Wayne Bailey: Raz De Maree set to land a National place at a big price
Gavin Cromwell's gelding is a veteran aged 13 but looked as good as ever when winning the Welsh National last time out
A chap by the name of Pitirim Sorokin, who was a Russian-born American sociologist, coined the phrase quantophrenia in the 1950s. It means having an obsessive reliance on statistics and figures.
We all have our own ways of narrowing down the 40-runner field for the Aintree Grand National (5.15), and I must admit that I like to use stats and trends to help come up with a shortlist of runners.
But you've also got to throw in some common sense, and your shortlist should always contain horses that have proven talent in decent races, can stay the distance, and can handle the ground on the day.
In a recent column, I pointed out some stats which suggest it's almost always worth opposing 13-year-old horses in National Hunt racing as they usually have too many miles on the clock. I still stick to that assertion generally speaking, but I'll make the odd exception for a horse that's still bang in form and looks overpriced.
Considering the last 13-year-old to win the Grand National was Sergeant Murphy in 1923, some would say I need my head examined by suggesting that Raz De Maree could land a place at the least in this year's renewal.
However, 28/1 each-way about a horse which was as good as ever when winning the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in January is my idea of a value bet, despite the stats and trends.
Fair enough, it's a big ask at that age but the Grand National can suit a certain type of horse near the end of their career. Of the last three horses aged 13 that partook in this race, Swing Bill (66/1) was ninth in 2014, Tranquil Sea (33/1) was seventh in 2015 and Vics Canvas (100/1) was third in 2016, the latter horse having traded as low as 6/4 in-running on Betfair.
Read more here:
- Pinstickers' Guide and who our experts are backing in today's Aintree Grand National
- Tiger can roar for Elliott as he goes back to where it all began
Rather unlucky when unseated in this last year, Raz De Maree comes back off the same rating of 146 and in the 12 months since, he's shown he's still got plenty to offer with second place in the Cork Grand National, having won that race in 2012 and 2016.
Second place in a handicap hurdle in December warmed him up nicely for the Welsh National, in which he put in a nice round of jumping to land the prize under teenager James Bowen. That was good to see as he's sometimes prone to errors over fences.
Eighth in the 2014 Grand National, Robbie Power takes the reins this time around and it's encouraging to know he has some of the key attributes mentioned earlier - with plenty of stamina, and no problem with some cut in the ground. His trainer Gavin Cromwell has said that while he stays all day, he's quite slow so it's important that he keeps up with the pack and not leave himself with too much to do.
At the time of writing, a number of horses are bouncing around at the top of the market priced in the 10/1 to 14/1 region including Tony Martin's Anibale Fly, under Barry Geraghty. While the price is somewhat restrictive, he looks well-in at the weights here considering he was third in the Gold Cup. That's an excellent piece of form, although the Gold Cup can take a lot out of a horse so it will be interesting to see if he can handle the pressure in the last mile or so when it gets tough.
Another one with strong claims is Willie Mullins' Total Recall, also trading near the top of the market. He's come on in leaps and bounds since joining Mullins' yard, winning a number of big handicaps and he was going very well in the Gold Cup before falling, suggesting he's still got more to come.
Gordon Elliott's Tiger Roll won the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival and should prove popular in the betting but I prefer Ucello Conti, which is expected to go off around 20/1. Sixth in this race in 2016, he unseated his rider last year and while he's yet to win a race for Elliott, he's been knocking on the door and was a good 25/1 second to Anibale Fly in the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas at Leopardstown.
He was pulled up last time in the Thyestes Handicap Chase which may be putting punters off, but he never really settled on the day and is the type that could well bounce back.
I also want to give Elliott's Bless The Wings a mention, priced in the region of 66/1 last night. Regular readers will know that I backed this 13-year-old in the Irish Grand National recently but he ran no sort of race and was pulled up.
Considering he's failed to complete in four of his last five races, it may be coming near to the time he calls it a day - but I've felt he may have one big race left in him since he tasted success in the race he did complete; a decent cross country handicap at Cheltenham in December.
Earlier on the same card, Black Op should be hard to beat in the Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle (2.25). Trained by Tom George, it was no shame to finish less than three lengths behind the immensely talented Samcro in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, beating a few decent sorts in the process.
He'll go chasing eventually but the seven-year-old still has plenty of time to take in some top races over hurdles, and he definitely sets the standard here today. On The Blind Side is also very promising for Nicky Henderson and made it three wins from as many races when taking a Grade Two at Sandown in December.
Finally, in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle (4.20), I'm quite keen on Sam Spinner, which was trading at 6/4 yesterday evening. Jedd O'Keeffe's gelding has proven credentials having won the Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle at Haydock in November, and the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December - but his Cheltenham effort when fifth in the Stayers' Hurdle there is overlooked as he was unsuited to the pace.
Nigel Twiston-Davies' Wholestone finished third in that race and should go close again.
Do the double
Soccer: Despite defeats to Liverpool in the Champions League, and throwing away a 2-0 lead in the Manchester Derby, Manchester City haven’t become a poor team overnight and can give Spurs a good game today. The Londoners are in good form however, winning seven of their last eight matches, and Pep Guardiola may have to keep the title Champagne on ice for a bit. Backing the draw looks the sensible option at 13/5.
Racing: He’s bound to be a very short price around 4/7 or thereabouts, but Petit Mouchoir looks nailed on in the Grade One Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree (3.0). Trained by Henry de Bromhead, he found Footpad and Brain Power too good in the Arkle at Cheltenham having gone off at too strong a pace, but he was a good second to Footpad at Leopardstown previously. With Footpad at home today, Petit Mouchoir can finally have it all his own way.