I’m not showing off, but… I’ve got a system that retrospectively has picked the winner for the last 9 years.
It’s also picked at least 7 other horses each year, so let’s not get carried away with ourselves. That said, the National is a race that tends to run to trend, at least if you define that trend and you’re a little bit flexible either side, then you’re looking for the kind of horse that has proved itself at distance, is between 8 and 11 years old, and has been prepped for the race.
Like I say, trends have to be flexible, and most ratings would go out of the window – but we need to look at this race from all angles.
First, the trends:
That gives us Holywell (273), who was second in the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham, but for that reason, we can usually exclude him – a horse should be prepped for the National, but then Holywell is a spring horse and his improved form at Cheltenham might actually be the right kind of sign we’re looking for. He jumps & he stays, and he should go well.
I like his chances, and 14/1 is probably about right.
Just a Par (204) is one who may have run a little too soon, but has been loitering around without troubling the handicapper too much this season. However, he’s shown stamina in reserve already, and last year’s pull-up at the Becher could be put down to experience.
Le Reve (254) might struggle off this mark, but has made some impression this season with a win at Sandown in a Class 2 race over 3 miles. It might be a little too stiff for him here.
Morning Assembly (290) is another like Holywell who went out in the Ultima at Cheltenham, came fourth when he should have had third, and has only ever once finished out of the top 3, even if you’re including some four-horse races, he’s always been there or thereabouts. He’s 20/1 and well within the handicap. If this goes down to a slug, he’s got the form and the stamina to go well. Very tempting.
Ofaolains Boy (250) fits the profile of a horse taking on hurdles to avoid the handicapper, but frankly, he’s not been at the same level since he was a proper novice two years ago. It would be a turnaround of some proportion to win the National given his recent form.
Saint Are (259) is one of those horses who likes the National fences, and while it’s not one of our trends, it’s certainly a consideration to bear in mind. Second in last year’s National, third over these fences in the Becher, and a win at Doncaster proved plenty appealing. That makes Saint Are one of the most attractive prospects on the shortlist, and an each-way bet for many, at the very least.
Soll (212) is one who has been considered before, but hasn’t had the class to compete. It’s certain that he can get over the fences and get round, but not so certain that he can keep up with everyone else.
The Druids Nephew (206) has followed more or less the same prep as last year, when it seemed that he would go on and win but for a late fall. If not win, at least compete for the finish with Many Clouds. And you know what, he’s well fancied and rightly so. Throw into consideration the extra 9lb and you start to have your doubts – slight doubts – that he’ll find it quite as easy going this year round.
The Last Samuri (264) gets away with plenty of weight for having won after the weights were announced – and that’s why he’s as short as 8/1. And that win, with 6lb in hand over The Druids Nephew, is the sort of form that people are looking out for. Oh, and he has a 63% win rate in chases. He’ll stay, he’ll jump, it’s very hard to look elsewhere.
The Romford Pele (257) is one who could sneak in under the radar at 33/1 with most bookies, and that is largely based on a bit of faith that he’ll find his form from 2014 and before. However, his run in November at Cheltenham wasn’t all bad, and he’s nicely weighted to do better here. A good each-way prospect.
Unioniste (241) struggles to get round, and it’s surprising to see him on the list. Again, though, the weight might allow him a better race than at first thought and his recent form is half-decent, with some good runs at Kelso. For whatever that counts.
And the ratings…
The Contis are up there 1st and 2nd – Silviniaco Conti (410) and Ucello Conti (387) are first and second rated, but ratings are largely based on form; handicaps are there to turn the form book over. Silviniaco is within the weights, but can he get through 4 miles? It’s an unanswered question.
Ucello Conti is something of an unknown, but has strong claims if his Irish races are to be considered, which they should be.
Sir Des Champs (292) is the RTH Selection, for what it matters, but that is largely calculated on the basis that Ruby Walsh would be on board. Without Ruby, however, you could imagine he wouldn’t be the selection, and we can scratch that one as he’s hardly raced of late.
Looking further into the ratings, we see that The Last Samuri is the most suited to the race, with the highest Today rating, and he’s closely followed by Silviniaco Conti, Morning Assembly, and Many Clouds (301).
And that might just frank it… The Last Samuri is off a good mark at 10-8, and could have been much higher if the weights hadn’t already been published. So he’s the one horse in the field who stands out, and while 8 year olds don’t always win the National, he’s got the right profile. You could oppose with Saint Are or Holywell, the former of which has the ability to get round and has already proved himself. Both have extremely strong chances, and you can add to that Morning Assembly who is appealing off this mark – and The Romford Pele is a nice each-way shout.
But it’s back to The Last Samuri, if you’re going to pick one horse from these 40, who stands out as having the best chance with the best form.