Haydock Grand National Trial Preview, Trends, Tips
The big race from Haydock on Saturday is the Grand National Trial, a Grade 3 steeplechase run over three miles and five furlongs. That the going is likely to be very heavy means this will be a proper 'survival of the fittest' affair, as they slog through the mud up the interminable straight.
Let's start with a look at the trends from recent renewals of the contest. The following data covers the sixteen races since 1997, when Suny Bay claimed the spoils.
Haydock Grand National Trial Trends
Age: Winners have come from a range between seven and eleven, but the highest strike rates within that array are for seven to nine-year-olds, and they're preferred.
Weight: Although three of the last sixteen winners have carried top weight of 11-12 to victory, no other horse weighted above 11-01 has won, and only seven have placed. Of the three top weighted winners, two of those were on decent ground, and only the repeating Silver By Nature was able to carry a big weight to success on heavy. The percentage call is with the lower weighted animals in such testing turf.
Recent Form: An incredible 13 of the last 16 winners, and thirty of the 51 placed horses, finished first or second last time out. Coming here in form seems to be a huge plus. Indeed, blindly backing last time out 1-2 finishers was worth a profit of 32 points at industry starting price!
Moreover, 13 of the last 16 winners raced over at least 3m1f last time. This is a staying race, so it's little surprise that those who run in staying races do best.
Backing horses that finished first or second last time in a race of 3m1f or further, would have found nine of the last sixteen winners, for a profit at SP of 40 points...
Haydock Grand National Trial Preview
The ferocity of this heat is highlighted by the fact that, at time of writing, the bookmakers bet 13/2 the field, with the outsider of the fourteen declared runners a 25/1 shot. In the circumstances, an ability to handle testing conditions looks pivotal, and I'm going to focus this preview on those that have shown winning form in muddy events.
Those with proven muddy hooves are Merry King, Hawkes Point, Well Refreshed, Wychwoods Brook, Emperor's Choice, Across The Bay, Nuts N Bolts, Red Rocco and Soll.
Merry King is still young at just seven years of age, but he continues to run valiantly without winning in the big staying contests. I suspect the same will be true this time, despite him being weighted to get much closer to both Hawkes Point and Wychwoods Brook.
Hawkes Point himself ran an absolute stormer in the Welsh National, when just a head second to Mountainous (Merry King back in fifth). That effort did nothing to alleviate the lead he has to lug, with 11-06 allotted. Nevertheless, he's fairly fresh for this and has shown that attrition is his game. I can see him running a fine race under his burden.
Well Refreshed pulled up in the Welsh National, but had won his two previous heavy ground starts, including this race last year. Clearly, then, conditions are not a problem. But... he had just ten stone on his back that day, compared with 11-04 this time. That eighteen pounds extra ought to be more than enough to prevent the repeat.
Wychwoods Brook is on a hat-trick and, therefore, is on the upgrade. He needed every yard of the 3m1f trip over this course on heavy ground last time out and, while we have to take his stamina for this extra half mile on trust, that small winning margin means he's just five pounds higher here. If one of the heavier weighted horses is to win, I suspect it could well be Wychwoods Brook. (Incidentally, with Conor Ring's seven pound claim, you could argue that he's beneath the eleven stone threshold as, effectively, he'll be carrying 10-12).
Emperor's Choice is a horse I like, and one that did me a big favour when taking the longest route and still prevailing in the mud at Ffos Las last time out. That was a hard race, though, and the question mark for me would be whether he can grind out another victory just two weeks after a real battle in Wales. He has won both times he's stepped back to the track within ten days, and his record on heavy is 3211161, so it's not out of the question that he'll be able to dig deep enough to conquer all. 10/1 is fair enough, win only.
Across The Bay is a bold front-runner, as he showed to great effect when making all over this trip last February. But he's more versatile as regards pace these days, and actually was held up when winning over three and a half miles here last time out. Those victories have conspired to lumber him with top weight here, though, and I'm just not quite sure about the form of the McCain stable right now. Enough negatives to put me off, on balance, though he's a thoroughly likable sort.
Nuts N Bolts won over this trip two starts back, but most of his form is over a mile or so shorter. And the fact that his course and distance win was sandwiched by a couple of P's is unattractive too. At a big price, he might be playable, but 14/1 in a race this competitive is not a value wager to this eye.
Red Rocco was second to Nuts N Bolts over course and distance, but has failed to complete the last twice and, in that respect, they're two P's in a pod from a value perspective (groan). And Soll, another likable plodder, could run into the frame but it would be a shock - to me, at least - if he was good enough to beat a raft of more in-form rivals.
Haydock Grand National Trial Tips
I really like the profile of Wychwoods Brook. He's clearly progressive, and may have something in hand of the 'capper if this step up in trip ekes out a tad more improvement. That last gasp win on his previous start implies it will. At 10/1 with bet365, Best Odds Guaranteed, and with a free bet in the next Channel 4 race if he wins, that will do for me.
Of the remainder, Emperor's Choice has perfect conditions and, if not cream crackered from a very tough win a fortnight ago, could go close. Again, Betfred's 10/1 is fair enough.
Haydock Grand National Trial Selection
Wychwoods Brook 10/1 bet365, Best Odds Guaranteed, free bet in next C4 race if he wins.
Emperor's Choice 10/1 Betfred, Best Odds Guaranteed