Sport Horse Racing

Friday 15 December 2017

Vicente to come good just in time for Grand prize

Betting Ring

Paul Nicholls. Photo: Getty
Paul Nicholls. Photo: Getty

Wayne Bailey

I was in a supermarket in the United States a few years back, and both the bigger portion sizes and the sheer amount of variety available of every product was really striking.

I was looking to simply buy a bag of crisps, or chips as they call them over there, and was faced with about 30 different shapes and flavours which made my choice extremely difficult.

Psychologists have recognised this as a common consumer problem in the modern world, and studies have shown that too much choice can actually stress us out.

And once we have made our purchase, we are more likely to get buyer's regret if we had lots of options, as we continue to ponder whether one of the other varieties would have been a better buy.

The German supermarkets were quick to recognise this and only offer one or two varieties on most products - and it must be working well, as Tesco in the UK decided to follow Lidl and Aldi's lead by cutting their product lines from 90,000 down to 60,000 a couple of years ago.

variables But it's not just supermarket shoppers who are faced with this problem, Grand National punters also have to make a choice from 40 horses and consider all sorts of variables and statistics when trying to narrow it down to one or two potential winners. Never as easy as it looks!

As I write, I've a piece of paper beside me with 12 names on it and I must admit I'm finding it hard to cross any of them off. Deciding on which variables to give the most weight to is the hardest part as there are so many.

You could focus on age, stamina, ratings, form, ground, trainer... the list goes on and it actually feels worse when a horse wins which you'd considered backing but didn't, rather than some random one which wasn't really on your radar.

I'll be kicking myself if, for example, Raz De Maree comes home in front as he ticks quite a number of boxes. A good second in the Welsh National, he has the stamina for a race like this but although Amberleigh House won the National aged 12 in 2004, as a general rule older horses tend to struggle - so I've put a red line through his name with some reluctance.

I suppose you won't find a single horse which has every variable, statistic or trend in its favour but I guess the best approach is to look for one which covers a number of bases and is also a decent price, so I'm going to get off the fence and put up Paul Nicholls' Vicente as an each-way bet, available at 20/1 yesterday evening.

While his recent form is nothing to write home about, his best work comes over the longer trips and Nicholls has said he always comes good at this time of the year.

He'd been off his coat all winter so below-par runs in the Welsh National and later at Doncaster are forgiven, and his trainer reckons he's come right just in time for this which is hugely positive.

It was a similar story last year and he won the Scottish Grand National in the spring having raced poorly previously, and he seems quite versatile when it comes to the ground.

If he gets around without too many traffic problems, he has strong place claims at the least. By the way, if your bookie is not offering five places for each-way bets, go elsewhere.

Another one I like is a bit more obvious although Definitly Red is a little short in the betting around 11/1. He beat today's top-weight The Last Samuri by 14 lengths in the Grimthorpe last time and with a rating of 149, in theory he's 10lbs well-in which could make all the difference. I'm a bit wary about his stamina however, and I would have liked to see him tackle some longer distances before coming here.

Of the Irish-trained horses, Mouse Morris' 2016 Irish Grand National winner Rogue Angel catches the eye around 25/1. Morris won the world's greatest steeplechase last year of course with Rule The World, and Rogue Angel follows a similar path.

Horses which performed well in other Grand Nationals are always worth considering and we know he'll stay the distance. He might prefer a bit of cut in the ground however, which he's unlikely to get at this stage.

David Pipe's Vieux Lion Rouge is due to go up 6lbs in the weights and could also be considered well-in racing off 149 today. A winner of the Becher Chase in December, he's got experience of these fences and was seventh in this race last year. He put in a career best to win the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February which is why he's due to rise in the official ratings.

Grand National top four

1 Vicente

2 Definitly Red

3 Rogue Angel

4 Vieux Lion Rouge

In the Grade One Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle (2.25), Messire Des Obeaux gets the nod around 13/2 following a strong performance when third in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival. Alan King's charge is improving with every race and can lower the colours of the unbeaten Finian's Oscar, which was never threatened when winning a novice hurdle at Exeter last time priced 1/16.

Back home at Leopardstown, a price of 6/4 for thereabouts seems fair for Yucatan in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Group Three Ballysax Stakes (4.0).

The Galileo colt is related to some smart winners and was second to Rivet in the Group One Racing Post Trophy in October, but he'll have matured a little since then and could be one to watch over the middle distances this summer.


Priced in the region of 9/1, No Hassle Hoff is taken each-way in the opening Gaskells Handicap Hurdle at Aintree (1.45). He was placed in Grade Two company and I reckon he could be better than his opening mark of 134 suggests.

Today's selection

1.45 Aintree: No Hassle Hoff (e/w)

2.25 Aintree: Messire Des Obeaux

2.55 Leopardstown: Hydrangea

3.0 Aintree: Charbel

4.0 Leopardstown: Yucatan

4.20 Aintree: Yanworth

5.15 Aintree: Vicente (e/w)

Do the double


If Antonio Conte is a betting man, he'll be pleased to see his Chelsea side priced as low as 1/20 to lift the title which suggests they have a 95pc chance of success. They're off to Bournemouth today and the 8/13 about an away win looks about right to me - although this may be a little tougher than their 3-0 win over the Cherries at Stamford Bridge at Christmas.


Although short enough around 4/6, it's hard to see past Charbel in this afternoon's Grade One Doom Bar Maghull Novices' Chase at Aintree (3.0).

Trained by Kim Bailey, he was about to give Altior a run for his money in the Arkle at Cheltenham but he hit the deck two out. He was second to that horse previously at Sandown but he's sure to have more improvement to come. Paul Nicholls' Politologue looks the main danger.

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