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Preview 05 April 2008


4.15 Aintree Johns Smith Grand National (Handicap) grade 3 4M 4F Good-Soft

1. Hedgehunter - Former winner of this race and the modern day Consistent horse in this race, it is all in the name with this horse and is the first of three runners in this race for owner Trevor Hemmings who also have the favourite in cloudy Lane. In the twilight of his career he should struggle to give weight away today and needs others to not complete and have a unlucky run to be landing this race for the 2nd time. Paired with Ruby Walsh again is a big bonus and sees out this trip well with the ground being in his favour and obviously has course form. Now 12yo and is older then most recent winners and he will once again complete with a clear round of jumping so has to have place claims but hard to see him winning.

My rating - 154

2. Hi Cloy - Loves this track and finished 2nd in a hurdle race this season and has had a hard season overall with seven runs already and few of those on really testing ground and under joint top weight today is likely to struggle to beat many of these. Enjoys this type of ground but has to be a concern on his stamina under top weight never been over this far. Current form is only average leading into this race and has to improve on that which isn't a far from conclusion with this track suiting and taking to the fences today could see him complete, but the likely hood is that he won't complete.

My Rating - 148

3. Knowhere - a six length victor this season over Our Vic is the highlight of his form and even though well beaten in the Gold Cup he has been set some pretty stiff tasks and from the higher marks in this handicap he has once again been set a hard task to get his head back in front and looks handicapped up to the hilt and is starting to look exposed as a 10yo and may need some help from the handicapper to be a force next season. Best at Cheltenham where he is kept to in the main he comes here for the 2nd season having tipped up last season. Needs to prove his stamina and his ability on a flat track and others looks better weighted.

My rating - 158

4. Mr Pointment - Was a strong favourite for this race until bursting a blood vessel at Doncaster in the trial race against Cloudy Lane and has to be approached with caution in this handicap as he returns to action today. Already won over these fences this season when winning in good style at the November meeting and has novice form tied in with the monster Denman to his name. With Paul Nichols this season and laid out for this race since day one with the trainer. Likely to stay this trip he has improvement to come and is lightly raced this season and comes here a ideal gap in between racing and could bounce back to form even though he doesn't fit the mould of recent winners of this race.

My Rating - 150

5. Turko - beaten in the Ryan air which the form has been franked since with Our Vic landing the Bowl at this meeting on Thursday and Turko is a classy horse with grade 1 form to his name and deserves respect back in handicaps for Paul Nichols who will be looking to put some glossy on yet another championship in the bag. Best right handed he could end up in the Whitbread if proving his stamina in this handicap today and with the ground in his favour he may well stay further then he has in the past having stuck on well last time out. Possibly could improve for the step up in trip he has some decent form coming into this handicap and may run a big race in what is a strong looking national. At 6yo he could well be a future national winner.

My rating - 158

6. Madison Du Berelais - Looks handicapped up to the hilt and even though the Hennessy is a good marker for this race he was staying on past beaten horses when beaten a easy 20L by Denman in this season renewal. Has been campaigned with this in mind and this could be a good prep for future Nationals as he still has possible improvement on races over 3M+. Best on quick ground connections will be hopping that it dries out further before post time to help his chances, but the overall look is that the handicapper has his measure at present and this is a fact finding mission for a future tilt at this race being just a 7yo.

My Rating - 152

7. Simon - Hasn't enjoyed the best of seasons, but comes here as a unlucky horse 12 months ago when in the form of his life and even though looking like the handicapper now has him 12 months on he has a point to prove. The ground shouldn't be a problem even though many believe he needs a real slog in the ground and has a touch a class about him. However with the handicapper looking to have his mark this time around he is playing just a minor role in this handicap.

My rating - 158

8. Ardaghey - Pulled up at Cheltenham in the Kim Muir and gets in as a replacement with David England taking the weight further down and he has a profile of a regressive horse over the past 12 months and has showed little since winning at Cheltenham early season and would be a surprise winner of this even if he was to find his feet again nearly 8 months on. Stamina shouldn't be a issue with the weights helping him along and tougher ground has often brought the best out of him in the past.

My rating - 140

9. Iron Man - Had a progressive summer last year and has struggled since those months to have a profitable season and is handicapped up to his very best in this today and would be a big surprise to see him winning again this time around and can be firmly discounted with maximum confidence as he has been on the go all season and looks likely to need a break which I would imagine will start after today.

My Rating - 122

10. Fundamentalist - Ran twice at the festival and managed to get a distance place behind Mister Mcgoldrick which cant be judged with to much confidence as form to win a handicap such as this from high in the handicap. Lesser light then the former grade 1 hurdle winner an future Gold Cup horse he was touted as, he looks pass this level these days and needs some further help from the handicapper and a lesser race I feel.

My rating - 158

11. Butler's Cabin - hasn't enjoyed the best of seasons so far after winning back to back big races last spring and the surprising selection of Tony McCoy who had a choice of 3 runners in this handicap to finally break his duck like Frankie did in the Derby. Best chance maybe was Clan Royal a few seasons back when he was starting to run away with it and got carried out at the Canal turn and for me Butler's Cabin isn't as good as he was 12 months ago and even though potential improvement to come he looks to high in the weights to be winning this handicap I feel and McCoy will go another year with out winning one race that has eluded him.

My rating - 143

12. Slim Pickings - Ran a cracker in this race 12 months ago and if steering the correct path he should be involved in the finish here today despite being higher in the weights as he is likely to have improved with the most perfect prep for this race that should have put him spot on for this race today. Ground and trip look ideal for him and is clearly still going the right way and at 9yo he is the ideal age for this and looks to be the strongest hope for the team from the emerald island.

My rating - 171

13. Chelsea Harbour - Has had a long hard season since October with plenty of race course appearances and for me his form looks to be lower then he once was capable off and would like to see him dropping a few more pounds to be handicapped to win a grade 3 chase such as this. Question marks have to raised on drying ground as they wont be hanging around today and this 8yo with a lighter campaign next season and a few pounds dropped could be interesting in 12 months time.

My rating - 145

14. Vodka Bleu - Last seen behind Kauto Star at Ascot where he was well beaten and has enjoyed some success this season in handicaps that would be just below the class of this race today and isn't as good as he once was prior to injury. The ground shouldn't be a problem but will he find enough improvement over these staying trips that haven't looked natural for him. Timmy Murphy has sided against him today and even though the trainer is heavy handed in this handicap he looks one of the lesser runners for the yard in this.

My Rating - 158

15. L'ami - One of two runners for the French trainer Douman and hopefully Micky Fitz will be fit to take the ride after being stepped down yesterday on a winner and this could be his last National as he is getting on. L'Ami is a superb jumper and ran well in the William hill handicap to grab a close place and seems to be returning to form that saw him run a cracker in the Gold Cup a few seasons ago behind the likes of Hedgehunter. Only 9yo he is the right age for a big run in this race and the ground and this extended trip should be perfect for him and McCoy could be kicking him for passing him over.

My rating - 160

16. Snowy Morning - Has struggled over fences this season and enjoyed his success over hurdles in which he would have been of interest if taking his chance in the World hurdle and the 8yo looks to be the 2nd string for the yard for this with Ruby Walsh sticking with Hedgehunter who knows how to make it around here. However Snowy Morning who fell in the Hennessy Gold cup early in the season when fancied to give the likes of Denman a run for his money, comes here fresh with the yard resisting temptation of running at Cheltenham and that could turn out to be the wrong choice and maybe hurdles point the way in the future.

My rating - 160

17. Bewleys Berry - Was last season his year in this race and could end up the new Clan Royal as his jockey reported that he was running away with it last season when bouncing of the ground and comes into the race this year with another big run over these fences already this season and has had a limited campaign like 12 months coming into this race as there isn't enough races over these fences for him and maybe the Cheltenham cross country race may be a future assignment to keep him on the go. Comes here this time of the back of a pull up at Haydock which has to be a concern and at 10yo this might be his best chance to finally win a race at this track before it is too late. Drier ground would improve his chance further.

My Rating - 155

18. Contraband - has ran in the champion hurdle the gold cup and now the national and the former winner of the arkle when with Martin pipe 4 seasons ago, doesn't have the form anymore to having a chance in races such as this and is taking up space for a runner that has a chance.

My Rating - N/A

19. Mckelevey - Got injured on the run in this race 12 months ago when staying on in good fashion to finish a close 2nd and would be no surprise to see him bounce back to form after 2 runs over hurdles this season to put hi spot on. Enjoyed a much more frequent season 12 months ago when finishing 2nd in this and the prep this time around you have to have a leap of faith in backing him to land this prize as he could be much of a lesser light this time around. Looks handicapped to go well at this level on last seasons run and should enjoy the conditions and stays this far with a good spring record, but has a few doubts over Prep.

My rating - 156

20. Joacci - Has been called a few names in the past but has been secretly laid out for this race this season by connections and comes here a very fresh horse in which he goes well after a break and drying ground is in his favour as well and wouldn't be quick to discount the horse as not classy enough to land this prize as he stays marathon trips well and with the claimer on board lightening the load on his back he could run a massive race at a big price today. Goes well this time of the season and is a dark horse for this.

My rating - 159

21. Point Barrow - was all the rage 12 months ago and didn't get very far into the race as he fell quite early and has only just started to show some form over fences again since that fall. Has been raced heavily this season with seven runs he could well get tired as the stamina is tested to the max in this race providing he is still in the race come the finish and he hasn't looked the most natural stayer on the book. Handles this type of ground well and often goes well this time of year.

My rating - 148

22. D'Argent - Winner of warwick's staying race and comes into this race with quite a few supporters for this race as Alan King continues to grow as a trainer to follow at the big meetings this season. Stays longer then the mother in law and handles give in the ground the conditions underfoot may well be the biggest question mark for the horse who should know where he is having ran in this race before and this could well be his last realistic chance in this race today, but he will need help against better handicapped rivals.

My rating - 156

23. No Full - Not one to totally discount to lightly as he doesn't have the most glamour's profile of the runners today but has been very consistent and handles this ground well. First time over 3M today could see him improve if getting the extra mile and a bit, he has often shaped as though needing further then he has been racing over and at 7yo he could have a few seasons in this race to come.

My Rating - 150

24. Baily Breeze - Has had a mixed season so far after starting of well and will be looking for a return to form in this race today that he needs to find improvement in to have a say in the outcome and that isn't certain to happen with recent form being tailing off since a decent run behind Newbay Prop. The ground and trip have to be a concern as well and he may not turn out to be a typical national type.

My rating - 148

25. Bob Hall - very poor at Cheltenham where he has gone well before and may just be a typical Jonjo O'Neil horse who often seems to run well in spells before there form tails off and taking the form in the Paddy Power Gold Cup his last decent run he wouldn't be totally out of luck in a grade 3 handicap, maybe not as competitive as this one today. The ground seems to be turning back to his ideal conditions and he could improve for the extra trip but the likely hood is that it wont be enough to turn around his season and connections must doubt his stamina with McCoy deserting him today.

My rating - 155

26. Cloudy Lane - Has struck up a hattrick this season and a good relationship with his jockey and could give the McCain's a fifth winner in this race and the 8yo in the Trevor Hemming Colours has always been regarded as a national type and could give the owner as much joy as Hedgehunter has over the last 4 years in this race and with the handicapper currently in arrears with this horse who has won of 11lbs higher in which he is yet to penalised with as it was after the weights were published for this event he deserves to be favourite for this race as he is technically a handicap good thing and if it wasn't for the fences he would be much shorter in this race. The ground should be ok for him and if he doesn't land it this year I feel he will land it in the next 3 years.

My rating - 170

27. Kings John Castle - In My Mind this should have been the choice of Tony McCoy as his prep for this race has been foot perfect with a good win last time over hurdles preserving his confidence for this race and could give Ireland yet another winner in this race in the last 5 years. Has had a consistent season so far and all roads have been aimed towards this race and with more improvement likely for these long distances that look ideal for him and the ground not being a problem and good spring form in the book. Decent chance.

My rating - 163

28. Mon Mome - Stayed on late in the William hill handicap at the festival and maybe was better 12 months ago then he is this season. The Yard has turned the corner and Mon Mone who is now 8yo but seems to have been around for a long time could bounce back to form but with the ground riding faster then expected he may well be out on his feet here today having been best with plenty of give under foot and given the recent form he may be better for next seasons national then this year as he does stay well on a galloping track such as this.

My rating - 141

29. Cornish Sett - Didn't run to bad in the Welsh National in ground that was more then tacky enough for him and maybe needs staying trips such as this now having looked a two and half miler in the past. The ground will suit him much better this time around but he has a regressive profile from his earlier form and maybe needs a easier race then this to be landing and results as a place effort as the highest likely finish.

My rating - 152

30. Naunton Brook - Has had a hard season and wasn't going a yard last time in the midlands national and maybe that race came a bit to soon after a real testing race at Wincanton where he was trying to match a far superior rival in the Gold Cup 3rd. Sure to have had this in mind after running on again in the Welsh National but his form is likely to be tailing off now and he doesn't seem handicapped to win a grade 3 as tough as this, despite being one that should stay the trip.

My Rating - 156

31. Tumbling Dice - Achieved top form over fences as a novice chaser and is more then exposed now, and maybe very little improvement to be gained from a marathon trip such as this. That novice form maybe had him wrongly handicapped over fences and he has fallen down the handicap to nearing a mark that he can win off and the ground should well is in his favour. Dodgy jumping at time has been his undoing, yet he always seems to land on his feet. Nearing the bottom of the weights should help him and wouldn't be the first horse to take a liking for these types of fences who gets sloppy over conventional fences.

My Rating - 158

32. Backbeat - Returned from a absence to bolt up in good style at Sandown against a rival who has struggled this season so far and the follow up race at Musselbrugh was a race that he could have bounced in and even though clearly the trainer's 2nd string and at 11yo now he isn't without a chance of running a big race despite being regarded as making up the numbers in this race. Not badly handicapped in this race receiving weight from most he handles the conditions well and if staying could get some prize money in a tight handicap with the course likely to suit.

My Rating - 156

33. Comply Or Die - Beaten by Cloudy Lane this season but then made amends for that defeat by landing the Eider chase and if Cloudy lane is so well handicapped Comply or Die must also be ahead of the handicapper as he bids to return to the form that saw him get placed in a top novice chase at Cheltenham a few seasons ago behind the likes of Trabologan. The ground is ideal and he stayed well last time to prove his stamina can last out over trips such as this and is the natural choice of Timmy Murphy.

My rating - 166

34. Idle Talk - the 3rd runner for Trevor Hemmings in a handicap that is littered with powerful owners this season and Idle talk hasn't enjoyed the best of seasons with some poor efforts and the hope will be that the improved recent effort at Cheltenham means he is returning to some sort of form for the second string of Donald MCCain. Staying trips are yet to prove conclusive as the horse needing them and even though trends point towards him having chances his stable mate looks to hold him even though he looks handicapped to go well since regressing from the top level.

My rating - 154

35. Kelami - Comes here of the back of a fine effort in the Racing post trophy where a last fence blunder cost him victory and is the 2nd chance for the French trainer in this handicap. Not as good as he once was he should hold his own in handicaps but this looks a classy race and he may not be handicapped well against the best of these and may need luck to land the price and isn't certain to have enough in his favour to land this prize as he will need to be at his best.

My rating - 159

36. Milan Deux Mille - Didn't show enough last time at Newbury to warrant a strong chance in this race and out of all the David Pipe runners in this race he looks to be well held in the make up of this race. Has been lightly campaigned so far this season he is only 6yo and if going well today could be a better proposition in this race in the future. Tom Malone does well on the horse.

My rating - 125

37. Nadover - hard horse to predict as he run sin and out and recent form suggest he isn't in the best shape of late, The ground could be too lively for the 7yo who is still quite young In the make up of this race, he would need it to rain to have any chance of getting amongst the prize despite some of his form suggesting that he is well handicapped to go well in this race, but he is too accident prone to have a strong chance in this race.

My rating - 154

38. Black Applachi - Another who has fallen away after showing much promise in his early days as a chaser with grade 2 form to his name and if returning to form could well be handicapped to go well from this low mark, but the overall impression is that the form of those chase races were not up to much. Ground may be a concern as it dries out further as he is best when contesting real soft ground and even though fair recent form coming into this race he looks held on what he has achieved at this level.

My rating - 148

39. Philson Run - Beaten 7L by D'Argent at warwick and has enjoyed another light campaign with this race in mind since plodding on to finish 4th 12 months ago and at 12yo maybe last season was his last chance to land this race. Lightly raced isn't a trait you hold with a national winner but he hasn't been over burdened as a race horse and at 12yo he may buck the trend with all roads pointing to this since last April. Be wrong to totally discount him in this as he knows the way around but he is likely to fail once again. Place prospects once again.

My rating - 148

40. Dun Doire - At last showed some form last time after struggling since winning at the Cheltenham festival 2 seasons ago and even though landing a small race here and there he come here just in at the weights for Tony martin and be no surprise to see him run a big race in this after a poor effort when sent off as one of the favoured runners. However he may still be paying for that season where he raised massively up the weights and I have him still held at the top level such as this and be surprised to see him win a race at this level now.

My rating - 137

Tissue Prices - Slim Pickings, Cloudy Lane 6/1, Comply Or Die 9/1, Kings John Castle 11/1, Snowy Morning, L'ami 14/1, Kelami, Joacci 16/1, Fundamentalist, Tumbling Dice, Turko, Knowhere, Vodka Bleu, Simon, 20/1, D'Argent, Mckelevy, Naunton Brook, Backbeat 25/1, Bob Hall, Bewleys Berry 28/1, Idle Talk, Nadover, Hedgehunter 30/1, Cornish Sett, Madison Du Berelies 33/1, No Full, Mr Pointment 35/1, Hi Cloy, Black Applachi, Point Barrow, Baily Breeze, Philson Run, 40/1, Chelsea Harbour, Butler's Cabin 50/1, Mon Mome 66/1, Ardaghey, Dun Doire 80/1, Milan Deux Mille 125/1, Iron Man 150/1, Contraband 500/1.

Verdict  A top looking handicap for this race. More classy horses are taking part in this race these days, and some of last years runners have strong claims in the race, with Slim Pickings sure to improve for this time around. At 10-1 he looks solid looking value. Cloudy Lane,  if in a race over normal fences and without plenty of mistakes around him, would be a very short price favourite. The 6/1 on offer this morning is about right for his chance, in the conditions of this race and if not winning this race today he will land the National I feel in the next 2 seasons, so compensation can be had. David Pipe has a strong hand in this race and his Joacci and Comply or Die look the two to concentrate on from this yard with the Eider winner the best of the bunch and is another at 10-1 who holds value in this handicap. Snowy Morning has the class for this race, but he makes too many errors over fences to be selected. However, 20-1 is a fair price to take a chance on. Kings John Castle may well be the best of the JP horses in this race and he looks a typical National type. With Ireland dominating this race in recent years, he is one to note at best price 20-1. L'ami is the best chance from France as Douman is double handed in this race and is available at 33-1 as they come for Butler's cabin and Mccoy.

Selections  1 pt win Kings John Castle @ 20-1(BF25's), 1 pt win Slim Pickings @ 10-1(BF12's) & 2 pts Cloudy Lane @ 6-1 (BF13-2)

Well Chief