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It's the Scottish Grand National from Ayr tomorrow, and the race always attracts a decent field of staying chasers scrapping it out for a first prize of just over a hundred grand.
The Scottish Grand National couldn't be more different than its English equivalent. Obviously, both are run over marathon distances - four miles and half a furlong here - but the type of horse needed to win is far from 'an Aintree horse'.
Indeed, Neptune Collonges, this year's dramatic Grand National winner at Aintree last week, could only finish a well beaten sixth in the Scottish version last year.
OK, so what does it take to win the Scottish Grand National? Let's take a look at the trends, and see if we can profile the likeliest candidates.
The first thing to say is that some massive priced horses have won this in recent times. Iris de Balme was 66/1 in 2008 and had a strong profile fit for the race; Run For Paddy won in 2006 at 33/1; and there have been eight more winners at 12/1 or bigger since 1997.
1. Look for a decent placing last time out.
First up, ALL of the last fifteen winners were in the first six last time out. In fact, ten of those - including the 33/1 and 66/1 shots above - finished in the first three last time out.
Seven of this year's 25-strong entry were outside the first six last time, including topweight and Grand National faller, Junior. And almost half (twelve) were outside the first three last time.
2. Look for a horse aged eight to ten.
Eleven-year-old Hello Bud won in 2009, and seven-year-old Gingembre won in 2001, but all of the other thirteen most recent Scottish National winners were aged eight to ten. And no fewer than seven of them were aged exactly eight.
Interestingly, from a stats perspective at least, both Harry The Viking and Portrait King are seven-year-olds, an age group that is one for fifty since 1997, and who didn't win before that until 1992 (Captain Dibble) and 1984 (Androma). Earth Summit also won for the very young brigade in 1994, but the stong percentage play is with older horses, and I'll be looking to field against the sevens.
3. Look to the foot of the weights.
Whilst Grey Abbey won off top weight in 2004, and both Young Kenny and Belmont King did likewise back in the late 90's, ten of the last fifteen winners lugged 10-09 or less. And interestingly, five of them were either on ten stone exactly or out of the handicap proper.
There are eight horses entered here set to carry more than 10-09 and they look to have a fair bit to do.
4. Look for fit, but not over-raced, horses.
Thirteen of the last fifteen Scottish Grand National winners had had between three and seven runs in the previous year.
5. Pay close attention to novices.
Again, unlike the Grand National, where plenty of experience is key, here at Ayr, six of the last eighteen winners still held novice status. The latest of these was last year's winner, Beshabar.
Applying those key profile pointers to this year's field whittles it as follows.
First six last time out (FIRST THREE IN UPPER CASE)
Benny Be Good, Walkon, Knockara Beau, Mac Aeda, King Fontaine, FRUITY O'ROONEY, GALAXY ROCK, HARRY THE VIKING, AURORAS ENCORE, IKORODU ROAD, PORTRAIT KING, GARLETON, QUENTIN COLLONGES, MERIGO, ABBEYBRANEY, BALLYFITZ, CAPTAIN AMERICO, HEEZ A STEEL
Of those, we'll eliminate horses aged outside the eight to ten range.
Benny Be Good, Knockara Beau, Mac Aeda, King Fontaine, FRUITY O'ROONEY, GALAXY ROCK, AURORAS ENCORE, IKORODU ROAD, QUENTIN COLLONGES, CAPTAIN AMERICO
We take a gulp as we move on, realizing that we've just discriminated against the first three in the betting!
Now we're going to focus on the bottom of the weights, and specifically any horse weighted with 10-09 or less. Our shrinking shortlist now looks thus:
Benny Be Good, Mac Aeda, King Fontaine, IKORODU ROAD, QUENTIN COLLONGES, CAPTAIN AMERICO
Down to six, though an uneasy feeling that we may have eliminated the winner...
Now let's see which of these have raced between three and seven times in the past year.
Benny Be Good has had nine starts, and is the only one to go at this point. that leaves us with a quintet on our shortlist, who are:
Mac Aeda, King Fontaine, IKORODU ROAD, QUENTIN COLLONGES, CAPTAIN AMERICO
The novices amongst them are Mac Aeda; Ikorodu Road (bizarrely, given he first ran in a novice chase on 27th November 2009); and, Quentin Collonges.
OK, so having taken a metaphorical sickle to the field of runners for the Scottish National 2012, it's now time to nail my colours to the mast.
As regular readers will know, I use the trends profiles in big fields because - in truth - analysing the form of twenty-five runners and sequencing their chances on that basis, is beyond me! If it's not beyond you, then good luck, and I'd love to hear what you think - leave a comment below.
So, fully cognisant of the fact that I may well have chucked out the winner on a statistical whimsy, I'm siding with the following on an each way basis (naturally).
Ikorodu Road 12/1 Boylesports (five places)
This fellow used to jump like a cow, until they discovered he had a nerve pinching in his back. In the circumstances, his previous form can be massively marked up! Since an operation to correct that ailment, he's a new horse, winning his last two races (including when beating Junior) and finishing second in the two before that (both by small margins, including a head defeat by Harry The Viking).
He's fit and ready for this, and his stalking style is ideal for a race where it's very hard to come from far back to win. (Plodders plod, they don't quicken. And if the plodders in front of you are not stopping, the plodders behind cannot generally accelerate past them!)
If you've a Boylesports account already, click the link below to get five places on this chap. If you haven't click the link below to get a free matched £20 bet AND five places on this chap.
Quentin Collonges 16/1 Paddy Power (five places) Another who has had a quiet prep for this, and another who swerved the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals to come here a fresh horse. With just four chase runs to his name, he's won once, been second twice, and third once.
He does have a tendency to clout one or two, which is obviously not ideal, but - so far - he's remained upright and claimed at least place money each time. Although Quentin Collonges has won over three and a quarter miles, this extra trip is not sure to suit him. If he can last it out, though, and his jumping holds up, he ought to be on the premises.
Mac Aeda 33/1 bet365, (five places)
Trained by last week's sadly ill-fated According To Pete's trainer, Malcolm Jefferson, it would be the perfect tonic for the yard if this chap could prevail.
He was beaten a long way by Ikorodu Road last time, but prior to that, had won over 3m3f in a reasonable Class 3 handicap chase. He does tend to race towards the rear, and it's possible he'll get outpaced early and then plod on through beaten horses.
But that's why he's a 33/1 shot! In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if jockey Richie McLernon - mugged on the line in the Aintree Grand National last week - made more use of Mac Aeda here, as he has won when stalking the pace before.
In any case, in my opinion, Mac Aeda is a decent long shot poke in a race where big priced horses win and make the frame often enough to merit a tickle.
bet365 are offering five places, and are joint best-priced at 33's, so back him with them!
Again, they'll give you a free bet if you don't already have an account with them, though I know from my survey that most of you DO already have an account with them!
Which brings me onto my next point! Thank you to the over 800 of you who have already filled in the Geegeez Survey 2012. If you've not yet done so, you can, by clicking here:
As a 'bribe', you'll be able to download a free report featuring the two trainers I'll be following closely at Ayr today and tomorrow. Can't say fairer than that. 😉
Good luck with your weekend wagers. Let's hope all the horses come home safe and well, and some of us are winners too.
p.s. who is your fancy for the weekend racing? Like one this afternoon? Share the knowledge!