Hedge bets for crack at National lottery
ALL good Catholics must make confessions so here's my one for the year: I haven't backed the winner of the Grand National since 1990.
Shocking stuff for a sports writer you'll agree but, in fairness, some people will never manage to find the winner in their lifetime so if the truth be told, I'm pretty pleased with my record. I wasn't particularly interested in betting at the time as I was just 10 -- but my late father insisted that I'd come of age; probably because he didn't want to walk to the local village himself to put on his own bets.
I spotted a horse trained by Kim Bailey -- which seemed like a good choice because he shared my surname -- and took a stroll to place the wagers back in the days when a bookie would take a score and 50p from a child without batting an eyelid.
They say the worst thing you can do is back a winner on your first bet and, as 16/1 Mr Frisk came home, for better or worse, my passion for racing began.
Many pounds and euros have crossed that same bookie counter since and, despite some decent-priced placings along the way, I haven't seen my horse come home in front at Aintree since that day on April 7, 1990.
I once heard it said that 'hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible' -- so with that in mind we'll try our best to get the winner, or at least another place, in the 2010 renewal.
Paul Nicholls' Big Fella Thanks will almost certainly go off as favourite but do you really want to take a single figure price? Thanks, but no thanks.
Don't get me wrong, the horse ran well in sixth place last year. He's also 3lbs lower this year with a good race at Newbury confirming his ability -- but a lot of the money is sentimental as punters latch on to the idea that the champion trainer has to win the biggest race of the year sometime. I'd love to see Nicholls do it too -- but the price is simply too short.
Anything can happen in this race so don't let anyone put you off backing two, three or even four horses if you think they have a chance. As usual, I'll have a few running for me each-way.
Although I didn't pick the winner, this policy paid off last year and, among a couple of horses, I backed each-way was Comply Or Die (second at 14/1) which ensured a profit overall. Anything can happen -- but my four against the field will be:
1 -- Arbor Supreme
He gets a bit of stick for his jumping but, in 20 races, he's only fell/unseated twice. The thing I like about this horse is his toughness and attitude. He has proven stamina too and I've a sneaky feeling that four and a half miles over the big fences will be right up his street. Shop around and you may get 20/1.
2 -- Eric's Charm
He jumped the National fences before in the Topham Chase (2008) but he fell so I guess that must go down as a negative. Despite his age however, he's showing no signs of slowing down. Off a nice weight here and is taken each-way around 40/1.
3 -- The Package
Another one off a low weight, the seven-year-old ran a cracking race when second in the William Hill Trophy at Cheltenham. He may lack experience but this horse is definitely on the up. A price of 14/1 or higher would be value.
4 -- Snowy Morning
He was third in the 2008 Grand National off 2lbs lower but seemed to struggle last year and eventually came home ninth. But he's come back to form. If the ground stays relatively soft, it will work to his advantage and early prices of 16/1 are a fair reflection of his chances.
1.30 Chepstow -- Hucking Hero
5.35 Aintree -- Don't Turn Bach