|1. Pineau De Re||25-1||Leighton Aspell||Dr Richard Newland|
|2. Balthazar King||14-1||Richard Johnson||Phillip Hobbs|
|3. Double Seven||10-1JF||A P McCoy||Martin Brassil|
|4. Alvarado||33-1||Paul Maloney||Fergal O’Brien|
|5. Rocky Creek||16-1||Noel Fehily||Paul Nicholls|
|6. Chance Du Roy||33-1||Tom O’Brien||Philip Hobbs|
|7. Monbeg Dude||16-1||Paul Carberry||Michael Scudamore|
|8. Raz De Maree||50-1||Davy Condon||D T Hughes|
|9. Swing Bill||66-1||Conor O’Farrell||David Pipe|
|10. Kruzhlinin||100-1||Wilson Renwick||Donald McCain|
|11. Buckers Bridge||66-1||A E Lynch||Henry De Bromhead|
|12. The Package||14-1||Tom Scudamore||David Pipe|
|13. Vesper Bell||40-1||Ms K Walsh||W P Mullins|
|14. Across The Bay||50-1||Henry Brooke||Donald McCain|
|15. Mr Moonshine||20-1||Ryan Mania||Sue Smith|
|16. Prince De Beauchene||20-1||Paul Townend||W P Mullins|
|17. Hunt Ball||50-1||Andrew Tinkler||Nicky Henderson|
|18. Hawkes Point||50-1||Ryan Mahon||Paul Nicholls|
The 2014 renewal of the Grand National will go down as one of the classiest in its illustrious history based on the handicap marks of its participants and yet there was a clear cut winner in the end as PINEAU DE RE powered clear after the last to take the race by five lengths for his part time trainer, Dr Richard Newland.
As is almost always the case, the contest had a fairy tale ending, as winning jockey Leighton Aspell had retired from race riding as a result of becoming increasing disillusioned with the sport, only to have a change of heart, which ultimately led to his crowning glory here.
Like many recent National winners, Pineau De Re’s preparation for the race had been completed with a spin over hurdles and it was a staying on fourth in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival that earmarked him as a serious contender for this ultimate test of horse and rider. The one question mark against him was his jumping, as he seemed sure to relish the step up in trip, but despite more than one serious blunder we was always travelling sweetly for Aspell and never looked like being caught after he hit the front going to the second last.
As an eleven year old, he proved again that with experience often come increased reserves of stamina and horses entering their veteran stage should never be ruled out as relative old age looks very much a positive rather than a negative when assessing a horse’s National chances.
Given that, and the fact that we are surely overdue a dual Grand National winner, this horse has every chance of coming back next season and putting up a bold defence of his crown for a trainer who punches way above his weight given the very small string he has to go to war with.
If Aspell’s story provided the fairytale, Richard Johnson’s National nightmare continued as the jockey with the most losing rides in the history of the great race endured the agony of finishing second on Balthazar King.
The horse arguably deserved a better fate too, as he has been a legendary performer for his connections having now won back to back Cross Country Chases at the Festival. He was beaten fair and square, however, but better ground next season might see him get even closer. He settled well this year, having blown his chances in 2013 by pulling too hard, and if we are right about veteran chasers being dangerous in the National then he could prove an even stronger stayer in 2015.
Johnson’s great rival, Tony McCoy, was back in third, having seen his mount, Double Seven, backed into joint favouritism before the off. That gamble was nearly landed, but the horse seemed to get tired in the closing stages and couldn’t quite see out the marathon trip. Apart from an early blunder, he jumped well throughout.
The front three pulled a little way clear of fourth placed Alvarado who finished with a real rattle having been about tenth jumping the last. He can be a bit quirky, but this unique challenge seemed to bring out the best in him and he continued the extraordinary recent record in the race of his owners, Mr and Mrs Rucker. Stamina is very much his forte, so he will presumably be back for more next season when softer ground would really play to his strengths.
Rocky Creek fared best of those towards the head of the weights and this was a fine performance from a handicapping perspective from Paul Nicholls’ eight year old who has time on his side when it comes to improving on this effort in the future. He led four out, but seemed to tire under his burden and it may pay to ride him with more restraint next year, although he seemed to relish being in the front rank for much of the contest here.
2012 Topham winner Chance Du Roy again showed the value of course form over these unique fences by claiming an excellent sixth and capping a great race for trainer Phillip Hobbs (who also saddled Balthazar King) in the process. He doesn’t mind more give in the ground, but has yet to prove he stays this far.
Question marks over Monbeg Dude’s ability to put in a clear round caused the former Welsh National winner to drift on the day, but he got around safely. Indeed, having been given his usual patient ride out the back he looked a threat when creeping into contention approaching Bechers for the second time. Unfortunately for his supporters, he wasn’t able to sustain the effort and exaggerated hold up tactics are hard to pull off in the National these days.
Raz De Maree was another of those who finished the race off notably strongly having lost his place midway round the first circuit. He could be a threat next year if we get heavy ground.
Ninth place Swing Bill deserves a particular mention as this was his seventh run over these fences and he has so far never fallen. The fact that he has been fifth in the Topham and fouth in the Becher, but never better than sixth in this race, tells its own story though as he doesn’t quite stay the 4m 3f. However, he i
s invariably a dream ride for whichever pilot is lucky enough to get the leg up on him in the Aintree paddock and young Conor O’Farrell will have had some journey on him today.
Of the other finishers, one of the babies of the field, seven year old Kruzhlinin, was hampered early on and made a number of mistakes, yet still finished within sight of the leaders. Given the McCain factor his trainer brings to the party, he could be an interesting one for next year if he can brush up on his fencing.
By contrast, both The Package and Prince De Beauchene have had a lot of chances in the race between them and their best days may be behind them now.
Hawkes Point was eighteenth and last of the finishers.
Of those who failed to complete, former Gold Cup winner Long Run had seemed to have taken well to the fences before coming down at Valentine’s first time, whilst the well fancied duo of Teaforthree and Burton Port got no further than the Chair and the second respectively.
The luck was also out for another classy performer, Tidal Bay, who was badly hampered at the eighth and shot his pilot out of the saddle as a result, whilst last year’s Hennessy and Topham winner, Triolo D’Alene could never land a blow and was pulled up before Becher’s second time.
The only possible hard luck story was One In A Milan, who had made steady headway onto the heels of leaders when coming down at that fence.
Below is our 2014 Grand National race preview and selections, which included the 25/1 winner (tipped at 33/1).
2014 Preview and Tips
Tidal Bay: Plenty of previously rock solid trends have been bucked in recent Nationals – like when Comply Or Die won wearing blinkers, the French bred grey, Neptune Collognes was successful or Don’t Push It smashed the 11st barrier when triumphing for Tony McCoy – so supporters of Tidal Bay will hope that it is a positive, rather than a negative, that no 13-year-old has won the race since 1923.
There is no doubt he has the class to win it and he has coped with carrying big weights in big handicaps before. He is also unlike most 13 year olds as his form has been on an upward curve since his switch to Paul Nicholls’ yard. The one worry is his style of racing as it is very difficult to make up ground from off the pace in the National these days and this horse loves to come with a late rattle. Despite people crabbing his jumping in the past, he has never fallen and only unseated his rider once. The trip won’t be a problem either and he is versatile ground wise.
Long Run: Apart from a significant age difference, Long Run has a similar profile to Tidal Bay in that he too has only ever unseated his pilot once and he is classy enough to actually have won the Gold Cup. He enjoyed a confidence boosting success at Kelso recently having struggled to cope with the new generation of top three mile chasers earlier in the season.
Missing Cheltenham may prove to be a masterstroke as he comes here fresh and his strength has always been his stamina. He is dangerously well handicapped on his best form and, like Tidal Bay, can handle most conditions. If he takes to the challenge, he could be hard to beat and his amateur jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen has an outstanding record over these fences.
Hunt Ball: Nicky Henderson has three of the four top weights in the race and the second of those is Hunt Ball, who is in his first season with the champion trainer, following an unsuccessful stint in America. He ran really well in the Ryanair Chase at the Festival recently and is a top class performer on his day, but he must have decent ground. He is also yet to prove his stamina for this trip and whilst he could run well for a long way he may struggle at the business end of the race against the stronger stayers.
Triolo D’Alene: Was also in action at Cheltenham a few weeks ago where he ran well for a long way in the Gold Cup. Prior to that he had won the Hennessy and he finished off last season with back to back wins that included a success over these fences in the Topham. Again, good ground is key to his chances.
He is 10lbs higher here than when winning at Newbury and although he is lightly raced enough to still be improving, he did have quite a hard race last time out. Others may be better handicapped and he may struggle to stay if the ground turns soft. He is, though, a very sound jumper on the whole.
Rocky Creek: Just touched off by Triolo D’Alene in the Hennessy, but is 5lbs better off at the weights here for a nearly 3 length beating. He has also had a lighter campaign and comes here the fresher horse. That is more by accident than design, though, as he was forced to miss the Gold Cup and trainer Paul Nicholls had originally not wanted to tackle this race with him for another 12 months. He has always looked like a marathon trip would suit him, but does lack a bit of experience.
Quito De La Roque: Since promising starts to his career as a novice over both hurdles and fences, Quito De La Roque’s form has really tailed off in recent seasons and yet he remains high up in the handicap here. His last decent effort came in the Betfred Bowl at this meeting last season when he wasn’t disgraced behind First Lieutenant, but the unique challenge of this contest would have to have a major galvanizing effect on him for him to be involved at the business end here. All of his best form is on very soft ground and he does, at least, stay well.
Colbert Station: Last season, Tony McCoy chose Colbert Station as his National mount and, not surprisingly, the horse then went off as one of the favourites. He lost the champion jockey at The Chair, however, and his form has been in decline ever since. So too has his jumping and it is much harder to make a case for him this year than it was last as he is also a couple of pounds higher in the handicap.
Walkon: With Liverpool flying high in the Premier League there could be plenty of support for Walkon on the day of the big race so anyone who fancies him should get on early. He is also a stunning grey who will prove popular with once a year punters. However, he does have a chance on the formbook, despite his price and his supporters will mainly point to his effort behind Triolo D’Alene in last season’s Topham. He was only beaten ¾l that day, but enjoys a massive 20lbs swing in the weights here. He acts with a bit of cut in the ground and enjoys the hustle and bustle of big handicaps, so the biggest question is whether or not he will stay the trip. His yard is in much better for this season, so he looks one of the more interesting outsiders.
Balthazar King: Recent Festival winner Balthazar King has become an expert in cross country races over banks courses at home and abroad, and his jumping really is his key attribute. He put it to good use here last season to complete a clear round, but he was well out of contention in 15th. He would need the ground to dry out considerably to have a chance of bettering that position this year and he has 4lbs more to carry.
Wayward Prince: Is just the sort of inconsistent performer who could take to these fences and run a big race – equally, though, he may hate it and spit out the dummy. There is no doubt that he has a reasonable weight based on the best of his form, which has seen him mix it with some of the best staying chasers around. It is worth remembering that he was only beaten a length by Bostons Angel in the 2011 RSA Chase and he has finished second in the last two Charlie Hall Chases. If a break has freshened him up he could outrun his odds.
Mr Moonshine: Connections of the now retired Auroras Encore will be hoping that lightening can strike twice as Mr Moonshine goes for a unique double in this year’s National for the same owner, trainer and jockey that one last season’s renewal. This horse actually pulled up behind his stablemate in 2013, but he has been in much better form this season and was a staying on third over these fences in December’s Becher Chase. Better ground would help him see out the trip, but he does have a career high mark to overcome.
Teaforthree: Of all of the runners returning after tackling the race last year, Teaforthree fared best of all in third, yet he will have two pounds less weight on his back here, which is generous as he has been running well this season too. His best effort came when he was second at Ascot in February, but he also ran creditably in the Gold Cup, where he was around 10l in front of Triolo D’Alene. The only reason he didn’t finish second last year is that he pressed for home early with the eventual winner, before tiring and a more patient ride here should help. He is usually an outstanding jumper and it is no surprise to see him at the head of the market.
Across The Bay: Across The Bay’s stamina ebbed away much sooner than Teaforthree’s last season, but not until he had given a very bold sighting out in front for much of the first circuit and a half. He can give his pilot another thrilling ride this time around, but it is hard to see him making the necessary improvement to be involved at the death, although a more patient ride could see him at least finish closer.
Double Seven: Despite having form figures boasting almost as many letters as number, Double Seven threatened on a number of occasions last season to develop into a smart chaser and that potential has finally been realized this campaign, during which he has rattled off a five timer. He wasn’t disgraced in sixth last time out either in a race that saw him doing all of his best work at the end. Trainer Martin Brassil won the National in 2006 with Numbersixvalverde and Double Seven is one of many Irish horses who is better on decent ground and yet has to normally run on very soft going throughout the winter. If the ground dries out here, therefore, there could be further improvement in him. However, any value in his price has long since gone given that he is the choice of Tony McCoy.
Battle Group: Incredibly, Battle Group won two races in three days at this meeting last year – one over hurdles on the Thursday and one over fences on National day itself. He then went on to win another valuable hurdle at Haydock a month later before changing yards for the second time in less than a year. He is now with Johnny Farrelly, but has yet to recapture his form for his rookie handler and has been pulled up or refused on his three starts this season. The good news is that he usually bounces back to form at this time of year, provided the ground is decent. He is another who could run a massive race if he takes to the fences, but his price reflects the fact that that is something of a longshot. He is also 16lbs higher than when he won that chase here almost 12 months ago and any showers would really damage his chances.
Buckers Bridge: A third place over three miles on his last start qualified Buckers Bridge for the National, but for those looking for some hope that Henry De Bromhead’s eight-year-old will stay this marathon trip it is best to look back to his very first start in a point to point which he won over that same trip on soft to heavy going. He then won two bumpers before going straight over fences, but has been inconsistent and hard to train. His connections have always thought the world of him and believe he is best fresh, and there would be no better place to fulfil his potential than on this biggest stage of them all. The form of his last run is working out well too – he was beaten 17 lengths by On His Own, giving the Gold Cup runner up 5lbs.
Lion De Bearnai: The 2012 Irish Grand National winner, Lion Na Bearnai, was fourth in the Fairyhouse contest that saw Buckers Bridge beaten by On His Own and Mount Benbulben. He was beaten out of sight that day, but the jockey of the moment, Davy Russell, thought it was a decent prep race for this contest and keeps the ride here. Last season was a write off for the horse, as it was for his handler, but both are in better form this campaign and at least we know he stays, so soft ground would bring his strong suit more into play.
Prince De Beacuhene: At last, having been ante post favourite for this race in both 2013 and 2012, Prince De Beauchene looks set to take his chance in the National, but ironically he is now in the worst form he has been in over the past few seasons. He has come down the weights as a result and his last performance was more encouraging. He has also been freshened up since and Willie Mullins runners always have to be resepcted..
Monbeg Dude: Like Sam Twiston-Davis on Tidal Bay, Paul Carberry will be looking to deliver his challenge on Monbeg Dude as late as possible, but as we’ve already stated that is easier said than done in the National these days. The trip should be ideal for the former Welsh National winner and he still looks well handicapped given his undoubted ability, but he can hit the odd fence and if he does that here, while creeping around out the back, he may leave himself too much ground to make up late on. By contrast, if his jumping holds up, and Carberry doesn’t overdue the waiting tactics, he could have a big chance.
Big Shu: Like Balthazar King, Big Shu is a cross country specialist and he was third behind Phillip Hobbs’ charge at the Festival recently. He would probably prefer the ground to be slightly softer than it was that day as he certainly has reserves of stamina. He is also improving all the time having only been very lightly raced in his younger days, so he has a very good chance of overturning the Cheltenham form with his old rival here and all in all he looks a solid each way option.
Burton Port: Potentially the best handicapped horse in the race is definitely Burton Port who was running off of a mark of 166 when fourth in the 2012 Gold Cup for Nicky Henderson. He is now with Jonjo O’Neill and his mark has plummeted to 145 following some uninspiring efforts for his new yard. There were definite signs of a return to form last time at Newbury though and better ground in the spring definitely seems to bring out the best in him. He certainly can’t be written off given O’Neill’s outstanding record with staying chasers and owner Trever Hemmings has won this great race twice before.
Our Father: The very lightly raced Our Father is another horse who is something of an enigma and thinkers can often be suited by the different challenges that the National presents to a horse. However, he also tends to be best fresh and he had quite a hard race at the Festival a few weeks ago, where he was a respectable ninth in the Kim Muir. Jumping errors that day cost him any chance of a place and that is a real worry given that these obstacles still warrant plenty of respect. He does act on very soft ground should conditions deteriorate markedly.
Mountainous: One horse that would definitely like more rain is Welsh National winner, Mountainous. He is 7lbs higher here than when winning at Chepstow and he didn’t cope with his new mark on his only subsequent start at Ffos Las in February. He should really only be a threat if the ground turns heavy.
The Rainbow Hunter: Also likes to get his toe in, as he proved when an impressive winner of the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster in January. He unseated in the National last year, but has had a wind operation since, which seemed to work the oracle at Doncaster. He stays well and could still be improving, but has a career high mark to overcome here and his jumping hasn’t always been the best.
Vintage Star: Last year’s winning trainer, Sue Smith, has another string to her bow this year – aside from Mr Moonshine – courtesy of Vintage Star. A fall last time out isn’t the ideal preparation for a shot at this race, but Vintage Star was an early casualty in the big 3m handicap at the Festival. Prior to that, he was just touched off in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock on ground that may have been a bit heavy for him. He is usually a sound jumper, and he stays well, so he could have each way claims, but it is hard to see him being quite good enough to win.
Chance Du Roy: Was pulled up in that Haydock race, but prior to that he won the Becher Chase here in December. He was also ninth in last season’s Topham and second in that race in 2012, and so has plenty of good experience over these fences. However, he only just clung on when winning the Becher and he may struggle to see out the extra trip here particularly if we have much rain. If he does, he could be a big player.
Hawkes Point: Paul Nicholls’ third string is Hawkes Point, who was second in the Welsh National behind Mountainous and who has always looked an out and out stayer. As with stablemate Rocky Creek, there is a question over whether the race may come a year too soon for him as he has only had 12 starts under rules, but he could be dangerous if this turns into a real slog and despite his odds may fare best of the Nicholls trio.
Kruzhlinn: Has recent form with a number of these rivals. He was third, one place behind Mr Moonshine, at Kelso recently and seventh in The Rainbow Hunter’s Great Yorkshire Chase. He has a good strike rate over fences having won four of his 12 starts, but the handicapper may have him in his grip and 7-year-olds have a poor record in this race. He probably prefers decent ground.
Pineau De Re: Is one of the few horses to have had an ideal prep run for this race at the Cheltenham Festival – he ran really well over hurdles to end up a fast finishing third in the Pertemps. He has plenty of good form this season over fences too, his first since coming over from Ireland to join Richard Newland. It took him a while to reach the same level over fences as he reached as a young hurdler, but that is mainly because he was often confronted with unsuitably soft going on the other side of the Irish Sea. Better ground underfoot definitely suits him and he is usually a strong traveler in his races so he should be able to be handy throughout here. He fell in the Becher Chase in December, but is in much better form now. His jockey, Leighton Aspell, has had a fine season and a big run here would be the icing on the cake for the veteran pilot.
Golan Way: Front runner Golan Way has been a fine servant to connections down the years and he has recently been sent hunter chasing by his new trainer, Tim Vaughan, following a lengthy lay off. It is hard to know how much ability he retains and he has refused to race in the past, but his former handler, Sheena West, always hoped he would develop into a National horse one day. It won’t be easy for him to lead from pillar to post here, but he could at least show up for a long way as he does stay well.
Twirling Magnets: We’ve already mentioned Jonjo O’Neill’s skills with staying chasers and he also has Twirling Magnets to represent him in the race this year. This horse loves decent ground, but he ran poorly at Cheltenham last time out in the Kim Muir, despite being well fancied in some quarters. He has often been inconsistent in the past and even if he has a going day it is hard to make a case for him winning this.
Vesper Bell: Willie Mullins’ other runner is Vesper Bell. He’s always looked a thorough stayer but has been disappointing this season and has lost his jockey on a couple of occasions, including at the first in the Becher Chase here in December. Better ground may revitalize him, but he’ll need to improve his fencing as well to have any chance.
The Package: Has been lightly raced over the years, but he was back to his best when third in the big 3 mile handicap chase at the Festival recently. Prior to that he had pulled up twice and it is a worry that he takes so little racing. He is also usually best fresh so a further concern is that his Cheltenham exertions may have left their mark. He was strongly fancied for this race in 2010, after a similarly encouraging run at the Festival, only to unseat at the 19th when still in the mid-division. He should stay and likes good to soft ground.
Raz De Maree: Around 18 months ago, Raz De Maree looked a possible National horse following an impressive win in the Cork race with the same name, but the wheels have fallen off since. He was third last time out to suggest better times might be around the corner and his trainer, Dessie Hughes, is always a man to respect. He is tough and stays well, but isn’t the biggest so his jumping will have to be at its best if he is to have any chance. He is another who could easily outrun his odds if things fall into place.
Rose Of The Moon: Lightly raced Rose Of The Moon is another hit and miss performer although he has won three of his six starts over fences. He certainly has his quirks, but is definitely best fresh, which he will be here. Despite being a thorough stayer, he doesn’t want the ground too soft and he did manage to complete in tenth when he tackled these fences in the Becher Chase. He’ll be suited by the extra distance here, but has a fair bit to find with those that finished ahead of him that day.
Shakalakaboomboom: Ran a blinder in this race in 2012 when leading until the second last. He didn’t seem to stay the trip that day and he hasn’t been in the same form since (he had to miss the whole of last season). The handicapper has relented slightly, but his lack of recent form is a big worry. To have any chance, the ground would need to stay good.
Alvarado: Owners, Mr and Mrs Rucker, deserve a change of luck in this race having seen first State Of Play and then Cappa Bleu placed umpteen times in recent renewals of the National. This horse may struggle to emulate their efforts as his jumping isn’t as good. He should get the trip though and all his form is on a better surface, but he has refused a couple of times in the past, so this may well not prove to be his cup of tea.
Last Time D’Albain: His best recent effort came over these fences in the Topham last season when he chased home Triolo D’Alene and Walkon. He is 2lbs higher here, but hasn’t run well on his three starts this campaign, albeit some over hurdles and all over inadequate trips. Connections will be hoping that his flame is re-ignited by these unique fences, but he looks a long shot.
One In A Milan: Evan Williams is the man that has trained all of the recent near misses in this race for the Ruckers so he too could do with a little more help from Lady Luck. His representative this year is a big outsider, though, and One In A Milan looks unlikely to break the Welsh trainer’s duck in the race. He ran well enough to finish fourth in the Welsh National, but doesn’t have the class to trouble the principles here unless the ground turns very soft.
Swing Bill: Popular grey who has a great record over these fences having finished fifth in this season’s Becher Chase and fourth in it in 2012, and sixth and 10th in the 2013 and 2012 Nationals. The bottom line, though, is that he doesn’t quite stay this trip and at 13 years of age he is unlikely to be improving. He is at his best on decent ground.
Until there have been more renewals of the race over the new obstacles it is impossible to identify any definitive trends, so it probably makes sense to back horses at both ends of the weights. One things’ for sure, though, and that is you still need plenty of stamina to win the world’s greatest steeplechase…and a touch of class.
One horse that definitely fits the bill is ex Gold Cup winner Long Run, who is also versatile ground wise. That could be important because, although, the ground is perfect at the moment, there is rain forecast on the big day.
In the hope that it stays away, the other horses we fancy to fill the frame are Burton Point in the belief that his return to form last time out was the pre-cursor to better days for his new yard, Walkon, who stayed on so well in the Topham last season and whose stable is in much better form this year, Pineau De Re, who ran such a great prep race over hurdles at Cheltenham recently, Big Shu, who wouldn’t mind some rain and who still seems on an upward curve, and Wayward Prince, in the hope that this inconsistent performer will be revitalized by this unique test.
We will re-assess the tips tomorrow if the ground softens significantly – otherwise, we would suggest backing all six, with most bookmakers paying five places.
2014 Grand National Prediction
|1st – Long Run||16-1||Ladbrokes|
|2nd – Pineau De Re||33-1||Ladbrokes|
|3rd – Burton Port||20-1||Ladbrokes|
|4th – Walkon||50-1||Ladbrokes|
|5th – Big Shu||25-1||Ladbrokes|
|6th – Wayward Prince||100-1||Ladbrokes|