The Grand National

As the dust settles on the running of the 2012 John Smiths Grand National there is scope for a more sober appraisal of events.

By almost every measure the race was an outstanding success. Advance ticket sales were  buoyant and nearly all enclosures sold out. The huge domestic television audience was significantly up on last year and the finish was the closest ever witnessed. Despite a tough year in 2011 the Grand National was as popular as ever.

In living rooms and betting shops and saloon bars the length of the land and throughout the wide world beyond the visceral tug of racing’s fundamental appeal was felt. Two horses and riders joined in rhythm and endeavour, having scaled the sporting world’s most daunting edifice. Pure drama, pure sport, pure life lived large. A moment where elements combined to create something rare and precious. In many ways we couldn’t have wished for a better race and I’m sure I’m not alone in finding this year’s running exhilarating, uplifting, moving even.

And yet, with two horses fatally injured, we found ourselves wrestling once again with the issue of risk. With a race that is run just once a year data is necessarily thin on the ground and hard and fast conclusions are difficult to reach. That is why the pause for reflection that BHA chief Paul Bittar called for is wise. Open minds are required. Minds open to the need for change and also open to the need to resist change. Continue reading


Grand National

Good to see Darlan win so nicely yesterday. Wishfull Thinking ran well and proved his price all wrong but ran into a Finians Rainbow who is at last realising his enormous potential. Henderson’s star wasn’t stopping which makes a target like the King George a possible perhaps? Lovecen winning the Sefton Novice Hurdle topped what was a great day.

Today is the big one though and here’s my thoughts on the world’s greatest race. Continue reading

Aintree Day Two

Ah, horses eh? Bloody hell! My cunning plan yesterday revolved around exploiting Smad Place’s over inflated place odds but of course place certainties are no good if the horse doesn’t stand up! Then, having led the Menorah fan club all year, I desert him and of course he dots up. They make fools of us all at times. Funnily enough I still really enjoyed the first day and Edgardo Sol was a glimmer of light for me on the day. Plenty I like a lot on day two too.

Continue reading

New World. If We’re Brave

Credit due to racing in Channel Four deal

Let me get my cards on the table. In the past, I’ve been a fully paid up cynic when it comes to the saleability of racing as a T.V product. Events of the last couple of years have forced me to reconsider that position and events of the past couple of weeks encourage me to think that the future could be bright indeed for the sport of horseracing. Continue reading

Cheltenham Results

A pretty mixed week for me with most of my big ante post fancies blowing out, going for the wrong race or hitting the bar! Successes for Riverside Theatre and Salsify saved me from penury but Son of Flicka turned what would have been a losing week into a comfortably profitable one. That’s Cheltenham though! A couple of years ago Berties Dream taking the Albert Bartlett at 50s transformed my week from a good one to the best I’ve ever had. One race can make such a difference but of course if none of those big priced fancies connects (which can easily happen of course) it can be a long hard grind.

There’s still no other meeting that I would want to attend every day of in the same way. It’s a pilgrimage, a festival, a gathering of the tribes and a chance to catch up with folks that I don’t see from one year to the next.

Most of all though as this year showed, it’s about excellence on the track. We saw some amazing animals this week. Big Buck’s and Sprinter Sacre the stand out performers for me but riding performances from Barry Geraghty, Denis O’Regan, AP, Ruby Walsh, Colman Sweeney and others which were just phenomenal displays of skill. As Jimmy Nesbitt said; ‘this is the best sport in the world’.


Blog Ante Post Results

Darlan (2nd)  -1

Menorath (3rd) -1

Thousand Stars (NRNB)

Make Your Mark (unpl) -1

Sir Des Champs (wrong race!) -1

Zaynar (unpl) -1

Riverside Theatre (won) +5.5

Urbain de Sivola (unpl) -1

Weird Al (unpl) -1

TOTAL – 1.5

Day by Day Previews

Tuesday -6

Wednesday +27

Thursday -6

Friday + 4




Cheltenham Day Four Preview

What a great day of racing yesterday! There were some really outstanding riding performances at Cheltenham and some terrific finishes. Barry Geraghty is riding out of his skin and got Riverside Theatre home despite never really travelling like the winner, McCoy and Choc Thornton also got every ounce out of their horses to produce a brilliant finish. My old pal Captain Chris would have won half the track if he could jump straight mind you!

Davy Russell and Sir Des Champs were poetry in motion and I never had a moment’s doubt that he would pick up again on the run in and go away and win well. This is a very very serious horse. A natural jumper ridden by a natural horseman and depending what happens today, could be a good bet for next year’s Gold Cup at around 12s.

Talking of natural horsemanship, Denis O’Regan gave another of his masterclasses on gently jumping and stalking his way into a race to take the Pertemps. Tom Scu greeting his dad as he was lead into the winners enclosure was the most emotional moment of the day. Gina Bryce, my ATR colleague, acquitted herself really well too.

The ride of the day though for me was Ruby Walsh on Big Buck’s. The way he thought his way through that race was brilliant to watch. Weighing up which horses were where at each point in the race he devised tactics as he went to ensure that he took his biggest rivals out of their comfort zones at exactly the right times. My hunch that Oscar Whisky wouldn’t stay was realised and Thousand Stars was brushed aside too thanks to Ruby turning the right screws at the right time. It helps to have such a phenomenal horse of course but a lesser jockey might have screwed that up and put the horse in trouble.

I know we in the racing media are guilty of saying ‘good ride’ , ‘great ride’ every time something wins but at the same time I do wonder if we really analyse enough just how good some of these top class riding performances are. Rides executed as well as some we’ve seen this week are every bit as skilful as a Messi turn or a baffling Warne delivery.

Anyway, on to today. I’ll focus today on the races where I’ve bet and have a strong view.

I’ve backed Urbain de Sivola at 20s and he’s still available at not much shorter than that. I think that’s simply too big and despite reservations about the ground I expect him to be thereabouts for sure in the Triumph Hurdle.

Boston Bob is the Irish banker today and he looks the classiest staying novice I’ve seen this season. I wouldn’t be in a hurry to back him at 6/4, although wouldn’t be surprised if he goes off even shorter. One at a price that I haven’t backed yet but will later today I think is Emma Lavelle’s Fox Appeal. He is winning narrowly and therefore perhaps not really impressing as some others in the field have. He’s made plenty of errors but has overcome them and shown great resilience. He’ll need to hurdle better today but Noel Fehily is riding out of his skin this week and has got the absolute best out of everything he’s sat on so far.

With my old pal Captain Chris out of the way the Gold Cup leaves my with just Weird Al. I’ve already backed him at 20s and at 16s and last night I backed him again at 12s. He does need to step up again on what he’s done but he couldn’t be in a better yard to achieve that improvement. If Kauto wins today it will be the greatest achievement in the history of the sport bar none and will establish him once and for all as the greatest steeplechaser ever full stop. I just cannot see that happening. I hope to God he comes back safe. Long Run has not impressed me one bit this year and I think the front two in the betting have to be opposed. I do respect Burton Port and would put nobody off him but Weird Al stands out to me as the obvious pretender to the crown and I would certainly have him single figures for this.

My last play today will be in the Foxhunters where Salsify looks very solid indeed. I’ll have a little saver on Cloudy Lane I think because Donald McCain keeps on telling us that it’s his best chance of the week and given the week he’s had that’s some tip! The Irish horse will take some catching though. He’s only seven and has already put in some lovely runs in this type of race. He’ll enjoy the ground, has a top pilot on board and is a very fair price even now.