Venture To Cognac – TRF’s king of the staying chase tipsters – with his swift guide to all today’s runners in teh 2018 Grand National
Blaklion – Shade unlucky last year, possibly kicking for home too soon, and I wouldn’t be concerned about his stamina on that showing. A lot more on his plate this time around, not only having to lump a big weight, but has to come here off the back of that run at Haydock, where he was out on his feet. It didn’t seem the wisest prep to me, and it may have finished his season. Has since had a wind op, and supporters will be taking that as a positive, as well as his very cosy victory here in The Becher. A very admirable horse, but that Haydock run was a gut wrencher, and that, along with the big weight, and having to come here 9lbs higher this year may be enough to stop him. Can see him just out of the frame.
Anibale Fly – His third in The Gold Cup brought him right into the picture for this, and the manner of how he ran that day didn’t suggest to me that it would have left too much of a mark. His fall in The Irish Gold Cup was X-Certificate stuff, and thankfully, on that Cheltenham showing, it hasn’t left it’s mark. His win in The Paddy Power was very impressive, showing that a big field like this won’t phase him. Yes, a lot higher in the weights now than at Leapordstown, but it really shouldn’t stop him being competitive, and he must have a realistic chance.
The Last Samuri – Second in this two years back, when the ground went against him, and all things considered, it was a brave effort. He found life tougher back here last year, and though the trainer had a rather daft excuse for that showing, it was probably just down to a 10lb rise catching him out. He will come here 2lbs lower, and bar his run in this last year, he continues to show his best round here, not least chasing Blaklion home in December. On the face of it, he maybe folded a little tamely in The Cross Country, but I tend to think he showed enough, and was at least there at the business end. He should run his race, but I don’t think he’s showed enough off of this inflated mark, to suggest he can land it. Don’t see any reason why he won’t run his race though, but I’d be a little surprised if he made the frame.
Valseur Lido – He just hasn’t shown enough for me, since his return from an injury which curtailed his season in early 2017. He folded tamely last time at Clonmel, and it didn’t look like an ideal prep for this. Has enjoyed the highs of a JNWines Chase, and a second in The Ryanair, but those days may just be behind him now, and there are enough question marks over the trip.
Total Recall – Still in contention when falling three out in The Gold Cup, and not out of the question that he would have made the frame. Quite simply, he’s had a season to remember since the switch to Clossuton. Ok, he was handicapped to win easily, but his romp in The Munster National was still very, very impressive, and his subsequent wins in The Ladbroke Trophy, and over timer at The Leapordstown, were in the manner of a horse who must go here with a live chance. From top yard, and a big Player.
Alpha Des Obeaux – Until this season, probably best known for chasing home Thistlecrack in The World Hurdle, and also for a tendency to break blood vessels. He’s been a different horse this term though, finding only Total Recall too good in The Munster National, before landing The Clonmel Oils Chase. His runs since, suggest to me that they’ve not fully pushed him, and I think he’s one of the best outsiders here, with plenty going for him. Could easily see him involved two out.
Perfect Candidate – Fergal O’Brien is continuing to rise through the trainer ranks, and anything he sends for races like this merits respect. He openly admits to getting his campaign wrong last year, sending him here too high in the weights, after a win at Exeter. He failed to make any impact here at all last year, and it has to be a concern that he’ll only be two pounds lower this time. Certainly not that for off his last winning mark, but he does put in enough lesser performances to question his chances here, and he may find a few better treated, and can see him “crying enough” around the same point as last year.
Shantou Flyer – He came here on what looked a crazy mark last year, and not surprisingly he quickly got found out. That doesn’t tell the full story though, and he’s looked a better horse all round this term, maybe feeling the benefit of a switch from the drastically out of form, Rebecca Curtis yard. He’s been a model of consistency, and enjoyed his finest hour, chasing home Coo Star Sivola in The Ultima. He should fare better this time around, and he’s a few lbs well in on that Cheltenham run, but it’s maybe at that track where he reserves his best for, and he really does need it pretty soft underfoot. He’s had a great year, but I can see him pulling up.
Tenor Nivernais – Another who would like plenty cut in the ground. He was a real talking horse a few years back, but bar the odd big run, he hasn’t really delivered. He was an also ran here last year, albeit off of 5lbs higher, but even though the trainer has pulled off a big shock in this before, both runs this season suggest he might be on the downgrade. Can’t have him here, though trainer form hints at a chance of that assessment looking very wrong come Saturday.
Carlingford Lough – Getting on a bit, but he looks to have been campaigned very carefully, and I wouldn’t be concerned about his low key performances so far. Some of his finest moments have came off the back of such lulls, and for a horse who can boast 2 Irish Gold Cups, and a Punchestown Gold Cup, not to mention a Growise Novice Chase, a Topaz, and a Galway Plate, he has to be respected. He started the season in Ireland on a mark of 166, and comes here off of 152. I just have a hunch that it’s been a shrewd campaign, and for a horse who seems sure to relish this proper test of stamina, then he makes loads of appeal here. No ground concerns, race could easily be run to suit, and looks a live contender to me.
Tiger Roll – He can now boast three Cheltenham Festival wins to his name, and clearly when connections want him to be, he is different class. He really caught my eye in The Munster National last year, winning in a manner which blew me away. He was equally impressive, if not more so, than Total Recall in this years renewal, but for reasons unknown, he got next to no attention for it. It was a run to sit up and take notice of, and so it has proved, with two subsequent wins at Cheltenham, where he won with some authority. I’ve little doubt that he’s the best horse in the race, and yet he’s not even being asked to lump 11-00 here. He’s been campaigned skillfully, and it’s a testament to the trainer that he’s somehow managed to get here off of 150. The negatives? Well, he reportedly had a hard time of it after The Cross Country, not coming into the winners enclosure, but that looked more precautionary to me, and I feel the four week gap this year will work to his advantage. He can also clout the odd one, and there’s no margin for error round here, but he’ll get plenty of help from the saddle, and not only do I consider him the best horse in the race, I also consider Davy Russell to be the best jockey riding just now, so he has that going for him too. I really do think with a clear round, he’ll win this, and he looks the one to beat.
Regal Encore – He’s been called a few names, but he’s ran enough big races to be treated seriously here. I’ve heard criticism for his run in this last year, but I thought he ran a perfectly respectable race. He comes here on the same mark, and can boast an excellent third behind Total Recall at Newbury, and also a win last time at Ascot. Maybe pushing it for win purposes, but he’ll surely run his race, and at a price too.
Vieux Lion Rouge – He’s now becoming something of a regular round here, and has finished just out of the frame on his two previous attempts. It would be easy to write him off as a “non stayer”, but I think he stays ok, he just doesn’t have that extra gear. Not suggesting he’ll win, but he does seem like the forgotten horse, and he’s another who looks to have been given a very careful campaign. Certainly swerving The National Trial at Haydock this time around, could well be a masterstroke, and considering he’s a Becher Winner, it would be mad to put a line through him, for all he has to obviously step up on his runs in the last two renewals. Should be there at the business end, and yard coming into form.
Chase The Spud – Showed a liking for a marathon trip when landing last seasons Midlands National, and looked like a live one for this when landing the spoils at Haydock in November. Wheels have come off since though, pulling up in The Welsh National and The Eider. In hindsight, his win at Uttoxeter was off 130, and the rise he got for winning at Haydock in November, may be excessive. Trainer knows what he’s doing I suppose, but overall, I think he’s just too high in the weights, and not for me.
Warriors Tale – Something of a slow burner this one, and his earlier days didn’t scream National Winner. Different story this year though, and his second behind Gold Present at Newbury was encouraging, but even better was his narrow second in The Skybet. Only raised two pounds for that effort, which must give him a squeak here. Represents a top yard, and the trainers concerns about stamina, I would take with a pinch of salt. By Midnight Legend, he should stay ok, and I’m not seeing too many negatives.
Seeyouatmidnight – Another by Midnight Legend, and a really likeable type who can boast a Rendlesham to his name, along with a “Dipper”, and a win in The Colin Parker Memorial last year, where he comfortably swept aside Bristol De Mai. That gave connections dreams of a G1, but he fell to pieces in The Betfair, and has never really been seen since, beaten over hurdles this time last year at Kelso, before a return from injury a fortnight ago at Newbury, which could only be described as “satisfactory”. If in the same form as The 2016 Scottish National, where only a mistake at the last cost him victory, then he would be bang up there, but there’s just the suspicion that he’s not looked the same horse after The Betfair. Also of a concern would be his far from ideal prep, and having followed him from day one, I think there are jumping concerns which have been underplayed. Still, that run at Ayr offers massive encouragement, but he has to step up from Newbury, and that is not a given. Looks the type to really attract support though, and could see him go off favourite. One to play early.
Gas Line Boy – He really has improved with age, and the last two seasons have seen a different horse, and much of that credit must surely go to the trainer. He lined up here in 2015 as a notoriously bad jumper, and it wasn’t the biggest surprise when he fell at the first. The jumping issues still come to light, he threw away a certain win over The Mildmay Fences in October, and two years back he unseated in The Peter Marsh, with the race at his mercy. Still, the fact that he had those races in the bag, and not to mention several other decent runs, including here in this seasons Grand Sefton, ensure that despite his advancing years, he just has to be taken seriously. He ran a blinder here to be fifth last year, and he has one the very capable Robbie Dunne assisting from the saddle. He might not have the legs to win this, but surely a big run awaits.
The Dutchman – A more than capable Novice Chaser for Sandy Thomson, he made a surprise switch to Colin Tizzard during the summer. After a few issues with his breathing, we finally got to see him at Haydock in November, and he was the only horse to get sight of Sam Spinner in The Betfair Handicap Hurdle. It was a couple of runs later though when he had his finest moment, winning The Peter Marsh, putting him bang in the picture for this. Different story next time though, and he emptied very very quickly in The National Trial, suggesting something amiss. I’ve always liked this horse, and his Haydock win was no shock, but I’m concerned with that prep, not to mention his relative lack of experience. Certainly not out of the question that he can figure here, but equally, no surprise to see him an early casualty.
Pleasant Company – Really took to this last year, and but for a jolting error, might have bettered his eventual finishing position of 9th. There seems to the thought that he has stamina concerns, but I don’t see it that way, and I reckon he is more than capable of this. In good hands, and has had a very careful prep, and this has clearly been the plan. His win at Punchestown two years back, along with landing The 2017 Bobbyjo, point to a horse with everything you’d want here. Serious Player.
Ucello Conti – I’m more than happy to draw a line through his Thyestes Run, as his second to Anibale Fly showed him to be as good as ever. He had a soft unseat here last year, but his sixth to Rule The World, as well as his run behind Vieux Lion Rouge in The Becher showed that this place holds no fears for him. He has several runs in big handicaps in Ireland which point to his suitability for this, and he’s from the Gordon Elliot yard, so has to be feared. Loads going for him, and real each way possibilities. Overpriced.
Saint Are – Will be making his fifth appearance in the race, and can boast a second to Many Clouds, and last year, a third to One For Arthur. He had a rare spill here in The 2016 Becher, but on the whole, a pretty safe conveyance. He’s failed to fire so far this season, but he may just be the type of horse who saves his best for here, and more than likely his seasons been geared round this one day. Should give his running, but I’d be a little surprised to see him make the frame again, as the ground surely can’t dry out enough for him.
Raz De Maree – Welsh National Winner, who’s second to Native River in the same race last season, showed a horse who you have to take seriously in these marathons. His age wouldn’t concern me at all, and kept under wraps since Chepstow. His 5lb rise for that win wouldn’t concern me either, and he’ll have no stamina doubts, not to mention the able assistance of Robbie Power. He was credited with an “UR” in this last year, but that may be a bit harsh, as he was hampered by a faller, but his error strewn round here in 2014 is harder to forgive. Possibly as good as he’s ever been, and has a chance, providing he takes it to it more than his 2014 effort.
I Just Know – Trainer knows what it takes to land this, and the owners, having had a few who could have went here in the past, have declined from running them. It may be significant that this is the first one they’ve sent. Loads to like about his win in The North Yorkshire National, a win that secured his place in the line up, and he’s a sound enough jumper. Had a nice spin over hurdles last time, which should put him spot on for this, but he has a huge rise in the weights to overcome too. He’s got all the attributes required here, and it all boils down to how he copes with the new mark. He’s a bit of a puzzle, but no surprise to see a bold showing.
Virgilio – Hasn’t went on as expected since his promising Novice Days, and has had wind surgery since last seen. That last run was in December where he flopped at Doncaster, following a no show in November at Newbury. He did win here over the Mildmay Fences in the spring, but from a yard who are not renowned for their staying chasers, he’s one I find it hard to be enthusiatic about, and he looks up against it.
Baie Des Iles – Should stay, and the form of his prep for this, chasing home Folsom Blue and Isleofhopeandreams, got a real boost at Fairyhouse. Only a seven year old, but has plenty of experience in these marathons, and he was another who ran well behind Native River at Chepstow. He looks to tick plenty of boxes, and though he’ll probably have to find more should he be in contention near home, he has obvious each way credentials.
Maggio – Looked primed for a big run in this last year, before he was cruelly robbed of his chance, with a late setback. On first glance he hasn’t really went forward this season, but how much improvement can be expected of a 13yo, and I get the impression, having secured a mark to get in here, that the whole season has this prize as the sole focus. Won impressively here in the mud two years ago on National Day, and the way he kept on at Ayr in January in a modest enough event, suggests that he’s not a spent force. Ground could be crucial for him, but I’m expecting a big run regardless, and he might just surprise a few. Could be similar conditions as to when he won here two years back, and a repeat of that patient ride could be key. Very interesting outsider.
Pendra – Finished down the field in The 2016 Renewal, but took to it alright, and excuses could me made with the ground very much against him. Unfortunately, he’ll have a similar issue on Saturday, and his latest run, in The Kim Muir, was a lot less inspiring than his narrow defeat in the same race 12 months ago. He’s seen sparingly now, and I don’t know whether that’s by default or design. On his very best form, he actually has a live chance, but the ground may just put paid to his chances.
Buywise – Popular old campaigner, who finally got his head in front in January, in The Veterans Final at Sandown, his first win in threee years. He cut no ice though in the 2016 running, and surely, up seven pounds for that win at Sandown, this may just be beyond him. He’s a likeable type though, and has came with a wet sail in many big races over the last three years, and can be frustrating to follow. It’s been well documented that he has a metal plate in his back, which can lend to some awkward leaps, and that, along with the hike in the weights, may just be enough to scupper his chances here.
Childrens List – Reportedly been the plan for a while now, but his best form seems to be in smaller fields, and the going will surely cause him some problems, and his run behind Folsom Blue last time didn’t suggest that this would be the ideal race for him. His win over Edwulf last year is a bit more like it, but on balance, I think he has a bit to find.
Lord Windermere – Former RSA and Gold Cup Winner, who we get to see very rarely these days. His place in the line up last year was something of a surprise, as he cut no ice in the 2015 Renewal. Not a bit of it though, and he was bang there. Very difficult to put him forward with any real confidence, but conversely, just as difficult to rule him out with any conviction. This will no doubt be the only race that matters for him this season, and that run last year offers encouragement of making the 6.
Captain Redbeard – Seems in good heart, with a win over timber last time, and a good second to The Dutchman at Haydock, which was coming off the back of a win there in November. Conditions should certainly suit, but his run here in The Grand Sefton was nothing spectacular, and I just get the impression that he’ll be found out in this company, and stamina couldn’t be guaranteed.
Houblon Des Obeaux – Crazy to think that he’s only an 11yo, as he seems to have been about forever. He’s been a smashing horse for connections, and though particularly difficult to predict, he’s had enough big runs over the years to give him a squeak. Never really a factor last year, and put in a few stinkers this term, but with yard hitting form, that can only improve his chances. Ground to suit, not to mention the required stamina, and a mark that is just screaming to be exploited. He made the frame behind Native River at Chepstow last season, and looked threatening for a long way. Too big a price, and has real place claims. Ticks a few boxes.
Bless The Wings – Incredibly tough 13yo, who’s got a fair old amount of miles on the clock. Rarely wins, but got his head in front at Cheltenham this season, over the Cross Country Course. He’s certainly a different proposition round there, but this time last year, he ran a blinder behind Our Duke in The Irish National, and wasn’t the first time he’d went close in that race. Not so good this time around, pulling up, but it may be telling, that Elliot is sending him here anyway. He was pulled up at Fairyhouse when his chance was gone, and may not have had that hard a race. You could argue that he’s not that well treated, coming here on his much discussed, inflated mark, but I just think he’s going to run a big race. Jumped well round here three years ago, and 4 Miles in the soft here, will be a totally different proposition to a spring ground Topham. Could surprise, and potential to make the frame.
Milansbar – Scored what was easily his biggest success, in this years Classic Chase at Warwick, and you couldn’t fail to be impressed with how he did it. He failed to build on that, next time in The Eider, but was a lot more like it in The Midlands National at Uttoxeter. What was especially encouraging at Uttoxeter was his will to fight for the lead, and he’ll need the same here, with it looking extremely likely that he’s best from the front. He’ll have a fight on his hands round here, if he wants to dictate things. It’s certainly been his best season, but the flip side of that is that he’s had three proper hard races, on top a fairly busy season anyway. Obvious claims on the Warwick and Uttoxeter spins, but a bit of a concern that that Midlands National was a very weak renewal, and others look better treated. Followers should get a proper run for their money though.
Final Nudge – Ran his best race, when a narrow second to Present Man in The Badger Ales, and confirmed that promise with a fine effort in The Welsh National. Not quite so good since, and never really landed a blow at Sandown or Cheltenham. The suspicion is that he might just come up short here, but doesn’t make too many mistakes, and I could see him sneak into contention, without maybe being good enough to land a telling blow.
Double Ross – He’s been some horse for connections, running very well in a number of big races. Very underrated on what he’s actually achieved. His lifeless run in The Grand Sefton a couple of years back is sandwiched between two great efforts round here, in The Topham, and particularly The 2016 National. He put any stamina doubts to bed that day, still in contention at second Valentines when his saddle slipped. He followed this up with an excellent third behind Native River in The Hennessy. A bit in and out this term, but his third in The Kim Muir was a lot more like it. Will be up in the front rank, though not absolutely essential for him to cut the pace. Very well treated on his best form, and should run his race, but that Kim Muir might just have been the day for him. Wouldn’t be the first time he’s sprung a shock, but may just lack the speed of others, and I can see maybe a midfield finish at best.
Road To Riches – Three years since his finest moment behind Coneygree in The Gold Cup, but he’s never been the same horse since, and has had a fair few setbacks. It’s too easy to say he’s well treated on that, and to my eye he just looks very regressive. Stamina doubts, out of form, and not 100% assured at his fences. Very hard to recommend.
Thunder and Roses – Former Irish National Winner, who was in the process of running a big race here last year, when no luck at all, and brought down at Valentines first time around. Not done too much this season, and had his second spill of the season at Fairyhouse last time. Looks up against on it recent form, and ground conditions could be far from ideal, but I’d be genuinely enthusiastic about his chances here of making the frame, should he sneak in. I get the impression he only took his chance at Fairyhouse, as his chances of making the cut here looked slim, but with that early exit there not taking too much out of him, he’s an outsider to take seriously.
Delusionofgrandeur – Trainer has won this before, but even if he sneaks in here, he does look up against it. Fine run at Wetherby at Christmas, but overall he looks just a shade high in the weights, and his last two runs didn’t suggest he could figure here.
Walk In The Mill – Trainer is enthusiastic about his chance, but even if gets in here, it’s hard to see him figure. Has stamina doubts, and last run at Haydock was hardly encouraging. Looks too high in the weights, and it’s a bit of a struggle to find a piece of form to really recommend him on.
It can’t be a vintage renewal every year, and this is NOT a vintage renewal. Still, there are plenty of nice types in there, and with three days to go, I just can’t be too negative about Tiger Roll. Trainer would prefer it faster, but I think he’ll be ok. The real problem could be his jumping, he’s not the biggest, and can clout them, as seen in both The Aintree Fence in The Cross Country, and also his error strewn round when winning The National Hunt Chase. What’s strongly in his favour though, is that the yard will have him 100% for a Cross Country/Grand National Double, and he’ll be good to go. He’s the best horse in the race, of that I have little doubt, and when a horse is so ahead of his mark, you have to sit up and take notice. Top Jockey booking, and less than 11-00. Big chance.
Of the rest, Total Recall has to be respected, his season shouldn’t be underestimated, and you can’t ignore what’s he’s achieved. Carlingford Lough could be the plot to end all plots, and he looks a massive threat, as does Warriors Tale, who’s Skybet run brings him right into this for a top yard.
Loads of real outsiders to enthuse over, and Maggio looks the pick of the bunch. Ucello Conti and Pleasant Company look to have massive each way claims also.
1. Tiger Roll
2. Carlingford Lough
3. Warriors Tale
4. Total Recall
6. Pleasant Company