On Saturday we have Haydock’s Grand National Trial Handicap Chase to look forward, a race in which Neptune Collonges finished runner up in 2012 before landing the big one just six weeks later.
The off time is 2.40pm for this contest and whether it throws up another Grand National winner or not it should be a great race and a real test of stamina.
As usual I’ll be going through this race using a range of tools and data that are available with a Geegeez Gold subscription.
Pace is one of the most crucial (and overlooked) factors in racing. Using the Pace Analyser we can see any potential pace bias over staying trips at Haydock.
In this kind of field size there is an edge towards horses that race closer to the pace.
The most common racing style for a winner is prominent and it’s interesting to compare the win percentages of 18% and 14.29% for front runners and prominent racers respectively to those provided by mid division (5.06%) and held up (7.75%).
Place percentages follow a similar trajectory which adds to the impression that there is a fairly strong pace advantage here and both front runners and prominent racers have strong IV figures 1.71 and 1.36 respectively.
We might gain further insight from looking at races only run on soft or heavy ground given the current going at Haydock is soft, heavy in places.
It’s a similar story again with prominent racers providing the most wins but with front runners having the best win percentage. Prominent racers seem to enjoy almost exactly the same advantage they do in better conditions but it is notable that front runners seem to perform better in the more testing conditions.
The fact that when you only look at soft or heavy ground races front runners perform even better and hold up runners perform worse suggests that the pace bias might be exaggerated in softer ground.
The above information is best used in conjunction with the pace data for each individual race. Each runner is assigned a ‘pace score’ every time they run based on what early position they raced in and this data is used to create an interactive pace map.
It looks highly likely that The Two Amigos is going to get an easy, uncontested lead in this race with no other real pace options in the race. Achille tends to race fairly prominently and has led in the past but he was held up last time so looks likely to be handy at best.
If this race does end up suiting those up with the pace then Sojourn and Potters Legend could be the most inconvenienced by the pace setup.
Instant Expert can give us a snapshot of each runner’s suitability to the important race conditions here. First let’s look at the place data.
Plenty of green on offer and very little red suggesting the majority of these are well proven in conditions. It’s worth noting that class data would include non handicap runs too which makes it a bit less relevant in the context of this race.
Sojourn and Notachance clearly go very well in this kind of ground whilst four runners come into this with a 100% place record at the course (Perfect Candidate and Lord Du Mesnil have both placed in all three runs here).
One of the more worrying red flags here is that Potters Legend has failed to place in two runs over this kind of distance. On closer inspection he has run well enough over a furlong shorter though.
Now let’s narrow things down for win purposes.
Another worry for Potters Legend, he’s just one from fourteen in these ground conditions. The Two Amigos and Achilles also have questionable win records on testing ground. Lord Du Mesnil and Perfect Candidate both score well across the board (disregarding race class) and that pair both have won two out of three here so the course clearly holds no fears for them. Based on Instant Expert alone they both seem decent each way bets.
Let’s take a look at each runner in odds order.
A very exciting prospect. He’s finished 1st or 2nd in five of his six chase starts and he’s won his last two, including the Warwick Classic Handicap Chase over a furlong further last month. He tracked the pace at Warwick last time out and a repeat of those tactics should give him an advantage here.
He’s up 7lbs for that latest effort but he’s completely unexposed at this sort of distance so it’s not unfeasible that he’ll have improved that much since his last run. There is very little in the formbook to suggest he won’t run very well once again in this race ahead of a possible tilt at the Scottish Grand National.
The Two Amigos
A consistent front runner who has hit the frame in all four starts since finishing 4th in this last year. He's 2lbs higher this time around but should get the uncontested lead he didn’t get last year and that should see him improve. Finishing 2nd to Secret Reprieve in the Welsh National last time out was certainly a decent trial for this and suggests he is as good as ever.
He hasn’t won for over two years now though which is a major concern and although he’s entitled to give his running once again, he does look vulnerable for win purposes, especially at the current odds.
His jockey, James Bowen, has been in great form in the past 30 days, generating an IV (Impact Value) of 2.53.
Been in very good form since joining Dr Richard Newland, winning twice, finishing a neck runner up and unseating his rider on his other start. With only one completed chase start on these shores he’s potentially well ahead of his mark considering the style in which he won (and he beat two last time out winners). He also jumped left when winning at Ascot so this course should suit better.
He’s the shortest priced contender who is yet to prove his stamina but that does also mean he potentially has more secrets from the handicapper than much of the rest of the field.
The Profiler is great for telling us the likelihood of a horse staying based on sire stats and although this could be the limit of his stamina, his sire’s offspring do have a good record over this distance with a 44.44% place strike rate. This suggests there is a good chance he stays and if he does he should go very well. He should also race prominently which will suit.
Not seen since finishing 2nd last time out here before Christmas having previously won a hot handicap at Carlisle.
The runner up and 3rd both won next time out and the 4th was runner up on his next start so to beat those runners by 15 lengths is quite impressive.
Trainer Anthony Honeyball has previously stated that the horse is probably best fresh so the recent break should have done him so good. In fact Honeyball has an IV of 3.52 with handicap runners returning from a break of 60+ days so that’s another bonus.
He’s got very few miles on the clock and does have to prove his stamina over an extra couple of furlongs but it should be no issue. He’s tactically versatile and another very strong contender.
Lord Du Mesnil
A possible good each way place according to Instant Expert with some strong stats for the most important criteria. He has course form figures of 112 and that includes two course and distance efforts. He’s only 2lbs above his mark when 2nd in this last year.
He hasn’t been in quite the same form this season, having not run brilliantly in either run. This and/or the Grand National have probably been the aim all season so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he steps forward from that form but he does come with risks attached given those two runs so isn’t quite the each way play he might have looked.
Runner up behind Notachance on his latest start, which came off the back of a 427 day break. Given he could come on for that run and is 3lbs better off with the winner for a half length defeat he’d have a fair chance of reversing form and looks a possible value play at the odds given his form line with the favourite.
He’s clearly not been easy to train but he’s been consistent on the track when getting there in one piece so his problems shouldn’t be too off putting. Reverting to slightly more aggressive tactics than last time out should suit and he’s very much respected.
Potters Legend looked like he may be unsuited by the way the race will be run in the pace map and there were also some question marks when looking at Instant Expert, namely the going. He has won three times in his career on soft but he hasn’t won in six runs on heavy so the heavy in places is a concern. He’s a previous course winner but he doesn’t look amazingly handicapped and is yet to fully convince at the more extreme trips so there are enough negatives to go against him.
Ramses De Teillee
Beat reliable yardstick Yala Enki in November but has struggled twice in similar contests to this on his last two runs. He’s a previous course winner in a small field so perhaps the return to this venue will spark a return to form.
It's worth noting that trainer David Pipe is in excellent form at the moment, notably producing an A/E of 2.57 in the past 14 days. It’s possible that helps him return to form too but on the whole he remains a risky proposition.
Perfect Candidate also looked a fair each way shout according to Instant Expert but he’s the complete outsider in the field. He’s gone up 8lbs for winning a course and distance handicap by a procession in which not many handled the conditions. He’s never finished worse than 2nd in three course and distance runs and the only real negative is this is a very exposed 14yo against some well handicapped rivals. If the ground was to deteriorate further he’d look a very interesting each way option but he’s going to need at least a couple of these progressive rivals to fail to give their running to win this.
If the going was predominantly heavy on Saturday then Perfect Candidate would be the value each way call.
Notachance, Enqarde and Sojourn are the most interesting trio longer term. Notachance is really solid and looks to have a really good chance, Enqarde has a bit more risk attached but still has plenty of upside (potentially even more than Notachance) and Sojourn still looks well handicapped but was beaten last time out and does still have to prove he stays this extra couple of furlongs.
The value against the favourite though is surely Achille at 9/1. With that last run under his belt and a change to more positive tactics than were used last time he could potentially improve past Notachance, in the short term at least.