Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Gallant Grand National Winner

Bob Davies, the man responsible for racing at Ludlow Racecourse, might disagree with me - because he won the 1978 Grand National on Lucius – but the biggest story of the race 38 years ago was the non-runner Red Rum. A national (as well as a Grand National) icon, Red Rum had already won the race three times and finished second twice before going lame a day in advance of his sixth attempt. 

For the first time since, it looks as though the non-runners for the Grand National might be more important than the runners - at least they are if, like me, you live in South Cumbria and have already stashed all your chips on a horse trained in Cartmel. Among those balloted out of the race, at the final declaration stage, were Pineau De Re (the winner in 2014), Alvarado (twice placed) and Highland Lodge (the Jimmy Moffatt trained winner of the Becher Chase in November).

Having focused exclusively on Highland Lodge for the last four months, I’m pleased to report that anyone who has backed any of those three horses ante-post, should be able to reclaim their stakes. But now that we know Highland Lodge can’t win the race, we’ve got to start afresh…

The winner is likely to be a mature chaser who stays well, enjoys ease in the ground, possesses a touch of class and who will be carrying a relatively light weight. I'm therefore going to take a couple of easy steps to narrow down the field. So, here goes... Sad though I am to discount First Lieutenant, I’m going to put a line through every horse carrying more than eleven stone – only two horses have successfully carried more in the last ten years.

I’m also going to rule out every horse aged nine or younger (too young) and every horse aged twelve or more (too old). Last year’s winner Many Clouds falls foul on both counts – but that didn’t stop him winning last year’s race, so I’m going to give him a reprieve for now. The rest of the shortlist consists of eight horses, so we’ve already managed to reduce the Grand National cavalry charge to just nine runners with a chance of winning - easy isn't it... 

Rocky Creek’s best National attempt came in 2014 when he finished fifth, but he could only manage seventeenth place last year; another honourable completion looks likely. Boston Bob has been overlooked by Ruby Walsh in favour of Sir Des Champs - who has a touch of class, having finished second in the Gold Cup three years ago.  

Soll has been running out of his skin this season, having already finished seventh and ninth in previous Grand Nationals. I can seeing him running well again, but I can’t see him winning. Double Ross won’t stay; Katenko isn’t quite good enough. But last year’s second, Saint Are, looks likely to run well again off a low weight. 

Anyone with a nephew called Oscar will have done well in recent years, following two places for Oscar Time at 66/1 and 14/1 from three Grand National attempts (he also won a race over the same unique fences at 25/1). But they’re about to do even better, as this year’s winner is Gallant Oscar, trained by the shrewdest trainer in Ireland, Tony Martin.

Such a shame Highland Lodge had to be a non-runner – he’d surely have won it for Cartmel - but he'll be a well named winner of the Scottish National in two week's time instead! 

Winner: Gallant Oscar
Second: Sir Des Champs
Third: Many Clouds
Fourth: Saint Are.  

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