Grand National

I you follow the horses enjoy the read!

Credit for this goes to mate on mine....

As if by magic another year has passed, and surely by the law of averages a return to the "golden year" of 2005 and the legend that is and was Hedgehunter must be imminent. With the failings of Monkerhostin, Bother Na and Le Duc having being mourned over many a tear-strewn beverage and now clearly in the rear-view mirror its time to jump back on board the proverbial horse and set sail for Grand National 2008.....

The bookmakers and so-called experts are suggesting that this National could turn out to be a one horse-race in the shape of Cloudy Lane, who it appears could well go off the shortest price horse since Red Rum 25 years ago. This Donald McCain trained bay-gelding has run up a sequence of impressive wins this season culminating in a classy win at Doncaster and the handicapper as gone as far as to say that if the weights for the National were framed today rather than in mid-February this son of Cloudings would have been forced to hump a full twenty pounds extra over the four mile four furlong course on Saturday. If this is an accurate assessment then the it would sound like the others may as well stay at home in their boxes munching carrots but I can't help but think that the official handicapper is erring on the side optimism in this assessment and at any rate no horse being supposedly this "well in" has won a National. My gut feel is that Cloudy Lane will not have the cosy passage that he has appeared to encounter in most of his races this season and will make mistakes when the pressure is applied - however, provided he gets round in one piece the fact that he is so well in on the handicap could enable this well-weighted sort to get a place.

The first horse that I will proffer as a viable alternative to the favourite goes by the name of COMPLY OR DIE, an unquestionable rogue, who may have inherited some of the spirit of his dam, Madam Madcap, who also had her fair share of hard-luck stories. Over the years this classy bay-gelding has thrown in some truly awful performances but has shown an awesome amount of talent at times, none more so than when dismissing a solid field in the Tote Eider Chase at Newcastle last time out with the minimum of fuss. It is also worth remembering that in his penultimate race Comply or Die finished only two and a half lengths behind the "handicap snip" that is Cloudy Lane and is now two pounds better off at the weights (usual equation over a marathon trip is one pound equals one length) so there really shouldn't be too much between them on official ratings. The only problem with this David Pipe trained monkey is that it can down tools at any given moment and go from looking like a certainty to an irrelevance - however at 12/1 and over double the price of the "good thing" I am willing to take a chance that it will have a going day.

The next horse that catches this judges eye is the Northern raider, BEWLEY'S BERRY, who was in the process of running an absolute corker in this race twelve month's ago before pecking on landing at the fearsome Becher's Brook and unceremoniously dumping experienced horseman Paddy Brennan to the turf. There is no doubt that shrewd trainer, Howard Johnson, will have this Chestnut Gelding fit and raring to go and one can't help but feel that if it gets round it will have every chance. Its front-running style should mean that trouble is kept to a minimum and shouldering the far from welter burden of eleven stone dead this son of Shernazar can go close - the 16/1 on offer is more than a fair price.

L'AMI is another horse who I believe has a good each-way chance in this race. The french-bred Chestnut Gelding is one of the forgotten horses of the race, about whom Champion Jockey Tony McCoy last year was as bullish as he dared be in a race of this nature when he said that it was his "best ever chance". Believe me this horse on his day is no back-number and on his running behind Kauto Star (beaten a neck - should really have won) this classy Francois Doumain trained stayer must stand a good chance of rewarding each way backers at the very least - the 40/1 on offer would appear to be a gift.

The final selection for this year's smorgasbord is a rewind to twelve month's ago when DUN DOIRE disappointed somewhat when fancied by this scribe to go close at the very least. On that occasion the ground went against the Tony Martin trained runner but with bottom-weight on his back and talented horseman Richard McGrath on top he can really put in a bold display of jumping - knowing the twinkle in his shrewd trainer's eye it would be of no surprise if this son of Leading Counsel restored the tall reputation that it has achieved on the Emerald Isle. The 33/1 on offer is well worth an each way dabble.

Of the other main fancies I would think that Simon's jumping will be found out and one error too many will probably see him fall by the wayside, both Chelsea Harbour and Kong John's Castle would appear to be "talking-horses" (on form can't be fancied) and surely it would be asking a lot for the long-term ante-post favourite Mr Pointment to bounce back to form after a truly lamentable run last time out. Although some shrewd judges are proffering last year's second and third Slim Pickings and McKelvey as likely victors this sage would disagree, neither has the form in the book this year and both have had setbacks and injuries - neither of which are required prior to a test of this nature. Of those at slightly bigger odds Longshanks could run his race, Vodka Bleu from the dangerous Pipe-yard is interesting and has been the subject of some decent reports but shouldn't finish in front of his stablemate Comply or Die and 2005 Champion Hedgehunter could run his race without troubling the judges.

In terms of the race I can see Bewley's Berry racing prominently before taking it up and leading them a merry dance after a circuit. In fact it wouldn't surprise me that if this horse, who jumps like the proverbial stag, made every post a winning post and attempted to run the field ragged from an early stage - that said it is very difficult for any horse to dominate a National field and will take a performance of the highest order for this Northern stalwart to do so. I would perceive the main protagonists to sit mid-division for most of the race and play their hands as they approach the business end.

My idea of the probable winner at this stage is Comply or Die who has been called many unkind names over the years but, whom, with his unquestionable talent, could find the race set up for him to lose. I really can see Timmy Murphy sitting motionless in the vanguard looking round for dangers as they turn for home and push comes to shove on most of the leaders. I am sure that this awesome jumping machine will be cantering and it could really be a question of how far if when the accelerator is pressed the horse responds in kind. However, if the David Pipe runner does fluff his lines then I've no doubt that any cracks in this "monkey"s the armour will be ruthlessly exposed by Bewley's Berry who will stay on grimly at the death for veteran trainer Howard Johnson. The 33/1 Dun Doire would also appear to represent good each value now that he is guaranteed a run in the race and he and the classy Grench-bred L'ami could end up filling the places. With Cloudy Lane plugging on for pressure and possibly Butler's Cabin and Flintoff making their way through beaten horses it should be a classic renewal of the race but really for this enthusiast it will come squarely down to a battle between the classy swagger of Comply-or-Die and the blood 'n' guts of Bewley's Berry and this ultimately will decide who's first to the lollipop and into the winner's enclosure....

1. Comply or Die
2. Bewley's Berry
3. L'Ami
4. Dun Doire


polar69 said:
I've got a quid on "Comply or Die" in the works sweepstake

I got Turko in ours....
I got a tip for St Johns Castle in a text form Ireland the morning of the race...I never back Favourites I was really pleased....
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