Grand National 2013 Review

Grand National 2013 Review

36 hours after the last of the horses left Aintree racecourse, almost all parties will be reflecting on a job well done. Attendances were cumulatively quoted around the 150,000 mark, with Grand National day a sellout again; bookmakers' coffers were swollen by an almost impossibly good result ("the best in living memory", as one layer was quoted); and the big race itself staved off the (generally) over-zealous attentions of the pressure groups with a race bereft of fatality, injury or - in the main - incident of any kind.

So yes, a job well done indeed. Or was it? In this post, I'll consider the highs and lows of a meeting which attracts attention as surely as a fluorescent blue light attracts bugs.

L'Unique wins for Alan King... again!

L'Unique (red/white) wins for Alan King... again!

I was lucky enough to be there for the three days, and Thursday was a beautiful spring day: chilly, with that incessant northerly wind finding every garmentless recess and assuming residence therein, but sunny and offering much hope for the fixture, and indeed the year ahead.

L'Unique acknowledged the recent tradition of the fixture, by giving Alan King his fourth win in the last seven years, and second in a row, in the opening race. Of course, I'd missed that key piece of data and she went unbacked in this quarter.

And the rest of the day was left to the Cheltenham vanquished in large part. First Lieutenant went one better than last month and claimed a deserved win in the Bowl; Zarkandar went three better in the Aintree Hurdle than he had in the Champion Hurdle, and he'll surely be aimed at the World Hurdle next season; Captain Conan lagged up in the Grade 1 novices' chase, despite seeming to hate the ground; and the two handicaps were won by Festival stalwarts, Battle Group (4th in last year's Centenary Handicap Chase, 4th in 2011 Coral Cup) and Oiseau de Nuit (won Grand Annual 2011, third this year).

And then there was the Foxhunters'. Won by 100/1 rag, Tartan Snow, the race will be remembered by many who didn't back that triple digit shock for the death of Battlefront, who collapsed and died of a heart attack. As happens to marathon runners can happen to horses. This was most unfortunate, of course, but the key message was that the fences had caused no injuries or fatalities.

Moreover, and here's where we start getting to the rub (or rubber, as we'll come to), just five of the 24 starters fell, unseated or were brought down. That comares with twelve last year, nine in 2011 and eleven in 2010.

The changes to the fences have certainly reduced fatalities, but have they also increased facility (or easiness, if you prefer prose over alliteration)?

Onwards, to Friday. A cooler day and only a few shards of sunlight splintering through the blanket of cloud. But never worry, for today was Ladies' Day, and those Liverpool lovelies had one hell of an equine Chippendale to gawp at in the outstanding form of Sprinter Sacre.

Incidentally, it does get my goat that certain senior members of the press sneer at and patronise the ladies here. I overheard Brough Scott, generally languid and eloquent, referring to the Friday as a 'slapper of the year' contest during a radio interview he was giving in a desk adjacent to mine. That's just disgusting, and he should be ashamed of himself. But it wasn't exclusive to Scott.

Basically, my view on everything in life is that if you're in someone else's back garden, you enjoy their traditions with them, or you're in the wrong place. In every case, the ladies had optimized what they had, and made a fantastic effort: after all, it was their day! Good luck to them, too. They looked like they were having a great time.

Back to the horses, and again it was Cheltenham deja vu, with four gold or silver medallists prevailing: My Tent Or Yours, Dynaste, the monstrous Sprinter Sacre, and the hugely exciting At Fisher's Cross. All were facile winners.

While My Tent Or Yours may be a legitimate Champion Hurdle contender for next year, and Dynaste may win the Ryanair (or may not), I want to touch on the other two.

Firstly, Sprinter Sacre. This was a headline performance of the day. The headline performance of the day. Or at least it should have been. More on that in a second. But Sprinter didn't need to be at his best to despatch this brigade of ostensibly top-drawer opposition. Not in my view anyway.

Whilst Cue Card, an extremely lovable hoss, trained by a fantastic trainer, again ran his race, and proved incontrovertibly that two and a half miles on good ground is his optimum, others under-performed.

Flemenstar had his trip all right, but he's no fast ground horse. And before any smart Alec's or Alice's point out he won a 2m4f Grade 1 on good ground, let me point out that it might have been the worst Grade 1 ever. Yes, he beat horses rated 149, 145, 140, 136 and 135. In other words, he beat good handicappers off level weights.

This fellow will never win at the Cheltenham Festival due to the ground, and can only win at Aintree if it comes up boggy. He'll continue to beat up most in Ireland.

As for Finian's Rainbow, well, I'm afraid he's gone at the game. (I also suspect any chance he had was compromised here by team tactics - a mid-race move to take up the running and inject some pace was surely to make it a proper galloping test: just what his mate Sprinter needs).

For Non Stop burst and the Mad Moose... well, he's just mad, isn't he? (He refused to race).

Sprinter Sacre, despite all of the above, was visually stunning. He cruised up to Cue Card and then he sauntered by, in the fashion of the old Harry Enfield sketches where the jockey in front is kitchen-sinking it and Harry canters up with a cup of tea for a chat.

But... but... Barry didn't ride him out. I know he hasn't done that before, either, but it just leaves a doubt in mind about what else was in the tank. Now, two things: firstly, I accept that it's churlish - almost ungrateful - to have a horse of the brilliance of Sprinter Sacre and attempt to locate the missing chain in his mail. And I do so apologetically.

But secondly, in the past, he has been a horse which doesn't find much off the bridle. Obviously, he generally doesn't have to. If he did, though, he might get beaten. Allegedly, Sprinter has a breathing problem (!), and that might be the cause of his lack of oomph when push has to come to shove. As such, the King George - on anything other than fast ground - might be too much for him, and I'd imagine he'll be kept to two miles in the main. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. (And if it is broke, like his breathing, but works this well, also don't fix it!)

After the race, I kneejerked on twitter: "Gold Cup next year, please". In truth, that's extremely unlikely to happen. Pity from a sporting perspective, but eminently sensible from a horse capability perspective.

My personal star of the day was a novice hurdler trained in Wales, called At Fisher's Cross. This lad is hard. He's bloody hard. He's the sort of bloke that you just look at and know that you don't mess. He probably won't do anything unless provoked, but if provoked he'll tear your arms out of their sockets and put your legs where they used to be! Yes, he's hard.

There can't be a National Hunt horse with better collateral form this season than At Fisher's Cross. He seemed to beat most of the Cheltenham Festival winners at various points in a six race winning spree this year, and he concluded that by duffing up a new rival in Just A Par here. 6/4 (returned 11/8) was too big, based - presumably - on a doubt about the ground. What price would he have been to beat up horses he'd already beaten up (in the main) on soft? 4/6? 4/7?

The price was an overreaction, not to something he couldn't do, but to something he hadn't done. Obviously, I got stuck in. I have to say, At Fisher's Cross is rapidly becoming one of my favourite horses, and the 5/1 about him winning the World Hurdle next year is sorely tempting. Solwhit won't beat him. Zarkandar might not stay. Big Buck's will be 92! Yes, sorely tempting, but I can't bet this far out, not even on a machine like him.

So, those were my headlines of the day. But what did the BBC think was the most newsworthy element of the afternoon to lead with on its sport site? Yes, of course, the sad death of Little Josh in the Topham Chase.

Having lost - no, abstained from - the bidding battle with Channel Four for the rights to televise horse racing, BBC Sport (and the Corporation as a whole) took the disgusting editorial stance of trying to corral antipathy towards Aintree, the Grand National fences and, by extension, the Grand National itself.

This race which had been shown on their channel since TV sets had only one channel, and on their radio station before that, became a target for a campaign of passive aggression which has no place on an apolitical (supposedly) public-sponsored platform.

bbctweetIn fairness to Frank Keogh and Cornelius Lysaght, the article was even-handed. But the BBC Sport website editor is a toad, a weasel, or any other wildlife creature which has come to resemble undesirability in popular parlance.

I do believe Keogh and Lysaght have a responsibility to lobby their editor more vehemently regarding the racing agenda and the sport's portrayal, and they failed to respond to my tweet asking "What are your thoughts on the BBC's Little Josh fatality leader, chaps? Good for racing? Sour grapes?"

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Clearly, they're busy people, and that was Friday night, so I'm not aggrieved at the lack of response. I have a suspicion, though, that they were equally as frustrated as the general racing public at this lazy, hackneyed portrayal of racing over the Grand National fences as a cruel and anachronistic pursuit.

Incidentally, though Little Josh was fatally injured - an undeserved fate for a high class handicapper - there were just seven fallers from the 29 which set out. Whilst higher than the outlying three fallers in 2012, it was significantly lower than the 14 in 2011 and 11 in 2010.

Saturday dawned then, Grand National day, with a cloak of fear enveloping the big race. Racing's established guard seem to believe almost unanimously that we must report bad news above good news: that Little Josh's unfortunate demise was much more worthy of the ever-decreasing column inches than Sprinter Sacre's magnificent triumph.

Racing must shed its persecution complex, and 'man up'. It is clear that charities like the RSPCA need funding to support their generally excellent work. What is equally clear is that when they spend £350,000 prosecuting a hunt club, what they are really doing is investing in PR. Fox hunting (about which I have no view, incidentally) is an easy and high profile target: it is divisive, between those who don't participate (the majority) and those who do (the tiny minority).

The Grand National is the same. Massive PR opportunity for the RSPCA to get a few quid in their coffers. In some ways, it would be remiss of them not to take advantage of these opportunities as they present themselves, of course. And there is some sort of case for racing to answer.

But racing needs to stand firm against unfair demands and the sort of cheap, (almost self-parodying) sound bite rhetoric which RSPCA officials churn out. The likes of "a licence to beat them [horses] with impunity" after the BHA approved five hits in the final furlong.

Here's their lamentable effort on Saturday morning:

Following the tragic deaths of two horses at Aintree the RSPCA is urgently seeking more information about these terrible incidents to understand how they were caused. RSPCA inspectors and equine experts will be at the Grand National closely monitoring the race to see if changes made to the course following the deaths of two horses in 2012 will make the race safer for horses. We truly hope this will be the first Grand National since 2010 where all horses make it through with their lives.

Now, lest you think I'm some sort of horse butcher, let me remind you that I care deeply about animal welfare - not just race horses - and I am a supporter of the Racing Welfare charity, which undertakes excellent work.

My beef - if you'll pardon the pun in such close proximity to a reference to horse butchery - is that racing is in grave danger of allowing itself to be made a scapegoat for a body which must concede that its PR opportunities don't come much better than this.

Moreover, and it is a little petty to mention this, but we need to consider issues like the putting down of 11,000 animals in 2011 alone for 'non-medical reasons'. Now, clearly, it costs money to keep them alive, and as a charity the RSPCA don't necessarily have money. But when you spend £350,000 on a court hearing against fox hunting, it is quite hard to see the lack of funds for those 11,000 animals in the same light.

I understand the driver - which I believe to be somewhere on the 'cynical to commercial acumen' continuum - but I do not agree with it, or approve of it. People in glass houses and all that.

To the racing, at last, and thank the lord (any lord, as this is an ecumenical show). The results from a punting perspective listed between impossible and easy, as twenty-something-to-one pokes won the first two races (and the last), a 66/1 shot (which might have been 500/1) won the big race, and three very well fancied nags obliged in the rest, and meant that a fair number of punters may have escaped alive or, at least, with a shirt still upon their backs.

The undercard has little of note, save the impressive 'double whammy' by Battle Group, backing up his handicap hurdle win on Thursday with a preposterously easy handicap chase win here. He'll get brutalised by the handicapper for these, and he should too, but his work is done!

Well played to shrewd connections for changing the trainer to throw the bookies off the scent. Fairly sure the change of trainer was in name only, but of course I can't possibly evidence that, so don't quote me!

And then, at around a quarter-past-four, there was a little race with forty runners and thirty fences. As you'll know, it was won by Aurora's Encore, a 66/1 rag trained by Sue and Harvey Smith, and ridden by the best-named jockey in the weighing room (if you're a headline writer, at least), Ryan Mania.

After-timers point to his spring record and the fact that he was second in the Scottish National. And a couple of before-timers (very well played, Nick Pullen, rabbit from a hat indeed) managed to find this one as well.

The Northern correspondent in the Racing Post gets less credit from me, as he was obliged to pick a horse from his part of the world which probably left him a shortlist of six or so. Sorry, but he got lucky in my book.

Not quite this easy, but almost!

Not quite this easy, but almost!

And that's the key now. Luck. With the introduction of the new fences, with their uber-flexible rubber cores, the green covering masks what is now little more than a brush hurdle underneath. It's little wonder, then, that just six of the forty starters failed to jump round (some pulled up naturally, but only six fell or unseated).

Indeed, astonishingly, only two horses fell. Two! One of those, Tatenen, is perennially accident-prone, and the other, On His Own, gave Ruby Walsh such a soft fall that he looked like a parachutist landing as he stepped off the horse.

Even the six unseats needs closer scrutiny. Though I couldn't see it from the TV replay, it had been suggested that when Mumble's Head refused at the last, he caused two other horses to stop sharply and unseat their riders.

That, if true, means there were just six falls or unseats.

Fantastic news from a horse welfare perspective, and for the average once a year punter it makes no difference whatsoever. But if you were expecting a run for your money from an 'old school' National type, you were - in the main - disappointed.

Although Cappa Bleu and Oscar Time reprised previous placed efforts, the SP's of the first twelve home told their own story: 66/1, 12/1, 10/1, 66/1, 16/1, 80/1, 33/1, 100/1, 50/1, 33/1, 50/1, 25/1. Yikes! National Lottery indeed.

As for the weights, my theory about higher weighted horses was smashed to smithereens, as just four of the fifteen horses lugging eleven stone or more managed to complete; and just Teaforthree achieved better than twelfth place!

For myself, I took some solace in knowing that I'd bagged value about my selections, and it's value which wins in the long term (like the 20/1 winner I nominated in the last race on Saturday). But in the microcosm of the National itself, it was a disaster for me personally, and for those of you who followed me in. For that, I'm sorry.

So it seems that the nation's favourite race has become a sacrificial lamb for the case of racing in general. And, if that must be, then it must be. I don't actually have too much of an issue with that, per se.

But if the pressure groups don't get their ten minutes of air time out of the Grand National, they will surely turn their attentions elsewhere. Can we expect more scrutiny now on the Cheltenham Festival, for instance?

Only time will tell on that. But, as some of these limpets cannot survive without the oxygen of negative publicity from the Grand National and Aintree in general, they're quite likely to go looking for a new racing rock upon which to fasten. And the sport needs to defend itself steadfastly - and without its historical persecution complex - against that.

Matt

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32 replies
  1. Josh W says:

    great write up Matt, I too was there for all 3 days, it now being my adopted local track having been liverpool based for last 6 years, and I do love the place.

    In hindsight i should have stopped after race 2 on thursday, with L’Unique being my main fancy of the day EW closely followed by First Lieutenant – no logic really to the stat but second and third favs have an astonishing record in the bowl!

    other than betting on Solwit, that was it for me. my lack of discipline and game plan meant whereas I prob should have come out evens at worst, I made a sizable loss! – lesson learnt for the future, have a festival betting bank and stick to it!!

    I was invested on cool friend, and if he had held on it would have been a good festival, but not to be.

    Taking on henderson,mcmanus and favs in general on the Friday also was not wise in hindsight. when captain conan and at fishers win as they do you always wonder why you were never on!!

    as for the national fences, I was surprised how low they were after birch had been parted – surely the rubber core should be as high as a standard fence (or tad lower) with birch then on top?? the standard fences did indeed look no higher than a fixed brush hurdle.

    anyway, onwards and upwards, a great 3 days.

    one other observation was the McCain runners (having been on up and go, overturn and across the bay) who all emptied out at one stage or other – either yard and string has something wrong with them or weather has really hit training regimes for me.

  2. Gary Keep says:

    Great reveiw and I wholeheartedly agree, no longer the grand national and Beechers was unrecognisable, I live in amongst the horseracing and horsey community in cambridgeshire and generally it was perceived as a stuffed hurdle race, I love horses and have one of my own but the National Course is not what it was and on another forum I agree that big bucks could have won this, one noticeable thing was the Jockeys, no hell for leather start this year, which by the way CH4 essentially missed,I felt a definate lack of atmosphere a sense of excitement this year watching the race, it seemed like junior Natinal Hunt, for the future it may bte the publics race, but for me a grat national junt fan no longer a national hunt spectacle or a challenge of man and horse.

  3. Richard Percival says:

    Hi Matt

    Great article and your assessments over the last few years have always made interesting reading. Really disappointing though to see the BBC’s attitude towards racing nosedive further yesterday morning when they aired a program asking whether NH racing should be banned – obviously they weren’t satisfied with Saturday’s clean race and their agenda is clear. As a big NH fan, their stance does unnerve me somewhat!! I wonder what Peter O’Sullevan make’s of his former employer!

    On the flip side Channel 4’s efforts have to be praised by airing Friday night’s program “How to win the Grand National” and generally doing a decent job promoting the race.

    Cheers

    Richard

  4. winninggambler says:

    Not wishing to gloat here, but I DID buy Nick Pullen’s Aintree analysis, with which he began with l’Unique and ended with the Grand National winner, 1 of only 3 picks he gave for the race. I took 140.0 on Betfair, plus 21.0 for the place and even at tenners this was a damn fine Grand National for me (and the bookies!)

    • ianf0ster says:

      @winninggambler
      I just turned green! I only backed EW 6places (wanted all the places I could get) so only got 81 for the win . Still, insurance can be essential even though it is never cheap.

  5. Dee thompson says:

    Well done Matt i sent a letter to the Racing Post just yesterday questioning Gavin Grants motives, he is a political man, a lib dem, and took the hunt of david Cameron to court and used £326,980 of charity money doing so, he also spent £14,000 taking a family to court because a badger set was disturbed by the hunt running on their land, Racing can hold its head high after a triumph Grand National, and we must not allow ourselves to be dictated to by a man whose motives are questionable, now he is saying he is concerned about the horses that were pulled up tired, and we need to look at reducing the number of runners, when in fact those horses were pulled up because the jockeys were caring and rather than push the horses to the end tired, they looked after them, what does this man want!!!! if he can question that, we need to be questioning him.
    Dee Thompson

  6. Bob Watson says:

    Yes I did follow you as always Matt, and you are forgiven, In my mind the National has always been a lottery and it amazes me how many betting gurus come out trying to grab your money for a 10 – 20 pound fee and people pay it . You are generally spot on with your analysis but in the national especially something will always come along to bite you in the arse , a la Auroras Encore. .Keep up the good work and lets have a good flat season and I shall continue to treat the National as a little bit of a fun bet day( its the only day of the year the wife has a bet and she goes on the name or wether she likes the colours of the silks for f—-s sake.haha) Take care ,best regards Bob.

  7. ianf0ster says:

    Very interesting about possible SS breathing problem. I had thought he seemed to be breathing a little more hard in the winners enclosure, but then dismissed it.
    This could be the reason Nicky Henderson keeps downplaying Sprinter Sacre’s abilities.
    Alternatively it could be a nice rumour to push the odds up a bit.
    We may never know the truth, unless SS runs and fails over 3 miles or 2 1/2 on soft/heavy.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      The ‘rumour’ came from Charlie Morlock, assistant trainer to Nicky Henderson… 😉

      Matt

  8. Jonathan Capehart says:

    Yes, it is now a 35.5 furlong brush hurdle race, my main gripe with that is not that the glory days of the race are gone, I accept that as inevitable, but that it should no longer be the most valuable race on the calendar, The prize money should mostly go elsewhere, the Gold Cup, Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle and King George should all be boosted instead. This race should now be considered a novelty race like the cross country races.

    • kevin munday says:

      i agree , its still a spectacle , but like you say more like the cross country races, not daunting like before

  9. maneman says:

    Matt,

    Interesting and well written article. Quite cynical points made but unfortunately in this day and age very true. The problem as always is mostly attributable to the inexorable pursuit of money, which sadly, we are not all blameless.
    Personally, I feel it’s a great shame that the greatest highlight of the horse racing year irrespective of code has been reduced to the political chirade of a media lottery.

  10. Mondo Ray says:

    Excellent piece, Matt. I’d gone with three of your Five To Follow on ante post along with two of my own picks for my five against the field. At the finish – weird, but – I was puzzled rather than upset at my lack of any return. With the work I (we) put in every year, I always get a return!

    First thoughts with hindsight then; it has been sized down and dumbed down. The horses are still fantastic, the jockeys still brave, trainers ambitious as ever, punters and occasional viewers still awed, and yet … it’s what they’ve done to the venue itself. No longer will the course be something of a quest for modern-day adventurers; now it becomes a Health And Safety playground construct with its height-minimised rubber bushes to glide through.

    Apologies. I’m still a bit upset.

  11. terry says:

    Very good article indeed,agreed with what you said all the way,you have a risk just going for a ride or doing a riding clubs event. I stopped all donations to the RSPCA when they prosecuted re the fox hunting – £350,000 indeed!!!
    Keep up the good (sensible )articles.

  12. strongbow says:

    The BBC were not alone in their negativity. Here in ireland the only reference to Aintree on Friday’s evening news on RTE was the demise of Little Josh. There was no reference to Sprinter Sacre or any of the other positives of the day at all
    Your article was very good but I feel that you were a bit too dismissive of one aspect of the undercard on Saturday. I refer to the training performance of Charles Byrnes in bringing back Solwhit after his injury to win a second Grade 1 in a few weeks and now aims to give 7 pounds to Quevega in Punchestown.

  13. Thomas says:

    Excellent article. BUT. I have heard a lot of people over the last 2 days describe the GN as now turning into a “lottery”, but I just don’t agree with this view. Was the winner really a shock? Yes and no. It did buck a couple of very major trends – no form in it’s last 3 races being the biggest, and a poor completion rate. But it is a Scottish GN runner up, so there is form in the book. (Incidently, if you just blindly backed horses in the race that had had a top 8 finish in the Scottish, Welsh and Irish Nationals your horses would have finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 14th, 16th, 17th, UR & PU. Happy days! ). Based on this stat alone, the winner was not too unexpected.

    And my point is that in my valuation of the race, actually all horses finished just about where I expected them to.

    Of the runners who in my view can’t jump, this is how they finished. AA won!, Quel Esprit PU, Big Fella Thanks UR, Roberto Goldback UR, Balthazar King 15th, Tatenen F, Chicago Grey PU, Becauseicouldntsee PU, The Rainbow Hunter UR.

    Of the horses at the top of the market: Seabass was totaly over rated and not enough prep runs for my liking. On His Own was too inexperienced, Teaforthree ran a blinder as expected, Imperial Commander was too old and not enough prep runs, Cappa Bleu ran another good race (ironically from a trends angle, would have been even more of a shock than AA if he had won), Colbert Station inexperienced.

    I am totally against the GN fence changes, but based on this one race alone, I still think it is going to take what is always has to win the GN – a good solid horse with experience, stamina and the ability to jump. It just means that there will be more PU’s than F’s.

  14. George Hall says:

    Nice article Matt.NATIONAL what NATIONAL!!! they have distroyed the greatest race on the planet.There was just not the same feeling about the race.The GOD of AINTREE must be turning in his grave.REDRUM could walk this race now and win.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Col, I had a media pass for the meeting, so was in the press centre scribbling my thoughts for geegeez readers each day.

      Best,
      Matt

  15. ray says:

    After reading that lot all I can say is I agree 100% with the first poster Jane. Absolutely brilliant right up, but if you keep on like this you will make yourself ill. You are not supposed to be a grumpy old man matt, you are far too young. cheers Ray

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks Ray – I’ve always been a grumpy young man. Just ask poor Mrs Matt!!

      Matt

  16. Dave says:

    Great write up and I agree on all bar one point.

    I’d echo Thomas’s words, that it’s far too early to be suggesting that the fence adjustments have made the race a lottery betting wise. Just look at historical results and you will see the odd year when the shortest prices did not make the frame.

    Nine horses started at 16/1 or less and three of them finished 2nd, 3rd and 5th. That’s hardly a lottery result and if first and second had been reversed there would be no such talk.
    I’m not suggesting this in your case but I detect some sour grapes from other commentators about this result and the fences provide an easy excuse.

    btw – I backed the winner to small stakes at 120.0 so maybe I’m talking through my pocket 🙂

  17. MickTheDon says:

    Cornelius Lightfoot never answers my tweets either. Maybe his bosses don’t want any heat coming back from the Twitter Brigade.

  18. Peter Nicholson says:

    Hi Matt,
    As I view the National as a lottery I just had £5 win on Betfair on the horses carrying between 10-01 and 10-04 as an interest bet using your handicap chase mini system. There were four which included the winner. Thank you and I hope you remembered this system.
    Regards,
    Peter

  19. Malcolm Evans says:

    Hi Matt,
    Great article as always,your eloquence reflects your passion for the sport I only wish I had a similar gift.I will look forward to your missives in the coming Flat season.
    Yes there was something” missing”about this years GN glad I’m not the only one to have felt that,as for Ladies Days well every racecourse seems to have one,I think some have more than one a season,what does it mean anyway?are all the other days Gentlemens Days?? I was there myself on Thursday{actually peered in through the Media Room window]shame I didn’t know you were there at the least we could have had a handshake.Never mind maybe next year? Regards Malcolm.

  20. Pennies Punter says:

    Matt, I love reading you but disagree about the GN spectacle. If you had been riding one of those nags I don’t think you would have regarded the fences as soft or small. They are jumped at speed and they will still bring you down if you clout them. On the one hand people say the GN has been ruined because it has become a compressed handicap with only the higher rated horses having ‘realistic’ chances of winning and thus depriving it of romance; then everyone bellyaches because a stonking outsider won from a relatively small stable. Having cake and eating it springs to mind.

    I don’t have time to do any in-depth analysis but I suspect one of the main reasons that there were few falls and, wonderfully, no fatalities is the change in the ground which must have been close to perfect. Last year it was a bog and tired horses take the heaviest falls; I also think that the first four home would not have filled those positions if the ground had been heavy.

    The fact that UNIQUELY there were no fallers at Bechers Brook the first time around was because the steep landing slope on the other side had been substantially levelled. I don’t believe it detracted from the spectacle and because I admire the hell out of jockeys and love horses I was glad to see no fallers.

    I don’t buy all this business about racing becoming namby pamby. Do we really want to see the return of concrete posts and wooden rails; the abandonment of helmets and chest protectors; the return of the thin whip; the reinstatement of unyielding fences and hurdles? Shall we send the ambulances back along with the medics? The GN still remains the ultimate test of steeplechasers and unlike the Gold Cup or Champion Hurdle the small stables will always have a squeak.

    Philip

  21. Ste says:

    I can not believe no one got on too the winner of national all the signs were there to back it like i did i took 50/1 and had 10 ew on it , Anyway the logic was this Ryan was on it in Scottish National when it stayed on at 4mile mark , the Liverpool National had extra 3 furlong to run , then it was running off a mark of 133 from a mark of 143 it ran at scottish national plus Ryan was back on board plus its the time of year when the horse starts to fire well so how no one was on it has left me scratching my head all the signs where there in black and white

  22. kevin munday says:

    i dont agree, with those saying its too easy, anymore than those saying it should be banned, im quite happy to be in the middle and say, yes the glory days are gone but no i dont want it to go,its still unique and a once a year spectacle, itll be interesting to see if long shot winners, and not the top rated horses winning becomes a trend

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