|1. Neptune Collonges||33-1||Daryl Jacob||Paul Nicholls|
|2. Sunnyhillboy||16-1||Richie McLernon||Jonjo O’Neill|
|3. Seabass||8-1JF||Ms K Walsh||T M Walsh|
|4. Cappa Bleu||16-1||Paul Moloney||Evan Williams|
|5. In Compliance||100-1||D T Hughes||Niall P Madden|
|6. Ballabriggs||12-1||Donald McCain||Jason Maguire|
|7. Hello Bud||33-1||Nigel Twiston-Davies||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|8. Tharawaat||125-1||Gordon Elliott||Brian O’Connell|
|9. Shakalakaboomboom||8-1JF||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|10. Swing Bill||100-1||David Pipe||Conor O’Farrell|
|11. The Midnight Club||40-1||W P Mullins||Andrew Tinkler|
|12. Planet Of Sound||33-1||Philip Hobbs||Richard Johnson|
|13. Neptune Equester||100-1||Brian Ellison||Felix De Giles|
|14. Calgary Bay||33-1||Henrietta Knight||Dominic Elsworth|
|15. Midnight Haze||80-1||Kim Bailey||Sean Quinlan|
In any other era, Neptune Collognes’ own CV would surely have included at least one success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he has had the misfortune of competing in an era dominated by his two more illustrious stablemates, Denman and Kauto Star. But with the former now enjoying a well earned retirement and the latter likely to head that way in the summer, this was a well deserved day in the sun for John Hales’ grey.
There won’t be any further additions to the eleven-year-old’s roll of honour, however, as he was retired immediately after the race.
Tragically, that is a luxury denied to both the current Gold Cup winner, Synchronised, and According To Pete, both of whom lost their lives after falls at Becher’s Brook. That desperately sad postscript to the race took the gloss of what otherwise would surely have to be considered one of the finest renewals of this great contest.
The finish was certainly one of the closest and most thrilling, as the winner managed to get his nose in front in the shadow of the post to deny Synchronised’s stablemate, Sunnyhillboy, who looked all over the winner as the leaders passed the Elbow on the gruelling run to the line.
It was doubly heartbreaking for Jonjo O’Neill and JP McManus, when you consider what happened to Synchronised, but Sunnyhillboy had run his heart out and it was hard not to be pleased for the winner, who has been a bridesmaid in so many big races in the past and who was giving the runner-up over a stone here.
In fact, this was a top class performance by Neptune Collognes when you consider both the weight he carried and the quality of the opposition. It was also a performance that the horse has been threatening all season as he has been running well in valuable staying handicaps, without ever quite managing to get his head in front.
He almost didn’t manage to do so here either, but the extra distance of this unique race seemed to suit him. Indeed, the further they went, the better he seemed to travel as he had to be nudged along on a couple of occasions during the early part of the race to stay in contention.
By contrast, Sunnyhillboy made smooth headway to track the leaders approaching Valentines on the first circuit and was travelling noticeably well from that point on. Hitting the front jumping the last, his young jockey had seemingly produced him at the perfect time, but his stride began to falter in the final 100 yards and he lost out on the nod after a photograph. Despite the defeat, this was a wonderful effort coming so soon after his success in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival and he could well be back for another crack next year.
Seabass was another to catch the eye with the way he was travelling, but his stamina seemed to give way slightly earlier and he faded on the run in to finish third, beaten 5 lengths. He has had a remarkable season, but this effort suggests he is still improving and, in a race of firsts (the winner was the first grey to triumph since 1961) his pilot, Katie Walsh, achieved the best placing by a female jockey to date.
With next year’s renewal in mind, Cappa Bleu may be the one to take out of the race.
He has been lightly raced since winning the Foxhunters’ in 2009, but has already shown this campaign that he retains all of his old ability and he stayed on strongly in the closing stages to snatch fourth. He would have been even closer had he not been badly hampered by the fall of Alpha Beat at the Foinavon fence on the first circuit.
The 100/1 shot, In Compliance, who is fast approaching the veteran stage of his career, ran a blinder to finish fifth. He clearly loves these fences as he was 13th last year and also completed the course in the Topham the year before. There were always doubts, however, about him seeing out this trip and he tired quickly after being bang in contention jumping the last. He threatened to make up into a Gold Cup horse during his novice days in Ireland and he showed all of that class here to run his best race for some time.
Last year’s winner, Ballabriggs, appeared to be anchored by his welter burden of 11st 9lbs and he did well in the circumstances to finish a never nearer sixth. Like Cappa Bleu, he also would probably have preferred a bit more give in the ground as all he does is stay. He is sure to try again in 2013 and if the handicapper relents slightly he could be the first horse since Red Rum to win this famous race twice.
In a good race for the old timers, Hello Bud, who is now fourteen, ran a cracker to finish seventh. He is a fine jumper, which probably goes a long way towards explaining his exceptional record here (he was fifth to Don’t Push It in 2010), but he will surely head into an honourable retirement now.
Tharawaat was never in the hunt, but stayed on strongly to finish eighth. In many ways, it was a remarkable effort as he was tailed off when the leaders reached the Canal Turn for the second time.
By contrast, Shakalakaboomboom (ninth) faded dramatically after leading for much of the race. He had conditions to suit here so it is hard to see him improving on this effort in future years.
There was a huge gap back to Swing Bill (tenth) and the other five to complete came home at long intervals after that. Of them, the classy Plant Of Sound (twelfth) looked to have a big chance for much of the second circuit, but the marathon trip proved beyond him. Calgary Bay (fourteenth) didn’t stay either, whilst The Midnight Club (eleventh) was outpaced and would have preferred softer ground.
As far as ante-post punters were concerned, the second fence proved both pivotal and expensive as two of the best backed horses in the lead up to the race, Junior and West End Rocker, fell independently.
Backers of the likes of State Of Play, Rare Bob, Chicago Grey, Black Apalachi, Becauseicouldntsee, Tatenen, Organisedconfusion and Killyglen, a number of whom were well supported in the market, also knew their fate early on as they were all out of the race before Valentine’s on the first circuit. The first named brought down Rare Bob and Chicago Grey in a pile up at the fifth, whilst there was also plenty of incident at the Canal Turn first time around where the others all departed.
Of the remainder, the ground was clearly far too quick for Giles Cross, who could yet make his presence felt in this contest in the future if he ever gets his favoured heavy ground, and the same is true of On His Own who was third, and still going okay, when coming to grief at Becher’s second time around – the same obstacle that claimed the life of According To Pete, who was also still right there at the time of his sad demise.
Below is our 2012 Grand National race preview and our selections. Incredibly, our first five predictions (from six tips) included the actual first four home, who were available at 40/1, 20/1, 22/1 and 18/1 on the morning of the race.
2012 Preview and Tips
Synchronised: When the starter mounts his rostrum to let the Grand National field go on Saturday it will only be just over four weeks since Synchronised won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Plenty of people have been quick to crab this horse in general, and that success in particular, but there was no fluke about it and he was a thoroughly deserving winner on the day. In fact, he was drawing further and further clear on the run to the line and therein lies his strength – he gallops all day and will have no trouble seeing out this marathon trip. However, there are plenty of negatives too. Although he is the best horse in the race he has to carry top weight as a result and no horse has won the National under a welter burden of anything like 11st 10lbs since Red Rum carried 12st to victory in 1974. In addition, no horse has done the Gold Cup / Grand National double since Golden Miller in the 1930s and, the biggest concern of all, is that he tends to clout plenty of his fences in a race. He got away with it at Cheltenham, but he is far less likely to here. On balance, he looks opposable, particularly at his likely starting price of around 6-1.
Ballabriggs: Also has plenty of stats to overcome. No horse has won back to back Grand Nationals since Red Rum (1973 & 1974) and he has almost as big a weight as Synchronised, 11st 9lbs. That means he is running off a mark 10lbs higher than last year and whilst it is easy to see him getting around again this year, there are surely one or two better handicapped horses in the line-up. On the plus side, he’s been kept fresh for the event and ran encouragingly on his only start so far this season at Kelso in March. Given the weight he has to carry, he wouldn’t want the ground to get too soft and his stamina may also be questionable if this turns into a real slog.
Weird Al: Weird Al was a big disappointment when pulling up behind Synchronised in the Gold Cup. He is lightly raced and so open to improvement, but will need to be to win this off of a mark of 164. He is reportedly best fresh and so the gap between the Gold Cup and this race may not have been sufficient for him to be in peak shape here.
Calgary Bay: Horses who fall in the Grand National one year often come back and do well in a subsequent year and Calgary Bay has been in excellent form this season winning big chases at both Cheltenham and Doncaster (where he had Shakalalaboomboom 2½ lengths back in second (the runner up has 3lb pull in the weights here)). Calgary Bay has always looked to have a big race in him and he was a respectable sixth in the 2010 Gold Cup. He is also a good jumper on the whole and would have a decent chance on good ground. If the ground gets too soft, though, there would have to be serious doubts about him seeing out the trip. However, one thing is for sure, there wouldn’t be a better Aintree fairytale this year than success for this fine looking 9 year old as he is trained by racing’s favourite couple, Henrietta Knight and former top jockey Terry Biddlecombe, who is still recovering from a serious stroke that he suffered earlier in the season.
Neptune Collonges: Neptune Collonges can boast an incredible four starts in Gold Cups including a third and fourth place finish in 2008 and 2009 respectively. He has struggled to win races in recent seasons as he has always kept the best of company, but the handicapper has finally relented and given him a reasonable mark. Indeed, he is very well in on the best of his form, but he is 11 years old now and this is likely to be his swansong. He was an excellent second to Giles Cross in the Grand National Trial at Haydock recently. He gave the winner a stone that day and will have to give him a stone and five pounds here, but he was gaining on the winner as the line approached that day and so has a chance of turning the form around over this longer trip. He also wouldn’t mind better ground than the heavy surface he ran on that day. All in all, he looks decent each way value.
Alfa Beat: Ran an absolute shocker last time out when pulled up behind Prince De Beauchene and Black Apalachi at Fairyhouse and has it all to do here, based on that effort. However, he ran up a sequence of wins last season including a victory in the Kerry National over 3m at Listowel and the key to this horse seems to be good ground (it was soft at Fairyhouse when he disappointed). Even if he gets it here, he hasn’t been given any leeway by the handicapper and he looks up against it.
Planet Of Sound: There are very few Grade 1 winners in the field, but Planet Of Sound is one of them after his win in the Guinness Gold Cup at the 2010 Punchestown Festival. He has been lightly raced since then, but showed he retains all his ability by finishing second in the Hennessy at Newbury in November and then a staying on third in the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton last time out. There are doubts about his stamina, but he goes best on a flat track like Aintree and he is a sound jumper, so provided the ground is no worse than good to soft he deserves to go on anybody’s shortlist. His stable is also finally finding its form after a very disappointing season.
Black Apalachi: Black Apalachi’s second in the Fairyhouse race won by Prince De Beauchene, has put the runner up in the 2010 Grand National firmly back in the picture for this year’s race. That was his first run since he chased home Don’t Push It here two years ago, so he has to overcome the dreaded “bounce” factor, but he is an Aintree specialist having come down at the 22nd fence in the 2009 renewal of this great race when bang in contention and having won the 2008 Becher Chase. On the down side, the handicapper hasn’t been overly kind to him (he has to race of the same mark as he did in 2010 despite his long absence from the track) and no 13 year old has won the race since 1923.
Deep Purple: Deep Purple surprised everyone with his reserves of stamina by first winning the Charlie Hall at Wetherby last season over 3m and then outstaying his rivals in the London National at Sandown in December. Prior to that, he had been seen more as a 2m / 2m½m specialist, so there must still be some doubts about him getting this trip of 4m 4f. He is also fairly inconsistent and was having one of his bad days when falling in the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton last time out. He needs the rain to stay away to have any chance and even then it is hard to see this unique test being to his liking.
Junior: Plenty of people have fancied Junior for this race ever since he was an emphatic winner of the Kim Muir at last season’s Cheltenham Festival. Amazingly, he has also won at Royal Ascot and victory here would complete a unique and remarkable hat-trick. He was a good second at Doncaster in his prep race recently and he is in excellent hands when it comes to preparing a horse for the National (David Pipe was successful with Comply or Die in 2008, whilst his father, Martin, trained Miinnehoma to win the race in 1994). He has a slightly unusual jumping style and the biggest worry with him is whether or not that style will suit these big fences. He is also 24 lbs higher here than he was when winning at Cheltenham and if you’re not on him already, most of the value has gone from his price.
Chicago Grey: Chicago Grey is another previous Cheltenham Festival winner in the line-up – he won last season’s National Hunt Chase over 4m. He hasn’t been successful since then, but has run some creditable races this campaign, most noticeably when third to Weird Al in the Charlie Hall. With his stamina assured, there are plenty of reasons to be positive about his chances here and his trainer Gordon Elliott won the race with Silver Birch in 2007. One worry is that he likes to be dropped out in his races and come from behind and that is a hard way to win a National these days. Good ground is also absolutely key to his chances.
Tatenen: Tatenen put up a career best effort when winning at Ascot two starts ago, but he has been handicapped on that form here and so would have to improve again to be involved. He has also yet to win beyond 22f and has been well beaten on all his starts over 3m plus, and so is readily opposed.
Seabass: Most people would rightly say that Hunt Ball is the most improved horse in training, but Seabass isn’t far behind. He was rated only 114 when he won at Punchestown in December, but has gone up 37lbs since then, winning four races in the process. In fact, he has won his last seven starts under rules and in point to points for trainer Ted Walsh, who won the Grand National in 2000 with Papillon. The form of his wins is working out nicely – Out Now was well beaten by him at Leopardstown in January and that horse ran a cracker in the Irish National on Easter Monday. It is slightly concerning that Ruby Walsh has deserted him in favour of On His Own and Walsh’s concern must have been the horse’s stamina as his last win was over two miles. However, he won a point to point in his early years over 3m in heavy ground and there is a very real chance that he could make history here as his substitute pilot, Katie Walsh, bids to become the first woman to win the race. On the whole, he is an excellent jumper which is also in his favour.
Shakalakaboomboom: There will be plenty of commentators and journalists who would love Shakalakaboomboom to win this year’s Grand National – as, of course, would his trainer, Nicky Henderson, who is locked in a battle with Paul Nicholls for the trainer’s title that looks set to be decided at the Aintree Festival. This horse is relatively lightly raced having had only 14 career starts to date. One of those was in the Topham at last season’s National meeting, where he was a never threatening seventh. It would be hard to say he is well handicapped on his current mark and he’ll definitely need to improve for the step up in trip to take this. His lack of experience is also a worry.
West End Rocker: There haven’t been many more impressive performances over the Aintree fences in recent years than the one West End Rocker put up when winning the Becher Chase in November. That was on heavy going and give in the ground is key to this horse’s chances. He was also running well in the National last season before he was brought down at Becher’s first time and this has been the plan ever since. Indeed, he has been kept fresh since his win here in November and if the ground stays soft he is very much one to consider as stamina is his strong suit. He can throw in the odd poor effort though (he’s been pulled up three times in his last nine races) and his handicap mark has gone up 12lbs since his last outing.
According To Pete: According To Pete is another horse who has been in the form of his life this campaign. He proved that his surprise success in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby over Christmas was no fluke by winning the Peter March at Haydock four weeks later. He is also another who relishes soft ground and stays all day, and he probably wasn’t suited by the drop back in trip on good ground at Kelso recently. He loves to race up with the pace, which is usually a plus in the Grand National these days, and he is only three pounds higher than when winning at Haydock.
On His Own: On His Own was all the rage for the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, but was brought down when out of contention. However, he bounced right back to form with an impressive win in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park in January and he is the chosen mount of Ruby Walsh. He has gone up 20lbs in the weights for that last success, but he won so easily it is hard to judge just how much he had in hand over his rivals. His lack of experience is a worry (only 9 races under rules to date) as is the form of the yard, whose four runners in the Irish National earlier this week were all pulled up. The Walsh factor also means that the horse is now under-priced as all the value was taken when it was announced that the top Irish jockey was going to take the ride.
Always Right: Another inexperienced runner is Always Right. His current form figures – PP – are hardly inspiring, but nor were Mon Mome’s before he won the Grand National in 2009. There have been excuses for those performances as the horse had a wind problem that has now been rectified and, in fairness, he travelled like the best horse for most of the way in the Grand National Trial at Haydock recently (which was won by Giles Cross). However, he emptied out quickly as a result of that wind problem and the same was true at Wetherby behind According To Pete in the Rowland Meyrick. He may also have been inconvenienced by the heavy ground on both starts and he is probably best judged on his third to Beshabar in last season’s Scottish National. That effort would give him a decent chance here and trainer John Wade has his small string in fine form at the moment.
Cappa Bleu: When he won the Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival in 2009 everyone was predicting huge things for Cappa Bleu, but his career went off the rails shortly afterwards and it has only really been during this campaign that he has started to show his best again. He proved he stays long distances with an excellent third in the Welsh National in December on ground that wouldn’t have suited him and confirmed that stamina could prove to be his forte when doing most of his best work at the finish in his last outing at Ascot. A mark of 147 looks very reasonable and good to soft ground should be ideal. With his trainer is good form too, he looks set to run a very big race.
Rare Bob: Rare Bob was a well beaten fifth behind West End Rocker in the Becher Chase here in November. His connections will be hoping that he can step up on that effort here as the ground that day was very testing. He has also run well at this meeting in the past – finishing a fine third to From Dawn To Dusk in the John Smith’s Handicap Chase in 2010 on the Mildmay course. On the whole, though, his profile doesn’t suggest he’ll be good enough to win this off his current mark.
Organisedconfusion: By contrast, another Irish raider, Organisedconfusion, is very much on the upgrade and, at seven, should still have some improvement in him. He won the Irish National last season and his campaign this year has centred around this race. Indeed, he has been trained in the style of a number of recent Irish winners – with a couple of spins over hurdles followed with a couple of runs over inadequate trips over fences. He has gone up nearly a stone for his Fairyhouse success and no seven year old has won the Grand National since 1940, but he has plenty of other factors in his favour here and he goes particularly well for Nina Carberry. There have also been a number of “stats” busters in recent years such as Comply Or Die (wore blinkers), Mon Mome (French bred) and Don’t Push It (carried 11st 5lbs).
Treacle: This horse has been all the rage in ante post markets since Pricewise tipped him up as his selection after the weights were announced. He put up a career best effort when third in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February. That performance guaranteed him a run here, but it also meant he went up 13lbs in the weights. He is lightly raced enough to overcome that rise and is in the form of his life. The vibes from his yard have been very positive in recent weeks too, but the form of the Hennessy hasn’t been working out particularly well and he’ll need to improve for the step up in trip here to have a chance.
The Midnight Club: The Midnight Club went off favourite for this race last season and was still in with a chance when he was hampered four out (he wouldn’t have won, but could easily have been placed). However, he has been badly out of form this season – although prior to his lasted outing in the Gold Cup he had been racing on unsuitably soft ground – and Ruby Walsh has deserted him this time around, so he looks to have it all to do.
Mon Mome: Aintree is still very much a place for specialists (just look at the likes of Don’t Push It, Comply Or Die, State Of Play, Hedgehunter, Clan Royal and Big Fella Thanks in recent seasons) and his connections will be hoping that a return by Mon Mome to the scene of his greatest triumph will rekindle his enthusiasm. He’s bang out of form, but that didn’t stop him in 2009 and he could sneak a place if the ground dries out, as he seems to hate very soft going these days.
Abor Supreme: Abor Supreme is having his third go at this great race, but his first for Jonjo O’Neill who will be hoping it is third time lucky. He has very little recent form to speak of and his only two starts this season have been over hurdles. However, the word from the O’Neill yard is that he is in fine form at home and there will be plenty of worse 100-1 shots if he can bounce back to his best.
Sunnyhillboy: Like Arbor Supreme, Sunnyhillboy is owned by JP McManus and he will be one of four runners in the race for the legendary Irish punter. Although his retained jockey has chosen to ride Synchronised, it must have been a tough choice for the champion as this horse also comes into the race off the back of a fine win at the Cheltenham Festival – in the Kim Muir, with Becauseicouldntsee 4½ lengths back in second (they both run off the same marks here). He has a swing of 10lbs in the weights with Organisedconfusion from their clash in the Irish National, when Sunnyhillboy was 6 lengths back in third. He seems at home over these longer trips and is also well suited by these big field handicaps. All in all, he could prove to be the best of the McManus quartet.
Killyglen: There weren’t many horses going better than Killyglen when he fell four out in last year’s Grand National and he has been in good enough form so far this season to suggest he has a real chance of putting that disappointment behind him here. Whilst he won nicely on soft ground at Down Royal last time out, good ground is really the key to this horse and if the going dries out significantly his odds are likely to contract accordingly. He also had a soft palate operation earlier in the year, which has probably brought about some further improvement and he certainly took to these fences in 2011.
Quiscover Fontaine: Quiscover Fontaine is another horse that Ruby Walsh had the chance to ride, and although his form figures are uninspiring, he has been running over hurdles all season to protect his handicap mark. He is best judged on his fourth to Organisedconfusion in the Irish National last April. He was staying on at the death that day, suggesting that this trip could be within his compass and he was good enough as a novice to run in the Arkle at Cheltenham in 2010. He wouldn’t mind a drop of rain, but has plenty of natural ability.
Tharawaat: Tharawaat is one of few horses in the race that it is hard to make any sort of case for. He has run some decent races in the past, but has been totally out of form recently and is also becoming increasingly inconsistent. He is easily passed over.
Becauseicouldntsee: Becauseicouldntsee was second to Sunnyhillboy in the Kim Muir at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and second at the 2010 Festival in the 4m National Hunt Chase. On both occasions, he looked the winner turning for home, but appeared to be outstayed or out battled. He fell in the Grand National last year, having taken a keen hold from the off, and the issue for his supporters is whether or not he will last out this marathon trip. One thing is for sure and that is for him to have any chance he needs decent ground, not just to help his stamina but also because all of his best form is on a sound surface. On the plus side, he is a big horse for whom these fences should hold no fears and he has a lovely racing weight.
State Of Play: Incredibly, three of this horse’s last four runs have been in the Grand National! He is so lightly raced because he is hard to train and as a result of those problems he needs soft ground to be at his best. The word from Evan Williams’ yard is that he has come to hand again in time for the big race and he deserves respect as his form figures in those three Nationals are 434. In each of them, he has been doing all of his best work in the closing stages, which is another reason why the rain would really help his chances. However, he is 12 now and a place is probably the best he can hope for. His regular Aintree rider, Paul Moloney, has jumped off him to partner stablemate Cappa Bleu.
Swing Bill: Swing Bill’s form has deteriorated since his win at Cheltenham’s Open meeting in November and he was a distant 17th in the Kim Muir last time out. He was also pulled up behind West End Rocker in the Becher Chase in November and didn’t really seem to take to these fences. It’s hard, therefore, to see him out running his likely three figure odds.
Postmaster: Had been a model of consistency over recent seasons (he’s been in the first three in 15 of his 24 starts over fences) and, as a result, has steadily climbed up the handicap. On the one hand, that improvement has allowed him to creep into the bottom of the weights here but on the downside it also means he comes into this contest on a career high mark. He, therefore, looks to have it all to do and he has to have quick ground, so any rain would reduce his very slim chances even further.
Giles Cross: One horse who would love the rain to come is Giles Cross. He has been in fine form all season winning the Grand National Trial at Haydock and the Southern National, and finishing runner up in the Welsh National. Those performances tell you that stamina is his strong suit and he is also a bold jumper who loves being up with the pace – two traits that should stand him in excellent stead in this race. He also only has a very light weight and despite his successes this season could still be ahead of the handicapper. Indeed, he has a very favourable pull in the weights with Synchronised after they fought out last season’s Welsh National and few horses will relish this marathon trip more than him. Although a lot of his best form is on very soft ground, good to soft should be fine and the only negative is that his regular rider, Denis O’Regan, can’t do the weight. Paddy Brennan should be a more than capable substitute though and a big run is anticipated.
Midnight Haze: Midnight Haze has won four of his 10 starts over fences, including wins over 3m 2f on heavy and good to soft ground, which give plenty of hope that he can stay this trip. However, he will have to improve markedly for the step up in distance to have any chance of mixing it with the best of these and he looks set to struggle in this class. His latest outing wasn’t particularly encouraging either, as he was well beaten in the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Vic Venturi: Was was quietly fancied for the 2010 Grand National, but unseated his rider at the 20th fence. He was less fancied last year when he also came to grief at the second. At 12 years old, his chances of winning this great race have probably gone now, but he deserves a bit of luck and it would be nice to see him get round. He has been in good form in point to points and hunter chases recently, but was disappointing when he ran in a decent hunter chase at Leopardstown last time out.
In Compliance: In Compliance’s chances of a Grand National victory have probably been and gone too. He was a really good chaser in his day, though, beating that year’s Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition in the John Durkan at Punchestown in 2006. He also took well to these fences when sixth in the Topham in 2010 and he also got round last year in 13th. The bottom line is that he doesn’t seem to stay this trip so a third clear round is the best he can hope for.
Viking Blonde: Viking Blonde is a promising young stayer in the making, but novice chasers and seven year olds have a bad record in the race, so he has plenty of history to overcome. He has also lost his form since beating Alfie Spinner on his chase debut at Chepstow in October. He wouldn’t mind it if the ground got very heavy and that is probably his only hope of getting involved in the finish.
Hello Bud: Stablemate of Viking Blonde, Hello Bud is at the other end of his chasing career and must be nearing retirement now. He certainly knows his way around these big fences and his best days here came when he was fifth in the2010 Grand National and won the 2010 Becher Chase later that year. He is a bold jumping, front runner and so should give Sam Twiston-Davies a real thrill, but he was pulled up in this race last year and father time seems to be catching up with him.
Neptune Equester: Neptune Equester has scraped into the race ahead of the four reserves – Any Currency, Our Island, Abbeybraney and Smoking Aces. Unfortunately, he has steadily lost his form since winning a handicapper chase over 3m 4f at Haydock on good to soft ground. That performance suggests that he might stay this sort of trip, and he is fairly versatile going wise, but he looks out of his depth here from 5 pounds out of the handicap.
Plenty of those towards the top of the weights look worth opposing, not least Synchronised. He is a top class performer, but has it all to do under his big weight here just after 4 weeks after his fine win in the Gold Cup.
Indeed, Synchronised may find it hard to beat his stablemate, Sunnyhillboy, who has an excellent chance of making the frame.
However, preference is for CAPPA BLEU and Giles Cross with the former taken to come out on top on this drying ground. Whilst any more rain would greatly help the chances Giles Cross, good to soft will be perfect for Cappa Bleu and it is easy to see him improving further for the step up to this marathon trip.
Neptune Collonges can prove best of those towards the top of the handicap, whilst Seabass could be the pick of the Irish.
Quiscover Fontaine and Abor Supreme look to be the most interesting of the outsiders.
2012 Grand National Prediction
|1st – Cappa Bleu||18-1|
|2nd – Giles Cross||20-1|
|3rd – Neptune Collognes||40-1|
|4th – Sunnyhillboy||20-1|
|5th – Seabass||22-1|
|6th – Quiscover Fontaine||50-1|