Sys­tem bet­ting

Matt Mit­ter goes for Rocky Creek – and tells why

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

The Ain­tree Grand Na­tional in April is a spec­ta­cle that is watched world­wide, and is an at­trac­tion that en­tices the pop­u­la­tion to have a flut­ter. You fre­quently hear “Any­thing can win,” and most of us, quite rightly, have a fun in­vest­ment with a name that ap­peals or has a mean­ing to us, but is se­lect­ing a prime can­di­date that com­pli­cated? Try­ing to un­earth a horse that will give us a thrilling run for our money with the po­ten­tial to win is the aim, and per­haps I may be able to as­sist by adding my per­cep­tions to the tech­nique used in your own se­lec­tion sys­tem.

I fully com­pre­hend why peo­ple rely on trends and statis­tics of past Grand Na­tion­als to limit their choices, and the in­for­ma­tion I have re­searched can be very per­sua­sive as an elim­i­na­tion process. For in­stance,the last seven year old to win was BOGSKAR back in 1940, which is a com­pelling statis­tic. GAY TRIP in 1970 was the last win­ner not to have won be­yond two miles four fur­longs. An­other in­ter­est­ing fact is that only six horses have car­ried over 11stone 5lb to victory since the war.I ac­knowl­edge all this in­for­ma­tion, but would not scratch a horse on a sin­gle en­tity, as there may be other pos­i­tive el­e­ments. In­ci­den­tally did you know that prior to 1940 there were 44 Grand Na­tional win­ners aged seven or younger? In­ter­est­ingly,GAY TRIP car­ried top weight in his Grand Na­tional,which in­di­cates that class may have been a fac­tor in his win. Tech­ni­cally, RED MA­RAUDER in 2001 had not won over fur­ther than two miles four fur­longs as a chaser, be­cause his sole three mile win was achieved over hur­dles at Mar­ket Rasen,but a Grade 2 chase win at As­cot de­noted his class.

In to­day’s age, the Grand Na­tional at­tracts a bet­ter qual­ity an­i­mal, with the ma­jor­ity of en­trants be­ing rated 136 and up­wards. This de­mands much more in­tri­cacy in com­pletely dis­count­ing horses on a class ba­sis.How­ever,I think that the pre­req­ui­site stamina to win has been enor­mously ac­cen­tu­ated with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the lower mod­i­fied fences. The birch con­sis­tency looks softer and more for­giv­ing when jump­ing, which en­sures that horses can main­tain a fre­netic gal­lop for longer with­out hin­drance. I am of the opin­ion that most horses can safely ne­go­ti­ate th­ese eas­ier fences,which will de­mand fur­ther vi­tal­ity and stay­ing power in keep­ing tabs on the lead­ers.

Iden­ti­fy­ing a horse that is able to skim through the top of the fences is cer­tainly more ben­e­fi­cial than the ex­u­ber­ant jumper that is a joy to watch,but does not fit the eco­nom­i­cal en­ergy sav­ing re­quire­ment. I also avoid horses with the form com­ments“Held up at the rear.”Our se­lec­tion ide­ally should be rac­ing within the first 20 run­ners, and no fur­ther back than mid­field, as it is very dif­fi­cult with the ex­pected un­re­lent­ing pace, to play catch up later on.Rest as­sured,re­serves of stam- ina and courage are nec­es­sary at the fin­ish with­out any ad­di­tional bur­den. Horses rarely fall jump­ing th­ese new fences,as it is the mo­men­tum of speed that drags them to the ground on the land­ing side, and it is only to­wards the lat­ter stages that you see the cus­tom­ary tired look­ing falls.

UNION­ISTE is a seven year old that must not be un­der­es­ti­mated. He started his chas­ing ca­reer as a four year old and has com­peted in a to­tal of 14 high-cal­i­bre chases, which bodes well for this test. He has also proven that he has a blend of speed, stamina and class hav­ing eas­ily won a com­pet­i­tive two mile five fur­long Grade 3 chase at Chel­tenham,and in con­trast has won over fur­ther than the bare 3 miles,and has been fourth in the tough­est three mile Grade 1 RSA novice chase at a Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val. Five vic­to­ries at Grade 1 race­courses where com­pe­ti­tion is fierce also strengthen his class fac­tor. He may be the ex­cep­tion to the rule, and oblit­er­ate a long stand­ing statis­tic in re­la­tion to age, and take us back to the pre 1940 era. His al­lo­cated weight of 11stone 6lb may in­crease fur­ther with any subse-

quent with­drawals,but as it stands victory would en­sure that the weight trend will also suc­cumb to his un­doubted tal­ent.

SHUT­THE­FRONT­DOOR is likely to be all the rage with Tony McCoy rid­ing in his last Grand Na­tional.What is guar­an­teed is that he will ei­ther be over bet or the book­mak­ers will pro­hibit his odds. As an eight year old he is fairly lightly raced with only six chases to his name at present,but he has won three of them, in­clud­ing the Ir­ish Grand Na­tional, which has been a good in­di­ca­tor of stamina. My reser­va­tions are his over­all in­ex­pe­ri­ence, and hav­ing an­a­lysed his Ir­ish Na­tional win I have to say that I have seen don­keys run faster on Black­pool beach!Vir­tu­ally the whole field were still tightly bunched to­gether three fences from the fin­ish, which is a mil­lion miles away from what will be re­quired in the Ain­tree Grand Na­tional.An­other worry is that his hand­i­cap rat­ing far ex­ceeds the two pre­vi­ous Ir­ish Na­tional win­ners which were suc­cess­ful here. I feel the hand­i­cap­per has over­re­acted to his achieve­ments.

BALTHAZZAR KING did not sur­prise me with his hon­ourable sec­ond in the race last year, as th­ese mod­i­fied fences are sim­i­lar to those he faces in the Cross Coun­try races. I thought his jockey gave him a peach of a ride, be­ing held up in mid­field and beau­ti­fully pro­duced to make his ef­fort in the lat­ter stages of the race. At the age of eleven he is still very ca­pa­ble of mak­ing an­other bold show in this race,but I thought ev­ery­thing went ex­actly to plan last year and whether he can im­prove upon what was a text book per­for­mance is a topic for de­bate.

MON­BEG DUDE and AL CO be­ing Welsh & Scot­tish Na­tional win­ners are wor­thy of men­tion. They do not strike me as bet­ting propo­si­tions for the sim­ple rea­son that they are usu­ally held up to­wards the rear in their races. I con­sider such tac­tics a neg­a­tive in the Grand Na­tional, but per­haps if luck in run­ning favours them, who knows what will hap­pen?

Last year I ad­vised MR MOON­SHINE at a huge price and he gave me an ex­hil­a­rat­ing run for my out­lay. Four fences from the fin­ish he was still lead­ing the field,jump­ing and trav­el­ling well, but the game was up when he was joined at the third last, from which point he weak­ened. It is im­prac­ti­cal to in­cor­po­rate all the chances in a Grand Na­tional, so on to my nom­i­nated se­lec­tion this year.

In hind­sight,ROCKY CREEK hit the front far too soon in last year’s Grand Na­tional, which may have been a re­sult of the un­fold­ing cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the lead­ers.I am of the opin­ion that it se­verely af­fected his chance of se­cur­ing victory,as it is dif­fi­cult with open space ahead to cor­rectly gauge the tempo, es­pe­cially with the fin­ish in your sights. Un­for­tu­nately he was caught out by the in­fa­mous 494 yard run in and faded.I be­lieve that the ex­pe­ri­ence of that race and of the course will be an as­set to him this year, and he has the per­fect run­ning and jump­ing style,which is tai­lor made to the Grand Na­tional course. This horse is not far short of be­ing a top Grade 1 per­former, and to my mind his trainer, Paul Ni­cholls, has found the key to un­lock­ing fur­ther scope to his ar­moury. This was in ev­i­dence with his re­cent de­ci­sive an­ni­hi­la­tion of a de­cent field at Kempton car­ry­ing 11stone 11lb.

What may sur­prise many is the rel­e­vance and con­fi­dence I at­tribute to a se­lect five run­ner novice chase over an ex­tended 3 miles at War­wick in Jan­uary 2013.This course pro­vides sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances that epit­o­mise Ain­tree in many ways, and ROCKY CREEK was held up in touch just be­hind the field in what was a very strongly run race.It was re­fresh­ing to see how he rel­ished chas­ing the re­lent­less gal­lop, and splen­didly dealt with the stiff fences.The com­par­i­son be­tweenWar­wick and Ain­tree is that you need speed to re­main handy, and then adapt to the fast pace at which quickly emerg­ing fences are ap­proached and jumped.Only horses with a nat­u­ral low and ef­fi­cient tech­nique cope with this test, and more im­por­tantly, both cour­ses favour hit­ting the front in the very lat­ter stages. He de­liv­ered this at War­wick, ca­reer­ing away to win.

I am con­vinced ROCKY CREEK is more the fin­ished ar­ti­cle this sea­son, and although be­ing a nine year old he has only con­tested eleven chases and three hur­dles un­der rules. I thought that his clear sec­ond to ROAD TO RICHES in a Grade 1 chase at Down Royal on his reap­pear­ance was a com­mend­able ef­fort, and the Gold Cup re­sult at Chel­tenham en­hances that form. Part owner Andy Ste­wart said:“Last year he was trained for the Gold Cup, which didn’t ma­te­ri­alise.This year he has been specif­i­cally trained for the ex­tra dis­tance of a Grand Na­tional.”

Rocky Creek

Tony McCoy rides Shut­the­front­door

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