Sunday, 31 March 2013

NTF Aintree Festival Files: Nicky Henderson

NTF Aintree Festival Files: Nicky Henderson – How to profit from the Henderson Aintree squad…

“One behind Nicholls? I’ll soon change that old boy!”
Under a week to go to Cheltenham’s less exalted, but no less competitive, northern sibling – The Aintree Grand National Festival.
Today in ‘NTF Aintree Festival Files’ I’m looking at a trainer who fired in 6 winners at the meeting last season alone; Nicky Henderson
#Figures sourced from the excellent Proform database - Figures from the 2007 – 2012 Festivals

NTF Aintree Festival Files: Nicky Henderson

The bare figures…
16/112 | 14% S/R | +£68.47 BFLSP – Win & Place 27/112 | 24% S/R
16 winners at recent Aintree Festival’s from Henderson which is hot on the heels of his great rival Paul Nicholls who has fired in 17 winners in recent years. The main difference is that backing all Henderson’s runner would have netted you +£68.47 level stakes profits whilst backing all the Nicholls runners would have burned a -£50.46 hole in you punting pocket!
Statistically speaking (and using the market as a guide) the Henderson runners are over-performing at the meeting.
But where do the Henderson winners come from, what are his strong areas and where should be look to avoid his runners?
Let’s start digging…

His runners fire at a higher rate in the Non-Handicap races than in the Handicap races…

14 of his 16 winners have come in the Non-Handicap races.
Profit wise there is little between them but when we look at strike-rates and overall winners there is a clear differentiation.
Lets look at the split….
Henderson Non-Handicap Aintree runners – 14/61 | 23% S/R | +£34.95 BFLSP – Win & Place 21/61 | 34% S/R
Henderson Handicap Aintree runners - 2/51 | 4% S/R | +£33.52 BFLSP – Win & Place 6/51 | 12% S/R
The healthy profit from his handicap runners can solely be attributed to the fact LIFESTYLE won the Conditional Jockeys race last year at the mammoth Betfair SP of 62.81! Take him out of the equation and you have an average set of Handicap figures. As I often point out when analysis this angle the reason for the difference between the 2 is probably down to the fact that Henderson is unlikely to be arriving at this meeting with many well-handicapped horses up his sleeve, we are in the latter stages of the season and most of his runners will have shown their hands by now and the handicapper will have acted accordingly (plus thrown on an extra couple of pounds because it is a Henderson horse!).
If we look at the Non-Handicap figures the 23% Strike-Rate is a very healthy rate to be operating at and again highlights the dominance of the Henderson string at the top levels.

The Henderson string have been showing up stronger over the shorter trips…

13 of his 16 recent Aintree winners have come over 2m4f or shorter.
There are not drastic differences between the 2 sets of runners (2m4f & less | 2m5f & further) but it is worth taking a look at the figures and keeping them in mind.
Lets look at the splits for his runners over longer and shorter trips…
Henderson runners at Aintree | 2m4f or less - 13/74 | 18% S/R | +£69.98 BFLSP – Win & Place 21/74 | 28%S/R
Henderson runners at Aintree | 2m5f or further - 3/38 | 8% S/R | -£1.52 BFLSP – Win & Place 6/38 | 16%S/R
In fairness his 2m5f+ runners are not exactly under-performing but the split, in terms of strike-rates, is fairly large and it has been his runners over the shorter trips that have been pulling in the most winners.

Henderson’s Novice runners are a group to be feared…

9 of his recent Aintree winners have come in Novice events.
He has had a very strong set of novices’ in recent seasons but he still has to get them here cherry-ripe and the figures tell us that’s exactly what he does…
Henderson Aintree novice runners - 9/26 | 35% S/R | +£8.30 BFLSP – Win & Place 12/26 | 46% S/R
A 35% Strike-Rate in Novice events at the meeting is not to be sniffed at, neither is a 46% Win & Place Strike-Rate.
Based on market expectations Henderson’s Novices’ are actually over-performing and that’s an interesting fact to consider given the strength of his Novices’ in recent seasons.

His runners coming off the back of a run at the Cheltenham Festival show up extremely well…

14 of his 16 recent Aintree Festival winners had their last start at the Cheltenham Festival.
Plenty of punters go into this meeting thinking that a run at Cheltenham will have left it mark on a horse but that really is not the case, especially when it comes to the Henderson squad…
Henderson runners | last start at Cheltenham Festival - 14/62 | 23% S/R | +£70.29 BFLSP – W & P 19/62 | 31% S/R
The fact that a mammoth 88% of his recent Aintree winners had their last run at the Cheltenham Festival is not something we should ignore, especially when as a group they are operating at a 23% S/R and are, based on market expectations, over-performing.

Nicky Henderson – Aintree Festival: The Money Shot!

Money-Shot time! It wasn’t too easy finding a really solid money-shot and I did tinker with a couple of options but I eventually settled on the following.
Taking all of my in-depth Proform searching into account I’ve come up with the following Nicky Henderson ‘Money Shot’…
Nicky Henderson Aintree runners| Ran at the Cheltenham Festival LTO | 2m4f or less | Non-Handicap races
11/28 | 39% S/R | +£13.98 BFLSP – Win & Place 14/28 | 50% S/R
Last year alone that would have netted you 5 winners from 6 qualifiers, only reason it wasn’t 6 from 6 was because 2 were in the same race!
I’m sure Henderson will have winners outside of the money-shot angle but for a quick fix the above looks a tasty one.
*Figures for this article have been sourced from the brilliant Proform Professional Database.
Check out their website >>

Friday, 29 March 2013

Conti in line for Bowl bid

Conti in line for Bowl bid

Silviniaco Conti, the unlucky horse of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is in line for a retrieval mission in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree on Thursday.
A faller at the third-last fence when about to challenge in the blue riband won by Bobs Worth, the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding is among 11 possibles for the Grade One chase on the opening day of the John Smith's Grand National meeting.
Nicholls has also entered What A Friend, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Other Gold Cup also-rans who could reappear on Merseyside are The Giant Bolster (fourth), Cape Tribulation (fifth) and Wayward Prince (seventh).
First Lieutenant, runner-up to Cue Card in the Ryanair Chase at the Festival, could step back up in trip. Mouse Morris's charge, owned by the Gigginstown House Stud, is one of three Irish entries.
In the same ownership is the Colm Murphy-trained Quito De La Roque, while the other is Whodoyouthink. The latter's trainer Oliver McKiernan sent out Follow The Plan to spring a 50-1 shock in this race last year.
Cue Card's trainer Colin Tizzard has put in Golden Chieftain, who won the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase at Cheltenham. The Philip Hobbs-trained duo of Menorah and Wishfull Thinking make up the list.
Cape Tribulation's trainer Malcolm Jefferson said: "I thought he had a hardish race at Cheltenham, but he has come back out of it and has really perked up again. He looks tremendously well now.
"I think he goes on all ground, although the only thing I would say is that the two races he won last year at Cheltenham and Aintree were on good ground.
"I am not quite sure what happened in the Gold Cup last time. They didn't go very quick early on and coming down the hill I thought we were going to be beaten a long way. By the time they crossed the line he wasn't beaten that far - he stayed on up the hill."

Grand National Thoughts - part 3

Grand National thoughts part 3 – Nothing fishy about Seabass!

Seabass has been our long term fancy for this race and we advised him to Cleeve Racing Members at 16/1 in February. Now as low as 8/1 second favourite with the ‘Magic Sign’ we have locked in some great value…
Seabass was one of the most improved horses in training last year, making his seasonal debut in December off a mark of 95, he ran up an impressive sequence of 6 wins before running a fantastic race in last years national with Katie Walsh on board to finish 3rd behind Neptune Collonges and Sunnyhillboy only beaten 5 lengths (the best ever finish for a woman jockey in the race). He raced that day from a mark of 149, so he improved a massive 54lbs in 14 weeks!
Seabass is a giant of a horse who stays very well and is an excellent jumper, having only fallen once in 18 starts – and that was over 3 years ago. He was always prominent last year, being ridden close up to the generous pace and jumped the last fence in front but was headed at the elbow although he stayed on well to the line to be a clear third. To my mind he could have been a bit closer if ridden with a bit more restraint, but he is quite free and races enthusiastically so maybe it is best not to disappoint him. With this years race being a furlong shorter and the horse being a year older and stronger, he must have every chance of seeing this years race out right the way to the line.
But the main reason I see him putting in an improved performance, is that last year the Grand National was clearly not on his agenda, he only made the race as a result of him improving so much. So he cannot have been at his peak, having had 6 races in the preceding 14 weeks. However this year he has been trained with only this race in mind, and is a much fresher horse having had only had two starts, and his super canny trainer Ted Walsh (who has already trained a National winner) very much knows what is required to have him right on the day
Seabass’s seasonal reappearance in early February was a very satisfactory pipe opener in a hurdle over a woefully inadequate 2 miles, but he excelled in finishing second, and splitting two very decent horses in Rock Critic and the odds on favourite Make Your Mark. He then came out 3 weeks later in the Bobby Jo (which has proved to be a great trial for this race) and finished a close 3rd to the high class Roi De Mee and Prince De Beauchene. He seemed very fresh and keen through the race that day, and Katie Walsh was at pains to keep him covered up off the pace. He probably gave the first two a little bit too much rope coming around the home turn, but he stayed in strongly and wasn’t given a hard time. Given the National is the day he needs to be 100%, he would surely not have been much more than 80% ready, so it really was was an outstanding effort and will have brought him right up to his peak!
The handicapper has raised him only 5lbs from last years race, which looks more than fair given Sunnyhillboy who was 5 lengths in front of him is up 10lbs. You are sure to get a great run for your money with Seabass, and for those who like to take a more complex view, I think that backing him in Betfair’s place only market at 4.4, then backing him on the day not to complete, means that you are getting around 3/1 that he will be in the first 4 if he finishes the race, and if he doesn’t you have covered your stake.
Tomorrow I will be looking at some of the other dangers, but Seabass and On Your Own are definitely top of my list…

Best regards,


NTF Aintree Festival Files: Barry Geraghty

NTF Aintree Festival Files: Barry Geraghty – Where does Geraghty excel at Aintree?



“What do you mean I’m no good in  the Aintree handicaps?!”
The Aintree Grand National meeting is now firmly on the horizon. I can tell this from the fact I’ve already received a couple of messages from long lost friends and relatives asking who is going to win the National?!?
Today in ‘NTF Aintree Festival Files’ I’m going to concentrate on a jockey who has ridden 11 winners at recent Aintree Festivals, a tally bettered only by Ruby Walsh; step forward Barry Geraghty
#Figures sourced from the excellent Proform database - Figures from the 2007 – 2012 Festivals

NTF Aintree Festival Files: Barry Geraghty

The bare figures…
11/61 | 18% S/R | +£2.66 BFLSP – Win & Place 18/61 | 30% S/R
11 winners is a tidy tally from the Irishman and as mentioned this is only bettered at recent festivals by Ruby Walsh (17 winners).
Statistically speaking (and using the market as a guide) Geraghty is over-performing with his mounts at Aintree, even though he has the pick of the powerful Henderson string.
But what areas does he excel in at Aintree, where do most of his winners come from and where should we tread a bit more carefully with the Geraghty mounts?
Let’s start digging…

As his partnership with Henderson has flourished so has his Aintree record…

All 11 of his recent Aintree Festival winners have come in the past 3 seasons.
Now that’s not saying Geraghty was riding the track poorly in the 3 seasons previous to that but he maybe wasn’t quite getting the horses he is now getting since hooking up with Henderson full-time. Obviously he has a fairly large number of high-class equine talent to ride at the minute but he still has to make use of it and get them home in front and that’s exactly what he does.
Lets look at the 3 year split….
Geraghty Aintree rides 2007-09 – 0/16 | 0% S/R | -£16.00 BFLSP – Win & Place 2/16 | 13% S/R
Geraghty Aintree rides 20010-12 – 11/45 | 24% S/R | +£18.66 BFLSP – Win & Place 16/45 | 36% S/R
Once he got the pick of the Henderson string he grasped it with both hands and started firing in the winners. 10 of those 11 winners have come for Henderson and the pair are a potent partnership at this 3 day meeting.

Geraghty is a force in the Non-Handicap races but has struggled slightly in the Handicap sphere…

10 of his 11 recent Aintree festival winners have come in the top notch Non-Handicap races.
It is difficult for Geraghty to be on a well-handicapped horses at this stage of the season at a high profile meeting such as this, due in the main to the high profile yards he rides for. Generally speaking the handicapper will have a decent handle on the Henderson handicap runners come spring time and that makes it all the more difficult for Geraghty to be sitting on something that is ahead of the handicapper.
Lets look at the splits for his Handicap & Non-Handicap mounts…
Geraghty Non-Handicap mounts at Aintree - 10/38 | 26% S/R | +£4.72 BFLSP – Win & Place 12/38 | 32%S/R
Geraghty Handicap mounts at Aintree - 1/23 | 4% S/R | -£2.06 BFLSP – Win & Place 6/23 | 26%S/R
In fairness he isn’t really under-performing as such on his handicap rides but the split is quite a strong one and it is worth, at least, keeping in mind.

Geraghty holds a strong grip over the novice races…

7 of his recent Aintree winners have come in Novice events.
Again this probably comes from the strength of the Henderson Novices’ but they haven’t all been a Simonsig or a Sprinter Sacre so they all haven’t been point and shoot jobs. Geraghty is more than adept at giving confidence to a Novice and the figures back this up well at Aintree…
Geraghty Aintree novice rides - 7/15 | 47% S/R | +£14.06 BFLSP – Win & Place 8/15 | 53% S/R
The 47% Win Strike-Rate is very solid and the LSP figures are not to be sniffed at either.
Based on market expectations Geraghty is marginally over-performing and that’s interesting considering he has had a fairly strong book of rides at recent Aintree Festivals.

Geraghty is more than capable at getting his well supported horses home in front…

9 of his 11 recent Aintree Festival winners started in the top 3 of the market.
No surprise really but it always interests me when a little angle like this is over-performing (based on market expectations) and is producing a decent little profit.
Geraghty rides starting in first 3 in the market - 9/21 | 43% S/R | +£11.92 BFLSP – Win & Place 13/21 | 62% S/R

Barry Geraghty – Aintree Festival: The Money Shot!

Money-Shot time! There were a couple of angles I could have gone with for this money-shot but the one I settled on is very easy in it’s execution and, most importantly, fires in a solid strike-rate and healthy BFLSP figure.
Taking all of my in-depth Proform searching into account I’ve come up with the following Barry Geraghty ‘Money Shot’…
Barry Geraghty Aintree rides | Top 5 finish at the Cheltenham Festival LTO
10/18 | 56% S/R | +£35.86 BFLSP – Win & Place 11/18 | 61% S/R
Amazingly that very simple little angle provides us with 10 of his 11 recent Aintree Grand National Festival winners!
Hopefully a few of his Cheltenham runners turn up at Aintree this time around so we have a neat little Money-Shot to go to war with.
*Figures for this article have been sourced from the brilliant Proform Professional Database.
Check out their website >>

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Grand National Thoughts - part 2

Grand National thoughts part 2 – The case for the On His Own…

When I ran my original filter on this race, the hot favourite - On His Own – did not even make my short list, based on the fact he failed to complete the course twice in his last 4 runs, falling in last years race at Bechers the second time around, and he was also brought down two runs previous to this in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown… On the face of it this is hardly the kind of form you want to bring into this years race, but after looking a little more deeply I feel that he has been unlucky and that he will run very big race this year.
First of all being by Roselier he is bred to get better the further he goes. This is underlined by the fact that he won over 3 miles and a furlong as a 7 year old when trained by Howard Johnston. He was moved to Willie Mullins care at the end of that season, and this is only his 4th start for the stable. Given the ‘Wizard of Carlow‘s’ magic touch, I feel there is still a lot better to come from On His Own, who runs here off a mark of 148, the same mark that he ran off here last year.
I think that it is a massive plus this year that he will be ridden by Ruby Walsh (not to decry Paul Townend in any way who is a fine jockey), Ruby’s record around these fences is exceptional. Allied to this is the fact that he appears now to be ridden more prominently which will reduce his chances of getting into trouble behind other horses. In truth he looks a pretty safe jumper overall, a horse jumped slightly across him at Bechers and must have distracted him to some degree, he appeared to jump the fence perfectly well, but just crumpled a bit on landing. Another horse fell right in front of him when he was brought down in the Paddy Power giving him absolutely no chance.
He has been limited to a single appearance this year, in a hurdle race to protect his chase handicap mark. It was no mickey mouse race though, being a grade 2 hurdle with a more than useful field – stablemate Thousand Stars went off the 1/2 fav but didn’t handle the ground. Still he beat other very useful horses staying on impressively. It was the perfect prep and the feeling I got is that he has the potential to put up a 160+ performance over fences in him, which means he could be as much as a stone ‘well in’ here.
I can see Ruby keeping him well out of trouble, hunting him wide around the first circuit, before putting him into the race and going for home quite early ensuring it is a real test of stamina (this year’s race is a furlong shorter than last years). He is definitely the strongest stayer in the race, and he is getting weight from all the classy horses with stamina that might have stronger claims on the book, such as Imperial Commander, Sunnyhillboy who runs off a mark 10lb higher than last year and Seabass who is 5lb higher.
The only problem I really have with On His Own is his price. At 7/1 he is pretty short and may well start a point bigger, but saying that, after the event everyone is delighted with a 7/1 winner. Should one of the bookies decide to take him on with say 10/1, I would be jumping straight in. The play here is to back him with a bookmaker offering matched bets for new accounts, which effectively means you are getting double the price.
So yes, I have made a volte face on him, and like a reformed smoker or a born again christian my zeal for him is fervent! If you put a gun to my head and told me I had to have my life on one horse in the race… it would very likely be On His Own! However this is not the case, and I am still to make my final decision.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at Seabass, who I rate as the main danger…

Grand National Thoughts – part 1

Grand National Thoughts – part 1

Hi everyone,
Well it’s that time again. After Cheltenham I always feel totally ‘raced’ out and usually take a complete break for a week or so, as the start of the flat does nothing for me after the spectacle of Cheltenham. However we have great racing in Ireland at Fairyhouse this weekend and the the Aintree festival starts, so once again top quality jump racing is to the fore. And this year the thought of seeing Sprinter Sacre line up against Cue Card and Flemenstar is already getting me very excited!
However it is the Godfather of races, the Grand National that I am going to be looking at over the next few days. I can only now bring myself to do this after the heartbreak I suffered last year, with a very meaty antepost voucher on Sunnyhill Boy at 20/1 (win only of course!), I watched with mounting excitement as he quietly tracked the leaders on the outside avoiding trouble, before creeping into the race 4 fences out. Challenging for the lead at the last, he then went 4 lengths clear coming around the elbow (trading at 1.01 on Betfair), and he looked like he just couldn’t ever be caught… I watched the race again yesterday and still thought he had won! But as the record book shows in reality he was caught on the line by Neptune Collonges and missed out by about an inch – story of my life!!
Still if you learn something, then it’s not all bad, and I think that last years race told us a lot about how this ‘lottery’ of a race is evolving, primarily because of the changes being forced on it by those pesky do-gooders who enjoy the feel of knitted muesli, fashionably offset by raffia sandals, and who love nothing better than feasting with friends on vegetarian lasagna washed down with some premier cru elder flower cordial (organic), whilst all the time singing Kumbaya My Lord!
The recent changes have seen the handicap become more compressed, with no horse being asked to carry more than 11st 10lb. This has had the effect of more good class horses are taking their chances. Neptune Colleongs had run in 2 Gold Cups yet was only carrying 11st 5lbs, as Synchronised (RIP) carried top weight. Also as the race becomes more and more ‘generic’, I believe the conditions will increasingly exacerbate the trend that that the classier horses will come more and more to the fore.
This all means that trends that had stood the test of time, such as no winner carrying more than 11 stone now look dead in the water, indeed the last 4 winners have all carried 11 stone or more. Similarly the official rating of the winner is going up and up, with the last 3 winners all being rated over 148, and last years winner Neptune Collonges was rated highest of all at 157.
Because of the fast ground breakneck pace that usually prevails, it has also been a big disadvantage being a hold up horse, as the chances of meeting trouble in running were that much higher. However this year the ground is set to be much softer, the fences have yet again been modified (made easier in anyone else’s language), and the jocks have been brought in and officially told to take it easy going in to the first fence, which will set the tone of the race pace.
Some things do not change though….
  • you need the class to win, this means an official rating of at least 145 and winning form in graded chases.
  • you have to stay well. This is a race run over 4+ miles not a walk in the park, most horses have never experienced a distance like this.
  • Horses that have not won over at least 3 miles can be discarded without a second thought, and to have won over a bit further is a big plus,
  • Given the stiff test provided by the extended length of the race and the test of jumping, this is not a race for young horses, as they more than likely will not have the physical development or maturity to handle race conditions. However it is also not a race for veterans unless the going is extreme. I would be looking to 9 or 10 year old horses only, unless I had a very good reason to flex things
  • experience of running well in big fields is important as it means that a horses form and jumping is likely to hold together, in what is usually a maximum field of 40 runners.
  • give preference to horses that have been specifically aimed at the race as they are the ones that are most likely to be at 100% peak on the day.
  • experience of the race is also a plus, however being hammered by the handicapper for running well without winning is a danger here. Sunnyhill Boy has been raised 13lbs for being beaten last year.
So on that basis the ideal profile for a horse to carry your hard earned is:
  • 9 or 10 years old
  • officially rated 145+
  • Has won over at least over 3 miles, and preferably a bit further
  • Has won in a field of 12 runners or bigger
  • Has won or placed in a class 1 or a graded chase over 3 miles or further
  • Has won on good or good to soft ground over 3 miles or further
  • Has not fallen or unseated in their last 5 races
  • Has been targeted at this years race
  • Has an experienced jockey on board
By taking a rigorous approach to this we can then narrow the field of 40, down to just 8 possibles!….. and these are (in no particular order)
  1. Cappa Bleu – current best price 12/1 (general)
  2. Lion Na Bearnai - current best price 123/1 (Betfair)
  3. Joncol – doubtful runner
  4. Tofino Bay - current best price 87/1 (32red)
  5. Colbert Station – current best price 14/1 (general)
  6. Teaforthree – current best price 16/1 (general)
  7. Sunnyhillboy - current best price 20/1 (general)
  8. Seabass – current best price 11/1 (general)
I would also add into the mix Imperial Commander and Chicago Grey for reasons I will go into later.
I will spend the next few days leading up to the race, analysing the shortlist in depth, and having at look at why some of the really fancied horses have not even made the list…

Aintree historian looks forward to Grand National 2013

Aintree historian looks forward to Grand National 2013 (VIDEO)

Grand National
Grand National

*Grand National guide: Our 32-page Aintree special is in shops now

THE curator of the Aintree Racecourse museum is getting ready for this year’s Grand National fairytale.
Aintree historian Jane Clarke told the ECHO every year the race brought a different story.
She said ever since the race’s first winning horse Lottery passed the finish line in 1839 the race has been a gamble.

VIDEO: Aintree historian Jane Clarke - there's always a great story at the Grand National
She said: “However much you want to pick the winner you won’t be able to.
“There will always be a Mon Mome who pops up at 100-1 like he did in 2009.
“There is always a fairy tale at the Grand National.
“Whether it is Red Rum or another horse there will always be this heart-rending story, like Aldaniti and Bob Champion, who was fighting cancer.
“Aldaniti was written off as a lame horse. They came and won the race in 1981.”
London-born Jane said she fell in love with the race at the age of eight and has not missed a meeting since her first visit in 1973.
She said: “The Grand National is like the FA Cup final. It has the excitement which makes your spine tingle and your hair stand on end.”
With cold weather worrying punters in the run-up to the race, Jane said it would not be the first time the competitors have battled snow.
She said: “In 1901 Grudon won when the race was run in a snow storm.
“The trainer of Grudon thought before the race ‘I’ll go out and buy some butter and stuff it into his hooves so he doesn’t slip on the ground’.
“So he bought four pounds of butter at a local grocers and stuffed them into the hooves of Grudon, who promptly ran away with the race and did not fall.”

*Buy tickets for Grand National 2013

That was not the only year when conditions had an impact on the result.
Jane said: “In 2001 it was very, very muddy and Red Marauder was one of only two horses to finish.”
Jane said she is keen to see a woman jockey taste victory in the National.
She said: “Katie Walsh last year finished third and looked as if she was going to win the race as she was coming round the bend.
“Charlotte Brown in 1977 was the first lady to ride in the race and there have been quite a few since.
“Eventually we are going to have a lady rider winning to emulate Elizabeth Taylor in the film National Velvet.”
In the first-ever Grand National, started by Liverpool hotelier William Lynn, 17 horses ran over ploughland.
Jane said: “Lynn’s dream was to have the greatest steeplechase in the world and I do not think many people thought it would turn out to be just that.”

*More from Jane: Why the Grand National at Aintree is the biggest race in the world

Read more: Liverpool Echo

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

NTF Aintree Festival Files: Jonjo O’Neill

NTF Aintree Festival Files: Jonjo O’Neill – How to profit from Jonjo at Aintree…

“Handicap plot? No idea what you are talking about fella…”
Just over a week to go before the shenanigans start at Aintree for their 3 day Spring (?!) Festival.
Today in ‘NTF Aintree Festival Files’ I’m going to concentrate on a trainer who’s recent haul at the meeting includes a Grand National 1st, 2nd and 3rd; Jonjo O’Neill
#Figures sourced from the excellent Proform database - Figures from the 2007 – 2012 Festivals

NTF Aintree Festival Files: Jonjo O’Neill

The bare figures…
8/55 | 15% S/R | +£51.46 BFLSP – Win & Place 22/55 | 40% S/R
A solid set of figures from Jonjo at the Grand National meeting and you don’t need me to tell you that those LSP figures are pretty healthy.
Statistically speaking (and using the market as a guide) Jonjo is over-performing with his string at Aintree and it’s fair to say he can sneak a few under the radar every now and again.
But what are his strong points at Aintree, where do the winners come from and where should we tread a bit more carefully?
Let’s start digging…

He holds a strong hand in the handicaps…

Since 2007 6 of O’Neill’s Aintree winner have come in the vastly competitive handicaps.
O’Neill Handicap runners at Aintree – 6/36 | 17% S/R | +£58.19 BFLSP – Win & Place 12/36 | 33% S/R
Jonjo has certainly become…em…clever over the years at producing his runners ripe and ready to fire in handicap races and it is no different at this Aintree meeting. He has clearly perfected the art of producing one for a big handicap with something up its sleeve and his handicap runners here deserve at least a 2nd glance from us.
Based on market expectations this sub-set of runners are over-performing and are well worthy of keeping in mind.

But that doesn’t mean we should ignore his Non-Handicap runners…

His Non-Handicap runners have a very healthy 53% Win & Place Strike-Rate.
It is not just the handicaps the Jonjo is capable of being competitive in and although the Win Strike-Rate does dip, along with the BFLSP figures, we shouldn’t completely write off his Non-Handicap runners…
O’Neill Non-Handicap runners at Aintree - 2/19 | 11% S/R | -£6.72 BFLSP – Win & Place 10/19 | 53%S/R
They return a level stakes loss but it is the Win & Place Strike-Rate that interests me and with a winner at 8/1 and placed horses at 6/1 & 16/1 there is every chance of nicking some each-way spoils in these races.

A P McCoy, unsurprisingly, is the top jock at Aintree for O’Neill…

Since 2007 6 of O’Neill’s Aintree winner have been ridden by the champ.
Clearly this won’t come as a huge surprise to any of you but the figures are strong and are well worth taking a look at…
O’Neill/McCoy Aintree runners - 6/29 | 21% S/R | +£34.00 BFLSP – Win & Place 15/29 | 52% S/R
The 52% Win & Place Strike-Rate is solid and the LSP figures are not to be sniffed at either.
Based on market expectations they are marginally over-performing and that’s interesting considering they are a powerful combo to have on your side.

O’Neill runners ridden by A P McCoy last time out also show up extremely well…

7 of the 8 recent Aintree winners for O’Neill were ridden by McCoy on their last start.
Again that maybe isn’t too surprising but Jonjo does use a fairly wide array of pilots and there could well be something in the fact that he wants McCoy on-board one of his Aintree hopefuls on their final ‘prep’ run before their April assignment.
O’Neill Aintree runners | McCoy on-board LTO - 7/26 | 27% S/R | +£62.10 BFLSP – Win & Place 14/26 | 54% S/R
A healthy set of figures to go to war with and although maybe a tad obvious it is a sub set that is marginally over-performing and winning more than their odds suggest.

The O’Neill runners that are near the front end of the market hold a strong hand…

7 of the 8 recent Aintree winners for O’Neill started in the first 5 of the betting.
In recent seasons the market has been a decent enough guide at Aintree for the O’Neill string and those that have sat near the head of the betting affairs have returned some healthy figures…
O’Neill Aintree runners | Top 5 in the betting – 7/33 | 21% | +£35.94 BFLSP – Win & Place 18/33 | 55% S/R
For those of you that like to approach your punting from this sort of angle the above is a handy little sub-angle to keep in your back pocket.

Jonjo O’Neill – Aintree Festival: The Money Shot!

Money-Shot time! It wasn’t that easy to find one that was really worthy of highlighting but I have come up with the following angle.
Taking all of my in-depth Proform searching into account I’ve come up with the following Jonjo ‘Money Shot’…
Jonjo O’Neill Aintree runners | Ridden by A P McCoy LTO | Top 5 in the market | Aged 6yo – 9yo
6/16 | 38% S/R | +£34.62 BFLSP – Win & Place 10/16 | 63% S/R
You won’t get many qualifiers and the last 2 seasons drew a blank (only 1 qualifier each year though) but the strike-rates are solid and it could be a tasty Money-Shot to keep in the locker over time.
*Figures for this article have been sourced from the brilliant Proform Professional Database.
Check out their website >>

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

McCoy to ride Colbert or Sunnyhillboy in National

Tony mcCoy wins the Grand National on Don't Push It Aintree 10.04.2010
Tony McCoy: celebrates winning the 2010 Grand National on Don't Push It
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (

McCoy to ride Colbert or Sunnyhillboy in National

TONY McCOY will ride either Sunnyhillboy or Colbert Station in the John Smith's Grand National after he narrowed down owner JP McManus's six-strong squad of contenders to two.
McCoy, who won his only National on the McManus-owned Don't Push It in 2010, now has to decide whether to side with last year's second Sunnyhillboy or the progressive Colbert Station.
Trained by Jonjo O'Neill, Sunnyhillboy was pulled out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup with a bad scope this month and is 20-1 to go one better than when last year, when he was agonisingly beaten a nose by Neptune Collonges.

Colbert Station, who is trained by Ted Walsh, is 16-1 and showed his wellbeing when winning a handicap hurdle last month.
McCoy, who revealed conditions at Aintree will influence his decision, said on Tuesday: "I presume it will be Sunnyhillboy or Colbert Station, but I will definitely not make my mind up until a couple of days before.

"I want to know what the ground is going to be like and want to keep my options open as long as I possibly can."
One horse who will not be lining up at Aintree is Beshabar, who was a general 25-1 chance for the race. It is the second year running Tim Vaughan's challenger has been ruled out of the world's greatest jumps race.

"Beshabar was found to have heat in a front fetlock joint this morning, and following discussions with our vet Tim Beauregar we have taken the decision to take him out of training and he will be scratched from the Grand National," said Vaughan on Tuesday.

"It is a huge blow for everyone at the yard, his work-rider Bradley Gibbs and especially for his owners Middleham Park Racing and Ann Burrows, who have been so patient since Beshabar sustained a similar injury following a fine run in the 2011 Hennessy Gold Cup."
Wales could still have a National winner in the shape of Cappa Bleu, who is trained not far from Vaughan's Cowbridge base by Evan Williams.
Fourth last year, Cappa Bleu was on Tuesday trimmed to 12-1 (from 14) for the race by Paddy Power, who also cut Irish raider Chicago Grey to 14-1 (from 16).

Make sure you join us tomorrow from 6pm for a live Q&A with champion jockey Tony McCoy on Twitter. Tweet us your questions using the hashtag #RPQA

4 Year Old Novices' Hurdle

Aintree 2013: 4 Year Old Novices' Hurdle Stats
Sat, Mar 23rd, 2013

The Grade 1 Matalan Anniversary 4YO Novices' Hurdle is run on the opening day of the Grand National meeting over 2 miles 110 yards.
Horses on the roll of honour include the champion hurdle winners Katchit and Binocular and three time Aintree Hurdle winner Al Eile.
Matalan Anniversary 4yo Novices Hurdle Stats
Previous Race: The last 10 winners all ran at Cheltenham (8 in the Triumph, 1 in Fred Winter and 1 in the Supreme).
Form: The last 8 winners finished in the first 3 last time out.
Starting Price: The favourite has won 7 of the last 8 renewals finishing 3 0 1 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 over the lst decade. The winners market position over the same period was 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 9 1 1.
Trainers: Alan King has trained 3 winners since 2007. Paul Nicholls has also sent out two winners in the last decade. There have also been two Irish trained winners in the last decade. Orsippus was returned at 40/1 in 2010 and Al Eile at 25/1 in 2004. There has been low Irish representation in recent seasons with only three runners in the last five renewals.

Matalan Anniversary 4yo Novices Hurdle Winners 2003-2012
Alan King
R Thornton
Zarkandar (IRE)
Paul Nicholls
Ruby Walsh
Orsippus (USA)
M Smith
Davy Condon
Walkon (FR)
Alan King
R Thornton
Binocular (FR)
N J Henderson
A P McCoy
Katchit (IRE)
Alan King
R Thornton
Detroit City (USA)
Philip Hobbs
R Johnson
Faasel (IRE)
NG Richards
T Dobbin
Al Eile (IRE)
John Queally
T J Murphy
Le Duc (FR)
Paul Nicholls
Ruby Walsh

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The Red Rum Story, Part One

The Red Rum Story, Part One: From adversity to triumph with first Grand National victory

Red Rum, with the white noseband, leaps over the water jump in 1973
Red Rum, with the white noseband, leaps over the water jump in 1973
As the 40th anniversary of Red Rum’s first Grand National victory approaches, Chris Wright looks back on the Aintree hero in the first of a Liverpool ECHO three-part series
WHO’S the greatest? It’s a sporting question posed with regularity in pubs, clubs and homes across Merseyside and beyond.
Whatever the sport, team or individual, fans will debate the merits of heroes past and present.
Pele or Maradona or Messi? Borg or Federer? Nicklaus or Woods? Marciano or Ali? Dalglish or Gerrard? Dean or Ball? Bunny Bell or Aldridge? The list is endless.

Grand National tickets: Buy yours by clicking here

In racing it’s Golden Miller or Arkle? Brigadier Gerard or Frankel? Nijinsky or Sea The Stars? Desert Orchid or Kauto Star?
But when it comes to the Grand National, there is really no debate.
Ginger McCain’s hugely popular steeplechaser Red Rum stands head and shoulders over the field as the greatest National hero of them all.

With the 40th anniversary of the first of Red Rum’s historic three victories in the world’s greatest steeplechase on Easter Sunday, his legacy and enduring appeal is as strong as ever.
He may not have had the speed and overall ability of other jump racing greats such as Arkle or Desert Orchid. Or been as regally-bred and classy as Flat stars Nijinsky or Frankel, but there really was only one Red Rum.
He was a one-off, a breed apart and it is highly unlikely there will be another like him.

* Visit our Grand National web page by clicking here

His Aintree legend began 40 years ago with one of the most iconic moments in sporting history. Having been behind by up to 30 lengths from the front-running, bold-jumping Australian chaser Crisp for so much of the 4m4f of the Aintree marathon, Red Rum got up in the shadow of the winning post to start his Grand National journey.
He came from behind to grab glory. But his own trip to the top is one from humble beginnings and triumph over adversity.
Born at 6pm on May 3 1965 at the Rossenarra Stud in County Kilkenny in Ireland, his pedigree was more about speed than stamina. Any ideas he would be anything more than a moderate Flat performer would have appeared fanciful.
His sire, Quorum, had been a decent horse and won six races as well as finishing second in the 2,000 Guineas. But his mare Mared had been quirky and troublesome on the track. It was hardly a union of racing’s royalty. But their colt was to rise to the top from humble beginnings.
As well as providing the DNA of a supreme National horse, they also combined for the most memorable moniker in British racing history.
Breeder Martyn McEnery used the last three letters of sire and dam’s name to make up Red Rum.

Read more: Liverpool Echo

Grand National 2013: A guide for the reluctant tipster

Seabass (centre) leads jumping the last in the 2012 National
"Racing from the same mark he'll carry at Aintree, Cappa Bleu travelled best of all in a modestly-run three-mile race, but with a slight error three out he conceded first run to Vino Griego..."
The Grand National is the greatest spectacle in racing, says Keith Melrose, but it can make for the most stressful watch, too. As he gives the Timeform view, he also tries to deal with the dilemma that being a jumps fan in early-April presents.
If you're the only racing fan in your family or circle of friends, this time of year is one fraught with danger. The once-a-year punters are getting ready for their day. Very soon they will be in touch, and they will ask you expectantly: what is going to win the Grand National?
The annoyance of this is that the National is popularly regarded as just about the hardest race on the calendar to pick the winner of. Were you to ask a bookworm to sum up War And Peace in a sentence, say, or tell a wine enthusiast that you'd like advice on the best vines to plant in West Yorkshire, you'd rightly be laughed out of the room. However, we racing fans are expected to crack our toughest puzzle, to the point that a Timeform employee's professional reputation can be on the line if the appointed creature comes down before first Becher's...
Of course, we secretly like to play up the difficulty of the National. In reality, it's a high-end handicap chase in which the only specialist requirement is the ability to both jump and stay a little better than your average chaser. We're helped further by the fact that increasing numbers of those that line up on the day have previous course experience, which takes out much of the guesswork over which horses will be suited by the famous spruce fences.
You don't need to look far among this year's contenders to find horses that have already tackled the course. Among the favourites alone, On His Own, Seabass and Cappa Bleu all ran in the race last year. The last two named filled minor places, yet current market leader On His Own's race ended in more inglorious circumstances with him falling at second Becher's. The facts don't tell the full story, however, as On His Own had jumped extremely well up to then, just behind the leaders at the time, and was instantly earmarked by many for the 2013 renewal. Things have seemingly gone to plan in the meantime, his reappearance in the Boyne Hurdle deliberately delayed with the National in mind and his winning performance in that race pleasing to say the least. On His Own is generally hard to fault and there's a case to be made for him being shorter than his current 10.09/1. If you're getting a few on side in the National, On His Own definitely warrants being among them.
As mentioned above, Seabass and Cappa Bleu made it to the end last year (albeit in very different ways, as we'll come back to) so we don't have to speculate quite so much on their chances of a more fruitful second shot at the National. Seabass was prominent all the way under Katie Walsh, tying up only late in the day to leave the final, thrilling chapter between Neptune Collonges and Sunnyhillboy. Seabass is generally a tough and straightforward type, who jumped very well on the whole that day. Did he do just a little too much too soon? Possibly. But did he do so to the extent that you'd fancy him to win from a 5-lb higher mark this time? Probably not.
Watching Cappa Bleu in the 2012 National was much like watching State of Play in the 2009, 2010 or 2011 editions. Both carried the colours of William Rucker, were trained by Evan Williams and stayed on well to make the places under Paul Moloney; and each time those to back them might well have furrowed their brow at how much their fancy had been left to do. Moloney's habitual deliver-them-late style generally doesn't suit the demands of a Grand National, with the vast majority of those that take a hand in the finish right up with the pace by the time the field jump three out. Last year, Cappa Bleu was still eighth jumping the last, but passed stout stayers like Ballabriggs and Hello Bud on the run-in to make fourth.
In mitigation, Cappa Bleu is generally ridden that way, but if you wanted further evidence that it's a fine balancing act, look at his latest outing at Ascot. Racing from the same mark he'll carry at Aintree, Cappa Bleu travelled best of all in a modestly-run three-mile race, but with a slight error three out he conceded first run to Vino Griego, never really looking like clawing the deficit back but staying on pleasingly nonetheless to draw clear of the remainder, two and a half lengths behind the winner. Vino Griego, of course, has since finishing second in a Cheltenham Festival handicap, so this tale serves to advertise how well-treated Cappa Bleu could be as much as it is one of caution over his rider's patient approach.
If you want a masterclass in how to deliver a horse late, your normal go-to man would be Paul Carberry, whose ride on King John's Castle in the 2008 Grand National must rank among the best not to win the race in recent times. Carberry has a National win to his name (on Bobbyjo in 1999) and is one of the most sought-after bookings for any hopeful. His ride this year is uncertain, but it could Chicago Grey, Carberry's National ride last year who now finds himself top of Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings for the 2013 renewal after success in a Grade 2 in Ireland last time.  That improved performance has been put down to a breathing operation, but it was also the biggest move forward in a quietly-creeping campaign that would make even Carberry proud. A few runs in which Chicago Grey shaped as though better for the outing, punctuated with a promising showing in a Cheltenham handicap won by Monbeg Dude (who later won the Welsh National under an exemplary Carberry ride), were signs that he was in fair heart all along, yet he finds himself now 9 lb lower than in last year's National. Chicago Grey's jumping is something of a worry, though he can hardly be blamed for last year's departure (brought down fifth) and may have just about the best man aboard to get him round safely.
There are another couple of Irish-trained challengers worthy of mention at bigger prices. Firstly there's Tofino Bay, who probably won't have escaped the gaze of many, having led for most of the run-in in the four-miler at the Festival before idling and allowing Back In Focus to nab him close home. He's a likeable, sound-jumping front runner, the type that so often does well in the National, while he's still on a tasty price assuming we can take his Cheltenham run at face value. Tofino Bay is reported to be an uncertain runner, owner Gigginstown House Stud seemingly yet to be convinced, so you may want to hold off for now in the hope that odds of34.033/1 won't contract too much should he ultimately get the go-ahead.
Finally we come to the most eye-catching of our selections, as he's currently available at 44.043/1 in the ante-post betting. Like a few already mentioned, he's trained in Ireland and ran in last year's National (as well as that season's Becher). However, what sets Rare Bob apart is that, despite his price, he's ahead of all but Chicago Grey on the weight-adjusted Timeform ratings at the time of writing.
Rare Bob's campaign so far has had a touch of the Chicago Greys about it, the overriding impression throughout 2012/3 being that he's building up to something. It's not difficult to guess what that something might be given he has been taken to a couple of the self-same races he ran in before last year's National, in which he was brought down at the fifth before himself bringing down none other than Chicago Grey. 
On his previous visit to Aintree, Rare Bob struggled with bottomless conditions when coming home a well-beaten fifth in West End Rocker's Becher, but he jumped very well on the whole and was still in touch turning in before he dropped away. Stamina is unproven, though he's yet to race beyond 25 furlongs on better ground, and with man-of-the-moment Bryan Cooperlikely to take the ride, Rare Bob is likely to be much shorter than current odds at some point between now and half past four on National day.
That's about it in terms of the analysis, but what about our original quandry? What should we be telling our loved ones to back in the Grand National? Covering a few of the more popular types, here's a handy guide:
The father- Your lugubrious old man/uncle etc. tends to get more perverse enjoyment from an unlucky loser than actual enjoyment from a never-in-doubt winner. The horse for him is clearly Cappa Bleu: watch him fly home after losing his pitch at second Canal Turn!
The mother/girlfriend- Apologies for the generalisation, but the image of this person, whatever their gender or relationship, should strike with most: they can jump a little when a horse on the TV screen falls; they sometimes ask why their horse "isn't winning" (has been held up); they often like greys. Chicago Grey for them, then, though you might want to explain in advance not to worry: that man Carberry knows precisely what he's doing.
The Uni mate- He'll send you a message on Facebook, precisely 364 days after his last correspondence, ribbing you again about that "nag" you gave him last year. You don't fancy this schtick yet again come April 2014, so have him back On His Own, or Seabass each-way.
The part-timer- This one can exchange pleasantries about 'Saturday' racing, and probably knows the rough outline of the market leaders' profiles. They might even have backed one of the favourites already, so throw them Rare Bob and Tofino Bayto add some piquancy to their ante-post portfolio.
You- This is probably what you're really here for. You've heard the cases made for all of the above, and if you just like the warm glow of satisfaction that comes with backing the National winner then feel free to stick all six in; but for a more conventional two-against-the-field approach, make it Cappa Bleu and Rare Bob, who simply look to be the best value at current prices.
Now, about those vines...