Racing pundit, Tom Lee, of Channel 4 Racing and RTE in Ireland, writes weekly on betting-directory.com, providing visitors with his thoughts on all the big races with a few tips for good measure. Here’s what he’s got to say about the 2014 Grand National in a bumper column…
First run 175 years ago in 1839, the Crabbie’s Grand National is the world’s most famous race, and with its unique fences, massive media build up, huge attendance, and vast worldwide audience, commands a place in the minds of once a year punters as well as hardened aficionados of the turf.
There’s something uniquely thrilling about seeing a field of 40 charging towards the first fence as they embark on their near four and a half mile journey, and that’s only heightened by the fact this year’s race is the first time ever the National will be run for a total prize fund of £1,000,000, with £561,300 going to the winner.
So, aside from pointing out the absolute folly of betting with anyone except the firms offering a very generous six places to each backers (step forward Bet Victor) without further ado, who’ll be adding their name to the roll of honour and pocketing that not inconsequential sum?
Tom Lee’s 2014 Grand National Selections:
9. Balthazar King (each way) @ 20/1 (BetVictor – going SIX PLACES each way)
29. Pineau De Re (each way) @ 20/1 (Betfred)
Here’s the low down of all 40 declared runners: Click here for the latest Grand National betting.
1. Tiday Bay – Paul Nicholls & Sam Twiston-Davies (bet on Tidal Bay)
No 13-year-old has won the National since Sergeant Murphy way back in 1923, but to be fair there aren’t too many 13-year-olds (or essentially equine pensioners in circulation) who possess Tidal Bay’s iron constitution.
An extraordinary horse, the handicapper has given him a big chance by allowing him to run from a mark of 161, some seven pounds lower than his official mark, though he does of course still have to face up to the challenge of lugging top weight, a feat no horse has managed since the great Red Rum back in 1974!!!
His jockey was celebrating after winning on The New One at Aintree on Thursday, and despite his advancing years Tidal Bay is very much a live contender to add this race to a CV that already boasts an Arkle, a Grade 1 win over fences at Aintree as a novice, a Cleeve Hurdle, a bet365 Gold Cup, successive runnings of the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle, a Lexus Chase, a Hennessy second (when giving the subsequent Gold Cup winner six pounds and beaten only three lengths), and a Welsh National third.
Unseated at fence no.10 in his only previous try in the National in 2010.
2. Long Run – Nicky Henderson & Sam Waley-Cohen (bet on Long Run)
Perhaps it’s important to be called Sam and own a double-barreled surname to ride one of the top weights in this year’s National?!
Joking aside, Long Run is another formidable contender who has been cut some slack by the handicapper.
Racing here off 160, this son of Cadoudal saw off the combined might of Denman and Kauto Star to win the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and is also a dual King George VI Chase winner, as well as having been placed in two more Gold Cups in 2012 and 2013.
He seems to have been around forever, but still only nine years of ago it makes sense to take aim at a National at a time when his three mile form seems to have dipped a little.
The Waley-Cohen’s are already enjoying an Aintree to remember after Warne’s emphatic display in the Foxhunter, and Long Run could out them on cloud nine with a famous National victory.
They’ll be praying his sometimes questionable jumping holds together.
3. Hunt Ball – Nicky Henderson & Andrew Tinkler (bet on Hunt Ball)
Nowadays a stablemate of Long Run, this horse was one of the stories of the 2011/12 National Hunt season when in the care of trainer Keiran Burke and running in the silks of colourful owner Anthony Knott, he progressing from a mark of 69 in November, to end the campaign rated 157!!!
A seven race winning spree culminating in a novice handicap at the Cheltenham Festival fuelled that euphoric rise, and even then there was enough juice in the tank to run third behind Follow The Plan in the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl at Aintree.
Sold for big money to race in America, the style of racing and quicker ground in the States was anything but his cup of tea, and he’s now back and in the care of Nicky Henderson.
His fourth in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival proved at least some of the old spark is still there, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him hogging the headlines once again.
4. Triolo D’Alene – Nickly Henderson & Barry Geraghty (bet on Triolo D’Alene)
No seven-year-old has landed the Grand National since Bogskar way back in 1940, but a lively contender to snap that trend is the Nicky Henderson inmate Triolo D’Alene.
A winner of two races in his native France before joining team Henderson, this horse has made rapid strides in the last 12 months, winning the extended 2m 5f Topham Chase over the National fences a year ago, before going on to win the Hennessy at Newbury at the end of November.
A very popular each way bet prior to finishing tenth in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, the biggest question is perhaps how much that run took out of him and whether he’s ready to deliver in another attritional contest?
5. Rocky Creek – Paul Nicholls & Noel Fehily (bet on Rocky Creek)
Paul Nicholls won this race with 33/1 shot Neptune Collonges back in 2012, and possesses another strong contender to get his hands on the prize once again in the shape of talented eight-year-old Rocky Creek.
Kept fresh since a second at Cheltenham at the end of January, there are no concerns about this horse recently having had a hard race.
Pre-Christmas he was a gutsy second when conceding four pounds to Triolo D’Alene in the Hennessy, and at the end of last season picked up prize money when third in a Grade 1 novice chase at Aintree.
Noel Fehily guided Silviniaco Conti home for Nicholls in the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl at Aintree on Thursday, and they’ll be hopeful of landing an even bigger prize here.
6 Quito De La Roque – Colm Murphy & Brian O’Connell (bet on Quito De La Roque)
The highest rated Irish contender, Quito De La Roque is a front or at least prominent runner who might prefer conditions a little softer than he’s likely to encounter here (though he has won on Good ground).
Fourth in last year’s Betfred Bowl, his jumping has let him down at times in the 2013/14 campaign, especially when pulling up in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February.
7. Colbert Station – Ted Walsh (Bet on Colbert Station)
A talented stayer on his day, Colbert Station comes with a bit of a warning attached given that he has unseated and then fallen in two of his last three runs, and indeed unseated at the Chair in last year’s National.
Trained by my RTE colleague Ted Walsh, who won the National in 2000 with Papillon, he’d be a very popular winner, but only if he can eradicate those niggling mistakes.
8. Walkon – Alan King & Wayne Hutchinson (bet on Walkon)
Won a Grade 1 here over hurdles way back in 2009, and showed his affinity for the big fences on the National couse when second to Triolo D’Alene in the Topham a year ago.
The big query for fans of Walkon has to be his stamina – will he stay an inch beyond three miles?
That, allied to his two disappointing runs, make him a less likely winner among those towards the top of the weights.
9. Balthazar King – Philip Hobbs & Richard Johnson (bet on Balthazar King)
Course experience (15th in this 12 month ago) and stamina to burn from a horse who’ll jump pretty much anything as long as he has his preferred Good (ish) ground make Balthazar King a tempting each way prospect.
A remarkably consistent winner of 11 of his 22 starts over fences, this horse has been very happily re-invented as a Cross Country marvel by his ultra shrewd trainer.
He was as tough as old boots to successfully carry top weight around the 3m 7f of Cheltenham’s demanding banks course to win the Cross Country at the Festival 24 days ago, and if he’s over those exertions then he must hold a major shout.
His racing weight (10.13) is a pound less than the likes of recent winners Mon Mome (2009) and Ballabriggs (2011), and given that he thrives on his racing and has conditions to suit then quotes around the 25/1 mark look quite enticing.
It’s worth remembering 2007 National winner Silver Birch used the same Cross Country preparation enjoyed by this horse.
10. Wayward Prince – Hilary Parrott & Jack Doyle (bet on Wayward Prince)
The small Gloucestershire stable of Hilary Parrott will be dreaming of Grand National glory with this talented sort whose last win came over regulation fences at Aintree some 16 months ago in December 2012.
Four years ago he won a Grade 1 here over hurdles, but it’s his more recent form which tempers enthusiam…
A narrow 50/1 second in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November (when just seen off by Harry Topper), Wayward Prince hasn’t sparked the last twice, pulling up at Aintree and then trailing in a long way behind in Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase.
11. Mr Moonshine – Sue Smith & Ryan Mania (bet on Mr Moonshine)
Sue Smith and Ryan Mania supplied a 66/1 surprise when adding their names to the National roll of honour 12 months ago with Auroras Encore, and this time they team up with the in-form Mr Moonshine.
Pulled up four from home a year ago, he seems a much happier and more settled horse now, and is well worth another try at this huge prize.
He proved his aptitude for the big fences when finishing third in the Becher Chase behind the re-opposing Chance Du Roy back in early December, and progressed from there to record wins at Musselburgh and Warwick, before a solid second behind the useful Maggio at Kelso.
Those good results mean he has to race from a mark of 149 in this year’s race as opposed to 139 in last year’s, but it’s also a reflection of his improvement and he won’t go unbacked by many looking for an each way contender at a nice price.
12. Teaforthree – Rebecca Curtis & Nick Scholfield (bet on Teaforthree)
An out and out stayer who has never fallen in a combined total of 18 starts over fences (including four Point to Points), this fella has topped the market for weeks.
Proved his relentless stamina as far back as two years ago when winning the four miler at the Cheltenham Festival, since then he’s been second in a Welsh National and third in this race 12 months ago.
Perhaps a little surprisingly he’s allowed to race from a two pounds lower mark this time around, though to be fair he hasn’t won in three runs since, with his most recent effort an eighth place finish in the Gold Cup.
An excellent jumper, he might be even shorter in the betting had he not run in Cheltenham, though in a 40-runner handicap some will argue his single figure price is too short given the fact we’ve been treated to winners at 100/1, 33/1 and 66/1 in the last five runnings.
You have to go back to Kirkland in 1905 to find the last Welsh trained winner…
13. Across The Bay – Donald McCain & Henry Brooke (bet on Across The Bay)
Fourteenth in last year’s race and eighth in December’s Becher Chase over the big fences, Across The Bay would be a big danger if he could iron out the creases in his jumping.
Highly capable on his day, such as when winning at Haydock in December, his bad habits resurfaced when unseating Jason Maguire back at Haydock last time out.
14. Double Seven – Martin Brassil & AP McCoy (bet on Double Seven)
One of the key antepost horses in this year’s betting, Double Seven is the mount of AP MCoy and is trained by the man who prepared Numbersixvalverde to win this race back in 2006.
A never dangerous sixth at Leopardstown on his prep run after a five month break, Double Seven is better judged on a five race winning spree from June to October, when he hoovered up prizes at Kilbeggan (x 3), Limerick and Wexford.
The last of those was off 146 (148 here), but he has to prove he can handle his first ever run outside of Ireland, as well as a huge step up in trip and much bigger fences.
15. Battle Group – Johnny Farrelly & Brendan Powell (bet on Battle Group)
Quirky but richly talented, this horse won twice during the three day National meeting in 2013, first over hurdles and then by bolting up over regulation fences on Grand National day.
Since then things have gone pair shaped to such a degree Johnny Farrelly must be at his wits end, with three runs this season resulting in a moody display in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, a total refusal to race at Newbury, and then another disaster when he dropped anchor at Ascot.
Impossible to trust, even if you were betting with stolen money, if he did decide to put a shift in then he wouldn’t be without a squeak!
16. Buckers Bridge – Henry de Bromhead & Andrew Lynch (bet on Buckers Bridge)
The winner of a Maralin Point-to-Point, two bumpers and three chases, this horse has never jumped a hurdle in public so keen were his connections to kick on and get stuck into his chasing career.
A winner at Gowran Park in November, this step up in trip is a journey into the unknown, and he was well beaten in the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse last time out.
On what he’s shown to date he’s an unlikely winner of this year’s race.
17. Lion Na Bearnai – Tom Gibney & Davy Russell (bet on Lion Na Bernai)
A long way behind Buckers Bridge when fourth in the Bobbyjo last time out, this guy would be another shock winner.
Amberleigh House a decade ago was the last 12 year old winner, though County Meath trainer Tom Gibney has managed to enlist the services of Davy Russell.
In fairness he was successful in the 2012 Irish Grand National, but pulled up in the Scottish equivalent a year ago.
18. Prince De Beauchene – Willie Mullins (bet on Prince De Bauchene)
One of the unluckiest horses in recent National history, this horse has been prepared for the last two runnings of the race, only for fate to intervene and injury to rob him of his chance when he on both occasions he was prominent in the betting markets.
Third time lucky?
It’s worth remembering his impressive handicap win at Aintree in 2011 when in the care of Howard Johnson, plus a string of solid efforts for Willie Mullins, including a victory in the 2012 Bobbyjo.
That was two years ago though, and there’s a little bit to be taken on trust this time given his 2013/14 form: a Grade 1 third at Down Royal, a mid division finish in the English Hennessy, last of nine in the Lexus and a fourth at Thurles.
19. Monbeg Dude – Michael Scudamore & Paul Carberry (bet on Monbeg Dude)
Carberry produced one of the rides of the season to win on Guitar Pete at Aintree on Thursday, not a million miles removed from the one he conjured from Monbeg Dude when winning the 2012 Welsh Grand National.
A hold up horse, he’ll need luck in-running if he’s to stay out of trouble, especially given his sometimes erratic jumping, though the availability of Carberry is a massive plus.
That said, Tom Scudamore guided him to a superb win at Cheltenham in December, powering home after jumping fluently.
Ticks many boxes as a horse who’ll go down a storm with the housewives and general public, given the multiple public interest angles with the Scudamore family tie in with the race, his part owner being rugby star Mike Tindall, and his jumping coach being none other than Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter!
20. Big Shu – Peter Maher & Peter Buchanan (bet on Big Shu)
Third to Balthazar King at Cheltenham, this Cross Country specialist is an excellent jumper and a thorough stayer who completed the Cheltenham and Punchestown banks course Festival double in 2013.
Perhaps not blessed with such an appealing profile overall as Balthazar King, he has been deserted by Carberry who favours Monbeg Dude, but still very much possible to envisage him getting involved.
21. Burton Port – Jonjo O’Neill and Brian Harding (bet on Burton Port)
Second to Weapon’s Amnesty in the 2010 RSA Chase and a Grade 2 winner over fences at Aintree just three weeks later, how this horse has not gone on to become a superstar is a mystery!
A combination of injury problems is probably the biggest factor, but the 2010 Hennessy second endured a 14 month wait until his next race…
Fourth in the 2012 Gold Cup and second in the 2012 Betfred Bowl represent impressive form, and having made the switch from Nicky Henderson to Jonjo O’Neill last autumn it’ll be interesting to see if a wind operation can help him further.
His one run since the op brought a veterans’ chase second at Newbury at the start of March, and if he has a bit of luck then surely he has the class and stamina to get involved.
22. Our Father – David Pipe & Denis O’Regan (bet on Our Father)
David Pipe was another trainer celebrating on day one at Aintree as Doctor Harper notched in the concluding handicap hurdle.
The highest rated of his three National runners is Our Father, who isn’t the most experienced and let the side down when sent off the 11/2 favourite for the Hennessy in November, trailing in a well beaten 2o lengths behind the winner.
Further disappointments have followed when only fifth in the Haydock Grand National Trial and ninth in the Kim Muir.
23. Mountainous – Richard Lee & Jamie Moore (bet on Mountainous)
A wonderful horse who has already done plenty to contribute to a good season for my own family’s training operation, winning the Welsh National in typically gutsy fashion in the hands of Paul Moloney.
The in-form Jamie Moore (has ridden him before) takes over with Moloney unavailable on this occasion, and if a drop of rain arrives to soften the ground then he could very well excel at this unique test.
His last piece of fast work was excellent, and he’s enjoyed plenty of practice over a purpose built National style fence at home.
That said, to inject a bit of balance into these remarks it’s worth remembering he is a whopping nine pounds worse off with top weight Tidal Bay for less than length margin of victory at Chepstow.
Rag Trade, Corbiere and Earth Summit are the three horses who’ve managed to complete the Welsh/English National double in the same season.
24. The Rainbow Hunter – Kim Bailey & Aidan Coleman (bet on The Rainbow Hunter)
Showed the benefit of a wind op when a shock 25/1 winner of the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in January.
He unseated in this race at the Canal Turn (fence no.8) a year ago though, and does tend to make mistakes.
25. Vintage Star – Sue Smith & Brian Hughes (bet on Vintage Star)
Has loads of ability, stays forever and goes on pretty much any ground, as showcased by his win on Heavy at Carlisle, and then a narrow second in Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase on Good ground pre-Christmas.
Maybe a bigger concern is his sometimes sketchy jumping, but if he takes to the fences and gets into a rhythm under an excellent jockey then there’ll definitely be worse 50/1 shots to choose from, especially given his stable’s recent record in the race!
26. Chance Du Roy – Philip Hobbs & Tom O’Brien (bet on Chance Du Roy)
Second and ninth in the last two runnings of the Topham, and put that experience over the big fences to good use when seeing off the old boy Baby Run in the Becher Chase in December.
Plenty going for him, but not so good in two runs since and has to prove as effective off his revised mark of 143.
27. Hawkes Point – Paul Nicholls & Ryan Mahon (bet on Hawkes Point)
Only an eighth chase start for a horse so narrowly denied in the Welsh National, splitting the re-opposing pair of Mountainous and Tidal Bay.
Both wins under rules have come on Heavy ground which he’s unlikely to find here, and well beaten in the Haydock Grand National Trial.
28. Kruzhlinin – Donald McCain & Wilson Renwick (bet on Kruzhlinin)
Two wins at Kelso this season (both pre-Christmas), but this is far deeper and was well beaten behind The Rainbow Hunter in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.
Would be a surprise winner.
29. Pineau De Re – Dr Richard Newland & Leighton Aspell (bet on Prineau De Re)
Came within a whisker of landing the Pertemps Hurdle Final at the Cheltenham Festival last month, denied in a thrilling three way finish by Fingal Bay and Southfield Theatre.
The Pertemps was the same preparatory route used by 2010 winner Don’t Push It, and Pineau De Re is trained by a very astute handler in Dr Newland, a man who combines running a number of business concerns alongside a select string of just 12 or so horses.
His 19 winners over the larger obstacles this season have arrived at a stunning 28% strike-rate, and this horse scored very easily over fences when striking in a veterans’ chase at Exeter in January.
That win proved he was none the worse for a tumble in the Becher Chase over these fences a few weeks previously, and if he can build on that experience then he could definitely play a part.
Formerly with Philip Fenton in Ireland, he is at home on any ground.
30. Golan Way – Tim Vaughan & Michael Byrne (Golan Way)
Highly talented dual purpose horse who flew the flag for Sheena West and her small East Sussex operation for a number of seasons.
Missed a year through injury and has re-surfaced in the care of Tim Vaughan, winning a hunter chase at Warwick last month.
31. Twirling Magnet – Jonjo O’Neill & Richie McLernon (bet on Twirling Magnet)
Struggling when unseating his rider two from home in the Kim Muir.
Enjoyed himself last spring/summer with a couple of wins at a lower level, and struck again at Cheltenham in October.
This’ll be his first start at Aintree, but he does appear to prefer a left-handed track.
32. Vesper Bell – Willie Mullins (bet on Vesper Bell)
Just one win in eight tries for this eight-year-old, who appears to prefer the ground a good bit softer than it’s likely to be here.
Verg good effort when just worn down by Goonyella over 3m 6f at Punchestown last April, but fell over these fences at the first in the Becher Chase, and then got it wrong again when unseating David Casey in the Classic Chase at Warwick.
33. The Package – David Pipe & Tom Scudamore (bet on The Package)
Comply Or Die landed the spoils for David Pipe and his team back in 2008, and on this occasion he’ll be hoping for an improved showing from the talented but inconsistent sort The Package.
Now an 11-year-old, he doesn’t run too often and it’s hard to know what to expect from a horse who unseated Graham Lee at the 19th fence in this race four years ago.
He’s only run eight times since then, but warmed up for this with a handicap chase third at the Cheltenham Festival.
Other noteworthy pieces of form include a fourth in the 2012 Hennessy, as well as a win in that season’s Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton.
It’s hard to be in any way confident where The Package is concerned, but equally he’s impossible to totally discount.
34. Raz De Maree – Dessie Hughes & Davy Condon (bet on Raz De Maree)
Dessie Hughes struck with Guitar Pete in the opening Grade 1 contest on Thursday, and his National runner Raz De Maree brings National winning form to the table, though not necessarily what you might expect…
Successful in both the Munster National at Limerick in October, and then the Cork National three weeks later, he’s another who might well really prefer softer ground than is likely to be encountered here.
Has also struggled after being catapulted up the weights (from 123 to 140) for those two wins.
35. Rose Of The Moon – David O’Meara & Jake Greenall (bet on Rose of the Moon)
Three wins from six starts over fences, and all in small fields.
Worst displays over the larger obstacles came when pulled up after endless mistakes in the 2013 National Hunt Chase, and then when not overly impressive over these fences when down the field in the Becher Chase in December.
Would have to find some improvement to play a part, though talented pilot gets on very well with him and rides this course with great skill.
36. Shakalakaboomboom – Nicky Henderson & David Bass (bet on Shakalakaboomboom)
Huge chance if he could recapture some of his old ability, and was sent off 8/1 joint favourite for this race in 2012 when finishing ninth.
That said, missed nearly two years with injury, hasn’t sparked in three runs since his return (sent off 50/1 for a Cheltenham handicap latest) and Barry Geraghty prefers stablemate Triolo D’Alene.
37. Alvarado – Fergal O’Brien & Paul Moloney (bet on Alvarado)
Very strong stayer, at home on Good ground, who scored at Cheltenham over three and a half miles in November.
This’ll be a first taste of Aintree and has to prove his last outing when pulled up at Cheltenham in January was just a blip, but might be a lively outsider in the hands of a jockey who doesn’t accept defeat easily.
38. Last Time D’Albain – Liam Cusack & Robbie Colgan (Bet on Last Time D’Albain)
Fascinating contender in that he was third in both the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December 2012, and then the Topham here last April.
Trainer seemingly keen to preserve the resultant mark of 139; he’s had a couple of quiet runs over hurdles this time around, plus one chase start.
Not inconceivable he could rediscover last year’s exciting form under a feather weight, though rain might be ideal.
39. One In A Milan – Evan Williams & Adam Wedge (bet on One In A Milan)
Usually campaigned on either Soft or Heavy ground, this’ll be just a seventh chase start for One In A Milan, who sports a first time visor on this occasion.
Third in last year’s Midlands National and fourth behind the re-opposing trio of Mountainous, Hawkes Point and Tidal Bay in the Welsh National, he certainly won’t lack for stamina.
Has to prove he can handle the Aintree fences, but like Last Time D’Albain it’s intriguing to see his mark possibly being protected with a warm up over hurdles.
40. Swing Bill – David Pipe & Conor O’Farrell (bet on Swing Bill)
The old men of the field bookend the race, with top weight Tidal Bay joined by Swing Bill in trying to become the first 13-year-old to win the National since Sergeant Murphy back in 1923.
Certainly not a prolific winner, but has been a wonderful horse for connections, and knows his way around these famous fences almost blindfolded!
Fifth in the 2011 Topham, tenth in this race in 2012, fourth in the 2012 Becher, sixth in this race last year and fifth in the 2013 Becher Chase.
Might nick a bit of prize money once again.
Good luck!Posted 4 years, 3 months ago