Friday, April 08, 2022
2022 GRAND NATIONAL INTELLIGENT PUNTER'S GUIDE Neil Clark. Yes, it's that time of the year again. Who's going to win the world's greatest steeplechase? (well, a horse obviously, but which one?) With 40 runners to chose from it might seem a daunting task but if we bear in mind some key factors it can help us narrow down the field. 1. Age. No horse older than 12 has won since 1923; none aged 7 since 1940. The most popular ages for winners in recent years have been 8 or 9, though 10 or 11 year olds did hold sway between 2010-2014. 2. Form in key trials. The Grand National is run over the extreme distance of 4 miles two and a half furlongs so it is usually makes sense to look for horses with form in other long-distance chases, particularly the Irish and Scottish Nationals which take place at the same time of the year. 3. Jumping ability. Yes, the Aintree fences have been modified but they still take some jumping and you ideally wouldn't want to be siding with a horse with too many 'F's in its form figures. 4. Weight. While carrying in excess of 11st isn't as big a negative as it used to be, as last year's race showed it's still an advantage to be somewhere in the 10st bracket. Since the legendary Red Rum in the 1970s only one horse (Many Clouds) has carried over 11st 6lbs to victory. 5. Previous experience of the National fences. Again, it might not be as important as it was back in the days when Bechers Brook was genuinely terrifying, but it is still an advantage as we saw from the Foxhunters and the Topham this week. The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th from last year's race all return and you'd expect at least one of them to make the frame this time. Now let's take a closer look at all the runners... **** A likely winner *** Each-way chance ** Outside chance * No hoper 1. MINELLA TIMES. 11st 10lbs Odds: 10-1 *** Last year's impressive winner under Rachael Blackmore, but carries a stone and a half more this time and has failed to complete on both starts this term. Could well revive returned to scene of greatest triumph but at the weights still faces a difficult task attempting to become only second dual winner since Red Rum. 3. DELTA WORK 11st 9lbs. Odds 11-1.*** Trainer Gordon Elliott followed the Cheltenham cross-country -Aintree path with his two previous winners (Silver Birch and Tiger Roll) so no surprise to see this regular Grade 1 performer attract market support since his Festival win last month. While he has to be respected, he may just have his work cut out to win bearing in mind only one horse has carried more than 11st 6lbs to victory since Red Rum. 3. SCHOOL BOY HOURS 10st 5lbs; Odds 18-1. ** A late reserve; has nice weight and was staying on when winning the 3m Paddy Power at Leopardstown at Christmas; enthusiasm tempered though by his run at Cheltenham last time when he almost fell and was pulled up when well-fancied. 4. ANY SECOND NOW 11st 8lbs Odds 10-1.*** and a half Badly hampered last year by a faller at the 12th but still rallied strongly to finish third, 7lbs higher now but laid out for this by shrewd connections (trainer Walsh won with Papillon in 2000 and has had other placed horses); with better luck in running has to go close, very likely to make the frame though his weight may just prevent him winning. 5. RUN WILD FRED 11st 7lbs. Odds 16-1 *** If you wanted to back a horse to finish second you could do far worse than this fellow, as he has finished in the runner-up position in six of his last seven outings, including in last year's Irish National and last time out in the 3m5f NH Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Definite place possibilities again. 6. LOSTINTRANSLATION 11st 6lbs. Odds 80-1 ** Looked the coming force when an impressive winner of the Betfair Chase in November 2019 but it was two years before he won again, talented on his day but will have to step up considerably on recent efforts if he's not going to be lost in this big field. 7. BRAHMA BULL 11st 6lbs. Odds 100-1 ** Third in the Hennessy albeit a long way behind the first two, but poor since then and has failed to complete on last two outings including last time out in the Cross Country at Cheltenham. Better ground may bring an improvement but it's hard to be too bullish. 8. BURROWS SAINT 11st 5lbs Odds: 25-1 ***and a half Well fancied last year and travelled like the winner for much of the way only running out of steam about 2f from home, eventually finishing fourth. 1lbs lower this time so definite place possibilities again, though might have a job reversing the Bobbyjo form with Any Second Now. 9. MOUNT IDA 11st 5lbs. Odds 33-1 ** Won the Kim Muir at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival and generally consistent but below par in the Mares' chase at this year's Festival when she jumped right throughout. Could well bounce back with a good run but others look more solid. 10. LONGHOUSE POET 11st 4lbs. Odds 16-1 ***and a half. Interesting runner for Martin Brassil who won the race in 2006 with Numbersixvalverde, who also came to Aintree having won that year Thyestes Chase at Gowran. His last run, a prep race over inadequate trip over hurdles can be ignored; the only two occasions he's raced over 3m plus over fences he won, staying on well each time and it's likely the longer trip on Saturday could bring further improvement. 11. FIDDLERONTHEROOF 11st 4lbs Odds 16-1 *** Yet to finish out of the first three in ten runs over fences so very consistent, a close second in this year's Hennessy with the front two 28 lengths clear of the field was good form, needs to prove his stamina for this but is the right age (8) and no surprise to see him go well. 12. TWO FOR GOLD 11st 3lbs. Odds 50-1 ** Won valuable Listed race over 2m6f on heavy ground at Lingfield in January, and then second in a Grade 1 at Ascot; clearly in fine fettle and can't entirely dismiss but going into the unknown stamina-wise and may need more rain to be seen at best effect. 13. SANTINI 11st 2lbs. Odds 66-1.** Narrowly failed to win the 2020 Gold Cup when with Nicky Henderson, clearly not the force of old but as a consequence slipped nearly 20lbs in the handicap and his generally safe jumping (has never fallen) means he can't be entirely ruled out. 14. SAMCRO 11st 1lbs. Odds 100-1 * Owner Michael O'Leary was right when he warned us this once over-hyped equine was not the second coming of Jesus Christ, his form has tailed off and would be a real surprise were he to win (though it would be quite a good story!). 15. ESCARIA TEN 11st 1lbs. Odds 18-1.*** Best run for a year was when narrowly beaten in the Bobbyjo by Any Second Now in February, staying-on third in the 2021 National Hunt Chase so stamina shouldn't be a problem, solid place possibilities with a clear round. 16. GOOD BOY BOBBY 10st 13lbs. Odds 40-1. ** Won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby last Christmas but stamina for this has to be taken on trust as 3m1f is the furthest he's raced over. 17. ROMAIN DE SENAM 10st 5lbs. Odds 150-1.* A late reserve who was always at the rear when pulled up in the Midlands National last month with still a long way to go; that doesn't inspire confidence for this marathon. 18. COKO BEACH 10st 13lbs. Odds 80-1.* Well beaten in the Bobbyjo last time out and we've had no 7-year-old winner of the Grand National since 1940 so hard to be enthusiastic that he'll pay for the summer beach holiday. 19. DE RASHER COUNTER 10st 12lbs. Odds 66-1.** Long absence from 2020 to 2022; comeback run was quite encouraging and is able to run off the same mark as when winning the 2019 Hennessy; has a tough task though on only second run back and the odds are probably against him bringing home the bacon. 20. KILDISART. 10st 12llbs. Odds 50-1 *** One of his best runs was on good ground at Aintree on Grand National Day 2019 when he landed the 3m Handicap chase, staying on strongly; comeback 4th at Newbury was eyecatching; still has to prove he has stamina for this but interesting outsider off nice weight. 21. DISCORAMA 10st 11lbs. Odds 28-1.**** Drying surface will suit last year's 7th who not only will found the ground more suitable but is able to race off a 3lbs lower mark; definitely one for the each-way shortlist. 22. TOP VILLE BEN. 10st 11lbs. Odds 33-1.** Trainer told me in 2019 he thought this smart performer might be a National horse; had injury problems but back in good form this season; a heavy fall when racing prominently in the Becher Chase over these fences in December is the main negative ( good on his day but has fallen in 4 of his 19 races). 23. ENJOY D'ALLEN. 10st 11lbs.Odds 14-1. **** Was a staying on third in last year's Irish National and that makes him very interesting for this stamina-wise, staying on again over 3m on latest run and has to go on the short-list as also ticks weight and age boxes. 24. ANIBALE FLY. 10st 11lbs. Odds 100-1** Has been a regular in this in recent years, 4th and 5th in 2018 and 2019 but pulled up last year and best chance of flying home looks to have gone. 25.DINGO DOLLAR. 10st 11lbs. Odds 40-1.*** His good 2nd in last year's Scottish National when making most of the running makes him of interest; pulled up here in the 2020 Grand Sefton but could well do better on sounder surface and may outperform his odds . 26. FREEWHEELIN DYLAN 10st 10lbs. Odds 66-1 *** Was a freewheelin, shock 150-1 winner of the Irish National last Easter when virtually making all the running; trainer said aftereards summer ground was the key to the horse and if the going continues to dry out he might well be overpriced. 27. CLASS CONTI 10st 10lbs. Odds 150-1. * Tailed off in the race last year and nothing in his three disappointing runs this season suggest he is likely to do much better. 28. NOBLE YEARS. 10st 10lbs. Odds 50-1.* Bids to give retiring amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen a dream send-off to his career; but the stats suggest he's up against it as there has been no 7-year-old winner for 82 years. 29. MIGHTY THUNDER. 10st 10lbs. Odds 33-1.**** Scottish National winner in 2021 who has pulled up in last two starts; but this is his time of the year and his trainer does have a great record at the meeting (won the 2017 Grand National) so has to be shortlisted. 30. CLOTH CAP. 10st 10lbs. Odds 20-1 *** Favourite last year and was travelling well when abruptly pulling up; has had wind op; comes with risks attached but is handicapped to run well on drying ground he'll like. 31. SNOW LEOPARDESS. 10st 9lbs. Odds 10-1 *** Jumped superbly from the front when winning the Becher Chase over the National fences in December, has further to go now but was staying on over 3m6f in the National Hunt Chase last year so reasons to believe she will stay; obvious short-list material but may have preferred a bit more rain. 32. AUGUSTA GOLD. 10st 9lbs. Odds 80-1. Last run, when 2nd at Drogheda best for some time; just touched off over 3m4f once; stamina may be ok but overall profile suggests others more likely. 33. COMMODORE. 10st 5lbs.Odds 22-1. ** A late reserve; impressive 15l winner over 3m2f at Cheltenham on only start this season in December; could go well but lack of a run in same calendar year usually a disadvantage if looking for a National winner. 34. DEISE ALBA. 10st 8lbs. Odds 66-1. ** If this was at Sandown he'd be a contender, was a good 2nd over hurdles at Aintree at 25-1 in 2021 but did pull up on the other occasion and others look more solid. 35. BLACKLION 10st 8lbs Odds 100-1 ** Admirable veteran who was 4th in 2017 and 6th last year at 50--1 and has also won a Becher; while he may well outperform his odds again no teenager has won this since 1923 and drying ground may not help his cause (last three wins on heavy). 36. POKER PARTY. 10st 8lbs. Odds 100-1 * Well beaten (twice) and pulled-up in three runs since returning from a long absence; stamina also unproven so a celebatory party unlikely. 37. DEATH DUTY. 10st 7bs. Odds 50-1.** Awful name but did stay on well when winning over 3m4f at Punchestown on penultimate run; not ruled out off nice weight but overall profile suggests others more likely. 38. DOMAINE DE L'ISLE 10st 7lbs. Odds 100-1.** Did finish a plugging on fourth in the Becher in December as a 66-1 shot, but didn't show up at all in Eider Chase on last run; not entirely impossible he'll outperform his odds but likely that on drying ground it might all happen a bit too quickly for him. 39. ECLAIR SURF 10st 6lbs. Odds 11-1 ***. Was an impressive winner of the Classic Chase at Warwick(won by One for Arthur in 2017) and just beaten by the subsequent impressive Scottish National winner in the Eider; that's good marathon chase form; obvious shortlist material; the only negative is that he has fallen twice. 40. FORTESCUE 10st 6lbs. Odds 18-1.*** Just sneaks in at number 40; progressive over 3m/3m2f; could go well off his low weight if taking to the fences but still stamina for 4m-plus is unproven.