished second, third or fourth.

Year Favourite/price/place    Winner if not favourite

2010

Don’t Push It   10/1 WON

Big Fella Thanks  10/1 4th

2009

Butler’s Cabin  7/1 7th  Winner: Mon Mome 100/1

2008

Comply Or Die  7/1 WON

Cloudy Lane   7/1 6th

2007

Point Barrow   8/1 fell1st  Winner: Silver Birch 33/1

Monkerhostin  8/1 ref7th

Joes Edge   8/1 pu20th

2006

Hedgehunter   5/1 2nd Winner: Numbersixvalverde 11/1

Clan Royal   5/1 3rd

2005

Hedgehunter   7/1 WON

2004

Clan Royal   10/1 2nd  Winner: Amberleigh House 16/1

Jurancon   10/1 fell4th

Bindaree   10/1 ur6th

Joss Naylor   10/1 pu19th

2003

Shotgun Willy  7/1 pu22nd  Winner: Monty’s Pass 16/1

2002

Blowing Wind  8/1 3rd Winner: Bindaree 20/1

2001

Inis Cara   10/1 fell4th   Winner: Red Marauder 33/1

Moral Support 10/1 bd8th

Edmond 10/1 fell15th

2000

Dark Stranger  9/1 ur3rd  Winner: Papillon 10/1

1999

Fiddling The Facts  6/1 fell22nd  Winner: Bobbyjo 10/1

1998

Earth Summit  7/1 WON

1997

Go Ballistic   7/1 pu28th  Winner: Lord Gyllene 14/1

1996

Rough Quest   7/1 WON

1995

Master Oats   5/1 7th  Winner: Royal Athlete 40/1

1994

Moorcroft Boy  5/1 3rd Winner: Miinnehoma 16/1

1992

Docklands Express 15/2 4th Winner: Party Politics 14/1

1991

Bonanza Boy   13/2 5th   Winner: Seagram 12/1

1990

Brown Windsor  7/1 4th Winner: Mr Frisk 16/1

John Smith’s Grand National: Factfile: Ballabriggs:Trevor Hemmings:Don McCain:Jason Maguire

BALLABRIGGS (IRE) FACTFILE

b g Presenting – Papoose (IRE) (Little Bighorn)

10-11-00 Form: 50220/6S22F212/0/3111-112                     Owner: Trevor Hemmings

Trainer: Donald McCain                                       Breeder: Mrs S Jackson                       Jockey: Jason Maguire

Ballabriggs

John Brady paid £IR12,000 for Ballbriggs as a foal at Goffs in December, 2001, and sold the youngster on to Highflyer Bloodstock for 32,000 euros at Tattersalls Ireland the following November. Ballabriggs made a low-key racecourse debut for trainer Donald McCain and owner Trevor Hemmings when fifth in a Uttoxeter bumper in May, 2006 and was 10th of 14 on his hurdles bow at the same course that December.

The gelding contested four more hurdle races before switching to fences, finishing runner-up twice, but failing to win. He slipped up on the bend on his first chase start at Bangor in December, 2007, and subsequently posted three seconds and a first fence fall before breaking his duck in a soft ground extended three-mile beginners’ chase at Bangor in March, 2008. He followed that with another runner-up finish at Ayr in April, behind subsequent Scottish Grand National hero Merigo.

After a below-par effort at Haydock in November, 2008, Ballabriggs was off the course until returning with a third-place finish in a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter in December, 2009. He then proceeded to string together three straight wins over fences, the third of those being the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival. That was his final start of the campaign and, with the John Smith’s Grand National firmly on the agenda, he made a belated return to action this season with two novice hurdle triumphs at Wincanton and Ayr in January.

His final start before Aintree came in the extended two and three quarter-mile totesport.com Premier Chase at Kelso on March 5. The 10-year-old finished a length and three quarters second to Skippers Brig, to whom he was conceding 4lb. Race Record: Starts: 21; Wins: 6; 2nd; 7; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £72,980

Trevor Hemmings

Trevor Hemmings, who was born on June 11, 1935, boasts a classic rags to riches story. Born in Woolwich Arsenal, south east London, where his father worked at the Royal Ordnance factory, Trevor was sent to Lancashire as a five-year-old during World War II and began life as a bricklayer’s apprentice after leaving school aged 15, before rapidly worked his way up the Pontins holiday business to the extent that he was able to sell it on to Scottish & Newcastle in exchange for a significant share holding in S & N (1989).

He bought Pontins back in 2000 but retained a stake in S & N, which netted him £218 million when the company was sold in January, 2008. His main holding company is the Northern Trust Group, whose net assets fell to £132 million in 2010. He is also a major shareholder in Arena Leisure Plc, which owns Folkestone, Lingfield, Southwell, Wolverhampton and Windsor racecourses and manages Doncaster and Worcester.

Arena is also a major shareholder in broadcaster At The Races that owns some of British racing’s media rights. Hemmings sold Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens to the North West resort’s town council for £40 million in March, 2010. He also owns a share of Preston North End FC and is chairman of the TJH Foundation, a charity which makes grants to organisations such as Macmillan Cancer Relief, St John Ambulance, Crimestoppers Trust and the Royal National Lifeboat Association, the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and Racing Welfare.

In 2010, the Sunday Times estimated Hemmings’ wealth at £500 million, a recession-busting rise of £200 million on the 2009 figure. Hemmings fulfilled one of his greatest ambitions when Hedgehunter carried his colours to victory in the 2005 John Smith’s Grand National. After years of trying, Hemmings had finally emulated his mentor Fred Pontin, owner of the 1971 National hero Specify, with his 13th Grand National runner.

His first winner came on the Flat in 1985 but Hemmings now brings on young jumping stock at Gleadhill House Stud, near Chorley, Lancashire, managed by former trainer Mick Meagher, and at his Monymusk Stud in Co Cork. He first tried to win the John Smith’s Grand National with the Stan Mellor-trained Rubika, who finished 14th in 1992.

Hemmings, who was made an honorary Jockey Club member in December, 2006, resides on the Isle of Man and is said to have paid £12 million for the Ballavodan estate on the island. He enjoyed a double at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival with Albertas Run (Ryanair Chase) and Ballabriggs (Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase).

Albertas Run added a second Ryanair Chase victory in 2011 to go with his Festival triumph in the 2008 RSA Chase and a further Grade One win in the 2010 John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree. As well as those mentioned, his best horses have been Trabolgan, Burton Port, Young Kenny, Blue Shark, Cloudy Lane, Afsoun, Turpin Green, Arctic Jack The Last Fling and Simply Supreme. His best season numerically came in 2007/08 when his horses triumphed in 51 races in Britain and Ireland.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1992 Rubika (14th); 2000 The Last Fling (7th); Esprit De Cotte (Fell 22nd); 2001 The Last Fling (UR 5th), Esprit De Cotte (UR 11th); 2002 Goguenard (Fell 1st), Beau (UR 14th); 2003 Southern Star (14th), Chives (PU bef 12th); 2004 Arctic Jack (Fell 1st), Southern Star (PU bef 9th), Hedgehunter (Fell 30th); 2005 HEDGEHUNTER (WON), Europa (20th); 2006 Hedgehunter (2nd), Juveigneur (Fell 1st), 2007 Hedgehunter (9th), Billyvoddan (PU bef 19th); 2008 Cloudy Lane (6th), Hedgehunter (13th), Idle Talk (14th); 2009 Idle Talk (12th), Battlecry (16th), Cloudy Lane (UR 15th); 2010 Cloudy Lane (8th).

Donald McCain Jnr

Born on March 13, 1970, Donald McCain Jnr is the son of Ginger McCain, trainer of the legendary Red Rum, the only horse to win the John Smith’s Grand National three times (1973, 1974 and 1977) and also Amberleigh House, the 2004 victor. Donald learnt to ride on his sister Joanne’s pony Gambol and rode in his first race on the Flat aged 15 (his father told a few white lies so he could ride) at Haydock Park.

He subsequently became a jump jockey, firstly as an amateur and then a professional, riding around 40 winners under Rules. He rode several times over the Grand National fences, finishing fifth aboard Harley in the 1992 Fox Hunters’ Chase and 17th on Sure Metal in the 1996 Grand National. He also spent time working in the stables of Luca Cumani, Sir Michael Stoute and Oliver Sherwood.

Donald subsequently became assistant trainer to his father at Bankhouse Stables at Cholmondeley in Cheshire and played a significant role in Amberleigh House’s Grand National victory in 2004. He was expected to take over the licence from his father at the start of the 2006/7 jump season, but had to wait until June, 2006, before he was able to train in his own name as he needed to complete the appropriate British Horseracing Authority courses.

Donald’s first winner as a licensed trainer came with Bearaway in a handicap chase at Newton Abbot on June 8, 2006. He secured his first Cheltenham Festival triumph with Cloudy Lane in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase in 2007 and enjoyed 40 winners in his first campaign. In the 2007/08 campaign he had 58 successes and a second Cheltenham Festival success with Whiteoak in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle while the 2008/09 haul of 62 winners included Cloudy Lane’s victory in the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase.

Last season brought further success with a double at the Cheltenham Festival thanks to Peddlers Cross in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and Ballabriggs in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, and a career best 88 winners. He already has 89 winners on the board this term (as of March 22).

Peddlers Cross landed the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle and was a gallant runner-up in the Champion Hurdle, while Overturn took the Northumberland Plate on the Flat in June and added the Galway Hurdle a month later. McCain is also the trainer of Smithy The Horse, owned by the John Smith’s Racing Partnership which offers John Smith’s drinkers the chance to own a share in a racehorse. 

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Idle Talk (UR 19th); 2008 Cloudy Lane (6th), Idle Talk (14th); 2009 Idle Talk (12th), Cloudy Lane (UR 15th); 2010 Cloudy Lane (8th);

Jason Maguire

Jason Maguire, who was born on April 13, 1980, is the nephew of former top-jockey-turned-trainer Adrian Maguire. He started out in Irish pony races and partnered his first British winner, the Tony Martin-trained Search For Peace, at Cheltenham on November 12, 1999.

He began riding for Gloucestershire trainer Tom George shortly after coming to Britain and enjoyed a seven-year partnership that yielded a Cheltenham Festival victory in 2002 when Galileo took the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle. Maguire’s working relationship with George, which was never contractually formalised, ended in January, 2007, and he is now attached to Donald McCain’s Cheshire stable.

Maguire has had eight John Smith’s Grand National rides, with his best placing coming when finishing sixth on joint-favourite Cloudy Lane in 2008. He took the valuable Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton in 2003 on Non So and captured the 2007 John Smith’s Midlands Grand National on Baron Windrush.

He had a second Cheltenham Festival success in 2008 on Whiteoak in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle and added a third last season with Peddlers Cross in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, who he went on to partner to victory in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and into second place in the 2011 Champion Hurdle. Maguire also rode Barizan to win the Grade One Four-Year-Old Hurdle at Punchestown in April, 2010. He enjoyed his best season in 2009/10 with 108 winners and already has 84 this season (up to March 22).

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2001 No Retreat (PU bef 17th); 2002 Birkdale (10th); 2003 Tremallt (9th); 2005 Europa (20th); 2006 Lord Of Illusion (PU bef 17th); 2007 Idle Talk (UR 19th); 2008 Cloudy Lane (6th); 2009 Idle Talk (12th), Cloudy Lane (UR 15th); 2010 Cloudy Lane (8th).

John Smith’s Grand National:nine-year-olds have won more than a quarter of all Nationals: full stats here

NINE IS THE NUMBER

In the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree, nine-year-olds have outstandingly the best record with 45 of that age-group having prevailed in the 163 previous runnings at Aintree.

In the past 20 races, nine-year-olds and 10-year-olds have won six times apiece. During that same timescale, four 11-year-olds have won, two eight-year-olds and two 12-year-olds.

In terms of winners-to-runners, an analysis of the past 20 runnings shows that nine-year-olds and 10-year-olds have not only the best record, but have performed better than their proportional representation.

There have been 761 runners in the past 20 Grand Nationals (1990-2010), broken down as follows:

Age Runners %runners Winners %winners Places(1-4) %Places

14 3    0.4  0    0    0    0

13 25    3.3  0    0    0    0

12 69    9  2  10    4    5

11 147  19.3  4  20  16  20

10 184  24.2  6  30  17  21.3

9 193  25.4  6  30  27  33.7

8 100  13.1  2    0  16  20

7 31    4.1  0    0    0    0

6 9    1.2  0    0    0    0

It can be seen that both nine-year-olds and 10-year-olds have a better win record than their representation would suggest; 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds about the same; and eight-year-olds and other age groups worse.

Nine-year-olds have had not only the best numerical representation in the frame (1st-4th) but also easily the best  proportional representation.

AGE STATISTICS SINCE 1839

13-year-olds: 2 (most recent Sergeant Murphy 1923)

12-year-olds: 10 (most recent Amberleigh House 2004)

11-year-olds: 16 (most recent Red Marauder 2001)

10-year-olds: 21 (most recent Don’t Push It 2010)

Nine-year-olds: 45 (most recent Mon Mome 2009)

Eight-year-olds: 21 (most recent Bindaree 2002)

Seven-year-olds: 22 (most recent Bogskar 1940)

No horse younger than seven or older than 13 running this year

Racecards and betting for Thursday’s two feature races at Aintree.

DECLARED RUNNERS FOR AINTREE’S TWO FEATURE RACES ON THURSDAY, APRIL 7 – LIVERPOOL DAY

There is tremendous racing on the opening day, Liverpool Day, Thursday, April 7, with the first race, the £100,00 Grade One BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle, having attracted a superb field of 11.

Big Buck’s, the champion staying hurdler trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, goes for his third successive victory in the extended three-mile race. He has been made the 8/15 favourite by Aintree’s official betting partner totesport.

Grands Crus (7/2), the David Pipe-trained runner-up to Big Buck’s in the  Ladbrokes World Hurdle at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, reopposes on Thursday, while Carlito Brigante (10/1), successful at that festival in the Grade Three Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, steps up in class.

The £150,000 totesport Bowl has attracted the recent totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Denman who will be ridden by Paul Nicholls’ stable jockey Ruby Walsh for the first time since November, 2009.

Denman has been installed as the 10/11 favourite for the totesport Bowl with the sponsors after a small but select field of six was declared for the feature on Liverpool Day.

The Gold Cup runner-up is the only horse from that race to be declared for the three mile, one furlong event after Nicky Henderson decided to rough off Long Run for the season following his victory at Cheltenham.

However, Henderson is responsible for the second favourite in the shape of 5/1 shot Punchestowns, who will be looking for back-to-back victories following his victory at Kempton last time out, and the consistent mare Carole’s Legacy (7/1).

“Denman ran an absolute blinder in the Gold Cup and his supporters will be hoping that his return to Aintree can provide a happier ending than when he fell in the totesport Bowl two years ago,” said totesport spokesman George Primarolo.

2pm £100,000 BGC PARTNERS LIVERPOOL HURDLE (GRADE ONE) 3m 110yds

1)   1-1111 Big Buck’s (FR)     8-11-07 Paul Nicholls    Ruby Walsh

2)    -1021 Carlito Brigante (IRE)  5-11-07z Gordon Elliott (IRE)  Davy Russell

3)     -1112 Grands Crus (FR)  6-11-07z David Pipe  Tom Scudamore

4)    FF400 Gwanako (FR)   8-11-07 Paul Nicholls    Daryl Jacob

5)    -2144  Karabak (FR)   8-11-07b  Alan King    Tony McCoy

6)     21-40 Khyber Kim   9-11-07  Nigel Twiston-Davies   Paddy Brennan

7)     40214 Knockara Beau (IRE) 8-11-07 George Charlton  Jan Faltejsek

8)     1P040 Markington  8-11-07b       Peter Bowen   Tom O’Brien

9)     532-0 Possol (FR)  8-11-07 Henry Daly   Richard Johnson

10)     /1P-8 Sentry Duty (FR) 9-11-07 Nicky Henderson  Barry Geraghty

11)    55442 Won In The Dark (IRE) 7-11-07 Sabrina Harty (IRE)     Andrew Lynch

b = BLINKERS

z = TONGUE STRAP

BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle – totesport bet: 8/15 Big Buck’s, 7/2 Grands Crus, 10 Carlito Brigante, 16 Khyber Kim, 18 Karabak, 20 Sentry Duty, 33 Knockara Beau, 50 Possol, 66 Won In The Dark, 100 Gwanako, 200 Markington.

A fifth the odds 1-2-3

3:05pm £150,000 TOTESPORT BOWL CSE (Grade 1) 3m 1f Mildmay Course

1)     6-3U3 Deep Purple   10-11-07 Evan Williams  Paul Moloney

2)     24-32 Denman (IRE)  11-11-07  Paul Nicholls   Ruby Walsh

3)     U915F Follow The Plan (IRE) 8-11-07  Oliver McKieman (IRE) Tom Doyle

4)     -1443 Nacarat (FR)  10-11-07z  Tom George   Paddy Brennan

5)     5-231 Punchestowns (FR) 8-11-07 Nicky Henderson  Barry Geraghty

6)     -1222 Carole’s Legacy   7-11-00 Nicky Henderson  Tony McCoy

z = TONGUE STRAP

totesport Bowl – sponsors bet: 10/11 Denman, 5 Punchestowns, 11/2 Nacarat, 7 Carole’s Legacy, 8 Deep Purple, 25 Follow The Plan.

a quarter the odds


John Smith’s Grand National: latest on ticket availability + ticket hotline details

TICKETS & BADGES

SATURDAY, APRIL 9 – JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL DAY – Only 100 Steeplechase Enclosure Tickets @ £19 left – these can be purchased by telephone 0844 579 3001 or at the sales booth on Grand National Avenue, Aintree Racecourse – otherwise SOLD OUT & NO TICKETS WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE ON THE DAY

FRIDAY, APRIL 8 – LADIES’ DAY – Tattersalls Enclosure tickets available @ £32. Please telephone 0844 579 3001 or go to the sales booth on Grand National Avenue, Aintree Racecourse

THURSDAY, APRIL 7 – LIVERPOOL DAY – Tattersalls Enclosure tickets available @ £21, while seats are on sale from £24 & other areas can be purchased. Please telephone 0844 579 3001 or go to the sales booth on Grand National Avenue, Aintree Racecourse.

There is a limited number of hospitality packages still available from £99 per person on Thursday – please contact Karan White on 0151 522 2911 to discuss your requirements.

Backstage vying for favouritism in John Smith’s Grand National: extensive Factfile on horse and connections

BACKSTAGE (FR) FACTFILE

b g Passing Sale (FR) – Madame Nathalie (FR) (Dreams To Reality (USA))

9-10-12                                  Form: 0F3/64313/223/28/71123138UP-570 Owner: MPR & Capranny Syndicate

Trainer: Gordon Elliott IRE                Breeder: Ecurie Passing                  Jockey: Davy Condon

Backstage

Originally trained by Jehan Bertran de Balanda, Backstage failed to shine in five starts over hurdles in France and was third on his chasing debut at Clairefontaine in July, 2006. He was sent over to Britain shortly afterwards by then owner Sir Robert Ogden and made a winning start for trainer Evan Williams that October when easily accounting for his five rivals in a novices’ chase at Cheltenham.

He was tailed off on his next appearance in an Aintree novices’ chase the following month and missed the rest of the season. Sent over hurdles for the 2007/08 season, Backstage went down by a head in a handicap at Leicester but he once again failed to progress when beaten in novice hurdles at Warwick and Wincanton. His final appearance for Ogden and Williams came when second in a Utttoxeter novice hurdle in May, 2008.

He was sold for 13,000 guineas at Doncaster shortly afterwards. He made a winning debut for new connections, Irish-based trainer Gordon Elliott and a syndicate made up of his stable staff, easily landing a point-to-point at Castletown-Geoghegan in October, 2008. Backstage continued to thrive between the flags, winning three of his five subsequent starts, and he ran a fine race on his first attempt over the Grand National fences, coming home eighth in the John Smith’s Fox Hunter’s Chase at the 2009 John’s Smith’s Grand National Meeting.

After taking seventh in the Punchestown Champion Hunters Chase, Backstage scored impressively in a three-mile handicap chase on good to firm going at Perth at the end of May. He won and was second in novices’ hurdles at the Scottish course in July and was third in a Listed handicap chase at Market Rasen in August. He posted a superb victory in a valuable extended three-mile handicap chase at Ffos Las just six days later.

With all roads leading to the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National, Backstage did not make a racecourse appearance until February, when he took third in a novices’ hurdle at Musselburgh in the colours of Middleham Park Racing, who had purchased a 50 per cent share in the horse just before Christmas. He warmed up for Aintree by taking eighth in a two and a half mile Grade Three chase at Navan in March, but unseated at the 20th fence in the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National.

He disappointed in his next four starts under Rules between April and July and was then put away until reappearing with a 10-length victory in a Kirkistown point-to-point on February 12 and continued his low-key Aintree prep with a seven-length success in another point-to-point at The Pigeons on March 6.

Race Record (under Rules): Starts: 26; Wins: 4; 2nd: 4; 3rd: 6; Win & Place Prize Money: £77,169

Middleham Park Racing & Capranny Stable Staff Syndicate

Backstage will carry the colours of Middleham Park Racing in the John Smith’s Grand National after the syndicate bought a 50 per cent share in the horse from the Capranny Stable Staff Syndicate in a deal brokered by former jump jockey Tom Malone just before Christmas, 2009.

Middleham Park Racing (MPR) was set up in 1995, starting out with two syndicates, and has established itself as one of the main syndication companies in the UK, enjoying more than 300 winners. Notable horses to have carried the MPR silks to victory include prolific all-weather winner China Castle, Beverley Listed scorer Exceptional Art, Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival hero Junior, and Dhaular Dhar, who has made the frame in heritage handicaps at Ascot on five occasions.

The Capranny Stable Staff Syndicate is made up of employees from Gordon Elliott’s Capranny Stables in Co Meath, Ireland, including all of Backstage’s work riders, travelling head lads Sarah Parsons and Jordan ‘Sparky’ Chalmers, vet Eduardo Martinez, chief yardman Jimmy Smith and head lad Simon McGonagle, who partnered Backstage to four of his point-to-point victories.

Each member put in 100 euros to purchase Backstage and the horse has more than repaid his supporters with nine  victories between the flags and under Rules, including when netting £31,310 for winning the inaugural Freebets.co.uk Handicap Chase at Ffos Las in August, 2009.

John Smith’s Grand National record: 2010 Backstage (UR 20th)

Gordon Elliott IRE

Born on March 2, 1978, in Summerhill, Co Meath, Gordon Elliott was a very successful point-to-point rider, who also partnered winners under Rules. He started his racing career while still at school, working at Tony Martin’s stable in County Meath, Ireland. From there, he moved to Britain, joining Martin Pipe’s in 2002, and during his spell in Somerset his six rides as an amateur included one winner. Elliott then returned to Ireland for another term at Martin’s stables.

In 2004, Barry Callaghan, head of the Dun Doire syndicate, bought Capranny Stables at Trim in County Meath. When Elliott started his training career, early in 2006, those stables became his base. Elliott’s first runner under Rules came at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival, when Brandon Mountain was pulled up in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

He continued to send runners over to the UK and enjoyed almost instant success, most notably with Arresting, who notched up four victories between May and July, 2006. Elliott’s John Smith’s Grand National victory with Silver Birch in 2007 was remarkable not only because he was only 29 at the time, but also because he had yet to saddle a winner in his native country. The winners in Ireland soon followed and Elliott enjoyed big-race success with the former Epsom Derby fifth Salford City, who won the Grade Two Tipperary Hurdle in October, 2007, while he also continued to send horses to the UK.

He soon gained a reputation as a shrewd judge of horses. Elliott is particularly fond of having runners at Perth and has sent out 54 winners (up to March 16th) at the Scottish venue. Further afield, Elliott saddled Salford City to finish third in a Grade Two chase at Saratoga, USA, in August, 2008, and the gelding also contested the Grade One New York Turf Writers Cup Chase at the same course three weeks later.

Last season’s leading performers included juvenile hurdler Carlito Brigante, who recorded a Grade Two victory at Leopardstown and was fourth in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010. Elliott’s first Cheltenham Festival success came with Chicago Grey in this year’s National Hunt Chase, while Jessie’s Dream, winner of the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase, was runner-up in the Grade One RSA Chase a little over an hour later. His second Festival win came on the same day with Carlito Brigante in the Coral Cup. The trainer has also enjoyed major Flat success with Dirar in the 2010 Ebor at York.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 SILVER BIRCH (WON); 2009 Silver Birch (Fell 22nd); 2010 Backstage (UR 20th)

Davy Condon

Davy Condon, whose father Mick was a leading amateur and point-to-point rider, was born on December 3, 1984. He started his career in 2000 as a 15-year-old apprentice Flat jockey with Willie Mullins, had his first winner the next season and ended that year with five successes from 95 rides.

In the next three seasons, he took his win tally up to 75 (it has since gone into three figures) and his most notable association was with the Mullins-trained Holy Orders, whom he rode in 30 races across both codes, including when well beaten in the 2003 Melbourne Cup. As Condon’s weight increased, he looked to the National Hunt world and rode his first winner over hurdles in November, 2004.

He had his first, and so far only, Cheltenham Festival success aboard Ebaziyan in the 2007 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the following year moved from Ireland to become stable jockey to Nicky Richards’ Cumbrian yard following Tony Dobbin’s retirement, winning the 2008 Peterborough Chase on Monet’s Garden and 2009 Scottish Champion Hurdle on Noble Alan.

He returned home for the 2009/10 season and rode mainly for Noel Meade, striking up a good rapport with Go Native on whom he won the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton although he missed out on his share of a potential £1 million bonus when the horse was beaten in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

He also won two Grade One novice chases in December, 2009 aboard the Meade-trained Pandorama, while the Michael Smith-trained Orsippus gave him a further top level victory in the Matalan 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s 2010 John Smith’s Grand National meeting.

This season, he rode Realt Dubh and Fully Funded to Grade Two successes and partnered Benefit Night to win the Leinster National on March 6. Condon is a cousin of fellow rider Paul Townend. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2007 Homer Wells (PU 22nd), 2010 Backstage (UR 20th)

John Smith’s Grand National: Lovetheraces offers a quick, easy-to-read preview of every runner

The racing industry’s excellent Lovetheraces site has a good at-a-glance summary of each runner in Saturdays’ big race.

You can find the preview here.

If you want a more in-depth look at four key contenders, Don’t Push It, What a Friend, Silver by Nature and The Midnight Club, you’ll find it here.

John Smith’s Grand National: full details, in racecard layout, of 5 day acceptors

THE 2011 JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL

Class 1, Grade 3, £950,000 total Prize Fund. 4.15pm, Aintree, Saturday, April  9, 2011, four miles and four furlongs. For six-year-olds old and upwards which are allotted a rating of 110 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 13, 2011. Horses which are not qualified for a rating in Great Britain or Ireland at February 1, 2011, may also be entered. Such horses may be eligible for a weight providing the Handicapper is satisfied that the horse’s racecourse performances to February 13, 2011, would merit a minimum rating of 110. To qualify horses must have run at least three times in Steeple Chases run under the Rules of Racing of the same Recognised Turf Authority up to and including February 13, 2011. At the Handicapper’s discretion such horses may be allocated a rating. The decision of the BHA Head of Handicapping shall be final. No penalties after publication of the weights. Highest weight 11st 10lb. Entries closed February 1, entries revealed February 2 (102 entries, 3  subsequently scratched), weights revealed February 15, first scratchings deadline March 1 (82 remained), second scratchings deadline March 22 (74 remained). Five-day confirmation stage April 4 (65 five-day confirmations), final declaration stage 10.00am, April 7 – maximum field size of 40, plus 4 reserves. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Sunday, April 3. WITH CORRECT NUMBERING & ORDER OF ELIMINATION

Form  Horse    Age/Wgt  Owner   Trainer/Probable Jockey

1) P1-P000 DON’T PUSH IT (IRE) 11-11-10  J P McManus  Jonjo O’Neill/Tony McCoy

2) 04-3226 TIDAL BAY (IRE) 10-11-09  Andrea & Graham Wylie Howard Johnson/Brian Hughes

3) 211-524 WHAT A FRIEND 8-11-06  Ged Mason & Sir Alex Ferguson Paul Nicholls/Daryl Jacob

4) 1B-0044 VIC VENTURI (IRE) 11-11-06  Seamus Dunne  Dessie Hughes IRE/Andrew Lynch

5) U62/1-31 MAJESTIC CONCORDE (IRE) 8-11-05  Dr Ronan Lambe Dermot Weld IRE/Robbie McNamara

6) 42F14 OR NOIR DE SOMOZA (FR) 9-11-05  Filsal Stadeg Racing David Pipe/Tom Scudamore

7) 1F24-41 DOONEYS GATE (IRE) 10-11-04  Jackie Mullins  Willie Mullins IRE/Mr Patrick Mullins

8 ) 14-2F44 BIG FELLA THANKS 9-11-01  Crossed Fingers Partnership Ferdy Murphy/Graham Lee

9) 205-244 THE TOTHER ONE (IRE) 10-11-00  Graham Roach  Paul Nicholls/Mr Ryan Mahon

10) 111-112 BALLABRIGGS (IRE) 10-11-00  Trevor Hemmings Donald McCain/Jason Maguire

11) 3133-21 THE MIDNIGHT CLUB (IRE) 10-10-13 Susannah Ricci  Willie Mullins IRE/Ruby Walsh

12) 20P-F50 NICHE MARKET (IRE) 10-10-13 Graham Regan  Paul Nicholls/Harry Skelton

13) 121-001 SILVER BY NATURE 9-10-12 Geoff Brown  Lucinda Russell/Peter Buchanan

14) 0BP-500 BACKSTAGE (FR) 9-10-12 MPR & Capranny Syndicate Gordon Elliott IRE/Paul Carberry

15) 11-053F  CHIEF DAN GEORGE (IRE) 11-10-12 Maurice Chapman Jimmy Moffatt/Paddy Aspell

16) 4-56242 CALGARY BAY (IRE) 8-10-10 Camilla Radford Henrietta Knight/Hadden Frost

17) 2P-2536 KILLYGLEN (IRE) 9-10-10 David McCammon Stuart Crawford IRE/Robert Power

18) 152-263 OSCAR TIME (IRE) 10-10-09 Robert Waley-Cohen/Sir Martin & S Broughton Martin Lynch IRE/ Mr Sam Waley-Cohen

19) 10-1131 QUINZ (FR) 7-10-08 Andrew Cohen  Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson

20) 500423 NORTHERN ALLIANCE (IRE) 10-10-08 Irish Rover Syndicate Tony Martin IRE/Barry Geraghty

21) 2212-42 BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE (IRE) 8-10-08 Noel Glynn  Noel Glynn IRE/Davy Russell

22) 000-06P COMPLY OR DIE (IRE) 12-10-08 David Johnson  David Pipe/Timmy Murphy

23) F-FF25P QUOLIBET (FR) 7-10-08 J P McManus  Jonjo O’Neill/Mark Walsh

24) 1FP10P GRAND SLAM HERO (IRE) 10-10-07 Walters Plant Hire Ltd Nigel Twiston-Davies/Aidan Coleman

25) 6/454-P6  ROLL ALONG (IRE) 11-10-07 Bryan & Philippa Burrough Nigel Twiston-Davies/????

26) 0/144/P3- STATE OF PLAY 11-10-06 William & Angela Rucker Evan Williams/Paul Moloney

27) 11-11P5 KING FONTAINE (IRE) 8-10-06 Trevor Hemmings Malcolm Jefferson/Denis O’Regan

28) U-3431U  IN COMPLIANCE (IRE) 11-10-05 Westerly Breeze Syndicate Dessie Hughes IRE/Leighton Aspell

29) 005P-1P HELLO BUD (IRE) 13-10-05 Seamus Murphy Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies

30) P/00-11P WEST END ROCKER (IRE) 9-10-05  Barry Winfield & Tim Leadbeater Alan King/Robert Thornton

31) 200010 SANTA’S SON (IRE) 11-10-05 Douglas Pryde & Jim Beaumont Howard Johnson/Jamie Moore

32) C21-046 BLUESEA CRACKER (IRE) 9-10-04 J P McManus James Motherway IRE/Andrew McNamara

33) 01050 THAT’S RHYTHM (FR) 11-10-04 Don’t Tell Henry Martin Todhunter/James Reveley

34) P2/111/-0 SURFACE TO AIR 10-10-04 Tim Urry  Chris Bealby/Tom Messenger

35) P-234PP PIRAYA (FR) 8-10-04 Terry Neill  David Pipe/Johnny Farrelly

36) 6F-0P5P CAN’T BUY TIME (IRE) 9-10-04 J P McManus  Jonjo O’Neill/Richie McLernon

37) 0-30563 CHARACTER BUILDING (IRE) 11-10-04 Patricia Thompson John Quinn/Miss Nina Carberry

38) 15/1P/-52  ORNAIS (FR) 9-10-04 The Stewart Family Paul Nicholls/Nick Scholfield

39) U2U-0P2 ARBOR SUPREME (IRE) 9-10-03 J P McManus  Willie Mullins IRE/David Casey

40) 013111- OUR MONTY (IRE) 8-10-03 Colland Sand & Gravel Ltd Willie Mullins IRE/Ms Katie Walsh

41) P5U-42P ROYAL ROSA (FR) 12-10-03 Andrea & Graham Wylie Howard Johnson/Paul Gallagher

42) 313-011 SKIPPERS BRIG (IRE) 10-10-02 Ashleybank Investments Limited Nicky Richards/Dominic Elsworth

43) 210010 GOLDEN KITE (IRE) 9-10-02 Dr Anthony Calnan Adrian Maguire IRE/Shane Hassett

44) 006004 ALWAYS WAINING (IRE) 10-10-02 Mr & Mrs Peter James Douglas Peter Bowen/???

45) 321112 PUTNEY BRIDGE 9-10-01 Louise Goldsworthy Keith Goldsworthy/???

46) 4/22-1PP  BELON GALE (IRE) 8-10-01 Andrea & Graham Wylie Howard Johnson/???

47) 402P-02 FAASEL (IRE) 10-10-01 Jim Ennis   David Pipe/???

48) 02043P LE BEAU BAI (FR) 8-10-01 Glass Half Full  Richard Lee/???

49) D61-0F0 MERIGO (FR) 10-10-01 Raymond & Anita Anderson Green Andrew Parker/???

50) 6-02162 ASKTHEMASTER (IRE) 11-10-00 Carrolle Wall  Robert Tyner IRE/???

51) 11P61/0/- STARZAAN (IRE) 12-10-00 Ben Arbib  Hughie Morrison/???

52) 123-P22 GILES CROSS (IRE) 9-10-00 KCMS Partnership Victor Dartnall/???

53) 1U0-660 SADDLERS STORM (IRE) 9-10-00 Billy Moffett/R T & J McLoughlin Tony Martin IRE/???

54) 1-PP11P SAGALYRIQUE (FR) 7-9-13  Sir Robert Ogden Donald McCain/???

55) U0-6042 AMBOBO (USA) 11-9-13 Deirdre Brassil  Martin Brassil IRE/???

56) 241P64 DUERS (IRE) 9-9-13  Kate Kelly/Kate Ronan Paul Magnier IRE/???

57) 11120-P TOBY JUG 10-9-13 Paul & Caron Chapman & Sarah Humphrey Sarah Humphrey/???

58) 131-321 JUNIOR 8-9-12  Middleham Park Racing LI David Pipe/???

59) 064260  THE SAWYER (BEL) 11-9-12 David Fear  Bob Buckler/???

60) 2613-PP GALANT NUIT (FR) 7-9-12  David Parry  Ferdy Murphy/???

61) 044522  BALLYFITZ 11-9-09 Fred & Wayne Mills Nigel Twiston-Davies/???

62) F4-5365 POMME TIEPY (FR) 8-9-09  Susannah Ricci  Willie Mullins IRE/???

63) 24U344 I’MONCLOUDNINE (IRE) 8-9-09  Fred Matthews  Neil Mulholland/???

64) 116PP-P TREACLE (IRE) 10-9-04 Bjorn Nielsen  Tom Taaffe IRE/???

65) P23221  REGAL HEIGHTS (IRE) 10-9-02  Janet Heler  Tom George/???

The order of elimination was decided this afternoon by Phil Smith, Head of Handicapping at the British Horseracing Authority.

The declared runners will be known on Thursday morning and there will be four reserves which have to be utilised by Friday morning.

65 five-day confirmations  20 Irish-trained

The nine horses who did not go forward at today’s five-day stage were Midnight Chase, Synchronised, Scotsirish, Notre Pere, Ballytrim, Nedzer’s Return, Frankie Figg, One Cool Cookie and Dev.

Paul Nicholls on his latest plans for Aintree

Paul Nicholls, writing on his Betfair Blog, has announced most of his Aintree targets.  I have skinned them down to a digest – if you want to read the full piece, you’ll find it here.


“Quite a few of my horses have multiple entries – and a couple in particular have got me scratching my head – but I have to get them right, and so I may leave the final decision on them until I have studied all the entries.”

Thursday

We run Big Buck’s and Gwanako in the opening Grade 1 hurdle.  Zarkandar– may be my only runner in the juvenile hurdle, though Empire Levant is still a possible.

Denman goes for the Totesport Bowl and I have three others in the race. What a Friend goes in the National, but Mon Parrain has two other entries (Topham, and a handicap on the Saturday). I will have to speak to Mr Hales about Neptune Collonges; ideally he would want plenty of rain, and if he is to get cut in the ground, it will be on the Thursday.

Blu Teen is entered in the Fox Hunters’ but I suspect he will run in a handicap at Ascot at the weekend.

Woolcombe Folly and Tchico Polos run in the 2m handicap chase and Ghizao steps up in trip for the Grade 2 2m4f novices’ chase.

We have four entries in the 2m4f handicap hurdle but it could be that I rely on just Sire Collonges if he gets in.

Friday

I have four entries in the opening novices’ hurdle, and none has been ruled out yet. But providing the ground isn’t too quick, it could be that Brampour is my main hope here. I could run Polisky too, but he is very much a horse for next year.

In the Grade 2 novices’ chase I rely on Robinson Collonges.  The Minack, goes for the Scottish National.

Master Minded will be my only runner in the Melling.

Fistral Beach and Free World go for the Topham, and Mon Parrain has that option too.

In the Grade 1 3m novices’ hurdle, I am coming round to thinking that Indian Daudaie could be suited to this race. It is a Grade 1 race and it could cut up and I can see Ruby giving him one of his “creep rides” and going well. He also has the option of the 2m4f handicap on the Thursday but that trip could be on the sharp side round here. We also have the option of the 3m handicap hurdle on this day; Pistolet Noir will run in that.

Saturday

It could be that Sam Winner will join Rock On Ruby in the race if the ground isn’t too firm.

There were only eight entries in the Maghull, so that will be re-opened. I put two in; Ghizao, targeted for the Thursday, and Pepe Simo. The latter is a clearly a possible, and the return to a smaller field could suit him better.

Celestial Halo will run in the Aintree Hurdle

Mon Parrain and Take The Breeze are entered in the 3m1f handicap chase, and  I have my four in the Grand National, headed by What A Friend.

I have three in the conditional handicap hurdle; Tito Bustillo, Rock Of Deauville and Empire Levant. This race is probably my preferred Aintree race for the latter if he gets in; I would be keen to see him race off his current mark with Ryan taking 5lb off.