GRAND NATIONAL BETTING: Following the announcement of the weights for the 2010 Grand National yesterday, Charlie McCann shares his antepost thoughts on the world’s most race.
Betting on the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National moved on apace following the announcement of the weights in London on February 16th and Tricky Trickster winner of the 4m NH Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival heads the market at 12/1 with Stan James.
Tricky Trickster has been allotted 11st 4lbs for the unique Aintree test but that might look lenient if he runs into a place in the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup which he will use as his prep for the National.
Irish Grand National winner Niche Market was beaten a short head trying to give Tricky Trickster 3lbs at Newbury in the Aon Chase (a race which will always be remembered for the defeat of Denman) and they are due to meet at level weights at Aintree.
I expect Tricky Trickster to confirm the form with Niche Market although no seven-year-old since 1940 has won the great race. If he runs well in the Gold Cup trainer Paul Nicholls may never have a better chance of winning the race and if Ruby Walsh is confirmed for the ride (likely to have the choice of many from the Nicholls’/Willie Mullins’ camps) it would be no surprise if Tricky Trickster goes off about half his current odds.
Paul Nicholls is 6/1 to win his first National with StanJames.com and the Master of Ditcheat is expected to saddle four runners in the race. As well as Tricky Trickster Nicholls is likely to run last year’s third My Will (40/1 11st-2lb), sixth in 2009 Big Fella Thanks (16s & 10-12) and Nozic (66s & 11-3) who was beaten a distance in last year’s Topham Chase on his introduction to the National fences.
The Champion trainer has yet to win the National and he suggested to me in a Cheltenham Preview evening in 2009 that the Champion Hurdle rather than the National was the one race missing from his CV that he sought above all else, but he does look to have a very strong hand this year.
Big Fella Thanks has been well supported with a number of firms today but on a point of handicapping he faces a tough task reversing form with My Will, State Of Play and Comply Or Die. That said he was only a 7-y-o last year and normal progression would make him a major player with 10-12.
He is in the same ownership as Denman and if Walsh opts for Tricky Trickster it will be interesting to see who Paul Barber & Harry Findlay opt for. He made a couple of significant mistakes last year but ran an absolute cracker and is open to considerable improvement.
Tony McCoy has yet to win the Grand National and he is retained by leading owner JP McManus who has five of the 111 entries and all bar Glenfinn Captain ought to get a run.
None of the other four look to hold outstanding claims and there must be the possibility that McCoy will be given dispensation by JP to ride Big Fella Thanks if, as expected, stable jockey Walsh favours Tricky Trickster.
Possol (16/1 & 11-3) has not been seen over fences since his fluent success in the StanJames.com Festival Chase at Perth. He has been very impressive in two starts over timber so far this term but that wasn’t a great race in Scotland and French breds don’t have a great record in the race with stamina (or lack of it) often an issue.
State Of Play is my antepost recommendation for the race despite finishing pulled up on his sole start of the campaign in the Hennessy Gold Cup back in November.
A former winner of the Newbury feature the Evan Williams trained 10-y-o is lightly raced for one of his age and ran a cracker in the corresponding race last year when he finished fourth and would have been considerably closer but for blundering at one of the smallest fences on the course on the run to Bechers for the 2nd time.
Character Building has long promised to be a National horse despite the fact that he didn’t appear to quite get home when beaten a whisker in the 4m NH Chase at Cheltenham back in 2007.
A winner back at the Festival in 2009 (Kim Muir Chase given a wonderful ride by leading amateur Jamie Codd) he had a spin over hurdles ahead of the announcement of the weights and connections of the grey will be pleased enough with a weight of 10-11.
Trainer Mouse Morris immediately dismissed the notion of running former Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition under 11-1 which I find impossible to fathom.
The horse was given the same weight in 2009 yet since that date the horse has won 2 Grade 2s over timber on what could be construed unsuitable ground. I think the decision is short-sighted and I hope connections have a reappraisal of the situation after their run in the World Hurdle at the Festival next month.
Casey Jones was my antepost selection for the Hennessy Gold Cup (non runner) and as a Grade 1 winner over the larger obstacles he deserves plenty of respect although we may know more about his short-term objectives after this weekend’s Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse where a number of possible Aintree candidates put their credentials on the line.
The announcement of the National weights is always a personal highlight of the racing calendar.
It is and always will be my favourite race in the world but who wins?
My eye was immediately drawn to the 6/1 for Paul Nicholls to break his National hoodoo; but what about AP & Nicholls to combine? Having backed State Of Play and Big Fella Thanks I’m happy enough with their weights.
Six of the last 11 runnings of the race have gone to the Irish and 3/1 now looks attractive. I’ll change my mind a dozen times between now and post time but that’s what makes it a wonderful race and a unique human and equine test.