Friday, April 12, 2024

The Intelligent Punter's Guide to the 2024 Grand National


‘Just’ 34 runners will go to post this year, with the maximum field size for the great steeplechase reduced from 40 this year after a safety review.
But who’s going to win?  Despite the field reduction it looks a fascinating puzzle as always, with the last two winners both lining up plus a host of other likely contenders.  Even with 34 horses to consider it might seem a daunting task to find the winner but bearing in mind certain key trends can help us sort out the ‘possible’ from the ‘unlikelies’. The acronym ‘WAS’ always needs to be borne in mind.

1. Weight.
Horses carrying less than 11st have won eight of the last ten renewals, and with soft or heavy ground likely this year, the advantage of being towards the lower end of the weights is likely to be even more pronounced, going on the trends.

2. Age
Noble Yeats became the first seven-year-old to win in 2022 since Bogskar in 1940 and the trend in recent years- no doubt at least partly caused by the modification of the fences, has favoured younger horses. For instance between 1989 and 1994 five of the six runnings were won by horses aged 11 or 12. But no 11 year old has won now since 2014, and no 12 year old since 2004. In fact the last eight winners have all been younger than 10. That said, heavy ground on Saturday might give the ‘old guard’ more of a chance to keep up than in recent years.

3. Stamina
It might sound obvious but you’re going to need stamina to win a race over 4 miles three and half furlongs- especially if the going is testing. While horses unproven at distances in excess of 3 miles can win going-eg Minella Times in 2021- staying power is likely to be even more of an issue this year because of the going.  It’s always an asset to have good form in one of the major Nationals, like the Irish, Welsh or Scottish. And the Coral Gold Cup aka ‘The Hennessy’ is often a good trial too, last year’s winner Corach Rambler finished 4th in the 2022 race, while the 2015 Grand National hero Many Clouds won it. It’s also worth noting that the last two winners-Noble Yeats and Corach Rambler both ran in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival.

4. First timers. We can all remember horses that won the National having been placed in it before, like L’Escargot in 1975 and Hallo Dandy in ‘84, but you have to go back to 2004 and Amberleigh House for the last time that happened. Clearly since the fences have been modified previous experience of the National course is not as big an advantage as it once was. The recent trend is for horses to win the race on their first attempt, with Tiger Roll -who won it for the 2nd time in a row in 2019- the exception.
Let’s now look more closely at the 34 runners.

1.  NOBLE YEATS. Age 9. Weight 11-12. Odds: 20-1
Gave retiring amateur Sam Waley-Cohen a dream send off when running out a shock 50-1 winner of this in 2022; ran very well again to be fourth last year carrying a lot more weight; class performer with great CD form, likely to run a big race again but the trends say a place is likely to be the best he can hope for given his weight.

2. NASSALAM  7.  11-8.  22-1
Runaway winner of the Welsh National on bog-like conditions; has conditions to suit but has gone up in the weights; chances of running a big race if he gets into a good rhythm at the front but the weight could well stop him winning.

3. COKO BEACH 9. 11-8. 20-1. 
8th and pulled-up on two previous runs in the race, still has plenty of weight and although he’s usually a sound jumper and could go well for a long way he would still be a fairly unlikely winner.

4. CAPODANNO 8. 11-8. 25-1
Very useful over shorter, he didn’t appear to stay the trip last year when he was pulled up and has 3lbs more on his back on more testing going this time, so the percentage call is to oppose.

5.. I AM MAXIMUS 8. 11-6. 7-1.
Last year’s Irish National winner, has been well-backed for shrewd connections and all is in place for a big run for his maestro trainer Willie Mullins. Has to be short-listed but given his weight has the each-way value gone now in his price?

6. MINELLA INDO 11. 11-6. 14-1.
2021 Gold Cup winner so obviously has the class, well-handicapped on the best of his form but stamina is unproven for this and although you can make a case, others look more persuasive.

7 CORACH RAMBLER 10. 11-6. 6-1
Won the race last year off a mark of 146,  set to carry over a stone more this year which will obviously make things a lot harder, but would have carried even more had the weights come out after his excellent, career-best Gold Cup third, so  in that respect he’s still well-handicapped. Connections have said they wouldn’t want much more rain- if we do get a couple of drying days then his chances of a repeat would be enhanced.
8. JANADIL 10. 11-6. 100-1.
The rank outsider of the Mullins’ runners and not hard to see why; he’s yet to race beyond an extended 3 miles and has either fallen or been pulled up on three of his last eight starts, and moreover he still looks too high in the weights.

9.  STATTLER 9. 11-4. 40-1.
Has some good form in the book, but the best of it was on good-to-soft; could run well if ground dries up but still looks to have a bit too much weight.

10. MAHLER MISSION 8. 11.5 14-1
Hasn‘t had a run yet this calendar year which is a negative on the trends, but his great run in the Hennessy (2nd) in November is a positive; and he also ran very well when falling 2 out when clear in the NH Chase at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival ( the horse that won that race, went on to finish third in last year’s Grand National). If he puts in a clear round has to be a contender- and with age on his side too he definitely has to go in the box marked ‘Interesting’.

11. DELTA WORK. 8. 11.4 16-1.
X-Country specialist who was 3rd in this two years ago off a 3lbs higher mark  and unseated at the 21st while still going okay last year.  It would be quite something to win this at the third attempt (last horse to do so was Amberleigh House in 2004), but he does have plenty of stamina and there was enough in his last two runs in the race to suggest he can go well again and maybe make a place.

12.FOXY JACKS 10. 11-4. 25-1.
Won the X-Country at Cheltenham in November, stamina shouldn’t be an issue and could run well on a going day for a trainer who’s won this before, but has a career high mark of 157 to defy and hasn’t always been the safest conveyance.

13. GALVIN 10. 11-2. 35-1
Classy on his day- won the Savills beating subsequent Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard in 2021, has come down in the weights and is now on an eye-catching mark but ground may not be ideal and unseated at the first last year.

14. FAROUK D’ALENE 9. 11-1. 80-1
Another Gordon Elliot runner (he has eight in the race!); he had good novice form and he goes well on heavy ground; but two falls and one pulled up in his last five starts means despite he comes with considerable risks attached.

15. ELDORADO ALLEN 10. 11-0. 100-1
Losing run stretches back over two years now; would be unlikely winner but you could give him an each-way squeak on his staying on fourth in the Hennessy in December, as that’s often a very good trial.

16. AIN’T THAT A SHAME  10. 10-13. 50-1.
Last of the 17th finishers last year when he didn’t appear to stay, carries more weight this time because of a good win in the Thyestes in January; has never fallen and has ability but stamina looks to be the issue.

17. VANILLIER 9. 10-12. 9-1
Beaten just 2.25l by Corach Rambler in this last year, and is now 7lbs better off at the weights. Has been laid out for this all season so you have to be very sweet on  Gavin Cromwell’s grey’s chances of at least making the frame again,  the only negative is that you have to go back to Amberleigh House twenty years ago for the last horse to turn a previous place into a win.

18. MR INCREDIBLE 8. 10-11. 12-1.
The right age and having finished runner-up in the Midlands National on his last run on heavy stamina won’t be an issue; his saddled slipped and he unseated after the 25th last year; with better luck could well make the frame.

19. RUN WILD FRED 10. 10-10. 50-1.
Fancied for this in 2022 but he fell at the Canal Turn when towards the back, reasonably weighted but form figures of PBP- and the fact that he hasn’t won since 2021 doesn’t inspire confidence.

20. LATENIGHTPASS. 11. 10-10. 28-1.
Has great form over the National fences having finished 2nd, 1st and 4th in the Foxhunters, wasn’t stopping at the end of 3m5f when winning the X-Country on testing ground at Cheltenham in December, plenty to like and could be a good each-way bet at current odds.

21. MINELLA CROONER 8. 10-9. 66-1.
Pulled-up on three of his last six starts and although he’s in the right age and weight bracket, he’s never won beyond 3m and others make more appeal.

22. ADAMANTLY CHOSEN 7. 10-8. 66-1.
Stayed on well when winning over 3m2f at Down Royal last time, unexposed and has a nice weight, but after a 82-year-old wait will we get two 7-year-old winners in two years? Not entirely ruled out but stamina still to prove and others preferred.

23. MAC TOTTIE  11. 10-9. 50-1
Has already won twice over the National fences including a win in the Topham in 2022, and has won over the Mildmay fences at Aintree too so has plenty of course form but stamina on testing ground over a much longer distance is the concern as he pulled up on his only try at a marathon trip.

24. CHEMICAL ENERGY 8. 10-8. 40-1
Second in the NH Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year, so stamina shouldn’t be the issue, ticks the right age and weight boxes but hasn’t raced since September; could outperform his odds but such a long absence from the racecourse is a negative on the trends.

25. LIMERICK LACE 7. 10-8.  12-1
Won the mares’ chase at the Cheltenham Festival last time; generally very consistent (in the first three in her last nine races) and in great form this year; the concern is that her stamina is not proven for this as she’s yet to race beyond 3m and no mare has won this since 1951.

26. MEETINGOFTHEWAVES 7. 10-8. 10-1
Been well backed for this and not hard to see why- he was third in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival - a good trial for this- after the weights came out, has an ideal weight and represents a top yard; but has the value of his price now gone?

27. THE GOFFER  7. 10-8.  66-1
Has some good form in the book and has never fallen, in the right weight range but weakened to finish fifth on heavy ground in the Ultima last time and the concern is that this trip on testing ground might stretch his stamina.

28. ROI MAGE 12. 10-8. 50-1
Seventh last year and is 1lbs lower this time, has won on heavy ground and has good X-Country form in France, his age is against him on the trends as it’s 20 years ago since the last 12 year old won but he does have definite each-way appeal at his big odds and could surprise a few. 

29. GLENGOULY 8. 10-6. 66-1
Front runner who could go well for a long while; ticks the age and weight boxes but his stamina is unproven at marathon  trips so that has to be taken on trust.

30. GAILA DES LITEAUX 8. 10-6. 25-1.
Stayed on strongly at the finish to finish a close second in 3m5f Classic on soft ground at Warwick in January so should stay but not so good next time. Given a break since then, you could make an each-way case out for her if the going remains testing as she ticks the age and weight boxes.

31. PANDA BOY. 8. 10-6. 10-1.
5th in last year’s Irish National, he has been very well backed and not hard to see why: he ticks the right age and weight boxes and has been laid out for this by his trainer, who won this in 2006.

32. EKLAT DE RIRE, 10. 10-6. 100-1.
Pulled up last time at Cheltenham he’s the rank outsider of the field and despite having an ideal weight he would be an unlikely winner.

33. CHAMBARD. 12. 10-6. 66-1.
Veteran who won the Becher over the National fences in December, could go well for a long way; would be an unlikely winner; age against him on recent trends, but  trainer did land this with a 100-1 shot in 2009 so can’t be totally dismissed.

34. KITTY S LIGHT 8. 106. 11-1.
Ticks all the right age and weight boxes and moreover has great winning form in staying chases (won the Eider, Scottish National, and the Bet365 last season); would be a strong selection if only the ground was less testing.

Corach Rambler was a confident selection last year but this year’s renewal looks trickier with a whole host in with chances.
You can’t rule out Corach doing it again even carrying over a stone more as he could still be well-handicapped, but he probably needs the ground to dry out quite a bit to maximise his chances.
The chances of I Am Maximus are obvious too and Mahler Mission is very interesting but the trends suggest the winner is most likely to be a horse carrying less than 11st.  Indeed the ideal trends profile of the winner of the ‘modern‘ Grand National is a horse aged 8 or 9 (7 of the last 8 winners) carrying between 10st 3 and 10st 13lbs (8 of the last 10 winners).
The horses that fit the trends best and ticks other boxes too are Vanillier, Mr Incredible, Glengouly, Gala Des Liteaux, Panda Boy and Kittys Light. Chemical Energy ticks the age and weight boxes but his absence since September is a trends negative. Given that a 7-year-old won in 2022 we shouldn’t rule out a  horse of that age carrying the right weight like MeetingoftheWaters winning either. 
Overall, a good case can be made for several of the runners, but the shortlist has to include Vanillier, Mr Incredible, Panda Boy, and -if the ground dries up- Kittys Light and Corach Rambler, with Roi Mage, Latenightpass and Delta Work  of definite each-way interest. 


Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Intelligent Punter's Guide to the 2024 Cheltenham Gold Cup


Neil Clark

  It’s a hundred years since Red Splash won the first running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup (see my Daily Express feature this week on the centenary). But who’s going to cause a splash by winning the 2024 renewal? 

10 go to post for jump racing’s Blue Riband, due off at 3.30pm today ( Friday). There’s plenty in with chances in the level weights affair (all the runners carry 11st 10lbs), but keeping in mind certain key trends can help us when we go through the field and sort out the probables from the possibles. 


KEY STATS: 1. Grade 1 winning form. Every winner this century had won at least one Grade 1 race. Last year Grade 1 winners filled the first three positions. 

2. Age. No horse older than 9 has won the race this century. 7 and 8 year olds have won the last seven runnings and 10 of the last 11 Gold Cups. 

3. 8 of the last 10 winners were trained in Ireland. 



 1. BRAVEMANSGAME Age: 9; Odds 11-1 Runner-up behind Galopin Des Champs last year (beaten 7l) , that’s the position he’s filled on all three of his starts this season; no reason why he should reverse the form with last year’s winner but he’s battle-hardened and consistent and could make the frame again if all goes well. 

2. CORACH RAMBLER Age; 10; 12-1 Last year’s Grand National winner- aiming to be the first horse to win the Gold Cup after National success since Golden Miller in 1935. He has won at the last two Festivals, and while he needs to improve again to take this a big run not out of the question, though would be oldest winner since Cool Dawn in ‘98. 

 3.FASTORSLOW Age 8; 6-1. Beaten a neck by Corach Rambler in last year’s Ultima, but is now 4lbs better off; has beaten last year’s winner Galopin Des Champs twice in Ireland, and although that rival got the better of him quite decisively at Leopardstown last time, he could get closer today given a stiffer test. Has to be respected. 

 4. GALOPIN DES CHAMPS Age; 8 . Evs Stayed on well to land this last year, best horse in the race on ratings and trainer Mullins has had another great festival, back-to-back wins in this aren‘t easy but Mullins did achieve it with Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020; not quite a ’banker’ in such a competitive race but clearly the one they all have to beat. 

. GENTLEMANSGAME Age 8;22-1 Comes into this under the radar as hasn’t been seen since beating Bravemansgame ( gave 6lbs) in the Charlie Hall in early November, has to improve on that but does go very well fresh and could be each-way value for a trainer (Mouse Morris), who does well with the relatively small number of darts he throws at the Cheltenham Festival dart board. 

6. GERRI COLOMBE Age 8; 8-1 Beaten 23l by Galopin Des Champs over Christmas in Ireland, but kept fresh for this since, was a close second in the 2022 RSA, and not hard to see this dual Grade 1 novice chase winner getting placed over this longer trip. 

8. JUNGLE BOOGIE Age 10; 22-1 Represents the 2021 Henry De Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore winning combo but while it’s hard to rule out anything they put out at Cheltenham this one needs to improve on what he’s shown so far to play a part. 

9. L’HOMME PRESSE Age 9; 10-1. Won the RSA in the mud in 2022, testing going plays to his strengths and any more rain would be a plus, each-way possibilities but needs to step up again to win as this is the best race he’s been in. 

10. MONKFISH Age; 10; 25-1 A dual Festival winner- in 2020 and 2021, but only had four starts since then and while he’s obviously very classy, it would be a tremendous training feat even for the maestro Mullins to get a 10-year-old to win a race as competitive as this on his first chase start for nearly three years. 

11. NASSALAM Age: 7; 35-1. A visually very impressive runaway winner of the Welsh National steps back in trip and up in class for this; the more rain that falls before the off the better; needs to improve again but not entirely dismissed if going becomes really testing. 

 12. THE REAL WHACKER Age 8; 50-1. Won the RSA at the Festival last year, culminating a fine novice campaign; not quite so good this year and needs to improve to take a hand in this, would be a surprise winner but could be overpriced from an each-way perspective if a first time visor brings him back to something like last year’s form. 

VERDICT; Reigning champ GALOPIN DES CHAMPS looks the likeliest winner as he’s the best horse in the race on ratings and form, and is not too old at 8 for a follow up, but if he does slip up or have an off day the race looks very open with a number of runners who could capitalise. Next best is probably Fastorslow. The going at Cheltenham is currently soft, but if more than the forecast rain arrives it could become heavy in patches which would enhance the chances of the likes of L’Homme Presse, Gerri Colombe and Nassalam. Gentlemansgame is under the radar and could well improve after just three starts over fences. 

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Saturday, August 05, 2023

The Intelligent Punter's Guide to Glorious Goodwood (Day 5)

Neil Clark Winners so far this week; Lord Riddiford 8-1 (NAP), Kinross 10-11, Paddington 4-9, Vandeek 11-8, Ornellala 7-4, Temporize 6-1, Highfield Princess 4-9, Hamish 5-6. Places: Man of Eden 10-1; Sonny Liston (5th) 20-1; Wizard Of Eye (6th) 28-1; True Legend 10-1. 1.50 A tricky opener in which you could make a case for several of the runners. Zaman Jemil won going away last time and rates a worthy market leader; at longer odds the well-handicapped bottom weight Capote’s Dream, last year’s 12-1 winner Many a Star (who‘s now 2lbs lower), and Cooperation whose last win was in similarly testing conditions, are ones for the each-way shortlist. 2.25 Team Gosden won this last year with Trawlerman who then went on to win the Ebor, and they’ll be trying the same thing with Sweet William who needs to win here to get into the York showpiece later this month. Best each-way could be Omniscent (10-1), who ran out of fuel in the closing stages of the Northumberland Plate but who should be ideally suited by the drop back to 1m6f, and whose trainer Sir Mark Prescott has won the race before. 3.00 Team Gosden have three of the last seven runnings of the Lillie Langtry and so you’ve got to give a big chance to Free Wind, who can be forgiven a rare disappointing effort at Royal Ascot last time. River of Stars looks next best. 3.35 Mr Wagyu may be getting on a bit but he won the Stewards’ Cup in the mud two years ago and in similar conditions today represents each-way value at around 12-1. Trainer John Quinn has been on fire at Goodwood this week with three winners and one second, and his charge has slipped to a mark 6lbs lower than he won off in 2022. Plenty more can be given chances in the 28 runner cavalry charge, including the well-regarded favourite Orazio, whose trainer Charlie Hills has won the race twice in recent years, and at longer odds Albasheer, Mum’s Tipple and Significantly. 4.10 Sophia’s Starlight was second here over a shorter trip four days ago and may well do a ‘Novus‘ by turning a Goodwood place into a win. Chartwell House could be the main danger. 4.45 Charlie Johnston nominated Individualist as the horse he was most excited about running this week and the half-brother of Ascot Gold Cup winner Subjectivist is taken to win the maiden. Andrew Balding has won the last two runnings and Royal Supremacy could be the best of his two entries. 5.20 It could be madness not to have an each-way wager on One Step Beyond as he gets in here off bottom weight which should count for a lot more in the testing conditions. Trainer Gary Moore has already had a winner at the meeting this week and son Ryan takes over from a 7lbs claimer. If you've enjoyed reading the Guide, and it helps you win a bit of money (hopefully!), then all donations greatly received.

Friday, August 04, 2023


(Winners so far this week: Lord Riddiford 8-1 (NAP), Kinross 10-11, Paddington 4-9, Vandeek 11-8, Ornellaia 7-4; places: Man of Eden 10-1.) A very tricky card today with tons of runners but let’s examine past trends and try and beat the bookies! 1.50 Just one winner of the 2m4 and a half furlong Coral Goodwood Handicap has carried more than 9st in the last ten years; with the 8st 8lbs mark about the average weight of the winners. The race has also seen its fair share of long-priced winners too. Temporise (13-2), and at a bigger prices Land of Winter (20-1) and Winterwatch (33-1), match those weight trends. Law of the Sea (13-2) carries 9st 2lbs but his trainer Ian Williams has won the race three times and so is also worthy of consideration under the in-form Jim Crowley. 2.25. Sir Michael Stoute has had some fancied runners run disappointingly this week, so the odds-on favourite Nostrum isn’t bomb proof; however on form he’s the likeliest winner of this race which his trainer has a good record in. Docklands looks next best. 3.00 The Golden Mile is a real challenge with 21 going to past, but there is a very strong trend in that eight of the last nine runnings have been won by horses drawn 1-5 with three of the last five winners drawn 3. Clearly the favourite Lattam, drawn 3, and last year’s third Revich, who runs off the same mark and is drawn 1, have to go on the shortlist, together with Sonny Liston, who’s in 2 and who‘ll benefit by dropping back to a mile. David O’Meara has a good record in the race; his 1-2 from last year, Orbaan and Blue For You are back for more and despite their higher draws also have to be considered each-way, along with Rhoscolyn, who was runner-up in 2021 and was 7th last year off a much higher mark. The Wizard of Eye, drawn 6, ran very well in a Group 3 over course and distance last year, and could be the best of the real long-shots. 3.35 Highland Princess has been running really well in top sprints this season and the drop to Group 2 level should allow her to get her head in front even though you won‘t get rich backing her unless you really wade in . Her trainer John Quinn has already had two winners and a second at the meeting this week. Equality looks next best while at much bigger odds Czech raider Ponntos, not beaten far in fifth last year makes some each-way appeal. 4.10 ’Hamishs 3lbs penalty makes this harder but he still appeals as the likeliest winner, with Mimikyu next best. 4.45 Flag of St George narrowly failed to get up at Windsor last time and could well go one better in this 6f nursery, while Loaded Gun was staying on very strongly when winning over 5f last time and is another to consider. 5.20 True Legend gets in here with a 6lbs penalty for winning at Salisbury last Saturday and the Sir Mark Prescott runner could be each-value at around 10-1. If you enjoyed reading this guide and it helped you in any way to find some winners, then please consider making a small donation. That would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

Friday, April 14, 2023

The Intelligent Punter's Guide to the 2023 Grand National


And they’re off! At 5.15pm at Aintree on Saturday a maximum of 40 horses will go to post for the 175th renewal of the world’s most famous -and most exciting horse race- one which was first run back in 1839. Deciding which horse, or horses, to back might seem a daunting task but hopefully this horse-by-horse guide will help. 


 The Grand National used to be a strong trends race, but last year’s 50-1 winner, Noble Yeats, ridden by retiring amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, was a real stats-buster as he was the first 7-year-old to win since 1940! It does seem that with the further modification of the once formidable fences, the average age of National winners is getting younger- with age and experience counting for less than they used to. 

Consider this. Eight-year-olds used to win the race about once every decade (1973, 83, 92, 02). But eight-year-olds have now won four of the last seven runnings. Conversely, no horse older than nine has won since 2014. Compare that to the period 1975-81 when all bar one of the winners was over 9, and 1989-1996 when the same thing happened again. Now that doesn’t mean we can, or should, dogmatically rule out any horse older than nine in this year’s race, and that a seven-year-old will win again, only that recent trends strongly suggest the advantage now seems to be with the younger horses. 

As to weight, carrying less than 11st stone still is an advantage in the Aintree marathon, with seven of the last ten winners carrying between 10st 3lbs and 10st 13lbs. And if we look at the forty horses finishing in the first four since 2012, 29 of them carried less than 11st. So if you’re backing say four horses, it’s probably sensible to have at least three of them in the 10st- to 10st 13lbs weight bracket. 

Horses that have been placed, or run well in the race often do so again, so do pay close attention to runners who come into that category, at least from an each-way perspective. From a win perspective though recent trends do favour horses having their first run in the race which again is probably connected to the modification of the fences. L’Escargot in 1975 and Hallo Dandy in 1984 both won having been placed in previous years, but the last horse to achieve that feat was Amberleigh House in 2004. After the legendary Red Rum won the race three times in the 1970s, no horse won back-to-back Nationals until Tiger Roll in 2018 & 19. Can Noble Yeats double up this year? If so, he would become the sixth Irish trainer winner in the last seven years, another strong recent trend. In fact you have to go back to 2014 for the last English trained winner (the 2017 winner, One for Arthur, was trained in Scotland). 

Finally regarding prices, don’t be put off backing horses at long odds if you fancy them. Since 2006 we’ve had winners at 100-1, 66-1, 50-1, 33-1 (three times), and 25-1 (twice), showing that finding the winner is even harder than it used to be as the quality of the race has improved and so many are in with chances. At least from win-only purposes, favourites are generally worth taking on in such a big field, only two favourites or joint-favourites have won since 2008. Well-fancied horses though have regularly been placed, so if you do fancy one of the market leaders, the advice is to back it each-way as at least you’ll get some return if it finishes in the frame. 

Now let’s take a closer look at the runners.

 **** Potential winner *** Each way possibilities ** Possibilities at best but unlikely winner * No hoper 

1. ANY SECOND NOW. 11 yo. Weight 11st 11lbs. Odds: 12-1 *** With better luck Ted Walsh’s charge might be going into this chasing a third National win as he was an unlucky third in 2021 and a close second last year; sure to go very well again, but faces a stiff task to win off an 8lbs higher mark than 12 months ago. 

2. NOBLE YEATS. 8yo. 11st 11lbs. 13-2 *** Last year’s 50-1 winner, but more than a stone more on his back this time round. The trends say he’s likelier to be placed than win under his big burden, but then the trends said he couldn’t win last year as a seven-year-old so one would want to be too dogmatic about dismissing even though arguably the value has gone from his price.

 3. GALVIN 8yo. Weight 11st 11lbs. Odds 14-1 ** Has run very well in two good trials: the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham -which he won in 2021 and this year’s Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival. Another one of the high weight horses that has the credentials to run a decent race, though the trends say others have more chance of winning because of his burden.

 4. FURY ROAD 9yo. 11st 6lbs 50-1 ** Ran well at the meeting last year, a good run can’t be ruled out but combination of weight and unproven stamina ( yet to race beyond 3 miles) mean that others appeal more. 

5. THE BIG DOG 10yo. 11st 5lbs. 16-1 *** Fell last time out when running a big race in the Irish Gold Cup (won by subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs), but before that had run a blinder when third under top weight of 12st in the stamina-sapping Welsh National; with a clear round he is likely to be there or thereabouts at the finish (and you don‘t have to be barking to fancy him!).

 6. CAPODANNO 7yo. 11st 5lbs. 16-1 ** and a half Won at the last two Punchestown festivals so clearly a spring horse; master trainer Willie Mullins skipped a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup to wait for this so has to be taken seriously; question is though, having had the first 7-year-old winner since 1940 last year, will we get another one so soon- or-will it be like buses? 

7.DELTA WORK 10yo 11st4lbs. 13-2 **** Won the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival for the 2nd year running in March, third last year when he got too far back, but 1lbs lower this time so has to be on the shortlist for a trainer (Gordon Elliott), who has already won this three times.

 8.SAM BROWN 11yo 11st 4lbs. 66-1 ** Sprang a 28-1 surprise in a 3m handicap chase at the meeting last year, and was also third over the Mildmay fences in 2021, that’s a plus; but stamina is a question mark especially if the ground is testing as he was pulled up on only previous occasion he raced beyond 3m1f in the Grand National Trial at Haydock last year. 

9. LIFETIME AMBITION 8yo 11st3lbs. 20-1 ***and a half. Very consistent sort who has finished in the first four in all but one of his 22 starts;; was fourth when favourite for the Grand Sefton over the National fences in November; needs to go a lot further here and stamina unproven; that said trainer Jessica Harrington doesn’t run many in this and saddled the 66-1 close second in 2019 with another horse whose stamina wasn’t assured so worthy of consideration. Would be a fairytale winner too as trainer is battling cancer. 

10. CAREFULLY SELECTED 11yo 11st 1lbs. 25-1. ** and a half Lightly raced 11-year-old who only returned to action in December having had two and a half years off. He won the Grade A Thyestes Chase at Gowran in February, staying on well at the finish. Some classy form in the book makes him of interest though he did unseat and looked held the last time he went beyond 3m1f.

 11. COKO BEACH 8yo 11st 25-1 *** Belied his 50-1 odds in this last year when led for much of the way and was still in there pitching 3 out, perhaps if ridden with a bit more restraint might be able to improve on 8th position and make the frame; against that is 5lbs higher now. 

12. LONGHOUSE POET 9yo 11st. 10-1. *** and a half. Travelled strongly in this last year, was disputing the lead 2 out but weakened to finish sixth, perhaps he was a bit undercooked having not run since February but this year he’s had a more recent outing which should benefit. Shortlist material.

 13. GAILLARD DU MESNIL 7yo 11st. 10-1. **** Winner of the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, when he did his best work at the finish, trainer Willie Mullins sidestepped a tilt at Monday’s Irish National (in which he was third last year) to go for this (Mullins won the race with another horse) and so given his staying chase form and connections, must be respected.

 14 DARASSO 10yo 10st 13lbs. 66-1 **and a half. Was second in the Galway Plate behind Hewick which was fair form and third in the 3m Kerry National too but not raced beyond that distance so stamina is a doubt. Trainer though says he thinks he’s a ‘fair each-way chance’ so long as there’s not too much rain. 

15. LE MILOS 8yo 10st 11lbs. 10-1.*** and a half Won the Coral Gold Cup (aka ‘The Hennessy’) in November when he was doing his best work at the finish, paid the price for trying to take on Wishing and Hoping at Kelso last time but trainer Skelton thinks he’ll stay, he ticks age and weight boxes so quite a bit going for him. The negative is that there’s been no English-trained winner of this since 2015. 

16. ESCARIA TEN 9yo 10st 10lbs. 100-1** 9th last year, weakening 2 out, 1lbs lower this time but that probably won’t be enough for him to greatly improve his placing. Could well get around again though. 

17. THE BIG BREAKAWAY ** 8yo 10st 10lbs. 25-1. A good second in the Welsh National at Christmas, ticks the age and weight boxes but he has mixed good runs with non completions; 4 non-completions in his last 8 runs so much depends on whether Saturday is a ’going day’ . Yes, he could go well, but comes with risks attached. 

18. CAPE GENTLEMAN. 7yo 10st8lbs 100-1. ** Stamina doubts as best form over much shorter and has fallen twice in last eight races which is off-putting. Others appeal more. 

19. ROI MAGE 11yo 10st 8lbs. 40-1. *** Had some good Cross Country form in France, but over shorter, did finish third though in the Grade One Grand Steeplechase De Paris over 3m5f, trained in Ireland since last year and while he’s not entirely dismissed as could go well with a clear round others appeal more. 

20. DIOL KER 9yo 10st 8lbs. 66-1. *** Finished 2nd in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas which has been a good guide to this so might outperform his odds 

21. A WAVE OF THE SEA 7yo 10st 6lbs. 80-1.* Pulled up or fallen on four of his last eleven starts so that’s not really ideal for this test and when you also factor in the stamina doubts it’s easy to look elsewhere for the winner.

 22. MINELLA TRUMP 9yo 10st6lbs. 50-1.** Would be an aptly named winner given the current troubles of the former US President, and also apt given that he’s trained by Donald Mccain, son of Ginger, whose Red Rum won the first of his three Nationals 50 years ago. But although he’s been quite a prolific winner, all his starts have been over trips shorter than 3m and on good ground so stamina taken very much on trust. 

23. VANILLIER 8yo 10st 6lbs. 20-1.*** Third in the 2022 National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, Irish challenger is the right age and has a nice weight, definite possibilities with a clear round (fell on penultimate start)

 24. VELVET ELVIS 7yo 10st 6lbs 33-1 ** and a half 6th in last year’s Irish National, where he was keeping on at the finish so not dismissed on stamina grounds, another who could be given an each way chance if he gets round. 

25. AIN’T THAT A SHAME 9yo 10st 5lbs 16-1 *** and a half 4th in the race at Leopardstown at Christmas which has proved a good recent guide to this; could have further improvement to come over marathon trips and represents the 2021 winning de Bromhead/Blackmore combo; respected. 

26. CORACH RAMBLER 9yo 10st 5lbs. 6-1. **** 10lbs ‘well-in’ as his second win in the Ultima at Cheltenham came after the National weights were published; from a handicapping perspective has a great chance and trainer- who won the race in 2017- admits they backed him; you could argue that at 6-1 in such a large field there isn’t much value left in his price but he still rates one of the likeliest winners. 

27 ENJOY D’ALLEN 9yo 10st 5lbs 66-1.** and a half His supporters (myself included) didn’t enjoy his run in this last year too much as he departed at the first; it’s hard to be that confident given what happened last year, but if he does clear the first this time and gets into a good jumping rythym then he could well outperform his odds as he has finished third in an Irish National. 

 28. MR INCREDIBLE 7yo 10st 4lbs ** and a half. Ran very well in the Totesport Classic at Warwick, should stay well, but is a bit of a character and has refused to race in the past so while he could figure on a good day he comes with risks attached. 

29. MISTER COFFEY 8yo 10st 4lbs ** 40-1 Placed in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, reasons to believe he will stay and ticks the age and weight boxes, but otherwise excellent trainer has a poor record in the race and overall others look more likely. 

 30. CLOUDY GLEN 10yo 10st 4lbs. Odds 80-1. *** His form figures tell the story: UR, 2, PU,1, PU, 9, 3. PU. On a going day he can be very good (the ‘1’ is his win at 33-1 in the 2021 Hennessy) but it’s literally 50-50 which Cloudy Glen will turn up. If you’re looking for a positive he does usually follow a bad run with a good one and he did pull-up last time. 

31. HILL SIXTEEN 10yo 10st 2lbs. 50-1.*** and a half Has had a quiet campaign but he did run a very good race over the National fences when just failing to peg back Snow Leopardess in the 2021 Becher, jumped round ok and staying on again in the same race in December. Unlucky when hampered in the Scottish National last year, if all goes well an each-way case could be made for him at a big price off his low weight. 

32. GABBY’S CROSS 8yo 10st 2lbs. 33-1 ** and a half Should stay and ticks the age and weight boxes; trainer won the race 2021, may not be quite good enough but another with each-way possibilities. 

33. RECITE A PRAYER 8yo 10st 2lbs. 66-1 * and a half Got round in the Becher in his own time but the fact he hasn’t raced this calendar year is a big negative from a trends point of view and trainer Mullins looks to have more likely options. 

 34.EVA’S OSCAR 9yo 10st 1lbs 50-1 *** Welsh-trained grey who didn’t appear to quite get home in the Eider Chase (run over just short of the National distance) but still a respectable effort to finish fourth. Could run well for a long way and while he’s probably unlikely to win may be able to hit the first six. 

35. OUR POWER 8yo 10st 22-1 *** Improving chaser who won the old Racing Post Chase at Kempton last time, stamina for this still to prove, but trainer has done well in valuable handicaps in the last couple of seasons so is respected. 

36. DUNBOYNE 8yo 10st 

 37. FRANCKY DU BERLAIS 10yo 10st 

38. FORTESCUE 9yo 10st 

39. BACK ON THE LASH 9yo 10st 

40. BORN BY THE SEA 9yo 10st. 

 VERDICT: So many in with chances in a very open race but the trends suggest that most of the placings will be taken by horses carrying between 10st and 11st. CORACH RAMBLER, on 10st 5lbs, is ten pounds ‘well in ‘ and so must go on the shortlist, while  AIN'T THAT A SHAME and OUR POWER are among those who tick both the right age and weight boxes. Of those carrying 11st or above last year’s third DELTA WORK, National Hunt chase winner GAILLARD DU MESNIL, THE BIG DOG and, at bigger odds, LIFETIME AMBITION are other possibles for the shortlist, while towards the foot of the weights HILL SIXTEEN, one of only two horses to complete the course safely twice, might be overpriced at 50-1.

Friday, March 17, 2023



Horse-by horse Guide 

 Key trends: *Age: Just one winner older than 8 has won in the last 10 years, and no horse older than 9 since 1998. 

Nine of the last ten runnings have been won by horses aged 7 or 8. 

* Every winner this century had won at least one Grade 1 race. 

*Last four winners trained in Ireland ; six of the last seven winners Irish-trained. 

*18 of last 22 runners had won or been placed before at the Cheltenham Festival. 

 1. AHOY SENOR Odds 25-1 

His form figures under Rules Oct-Dec: UR, 1, 2, 5, 3,5. Jan-April 2,1,1,1,2,1,1 Won the Cotswold Chase over the course in January and although he’d still need to step up on that, he was a good second on testing ground in the RSA at the Festival last year and has definite each-way claims for in-form yard if his jumping holds up. 

2. A PLUS TARD Odds 4-1 

Last year’s 15l winner, and the runner-up in 2021, he has only had the one run this year when very disappointing in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, but de Bromhead’s stable stars are running well this week and if he’s back to anywhere near his best then he has an obvious chance. 


Impressive winner of the King George in December, and he certainly wasn’t stopping at the end there. Can’t be ruled out given he’s only lost once over fences, but would have been more confident that he’d definitely get the trip without the recent rain. 

4. CONFLATED Odds: 18-1

 Developed into a top-class performer having started out in handicaps, did win the Savills Chase at Leopardstown impressively at Christmas; probably needs to step up again, but not entirely ruled out if stamina holds out. 

5. ELDORADO ALLEN Odds: 125-1 

Solid enough performer but has had a number of gos at the highest level but up to now has generally come up short and it would be a surprise if he can change that today.

 6. GALOPIN DES CHAMPS Odds: 5-4. 

Only defeat over fences came at the Festival last year when crashing out at the last when he had the Turners at his mercy. Three more good wins since then including on his first try over 3m in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. If his stamina holds on the soft ground then he has a worthy favourite’s chance and rates the likeliest winner though he may be too short now for many punters.

  7. HEWICK Odds: 50-1 

Has been a revelation these past 12 months landing the old Whitbread Gold Cup, the Galway Plate and the Grand National Hurdle in America! On good ground you could make an each-way case for him even though its his first run in UK Graded company but the going looks to have gone against him. 

8. MINELLA INDO Odds: 16-1. 

Winner in 2021, runner-up last year, he looks a big price considering his record in the race and at the Festival in general (two wins and two seconds), but from a win point of view his age is a negative as we’ve had no ten-year-old winner since Cool Dawn in 1998. 

 9. NOBLE YEATS Best odds: 14-1.

 Bids to become the first Grand National winner to subsequently win a Gold Cup and only the third horse to win both races. Has to enter each-way calculations based on his staying on 3rd in the Cotswold Chase when he was technically the best horse at the weights; the cheek-pieces which were on at Aintree last April are now back on. 

10. PROTEKTORAT Odds: 18-1. 

Ran a very good race to be third in this last year; would have got closer without blundering at the last, disappointed in the Cotswold Chase having been a very impressive winner of the Betfair, but does tend now to alternate between very good runs and disappointing ones, another with definite each-way possibilities if all goes well.

 11. ROYAL PIGALLE Odds: 40-1 

6th and 5th in last two runnings, softer ground may help him get closer this time but while he might run into a place (was 2nd in the King George), he is 0-5 at the highest level so a win is probably unlikely. 

12. SOUNDS RUSSIAN Odds 40-1. 

Improving all the time over fences and ran his best race to date when 2nd in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January- he probably would have won without a mistake 3 out. Has to improve again but Northern challenger not without a chance given a clear round. 

 13. STATTLER Odds: 14-1. 

Won the National Hunt chase at the Festival so definitely will have the stamina for this; recent rain will help his cause but price probably just about right. Yet another with place possibilities. 

VERDICT: It’s hard to remember a better Gold Cup, with so many in with each-way chances. Red hot favourite Galopin Des Champs is the likeliest winner but if he doesn’t quite get home on the testing ground there are plenty of others who might land the spoils. Last year’s 15l winner A Plus Tard has attracted market support, while at longer odds Cotswold Chase trio Noble Yeats, Ahoy Senor and Sounds Russian could figure, while last year’s third Protektorate is another danger if back to his ‘A’ Game. Bravemansgame has to go on the short-list too if conditions start to dry up while Conflated and Stattler are two ‘dark horses‘ from Ireland.2021 winner Minella Indo ticks nearly all the right boxes but has the age stat against him.

 If you enjoyed reading my IP Guides this week and they’ve helped you make a few bob (hopefully), then all donations gratefully received!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Intelligent Punters Guide to the Cheltenham Festival- Day 3

INTELLIGENT PUNTER’S GUIDE TO THE 2023 CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL (Day 3) Neil Clark Well, it’s been pretty good tipping so far this week but can we keep it up on a tricky looking Day 3? Here goes. 1.30 Mighty Potter . N.B. Appreciate It 2.10 Maxuum, The Bosses Oscar e-w. 2.50 Shishkin should win but French Dynamite cld be each-way value. 3.30 Teahupoo, Gold Tweet e-w. 4.10 Marvel de Cerissy e-w. Born by the Sea ew (highly speculative!). 4.50 Luccia; The Model Kingdom each-way 5.30 Royal Thief, Dunboyne. If I help you/have helped you back a few winners, all donations large or small gratefully received!