Clear, concise, comprehensive horseracing analysis and insight from Paul Jones, former author of the Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide, concentrating on jump racing in addition to the best of the Flat and leading Sports events.
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Grand National Weights Fallout (In More Ways Than One)

19/2/17

A good day yesterday. Particularly at Ascot where I was keenest on Bigbadjohn (8/1), Air Horse One (7/1) and Tenor Nivernais (6/1) in their respective races.

The 30 lengths’ victory of Tenor Nivernais could mean that he ends up being officially ‘best in’ for the Randox Health Grand National so the top price of 50/1 can certainly be argued to being very much on the generous side for Venetia Williams’ charge. The stable has already pulled one rabbit out of the hat in the race with Mon Mome at 100/1. It’s hard to think that he won’t go up at least 10lb for that (probably a deal more) runaway success even if the race did fall apart, though that was down to the pressure he was applying from the front.

Three of the last ten Grand National winners were officially at least 5lb ‘well in’ having improved since the weights were unveiled in mid-February so it’s an angle I quite like. And especially because, in addition, Sunnyhillboy was defeated by just a nose in 2012 attempting to do likewise and The Druids Nephew was going like a winner in front when he was 10lb ‘well in’ two years ago. This is significant as less than 25% of the field are ‘well in’ at all, let alone to the tune of 5lb+.

The new favourite, Vieux Lion Rouge, and Blaklion will also be ‘well in’ after their 1-2 in the Grand National Trial at Haydock yesterday as will at least half a dozen others between now and April 8th. Trying to find the best handicapped horse is usually the best way of attacking handicaps but that sometimes gets lost in all the facts and figures and luck-in-running required to win the Grand National.

Which brings us neatly onto the unveiling of the weights last week which can be best described as a boisterous affair, where I spent most of it towards the back with Fergal O’Brien who I was meeting for the first time. Top bloke. I have to agree with the Aintree head honcho, John Baker, who described the behaviour of some guests as rude in talking over the speakers and especially the soprano, Laura Wright, who was more or less drowned out.

Still, the discussion about the weights is the main thing and, boy oh boy, did that produce a heated argument later in the week when Gigginstown boss, Michael O’Leary, who we should point out won the race last year, ripped into the BHA Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith, for his treatment of Don Poli, Outlander and Empire Of Dirt. Incredibly unfairly in my view. The race takes place in Britain and that trio were given lower handicap marks than their official British rating so, as far as I can see, O’Leary doesn’t have a leg to stand on. If you haven’t caught Ask The Handicapper with Phil Smith on Attheraces then I urge you to do so, even if Matt Chapman was playing devil’s advocate to the nth degree. It’s on YouTube if you can spare an hour. I think you’ll enjoy it.

I gave my Grand National long list in Ante-Post Focus the day after the weights were released but, with Don Poli being subsequently ruled out due to being a couple of pounds higher than his owner wanted in, as somebody on twitter put it, possibly the greatest case of cutting off your nose to spite your face that horseracing has seen, and Maggio offering zero encouragement at Kelso, I’m now down to just the ten! It’ll be cut to two or three by the day.

Gas Line Boy repaid each-way support for the Grand National Trial by hanging onto fourth in last week’s Ante-Post Focus and I’ll be covering the Betbright Chase this Wednesday which is likely to be the last Ante-Post Focus for three weeks as I’m at midweek preview evenings in Ireland next week, at three more in Britain the following week and then it’s Cheltenham week itself.

It’s Week 14 of Cheltenham Festival Ante-Post tomorrow which will be the last of the 10,000-worders now that we’re virtually at the end of the Festival trials. The Monday copy will continue up to and including the eve of the meeting but to around half that total wordage after this week as there is less to report back on. Then we go daily from eight days beforehand and throughout Festival week. I have a 25/1 shot that I want to recommend tomorrow. In addition, I will be uploading the trends for all 28 races in the Race Trends section next week.

Onto the sport and Ciaran Meagher has made a profitable start to the Golf season. After recommending Hideki Matsuyama at 11/1 to successfully defend his Phoenix Open title, he then followed it up with his only each-way recommendation for Pebble Beach, Brandt Snedeker, hitting the frame at a top price 22/1. Ciaran is also going well this week in the Genesis Open with his headline selection, Dustin Johnson, being the half-way leader. Let's hope he can Turn It On Again. That's All. Following heavy rain, the final two rounds have been held back for today so that’s my Sunday sorted after watching the Festival trials at Navan. Ciaran will return in a couple of days to cover the Honda Classic. Then it's the first WGC event of the year the following week which the PGA Tour has moved from Trump National Doral to all of places, Mexico. You couldn't make it up could you!? This is not fake news.

Mike Henderson also had a good week in the Premier League Darts with all three recommendations winning at 13/10 (x2) and 4/6 and he returns for Week 4 on Thursday.

The winning run of Premier League Picks came to an end last weekend with a 0.5pts loss but, after eight consecutive winning football columns, we’re still nicely 16pts up on the season. I will return on Friday for the next edition. My suggested 5/1 about Real Madrid for the Champions League in the last blog is also looking good now with the favourites at the time, Barcelona, seemingly on their way out (now 50/1 with Sky Bet) after being thrashed 4-0 by PSG in the first leg.

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