Classic winning trainer Roger Charlton is hoping for much better luck this season than last with his talented mare Thistle Bird, reported in good shape after her winter break and scheduled to make a return to action at York’s first fixture of the season in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes in mid-May, writes Elliot Slater.
The six-year-old daughter of Selkirk has been a fine servant to her owner-breeder Lady Rothschild, but having enjoyed two highly successful seasons as a three and four-year-old during which she won four times in listed class, last campaign Charlton’s charge kept hitting the crossbar after winning on her second start in the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom (returning the 3/1 favourite with bet365), although she was tackling smart company on each and every occasion.
After disappointing at Royal Ascot when last of nine in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes, Thistle Bird ran the race of her life when narrowly beaten by shock winner Winsili in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, a performance that marked her down as an apparently sure-fire future winner at the highest level. The quirky character then failed again to run to her best form in the Celebration Mile back at Goodwood in August but ran an absolute blinder on her final start of the campaign when sent across the water to France to bid for the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera Longines on Arc day at Longchamp in October.
Partnered as usual by James Doyle in the 10-furlong top-class contest, the Beckhampton-trained mare was in something of a pocket towards the inside rail for much of the trip, but once angled out for a clear run she fairly flew in the closing stages, eventually failing by just a nose and a neck to peg back the Aga Khan’s Dalkala, and Andre Fabre’s hot favourite Tasaday. Plenty who saw that race felt that had she enjoyed a clearer passage Thistle Bird might well have won the prestigious mares’ race – but it wasn’t to be.
This term it is hoped that Thistle Bird’s luck will change and the sporting decision by her owner to keep her in training deserves to be rewarded. Charlton has made no secret of the fact that the mare is not an easy customer and has been difficult to train and also difficult to ride for a number of jockeys. Her trainer feels that the key to this season proving her most successful yet is her learning to settle well enough to stay 10 furlongs, something that has given connections far more options for the new campaign.
Assuming she runs well at York on her reappearance Thistle Bird will be targeted at a number of the top 10 furlong events in Britain and abroad this year. As she has grown older she has also surprised connections in being able to handle soft ground, a new factor that gives Charlton plenty more options, especially in France where there tends to be easy ground at the majority of fixtures.
OK, no one can tell you who’s going to win this year’s Grand National exactly, but we can narrow the field right down and tell you what the horse’s overall features will probably be. That’s because the race is far more of a form race, these days, than it’s often given credit for. But here’s the interesting thing – this is very often not properly reflected the Grand National betting market.
The Grand National is by far the world’s most famous chase and if we look at the actual results down recent years since the track and fences were made a little easier, the stats tell an interesting story. Firstly, consider the age of your selections. Eighty per cent of all winners are aged between 9 and 11.
Next – weight is all important. The mean average carried by the winner over the last three decades is just under 10 stones 9 pounds. In recent years, though, the average has crept up a little to 11 stones, but very few horses are capable of carrying much more over the four and a half tough miles, particularly in slightly yielding ground. So the eventual victor is likely to be carrying anywhere between 10 stones and around 11 stones five pounds maximum.
So don’t go for anything carrying over 11 stones four pounds. Interestingly, this approach rules out some of the favourites for this year’s race. For example, Betfair has former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run at around 13-1 at the time of writing and Tidal Bay at around 15/1, yet both carry weights which previous stats say won’t happen.
Betfair punters still make Teaforthree the 19/2 favourite, however, and as the horse will carry 10 stones 12 – this is far more of a winning mark.
The same can be said for second favourite Monbeg Dude, currently a 12-1 chance with Betfair and set to carry 10 stones 9 pounds.
There are many other things to consider, too, though such as a horse’s liking for the going on the day, its warm-up preparations (four out of five recent National winners had had a hurdle race in the build-up) and the official rating; most winners these days have a rating of over 136. Also; all the last ten winners of the race had won a chase worth £17k or more before the National and had won over three miles or more.
So now who’s going to win?
The 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National is just around the corner and here at horseracingtips.org.uk we join the rest of the UK and those across the world in feeling the excitement as this prestigious event approaches. Whether you’re planning a big bet or are simply declaring your mystic meg-esque predictions to your legions of Facebook friends, this is an event that captures the interest of us all, more so than any other racing occasion. Let’s waste no time in having a run through of some of the favourites and outsiders covering the course this year.
With the Grand National set to be run on 5th April, many have already placed their bets and the market is giving clear indications of where the money is heading. Current favourite Teaforthree – trained by Rebecca Curtis and already favourite for quite some time – has now shortened to 8-1 with some bookmakers and looks set to put in a good performance. A few days back the Paul Nicholls trained Tidal Bay was second favourite, but now many bookies have 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run in that position. Trained by Nicky Henderson and Owned by Robert Waley-Cohen, Long Run is a class horse with every chance.
At the other extreme of the betting odds you can get close to 1000-1 on Betfair, and 200-1 with bookies for Gullible Gordon, Merlin’s Wish, Sir Du Bearn and Sergeant Pink. However, as much as we like a big winner at the National (last year Aurorasa Encore won at an impressive 66-1, and Mon Mome was 100 – 1 in 2009) it’s a bit of a stretch to hold out much hope for this motley crew. Instead we should probably look at the 30-1 – 40-1 range for an ambitious but well priced horse or two to cause a minor upset. Peter Maher believes that his horse Big Shu is in with a good chance, “If ever there was a National horse it’s him. He’s brave, he stays” says Maher. Balthazar King at 33-1 with Ladbrokes is also in with a chance. He jumps well, stays well and as the Cheltenham cross-country winner is very much proven.
With so many betting options available and terrain that can test the best of them there’s always an element of pot luck at the Grand National. Forced to go with a selection, this time around I would perhaps go with the not so courageous choice of Teaforthree. You won’t exactly get generous odds but the ten year old, who finished third in last year’s race, has had a fine series of runs of late and is the one to beat in this field.
The Crabbie’s 2014 Grand National is almost upon us. On April 5, this Aintree spectacular will once again get the nation talking, tuning in and having a flutter. Whether it’s an office sweepstakes, a tip from a friend or relative who ‘wins every year’, or a horse that amazingly has the same name as your long dead parrot we can’t help but find a reason to place a bet and get involved.
There is such history to this prestigious event, it epitomises tradition. Although officially starting in 1839 many view the winner of the first ‘unofficial’ Grand National to be The Duke. Without The Duke the Grand National as we know it probably wouldn’t even exist today. Moving on to 1927, the BBC covered the event for the very first time, heralding a new era for the festival, and bringing it to an audience of millions. That year the race was won by Sprig , perhaps not a name many of us would know. That’s certainly not true of three time winner Red Rum though, two of which were back to back. Trained by Ginger McCain the staggering achievements of Red Rum took the National to new heights.
Today interest in the even is as high as ever, and this year punters may well be spurred on by the fact that last year’s winner, Auroras Encore, won at an incredible 66-1, and 130-1 on Betfair. Suited by the ground on the day and given every chance by jockey Ryan Mania , the Sue Smith trained 11 year old took first place, followed by Cappa Bleu in 2nd at 12-1 and Teaforthree 3rd and 10-1.
This year’s Grand National looks to be a competitive affair. Teaforthree, trained by Rebecca Curtis stands out of the crowd somewhat, which is likely why it’s currently 10-1 favourite with most bookmakers. Curtis says of the ten year old, “He is in great form and has come out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup really well.” Second favourite is the Paul Nicholls trained Tidal Bay. Along with Rocky Creek, Tidal Bay is his main hope for the National. He’s likely to be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, a big plus as this pairing has already resulted in a win this season. For a more ambitious punt, I wouldn’t rule out Tony McCoy’s Double Seven at 33-1. Despite the odds he’s won five times this year and if the ground is good he’s in with a shot.
So, if I was forced to give a finishing order for the top four places I’d go: Teaforthree (10/1) , Tidal Bay (10/1), Double Seven (33-1) and Same Difference (40-1) and if that pays out and you bet on it feel free to buy me a house.
We all have a mate who informs us he has ‘never lost a bet in his life’. Everything he touches turns to gold. He can do no wrong. Of course that may well be far from the truth, but some punters really do have incredible luck or perhaps even fate on their side.
1) From £0.50 to £1,000,000
In 2008, an eight horse accumulator by lucky Yorkshire based punter Fredd Craggs, 60, bagged him an astonishing £1,000,000 win. What drove his decisions resulting in this 2,000,000-1 event you may ask? Was it the form, the trainer, the jockey? No, none of these he simply went with names that he liked the sound of. So apparent no hopers racing at Sandown, Dubai and Wolverhampton with names such as “Isn’t that Lucky”, “Racer Forever” and “A Dream Come True” (you’re not joking) resulted in this lucky man winning a life changing sum of money.
2) Lightening Strikes Twice
In 2001 an unnamed manchester 50-something pocketed a staggering £500,000 from an insignificant 30p 15 event accumulator bet placed at a William Hill in Lichfield. That’s odds of 1,666,666-to-one . The bet was placed on football, cricket and rugby outcomes. Unbelievably the same man won over £150,000 in a £2.50 accumulator bet in 1999 too at the same branch. Branch manager Janet Dyke paid out on both bets. “I was happy for him last night, but at the same time, I thought ‘Oh no, not again’. She said.
3) Magnificent Seven
One of the best known and most widely publicised big wins came as Frankie Dettori remarkably rode winners in all seven of his Ascot races in 1996. A £67 accumulator places on this exact eventuality by Darren Yeats of Morecombe, Lancashire, turned that sum into over £550,000. He used the money to move house and double the size of his business which was struggling at the time. Others weren’t so lucky on the day though. One unlucky lady had 50p win bets on all seven winners, collecting £19. If she’d done a 50p accumulator instead she could’ve won tens of thousands of pounds. I wonder what the biggest win ever is resulting from a horse racing free bet ?
4) Pop Picker
15 years ago, a 40 year old man placed a £30 bet in a Ladbrokes branch in Wales. The bet largely centred on the entertainment and music industry: Cliff Richard to be knighted, U2 to say together, Eastenders to still be broadcasting as well as Neighbours and Home and Away to still be regular fixtures on UK TV. All by the year 2000. He was right on all counts and walked back into the same branch that year to collect his £200,000 in winnings.