In a week that culminates with THE greatest race of them all, dear reader, what better way to start than with the Irish equivalent of the THE greatest race of them all?
I am of course referring to the Grand National run on Saturday 10th April, and the Irish version - innovatively named, the Irish Grand National - run on the preceding Bank Holiday, Easter Monday, 5th April at Fairyhouse.
The Irish version was far luckier for followers of this column last year, as I successfully nominated 33/1 winner, Niche Market (put up at 50's). Whereas I couldn't have French-bred Mon Mome in the big Aintree showcase, and also managed to lay the favourite for a place for a small fortune. Painful.
More on this in a moment...
First up, and briefly, I want to thank the over a thousand of you so far who have watched my introductory video on the truths and myths of online business.
If you've not yet seen that, it's here: http://www.geegeez.co.uk/go/biztraining.php
And, on the same subject, please accept my apologies for the deliberate mistake in the sign up process. As many (many!) of you have spotted, the link you click to confirm your registration actually takes you back to a page requesting you to confirm your registration! Frustrating, confusing, mysterious, and irritating. But I'm lumbered with it, as I can't for the life of me figure out how to get it to redirect correctly to a page that says, 'thanks for registering'!
So... this is what should happen:
1. you enter your details on the page above if you want to get more info
2. you are re-directed to a page asking you to check your email and click a 'confirm' link
3. you find the email (might be in your junky spam trash folder, so check there too) and click the link
4. when you click the link, you are incorrectly (and annoyingly) re-directed to the same page asking you to check your email
5. please do check your email. If you've successfully confirmed, you'll receive a second email from me, entitled, "Great, yourname! Your online business training starts here." If you got this, you're sorted.
Whilst this is of course embarrassing for me, it does at least serve to underline my point about not needing to be a techno-whizz to do this kind of thing! 😉
The training will start tomorrow, so if you want in (or, actually, even if you don't!), you'll learn something from following along.
OK, enough already. Back to the geegees. Below is a copy of the article I wrote for the Irish Field this week on the subject of the Irish Grand National, and who might win and why - the price has collapsed on one of my tips (no doubt, completely unrelated to me tipping it!), but it's still available at 20's with Ladbrokes.
Five days before Aintree hosts its Grand National, Fairyhouse steals a march - and potentially several fancied runners - from the Liverpool showpiece for its own thrilling Easter highlight, the Powers Whiskey Irish Grand National, to be run on Monday, April 5th.
The weights were announced last week for the 2010 renewal of the famous race, and two horses - Notre Pere and The Tother One - share top weight on 11-10.
There are 86 declared, and champion trainer Willie Mullins holds an amazing fourteen of those declarations. Interestingly, although his father, Paddy, won the race four times, Mullins, Jr., has yet to have a horse even place from a fair few tries: eleven in the last decade alone.
With winners registering at 33/1 three times and 20/1, and no winner returned shorted than 9/1, in the last ten years, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a nightmare for punters. Even more so, given the average winning SP of a little under 20/1.
But look a little more closely and there's actually a pretty robust trends profile underpinning the majority of those winners, even at the fat end of the odds spectrum. So, quite apart from the spectacle, the Irish Grand National is very much a race to persevere with from a betting perspective.
Age is important in this race, as it is in so many others. Although Granit D'Estruval did win in 2004 as a ten year old, he bucked a significant trend for horses aged seven to nine to take Powers Whiskey honours. Indeed, that solitary victory for the double-figure veterans' team comes from 68 runners.
Of the more noteworthy entries, this must count against Cheltenham Cross Country victor, A New Story (who was placed here for the old guard last term); and stablemate at Michael Hourigan's Patrickswell yard, Church Island (also placed last year, taking Hourigan's record to an incredibly frustrating no winners and five places from ten runners in the last decade).
Other OAP's to avoid include any of Oulart, Royal County Star, Equus Maximus, Far More Serious and Wild Passion that might make the lineup.
At the other end of what is a short age bracket are six year olds (five year olds are also eligible but unsurprisingly are rarely represented - no entries this year). These young'uns are 0 from 6 in the last ten years (last won by 6yo Rhyme N'Reason in 1985) and, again, should any of Across The Bay, Beckett Rock, Galant Nuit, Ide No Idea, Quiscover Fontaine and The Last Derby show up, they should be given the wide berth.
So we're probably looking for a seven or eight year old, as seven of the last ten winners have been, but we will include the nine years old group as well, as they've registered two wins and nine places from 55 starters in the period under scrutiny.
As with all the various National's, stamina is an important pre-requisite. Increasingly, we're seeing more runners satisfy the fundamental level of staying power, but there are still a few each year who have yet to win beyond three miles and still feature towards the head of the market.
This year is no exception, and on this basis, it is time to scribble out Sunyhillboy, Shakervilz, Dancing Tornado and Hangover, amongst others at longer odds, from our shortlists.
Obviously, it takes a kindly-weighted animal with a touch of class to win any National and the Irish National is no exception. There are some specific parameters that better define this statement in terms of narrowing the Fairyhouse field. Firstly, no horse since Commanche Court has shouldered greater than 10-12, and only one horse in the last eleven runnings has won from out of the handicap (Hear The Echo in 2006).
Aligned to that is the fact that all of the last ten winners had an official rating between 121 and 136, which serves to compress the handicap still further.
Suddenly, and assuming that either of the two top-weights stand their ground, from 86 possibles, we have a shortlist of just a dozen, five of which are already eliminated for reasons of age.
If this seems overly simplistic, remember that nine of the last ten winners could have been identified by looking at seven to nine year olds in the weight and ratings bands above. That doesn't guarantee it will happen again this year, of course, but equally there is no compelling reason to ignore the strong common sense behind these leading statistics.
My remaining septet then, are: Alpha Ridge, Becauseicouldntsee, Nostringsattached, Officier De Reserve, Hangover, Double Dizzy, and Operation Houdini.
We can narrow this peloton group down further by bearing in mind that previous Fairyhouse form has been a key chromosome in the genetic makeup of six of the last seven Irish winners. Fairyhouse is not a straightforward track, and its stiff one and three quarter miles undulating circuit takes some handling. Prior evidence of managing the demands is clearly to be favoured.
Alpha Ridge was second to the mighty Pandorama here at Christmas in no less than the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase. The fact that he's a novice is slightly off putting, however, with just four chase runs to prepare him for this marathon jumpfest. Saying that, Niche Market was still technically a novice (albeit an extremely experienced one) last year, as was Butler's Cabin in 2007 (again with more experience).
Becauseicouldntsee is another novice but won by a distance here in a big field as recently as February from the useful Corskeagh Royale, and has a second in the four mile National Hunt Chase to his name too. Make note that two of the last three winners ran in that Cheltenham race prior to grabbing this prize.
Although Nostringsattached's Irish National-winning trainer, Jonjo O'Neill, is respected, the horse's form does not bear quite the same close scrutiny as others in the shortlist. He has winning form at around three miles, all on fast ground, and his overall profile is a touch less compelling. That said, he did win a Listed handicap chase at Market Rasen last Summer, and his pulling up behind Ballabriggs at Cheltenham was hardly a surprise, as it was his first run for more than six months.
Officier De Reserve has less to recommend him on recent form, but has dropped to an eye-catching rating as a result. He was far from knocked about last time in the William Hill Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, and hails from the Grand National-winning yard of Mon Mome and Venetia Williams.
Hangover looks unlikely to stay and is readily passed over for this 3m5f epic.
Double Dizzy is a much more exposed, if no less interesting candidate. Housed in the same Somerset stable as last year's winner, Niche Market, this one has plenty of decent Cheltenham form, which has been a feature in the archive record of two of those three recent British winners. Cheltenham, like Fairyhouse, is an expansive undulating track with stiff fences that takes serious negotiation, so Dizzy's course form could well be material in the context of this contest.
Beaten twenty lengths in the Cross Country Chase behind A New Story, but bang there until the second last (i.e. around the 3m5f point); and just 2 1/2 lengths by the capable Duc De Regniere the time before at Kempton over an inadequate trip, if he gets into the final field, he looks primed to run a very big 'under the radar' race.
Operation Houdini will likely need more chicanery than his namesake to get into the race, and his Fairyhouse form and jumping bungles (including unseating in this race last year) make him a particularly 'brave' proposition. Not for me.
With the safety limit for runners set at 30, and Double Dizzy and Operation Houdini currently occupying positions 46 and 48 respectively in the preference list, there is potential for ante-post disappointment here. So it might serve well to try to find a bookmaker offering the 'non-runner, no bet' concession, or hold off from wagering until running plans are more certain.
If neither of the top two in the entries were to run, then the weights would go up at least four pounds if Synchronised ran, and seven pounds otherwise. This would obviously bring many more horses into the mix, again assuming they'd make the final thirty.
As things stand, my shortlist is Double Dizzy (33/1, might not get a run but has a lot going for him if he does); Alpha Ridge (20/1, Ladbrokes, as short at 14's elsewhere and advised at 25's in Irish Field last week); and, Becauseicouldntsee (12/1, might be a doubtful runner looking at the Betfair odds, so hold bet until the day).
With the odds on offer, a small speculative each way wager on Alpha Ridge could prove most rewarding.
And that's it for today. I've been recording video tutorials and planning the final stages of a collection of gratis training that should enable even the most technophobic newbie to get their first website up and running in about fifteen minutes (seriously, probably less). If you've always wondered if you could do it, or always wanted a platform from which to pontificate, or to scribble the occasional missive to the masses, follow me as I show you how for free...