Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Result

Well the 2014 running of the Grand National has restored my faith in the trends somewhat, if not in my own personal judgement!  Six of the first eight horses home appeared on the final list of 11 horses that qualified on the trends, including the first three places - so not a bad result at all...

While Balthazar King ran a fantastic race to finish best of my personal picks, giving me yet another runner up, it proved to be Pineau De Re who ticked all the right boxes for a Grand National winner. Although something of a dark horse leading up to the race, he was quietly fancied by some shrewd judges (if not me!) and started at 25/1.

Trained by Dr Richard Newland, who handles just a small string of horses as a part time hobby, he was purchased last May after winning the Ulster National over 3m 4f.  And that proven stamina was the key to success once again.  The first four horses had all won over a minimum trip of 3m 1f, with the first and second having victories over three and a half miles plus already under their belts (as did fourth placed Alvarado).

Let's take a closer look at the profile of the winner, measured against the key trends:

√ Weight under 11st 1lb - carried 10st 6lb
√ Rated between 138 and 153 - rated 142
√ Aged between nine and elevent - 11 years old
√ Winner over minimum of three miles, one furlong - won over 3m 4f
√ Winner of a Class 1 or Class 2 chase - yes
√ Winner of a chase with 10+ runners - yes, 15 runners
√ Had at least 10 runs over fences - 14 chase runs
√ Ran within the last 56 days - last run 23 days ago
√ Between 3 and 6 runs since end of August - six runs
√ Finished placed this season - placed three times including one win
√ Placed form in a National or at Aintree / Cheltenham Festivals - won Ulster National and 3rd in Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival

The final prep race for the National may seem a bit unorthodox, but Pineau De Re actually ran in the same handicap hurdle where Don't Push It was pulled up prior to his Aintree success.  He ran a fantastic race in third place, which was the first time I sat up and took notice of the horse, placing a bet on him for the Grand National at 50/1.  Pineau De Re wasn't really on my radar until then as I had written off his chances after he fell in the Becher Chase back in the autumn.

But that experience appears to have paid dividends.  Yet again, the winner of the Grand National had won another 'National' race, had previously run over the famous Aintree fences, and had finished placed in one of the two major jump racing Festivals.  So the clues were certainly there for all to see.

Of course it's always so easy in hindsight and there were plenty of others who were more strongly fancied but failed to deliver.  Nevertheless, it's amazing how many trends held true this year - you can forget the top weight, previous Gold Cup winners, previous Grand National placed horses, any horse carrying more than 11st 1lb or rated higher than 153 etc.

In fact, of the 18 finishers, only Rocky Creek in 5th (a valiant effort for one so inexperienced) and Hunt Ball way back in 17th carried more than 10st 12lb.  This echoes last year's result, where only one horse carrying over 10st 11lb finished in the first eleven places.  So perhaps the natural order has been restored and after four years that featured the heavier weights on 11st plus (2009 to 2012) the pendulum has swung back in favour of horses at the bottom end of the handicap.  Six of the first 10 horses home actually carried 10st 6lb or less.

It is perhaps notable that 12 out of the last 16 winners were all rated between 136 and 144, just an eight pound margin.  The exceptions were the four years mentioned above.  And in terms of weight, a total of 17 winners since 1990 have now carried between 10st 3lb and 10st 12lb to victory, just a nine pound margin. That equates to a pretty impressive strike rate of 71%.

As always it pays to be flexible when it comes to the trends, and there's no room for complacency, but the results from the last two years do appear to have seen a return to the norm.  One obvious exception is the recent record of French bred horses, who now account for three of the last six winners (including 100/1 winner Mon Mome, who ticked every other box), so that is one age old trend that has been well and truly busted.

So the Grand National trends blog has earned another stay of execution and lives to fight another day. I hope you enjoyed reading it and thanks to everyone for the positive comments and feedback. Hopefully a few of you managed to make some money on the big race yesterday, even if I didn't personally pinpoint the winner!

Until the same time next year...

Friday, 4 April 2014

Personal Picks

As is now a traditional part of this Grand National blog, for my final post I reveal my own personal picks to see how they compare with the trends.  They don't always agree - but when there is an overlap between the two lists it has been a pretty good indicator in recent times, pinpointing at least two placed horses in each of the past three years.

There's always a story, even occasionally an incredible fairytale (like Bob Champion and Aldaniti that got me hooked) and that's the beauty of the race.  So my own personal picks often fly in the face of trends logic; sometimes you just have to inject a bit of your own emotion and subjective judgement in there too!

Here's a complete run down of the nine contenders I think should be seriously considered for the 2014 Grand National (in handicap order):

Tidal Bay - current best odds 18/1
This one might be a bit of a shock inclusion, as I very rarely have the top weight in my personal picks - and especially a 13 year old like Tidal Bay!  There are good reasons to oppose him on the trends, but the handicapper has given him every chance.  He is effectively 7lb 'well in' so should not be disadvantaged by his welter burden and seems to be as spritely as ever, finishing a close 3rd in the Welsh National and runner-up in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup.

One of these days a top weight will win again - and it could well be this year.  The compressed handicap and softer fences should in theory make it easier to carry large weights around the four and a half mile trip, although I suspect he may still find or or two too good in a driving finish round the elbow.

Long Run - current best odds 12/1
It's not often you see a former Gold Cup and dual King George winner line-up in the Grand National, especially one that is still only nine years old, so you have to pay maximum respect when you get a horse of this class participating in the Grand National.  The trends might tell you that L'Escargot was the last Gold Cup hero to do the double almost forty years ago, but again the handicapper has been lenient on Long Run. His weight of 11st 9lb may be heavier than any winner since Red Rum, but his current rating of 160 is up to 22lb below his best form.

Long Run does have a tendency to be low and quick at his fences, but that will not matter as much now with the modified obstacles.  His jockey, Sam Waley Cohen, has the best record over these fences, having won the Foxhunters Chase three times (twice runner up), as well as a Topham Chase, and he has also finished in the first five in the Grand National on three out of four occasions (2nd, 4th & 5th).  If he gets round, a big run looks likely.

Balthazar King - current best odds 20/1
This horse is a really likeable sort and comes here in great heart having won all four starts so far this season. Three of those victories have come in Cross Country Chases, which would be an unusual route for a Grand National winner, although 2007 hero Silver Birch did finish runner-up in the same event that Balthazar King won at Cheltenham last month.  Philip Hobbs had a tremendous Festival and will have high hopes of going one better than he achieved with his 2002 Grand National runner-up What's Up Boys.

There might be a question mark over whether this comes too soon after his Cheltenham exertions, but other horses to have run at the Festival have done well so far this week at Aintree.  He will need to improve on his 15th place in this race last year though, which wouldn't give too much encouragement for his backers.  This year's race will be run in similar conditions and ideally he would want the ground to be faster.

Teaforthree - current best odds 10/1 favourite
There should be no surprise to see Teaforthree high on my personal shortlist as this was my main tip for last year's race.  At one stage it looked like we would get a win, but the horse just tired in the closing stages before fading into third.  Carrying 5lb less this year, he should be right up there at the climax again if he is more conservatively ridden.  Amberleigh House finished third in the National the year before his memorable win in 2004, so hopefully lightning can strike twice.

A winner at the Cheltenham Festival over four miles and runner up in the 2012 Welsh National, his stamina is assured, and although he could only finish 9th at Chepstow in the 2013 renewal and 8th in the Gold Cup last time out, this has been the target all season.  Finishing unplaced in the Gold Cup was no barrier to success for Aintree heroes Rhyme N' Reason and Miinnehoma so hopefully the same is true for Teaforthree this year!

Monbeg Dude - current best odds 14/1
The Welsh National has been probably the best guide to the big race at Aintree over the years, with five Grand National winners having won or finished placed in the Chepstow marathon since 1998, so I make no apology for putting five such horses on my own short list this year.  Monbeg Dude just got the better of Teaforthree in a thrilling finish to the 2012 renewal and has been aimed at this race ever since.  He won a valuable Grade Three Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in December and looks to be the ideal type for Aintree.  Some question his jumping ability, but he has only unseated his rider once in eleven chase starts to date and looks to still be improving. On an ideal weight of 10st 9lb, a bold bid is predicted.

Big Shu - current best odds 25/1
If we include Balthazar King on the shortlist, then we have to also feature Big Shu, who won the Cross Country Chase over 3m 7f at Cheltenham at last year's Festival before finishing a close third this year.  He ended last season with victory in the La Touche Cup over 4m 1f at Punchestown, which means that he actually has success over the furthest distance of the 40 runners due to line up on Saturday. Whether that form is good enough is anyone's guess, but I'm going for proven stamina as the main determining factor in all of my selections this year.  Big Shu was only dismissed from the trends on the basis of having only two runs this season, but that was good enough for Miinnehoma, so why not this horse too?

Mountainous - current best odds 50/1
I have no idea whatsoever why Mountainous is available at such massive odds as I think he has a huge chance tomorrow.  He won the Welsh National this season by a head over Hawkes Point and deserves to be 20/1 or less for this.  Admittedly that victory was on heavy ground and he is weighted up to that new mark now, but he looks another that is still improving and at nine years old has the ideal profile. Mountainous missed the trends shortlist due to only having nine runs over fences, but that's not good enough reason for me. Providing the ground isn't too fast he could spring a surprise and run into the frame at a big price.

Chance Du Roy - current best odds 33/1
Another forgotten horse is Chance Du Roy, who won this season's Becher Chase in fine style but has barely been mentioned since.  This race has been the target all season since he beat a field of 22 over these famous National fences in the autumn, including six of the rivals he will face tomorrow, as well as a certain horse called On His Own, who finished runner-up in this year's Gold Cup.  In fact the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th placed horses all subsequently won, so this form looks rock solid.  We have seen time and again that experience over these fences can be invaluable and Chance Du Roy looks excellent value to emulate the likes of Amberleigh House and Silver Birch by following up in the big one.

Hawkes Point - current best odds 50/1
Obviously this year's Welsh National form isn't rated highly at all, but I don't see any reason why Teaforthree and Monbeg Dude should be so short in the betting with this year's 1st and 2nd available at five times the price - especially as both of them beat Tidal Bay in third place!  That form looks as good as anything else on offer in this race and therefore Hawkes Point has to be included in my personal picks despite his inexperience.  Like Tidal Bay, he is trained by Paul Nicholls, who won the race with Neptune Collonges, but he seems to be the least fancied of the Ditcheat trio.  I take no notice of that and he is another horse that could prove to be great each way value.

Such is the wide-open nature of this year's race that there are at least another half dozen 'bubbling under' that have 'National' form to their names who I also rate, including Munster National winner Double Seven, former Irish National winner Lion Na Bearnai and Ulster National winner Pineau De Re.

The two horses that won the Listed Handicap Chase won by Don't Push It en route to Aintree glory, Battle Group and Prince De Beauchene also warrant respect, especially as the latter has been well fancied for this race for the last two years until having to pull out at the eleventh hour due to injury.  On form, you'd also have to throw The Package and Alvarado in the mix too as their best races this season have worked out very well.

But going back to the selections above, there are just four horses that appear on both my personal and trends lists: BALTHAZAR KING, TEAFORTHREE, MONBEG DUDE and CHANCE DU ROY. Factoring in the weights, form and other key stats, they would have to be the five star selections for this year.  It's almost impossible to split them, but if pushed I will go with the following finishing order:

1st - Teaforthree
2nd - Monbeg Dude
3rd - Chance Du Roy
4th - Balthazar King

The final places can be fought out between the classy pair of Tidal Bay or Long Run, with either Mountainous or Hawkes Point outperforming their odds to make the top six at a big price.

Remember to bet with a bookmaker that offers a quarter the odds each way for the first FIVE places at least.  If you bet with Bet 365 they will give you half of your stake back (up to a maximum of £125) as well as match best prices from 10.00am on Saturday with Best Odds Guaranteed.  So I would highly recommend that you open an account with them if you haven't already placed your bets (and no, I'm not on commission!).  Bet Victor are the only firm offering each way on six places.

Thank you for reading my blog.  If I don't win this year it may well prove to be the last...  Whatever the outcome enjoy the race and good luck!

Trends Shortlist

It's Grand National Eve and time for the annual unveiling of the trends shortlist. As I've already stated the 2014 renewal is one of the most competitive I can remember, so it's no real surprise to see that a total of eleven horses tick every single one of these boxes:

√ Weight under 11st 1lb
√ Rated between 138 and 153
√ Aged between eight and twelve
√ Winner over minimum of three miles, one furlong
√ Winner of a Class 1 or Class 2 chase
√ Had at least 10 runs over fences
√ Ran within the last 56 days
√ Between 3 and 6 runs since August
√ Finished placed this season
√ Placed form in a National or at Aintree / Cheltenham Festivals

So here they are: according to the trends the winner of the 2014 Grand National will come from the following group of eleven contenders (with details of their best qualifying form):

Balthazar King - dual winner of the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham, current odds 20/1
Wayward Prince - winner of a Listed Chase over 3m 1f at Aintree, current odds 66/1
Teaforthree - winner of the NH Chase over 4m at Cheltenham, current odds 8/1 favourite
Across The Bay - winner of the Last Fling Chase over 3m 4f at Haydock, current odds 50/1
Double Seven - winner of the Munster National over 3m at Limerick, current odds 14/1
Lion Na Bearnai - winner of the Irish National over 3m 5f at Fairyhouse, current odds 33/1
Monbeg Dude - winner of the Welsh National over 3m 5 1/2f at Chepstow, current odds 12/1
Burton Port - winner of a Grade Two Novice Chase over 3m 1f at Aintree, current odds 20/1
Chance Du Roy - winner of the Becher Chase over 3m 2f at Aintree, current odds 33/1
Pineau De Re - winner of the Ulster National over 3m 4f at Downpatrick, current odds 20/1
Raz De Maree - winner of the Cork National over 3m 4f, current odds 50/1

As you can see there are some obvious contenders here, but equally some really interesting dark horses available at juicy prices.  With winners at 33/1 twice, 66/1 and 100/1 since 2007 I certainly wouldn't discount any of them.

Strictly speaking Double Seven has question marks on the trends; he is only eight years old and his best winning form came over three miles. But with 16 runs under his belt (including four wins in double digit fields) and the assistance of AP McCoy in the saddle it would be foolish to dismiss him on age alone.

Likewise Lion Na Bearnai is outside of the ideal age range at 12 years old.  However, he is a former Irish National winner and quite lightly raced for a veteran with only 15 chase runs, so it is impossible to reject him on this basis.

The only horse in this group of ten who has not had winning form in a National or at Aintree / Cheltenham is Across The Bay, although he has run with credit in many of the trial races that produce Grand National winners and has finished placed on more than one occasion at Aintree, including a third place in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle. Trained by Donald McCain, who won the Grand National with Ballabriggs in 2011, he is another who is a borderline case, but just sneaks in.

The Aintree win for Wayward Prince was in December, not at the Grand National meeting, so this should really count against him.  But again, as he is proven at the course and ticks every other box he remains on the trends shortlist.

But if we return to the Staying Power section of this blog, which highlighted the stats around the six key races for the Grand National, there are four horses that stand out:

Monbeg Dude
Lion Na Bearnai
Chance Du Roy

It is the form of the 2012 Welsh National that is particularly interesting, especially as Teaforthree subsequently went on to finish third in last year's race.  That makes him a worthy favourite for this year's renewal, and he races off a weight that is five pounds lower than last year on 10st 12lb.  He was the five star tip in last year's blog and looked likely to win before running out of steam aound the elbow.  If held up a little longer this year to conserve his energy, he has every chance of improving on that placing this year.

His Chepstow conqueror, Monbeg Dude, has been aimed at this race all season and it would be great if trainer Michael Scudamore could emulate his Grandfather by winning the big race (he rode Oxo to success in 1959) and get one up on his father Peter who never managed to add the National to his illustrious CV.  He looks to have had the ideal preparation and races off a nice weight of 10st 9lb.  He will have the assistance of Paul Carberry in the saddle, who won this race on board Bobbyjo in 1999.

Chance Du Roy has largely been forgotten since winning the Becher Chase over these famous fences in the autumn. Trained by Philip Hobbs, who had a tremendous Cheltenham Festival, he beat several of Saturday's rivals including Mr Moonshine, Swing Bill, Across The Bay, Rose Of The Moon and Pineau De Re that day. The Becher Chase was won by two Grand National winners in the last decade, Amberleigh House and Silver Birch (as well as dual placed horse Clan Royal), so this form cannot be ignored.

An honourable mention must also go to Balthazar King, who has looked better than ever in Cross Country Chases this season.  He won the event at Cheltenham where Silver Birch finished runner up prior to success at Aintree. Although he could only finish 15th in last year's race and would ideally prefer faster ground than he's likely to get on Saturday, he is one of only ten horses entered that have winning form over long distances (over 3m 4f).

Those would be my top four picks on all of the known trends, but later on today I will also post my personal selections, so we'll see how they compare to the shortlist!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Rejects

Before we reveal the final shortlist of horses that qualify on all of the trends, I thought it would be useful to summarise which horses have been rejected so far and the reasons they have ended up on the scrap heap!

It's important to emphasise that in applying these trends I do not necessarily agree with all of the conclusions! For that reason, I'll be producing my own personal shortlist of recommended horses to back on the eve of the Grand National.  Those horses that appear on both lists will then be my five star tips!

But for now, here's a quick recap of why no less than 29 horses failed to make the cut:

Tidal Bay - top weight, rated too high, 13 years old
Long Run - too high in weights, rated too high
Hunt Ball - too high in weights, rated too high, no wins over 3m+
Triolo D'Alene - too high in weights, too high in ratings, only 7 years old
Rocky Creek - too high in weights, only 8 years old, not enough chase runs, not enough season runs, not run in 56 days, no wins 10+ runners
Quito De La Roque - no placed form this season
Colbert Station - not enough chase runs, no wins over 3m 1f+
Walkon - no wins over 3m+, not enough runs this season, no placed form
Mr Moonshine - no chase wins over 3m+
Battle Group - not run in last 56 days
Buckers Bridge - only 8 years old, no wins over 3m+
Prince De Beauchene - not run in last 56 days
Big Shu - not enough runs this season
Our Father - only 8 years old, not enough chase runs, no placed form this season
Mountainous - not enough chase runs, not run in last 56 days
The Rainbow Hunter - not run in last 56 days
Vintage Star - only 8 years old no senior chase win, no wins in race with 10+ runners
Hawkes Point - not enough chase runs, no wins over 3m 1f+, no class 1 or 2 win
Kruzhlinin - too young, no wins over 3m 1f+, no wins 10+ runners
Golan Way - not enough runs this season, no wins in chase 10+ runners
Twirling Magnet - only 8 years old, no senior chase wins, no wins over 3m 1f+
Vesper Bell - no wins 3m 1f+, no placed form, no class 1/2 win, no wins 10+ field, not run 56 days
The Package - not enough runs this season
Rose Of The Moon - not enough chase runs / season runs, no class 1/2 win, not run 56 days
Shakalakaboomboom - no placed form this season
Alvarado - too low in weights, not run in last 56 days
Last Time D'Albain - too low in weights, no wins over 3m+, no class 1/2 win, no wins 10+ field
One In A Milan - too low in weights, not enough chase runs, no wins over 3m 1f+, no class 1/2 win
Swing Bill - too low in weights, 13YO, not enough season runs, no placed form, no wins 10+ field

There are a few horses here that I would describe as 'bubbling under'; as we've seen in recent years just failing to tick one box for a dubious 'trend' is no real reason to discount the likes of Battle Group, Prince De Beauchene, Big Shu and The Rainbow Hunter - and you might just see one or two of them appear on my own personal picks later!

No prizes for guessing the 11 horses remaining who don't appear on the reject list above, but you'll have to wait and see whether they all make the final trends short list in my next post on Grand National eve!

Born To Run

Form Figures (part three)

In our final evaluation of current form, we need to review the number of runs a horse has had in the build-up to the Grand National and when they had their last race.

Too few runs and a horse may not have had the ideal preparation for Aintree, but too many miles on the clock and a horse may not have enough petrol left in the tank required for the marathon trip.

Every winner in the last 20 years (since Miinnehoma's unusual two race preparation in 2004) had run between three and six times since the start of August - and all had run in the previous 56 days.

This is a tricky one, as more and more horses are being kept under wraps until the Grand National weights are released to protect their handicap mark.  Combined with this, the very wet winter has resulted in soft or heavy going most of the season and therefore limited the potential to get runs in on for horses that need good ground.

As a result, we have to treat this trend with a certain amount of caution and some flexibility may be required. While you would not necessarily dismiss a horse for this reason alone, it is certainly another negative that counts against their chances.

Horses with too few runs

Rocky Creek - 2 runs
Walkon - 2 runs
Big Shu - 2 runs
Golan Way - 2 runs
The Package - 1 run
Rose Of The Moon - 2 runs
Swing Bill - 2 runs

Horses that have not run within last 56 days

Rocky Creek - 70 days
Battle Group - 105 days
Prince De Beauchene - 79 days
Mountainous - 63 days
The Rainbow Hunter - 70 days
Vesper Bell - 72 days
Rose Of The Moon - 74 days
Alvarado - 94 days

It would be ridiculous to dismiss a horse's chances purely based on an extra week or so, so I would probably extend the 56 day rule to two months.  But clearly if a horse has not been seen on a racecourse for ten weeks or more the chances are they may have had an interrupted preparation and / or may not be fit enough to do themselves justice.

A number of the horses on both lists above have now been disqualified on at least two of the trends. In fact there are now very few horses that haven't been mentioned in one way or another... We are getting closer to the final shortlist - and unsurprisingly there is less than a dozen potential qualifiers for this year's race.

The Place To Be

Form Figures (part two)

The next aspect of form we need to look at is how a horse has been performing so far this season. Auroras Encore was the first horse since I have been writing this bulletin to have won the Grand National without finishing placed at some point prior to Aintree, so was very much the exception to the rule.

The 2014 Grand National winner will almost certainly have finished in the first three at least once during the current campaign, preferably with a win to their name – and ideally with between three and six runs in total since August.

Every winner since 1990 had finished in the first three during the course of the season leading up to Aintree - and it was on at least one of their previous three runs. In fact, in the last 16 years only three horses (including Auroras Encore) have finished in the first three in the National having failed to get in the frame in any of their previous four starts.

It's worth reminding ourselves of the form figures for every Grand National winner since 1990:

Auroras Encore - P45F5
Neptune Collonges - P422
Ballabriggs - 112
Don't Push It - 423P
Mon Mome - 218278
Comply Or Die - 0P21
Silver Birch - 38242
Numbersixvalverde - 84B443
Hedgehunter - 924061
Amberleigh House - 342P5
Monty's Pass - 31364
Bindaree - 753367
Red Marauder - 14552F
Papillon - 875493
Bobbyjo - 580541
Earth Summit - 55165
Lord Gyllene - 231112
Rough Quest - F22F12
Royal Athlete - 3625
Miinnehoma - 17
Party Politics - 2255
Seagram - 3292131
Mr Frisk - 413354

As these figures demonstrate, winning form is not essential, but placed form certainly is. Although only six Grand National heroes since 2000 had visited the winner's enclosure prior to success at Aintree, all bar Auroras Encore had performed creditably by finishing in the frame at least once that season.  In fact 11 out of 13 winners had been placed more than once that season, underlining how important season form can be.

So it is still safe to reject the following group of six horses who have failed to show the prerequisite level of form so far this season:

Quito De La Roque
Our Father
Vesper Bell
Last Time D'Albain
Swing Bill

It might be ruthless, but you must have had a place to get in this race!

In the final part of our assessment of form figures we'll review the number of season runs and examine exactly when each contender had their final prep race for Aintree.

Different Class

Form Figures (part one)

With only two days to go until the big race it's about time to get down to the business end and start narrowing the field to our shortlist of potential winners.  To do this we need to scrutinise the factor that should matter above all other - form.

There are three important criteria that need to be applied to each of the contenders due to line up on Saturday:

- Have they won a Class 1 or Class 2 Chase?
- Have they won a race contested by 10 or more runners?
- Have they got placed form this season?

If the answer is 'no' to any of the above, then they can be eliminated.  But above all the most important consideration is class.  There may have been a number of shock results in the Grand National in the last twenty years, but regardless of whether or not they were fancied to win, all of them had previously won a Class 1 or Class 2 Chase.

Now, as you'd expect, for a race of this calibre there are actually very few horses that have not won at the pre-requisite level.  The vast majority of horses qualify, but we can still discount these five horses in the bottom half of the handicap:

Hawkes Point
Vesper Bell
Rose Of The Moon
Last Time D'Albain
One In A Milan

It is with great reluctance that we reject the Welsh National runner-up Hawkes Point, but he does look too inexperienced for the hurly burly of Aintree.  He has also not won a race under rules with 10 or more runners, a comment that also applies to the following quartet:

Rocky Creek
Vintage Star
Vesper Bell

Although some of the same names keep cropping up, we're starting to reduce the number of hopefuls down to a manageable short list.  In the next post we will look at current season form to see if we can cut this down even further.