Up early to witness the Saturday racecard on Grand National day. Yes, it’s that time again.
I have thoughts on the 4 precursor races to the famous race itself. Here we go!
I’ll take the same approach with these races as I have with the races at the Cheltenham Festival. Here are those standards based on available data courtesy of http://www.sportinglife.com :
BHA rating (I think is supposedly akin to Beyer, Brisnet and the like)
Longest distance won
Wins at the track
Jockey/trainer combined win/start ratio during the season, all tracks.
Plus I’m adding a separate variable combining these: Wins coming off similar movements by horse or trainer for the day’s race re distance and weight. Also looking at the horse’s last race to see if he was competitive or led in last race but did not win.
John Smith’s Mersey Novices Hurdle, Grade 2, 4YO+, Class 1, 20 furlongs:
I see this as 7-1-3. UTOPIE DES BORDES with wins in 4 of last 6 races. Winner of a Class 1 race, longest distance win in the field (21 furlongs), and best jockey/trainer win % combo of Walsh/Nicholls.
John Smith’s Maghull Novice’s Chase, Grade 1, 5YO+, Grade 1, 16 furlongs
Selections: 4-1-5. OVERTURN has won at this level before, has best BHA rating of 165, best jockey/trainer combo in Maguire & McCain
John Smith’s Liverpool Hurdle, Grade 1, 4YO+, 24.16 furlongs
CELESTIAL HALO has the requisite Class 1 win, best BHA rating in the field, and comes out of a race where he put up a good fight, settled for 2nd.
John Smith’s Handicap Chase, 5YO+, Class 1, 19 furlongs
Selections: 3-2-7 PLANET OF SOUND has the Class 1 win, best BHA of the field, also has shown to win in similar distance and weight shift from prior race. He goes up 2 pounds and stretches out 1 furlong here.
It’s probably the toughest race to handicap the world over: the John Smith’s Grand National Steeplechase. 4.5 miles for 40 horses over an ancient course and generally punishing fences and obstacles. There’s been some action in changing the fences to keep horses safe. I fear it may not be enough, as there have been fatalities in consecutive recent runs.
This BBC story gives a great window into the experience for the personnel involved
Selections are 9-1-15
BALLABRIGS has won the longest distance race of the field at 36 furlongs, and has shown success in prior distance and weight adjustment. He takes on 6 pounds more and stretches out 12 more furlongs than prior.
IMPERIAL COMMANDER is high-weight of the race. Top BHA of the field.
ON HIS OWN is morning-line favorite, with top jockey/trainer combo Walsh/Mullins behind him.
I’ll return around noonish once there are late changes for Aqueduct, Santa Anita, and Calder’s tracks, as I’ll give you my take on 11 graded stakes races.