It’s A Grand Old Race
This Saturday Aintree racecourse will again stage the unique event known as the Grand National. It is a race watched by millions worldwide and practically every man, woman, and child, will pick a horse or two to follow in this equine marathon. This will be the 45th time I will be trying to work out which horse will be best suited to the demands of the four and a half mile, thirty fence, test.I have to say that my win record is not great. Only Seagram in 1991 and Numbersixvalverde in 2006 have triumphed with the McKenzie shilling weighing them down. I was close in 1985 when Last Suspect grabbed Mr Snugfit on the run in and in my defence I do have some good form with placed horses. Since 2007 I have had at least one in the frame at decent odds and last year, thanks to Betfair paying on five places, I had two. More on my selections later as I want to talk about my first time. No. Not that. Get your minds out of the gutter for a moment thank you. I am talking about my first National experience.
On Saturday March 31st 1973 the world witnessed a truly great finish. Crisp, the bold jumping New Zealand bred top weight, led almost all the way only to run out of petrol at the elbow. He was a fence clear at one stage. But one horse had not given up. Red Rum, who is well known to anyone with even a vague knowledge of racing, started his legend that day. And because of that I started taking an interest in horse racing.
My selection that day was Spanish Steps (mum had asked all five of us kids to pick one) and he came in fourth to get me a few pence back. I thought “this is easy” and picked the horse for the next few years in the race and he was fourth and third.
So how do we find the winner? There are some who trust the form book which does help, but there is an element of luck involved as the great AP McCoy found out when leading on the well backed Clan Royal in 2005, before being carried out by a loose horse. I used to work as a betting shop manager and the result of the 1988 race, which saw Rhyme ‘N’ Reason win at 10/1, also saw me not get to the pub that night until 7pm such was the carnage in my shop. I think everyone in the Finsbury Park area must have backed it!!!
Some will go with a particular trainer or jockey but even then some greats have never won the race. Francome, Scudamore, and, as yet, Richard Johnson. And trainer Nicky Henderson has been trying since 1979 to win the race but has not bettered his first runner, Zongalero, who was runner up that year.
Then there are the pinstickers who literally stick a pin in the racecard. Others like the colour of the silks, or the racecard number or, if there is a grey horse, they will pick that as they can at least pick it out in the crowd forty runners.
Names can be lucky for some. Last year it is thought some Take That fans backed Rule The World while Party Politics was topical as the race was run just before the 1992 General Election.
For what it’s worth (and remember what I said about my win record in the race) I have three against the field. Well I have more but I can’t pick them all can I?
BLAKLION is as gutsy as they come and has a heart as big as Bechers Brook. He should stay and jumps well enough. He will keep giving for his jockey and he is a favourite of mine.
UCELLO CONTI was sixth last year and has had another spin over these fences when fourth in the Becher Chase. His trainer, Gordon Elliot, is having a stellar season too.
Finally an oldie but a goodie with a very nice weight. RAZ DE MAREE was second in the Midlands Grand National two years ago and was again second in the Welsh National this season behind Native River who is Gold Cup standard.
Whoever you choose let’s hope our athletes come home safe and the race is a thriller.