Where my Contrarian Grand National money is going - Day 3, Aintree....

Last Updated: 09.04.2016

Friday, 8th April 2016

Good afternoon, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • Day 3 at Aintree’s Grand National meeting….
  • I’m backing the George pair in the Betfred Handicap Chase (4.20)….
  • My Grand National money is on a trio of Irish raiders (5.15)….

Day 3 at Aintree’s Grand National meeting….

The going improved for racing on Day 2 at Aintree but ahead of Day 3 there is overnight rain forecast – as much as 5mm.

If the forecasters are right then we could be looking at soft ground for racing on Saturday. That’s something to bear in mind when you come to your own deliberations. 

It’s pretty much all about the handicaps for me on Saturday afternoon – the Betfred Handicap Chase (4.20) and the Grand National (5.15).

The rest of the card doesn’t appeal much value-betting fare. Thistlecrack appears to have scared them away in the Liverpool Hurdle. The Maghull has just 5 runners. And the 7-runner Mersey Novices’ Hurdle doesn’t really get the juices flowing either. 

Not to worry. We work with what we are given….

I’m backing the George pair in the Betfred….

The bookies have been a bit slow to price up the Betfred Handicap Chase (4.20) but the industry tissue suggests Tom George’s two – CERNUNNOS and ROC D’APSIS will be 8s and 10s respectively…

If that’s the case (or if prices are somewhere close to that guide) then I’ll be backing both against the field to win.

Tom George is in a cracking vein of form right now and I fancy one of his pair to get the tissue-favourite, Fergal O’Brien’s Mystifiable beaten.

Paddy Brennan, who today rides Roc D’Apsis, certainly knows plenty about that one. He’s partnered Mystifiable regularly – winning on him twice and placing on him 5 times – but he deserts him today and Sam Twiston-Davies will ride the favourite on the tissue as a spare.

Richard Johnson placed on Roc D’Apsis last time in the Betbright Chase at Kempton (Brennan was on the winner, Theatre Guide, that day) but didn’t get the best of tunes out of him. I expect the 7yo to improve again for having Brennan back in the plate today.

I expect the other George runner Cernunnos to progress again for another step-up in trip – this time from two and half miles to three miles.

The step up from the minimum trip to two and a half miles produced significantly improved performances but the horse has looked very much like further still will suit better still.

Tissue prices are not always an accurate reflection of the quotes bookmakers ultimately go up with. It’s a case of wait and see. I wouldn’t want prices shorter than 7s about either runner. 

My Grand National money is on a trio of Irish raiders….

The Grand National is the feature event of the day. Don’t forget its being run a little later than usual this year – at (5.15)….

In last year’s renewal just two of the first ten horses home (albeit including the winner Many Clouds) carried 11-00+….

In 2014 just one of the first ten runners home carried 11-00+….

In 2013 just one of first 10 home carried 11-00+….

The way the official handicapper compresses the weight for this race enables classier horses to race giving away less weight than would be the case in an ordinary handicap run any other weekend of the jumps season. That gives them more of a chance to get competitive than was perhaps the case in the past….

But the figures above suggest that it is still the lower-weighted horses that have the best chance of getting competitive in a race that presents an extreme test of stamina. The trend is there to be broken, of course. But the lower weighted horses are still very much the percentage play for punters in 2016….

I’ve had MORNING ASSEMBLY in mind for this race ever since the weights came out at the end of February. He carries 10-09 tomorrow and that’s a handy burden for a classy horse who beat Don Cossack as a novice and was 3rd in an RSA Chase before injury interrupted his progress at the end of the 2013/2014 season.

He got back on track at Fairyhouse in January this year and then finished 2nd in a G2 at Gowran Park before pitching up and running a decent race in the Ultima on Day 1 of the Festival where he was 4th.

He travelled really well that afternoon. But for a mistake at the third last he might well have been closer. As it was that performance should have put him spot on for tomorrow’s assignment – which has been his principal target this season.

He won’t mind the cut in the ground and I expect him to improve for the trip. Trainer Pat Fahy was hoping he’d be able to get Davy Russell for the ride and that’s worked out very nicely. At 25s he can run a big race….

I’m also siding with another Irish-raider – GALLANT OSCAR at a general 20s.

It looks very much like he’s been laid out for this race by Tony Martin having been seen just 3 times this term – first when unseating at Leopardstown, then over hurdles at that track and most latterly at Naas over fences in early-March when the 10-year-old put in an eye-catching performance in defeat without being asked too many questions.

That last run will have put him spot-on for this. And if Martin can get the same tune out of the horse this spring that he got out of him last spring – 3rd in the Ultima at Cheltenham before winning a good handicap at Punchestown – he will be very competitive.

Gallant Oscar stays well and, if he’s still in contention on the second circuit, you can expect him to be keeping on when others are weakening.

At a big price HOME FARM could go very well for Henry De Bromhead and Andrew Lynch. He’s very highly though of back at the ranch and entries in three consecutive G1s last term – albeit without success – tell you something about the level that high-regard runs to.

He’s had just two runs this term. Both came over hurdles – very often a strong signal that a horse has been seriously aimed at this specific race and is quite fancied. The 9yo has got in right at the bottom of the weights and given the quality races connections ran him in last year, they must be delighted with how little weight he will carry.

He looks like a dark horse to these eyes. When he was with A L T Moore he hit the frame in an Irish Grand National on soft ground and was 5th in a Paddy Power Chase also on soft ground. He can clearly handle a big-field and general quotes of 100s might look very big come half past five tomorrow afternoon….

I’ll be playing all my selections each-way. Be sure to shop around. Bet with a bookie offering to pay out on at least the first 5 horses. Bet Victor are paying on the first 6 places.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

To recap where the value is today….

In the Betfred Handicap Chase (4.20)...

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – ROC D’APSIS (10s on the tissue) & CERNUNNOS (8s on the tissue)

In the Grand National (5.15)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – MORNING ASSEMBLY each-way (25s generally) & GALLANT OSCAR each-way (20s generally) & HOME FARM each-way (100s generally)

That is where my money will be going this afternoon. You will no doubt have your own ideas – and that’s exactly as it should be. You can watch the action unfold live on C4 & RUK.


That’s all from me for today. Stay tuned for more contrarian big-race insight & analysis next week.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd