A top renewal of this race with a number of extremely interesting runners.
After falling at the 2nd in the Grand National, WEST END ROCKER comes here and once again has a lot going for him. All of you regular readers know how much I love this horse but he looks to have an outstanding chance. The regular rain has meant the ground has come up soft and although he doesn’t necessarily need it, he goes much better than many. Although falling last time, he’s a safe jumper but more importantly he stays all day and should be very competitive off this mark.
Le Beau Bai has had a great season with 2 victories on bottomless ground at Chepstow, the last in the Welsh National over 4m. Again he ran a great race when beaten 11 lengths by Giles Cross and subsequent Grand National winner Neptune Collonges. He does however have all his best form on the heaviest of heavy ground so it may even be soft enough for him. Off 140 he doesn’t look to have too much in hand while I’m unsure if he’s the type for this either so I think he’s worth opposing for win purposes but a good run looks fairly likely at least.
One that could be well ahead of the handicapper is the top weight Tidal Bay. His quirks are no strangers to us all but on his day he is an extremely good horse. Since joining Paul Nicholls he has run well enough twice over hurdles while in between that finishing last of 5 in the Denman Chase but before showing a lot of promise when runner-up to Midnight Chase in the Argento Chase. He is rated at the moment 12lb below his best making this the lowest mark he has contested on and he is a fascinating contender. He shouldn’t have a problem staying though will have to prove he enjoys the softer going and he can’t afford to get too far behind. He must come into consideration though.
Galaxy Rock was one of my fancies for the Scottish National last week and he travelled really well turning for home but failed to stay. I really rate him as a horse and I can see him winning but he had an extremely tough race just 7 days ago, finishing very tired and AP McCoy, who goes so well on him, is absent.
Rare Bob pops over from Ireland and is now off the same mark of his last win. He only lasted 5 fences in the National when brought down by no fault of his own. He was also well fancied on heavy ground in the Becher over 3m2f but failed to stay whatsoever behind runaway winner West End Rocker and the trip would be a major worry again.
It’s always worth keeping an eye on Philip Hobbs in April and he is represented by Roalco De Farges. He is certainly a better chaser than hurdler though his two wins have been in novice company, albeit his first in a decent race. He ran well in a decent even at Cheltenham but was well beaten in the Midlands National. The ground should be fine but whether he is good enough is another matter and he is plenty short in the market.
The London National run here in December saw 3 horses who ran in that. DEPP PURPLE was trying the trip for the first time and stayed on well near the end to win off top weight. He is only 3lb higher now after falling when held in the Racing + Chase which didn’t suit and then pulling-up in the National last time. Any Currency snatched 3rd late that day and wears any eyeshield for the first time. He is weighted to go well in a big race somewhere but has a hard race from last week to overcome. Major Malarkey was further behind him and comes off the back of a 2nd in the Midlands National when travelling like the winner for a long way. He’s up 5lb now and is actually 3lb worse with Deep Purple here. The test should suit but this career high mark will be tough to overcome and Deep Purple is double the price.
Dover’s Hill has disappointed in good graded races at the end of last year but a 3 month break did him good and he duly went in here over 3m1f when leading all the way to win by a head from subsequent winner Ballyfoy and Scottish National runner-up Aurora’s Encore. He is 3lb well in on his official mark to what he runs here and he should stay the extra distance well enough. The worry is whether he can hold out on this ground and it will be hard to dominate this field but he has e/w claims.
Ouzbeck, who won the Summer National in 2010, has slowly dropped in the weights after failing to win since. He has shown more promise lately though and found only the progressive Ikorodu Road too good at Newbury last time over 3m3f. He should stay the trip well and off the same mark should be well handicapped. However the large majority of his races have been on good or faster and there is a major worry about the ground.
Paul Nicholls also has Aldertune sneaking at the bottom of the weights and has been a consistent type who is hard to win with. He ran into 2 decent horses in Zarrafakt and Bradley this year at just over 3 miles, the latter here and then backed it up with a good run over 2m5f last time out. He ran well on the only similar type of race to this when 4th in the Southern National on soft over 3m4f. This test should suit though improvement will need to be found for the extra furlong or so at this track and it’s not a certainty that that will happen.
Viking Blond also comes off the back of a fall in the National. He only lasted 1 fence but also pulled up when favourite for the Welsh National. He has only 6 chase starts to his name with 1 win on his debut and that doesn’t really bode too well. However his mark is dropping and the ability is there.
There’s a few outsiders that are of interest and SWING BILL may be worth a couple of quid e/w. He started the season in great style at Cheltenham when winning over 3m1f and backed it up with a solid run at Ascot next time. He pulled up in the Becher after but showed he handled heavy when lumping a huge weight at Ffos Las off 141. He finished the National course 2 weeks ago although never really got into the race and this could be a nice test for him. He’s only 1lb higher now than what he won on at the start of the season and if he doesn’t get tailed off and jumps well then he could get involved.
Tullamore Dew doesn’t look the worst e/w better in the race. He is very hard to win with but on his day gives it his all, seen when only just failing to beat Massini’s Maguire at Ascot over 3m in February. He’s struggled twice since but is 1lb lower here. He has never run over 3m3f but that was in the Hennessy and he ran well enough though the ground is a worry, especially when the stamina may not last, I wouldn’t put people off backing him.
I fancied Vic Venturi to go well in the National but he never got going and eventually refused. He is extremely well handicapped if deciding to go well so is worth keeping an eye on but his willingness, or lack of it, means he has it to prove now. Enter Paradise looks handicapped up to his best on his first run out of hunter chases and similar can be said for Knighton Combe. Free World and Ethiopia are both out of the handicap and would be shock winners.
A good race in stall and WEST END ROCKER ticks a lot of boxes again. Although falling last time in the National, he jumps well, stays well, gets ground that suits him more than others and should still be fresh after having a light season. Le Beau Bai doesn’t strike me as well handicapped while all his best form is on bottomless ground and it may not even be that soft for him here. Tidal Bay is a fascinating runner and although he has his quirks, is handicapped to run really well. Major Malarkey has been fancied but this will be tough off this mark and he was behind DEEP PURPLE late last year over C&D. That rival is actually 3lb better off here and on his day is an absolute class act. Any Currency was in between them that day and is handicapped to run a good race but he has a slog of a race to overcome from last Saturday in the Scottish National. The same can be said for Galaxy Rock who pulled up very tired when looking at one point that he was going to go close. AP McCoy also isn’t available either. Rare Bob has major stamina doubts for me while I can’t see Ouzbeck running well on this ground at all. Going down the handicap, I like Dover’s Hill who came back to form with a game victory from the front here last time while Aldertune has also been running well here this year. Roalco Des Farges and Viking Blond have been fancied but both are still a little inexperienced over fences and may improve for next year. At a bigger price, I couldn’t ignore SWING BILL who is back onto a decent mark and if he jumps well and doesn’t get too far back, then the 3m5f on soft ground could really suit him.
West End Rocker 3pts win @9/1 Vc Bet
Deep Purple 1.5pts e/w @28/1 generally
Swing Bill 0.75pts e/w @25/1 generally