YorkMix tipster Dick Turpin returns from his winter break to share his unique views on this year’s Grand National
Another year, another National. One story, one question dominates this year’s proceedings. Can Tony McCoy sign off from his career with a win on the hot favourite Shutthefrontdoor?
Widely regarded as the greatest jump rider of his generation, it would be a fitting send-off for AP – one that the sentimental Dick Turpin would love to see.
But the hard-headed Turpin knows better – or thinks he does. It is the sheer weight of mug punter money hoping for a fairytale ending that has pushed this eight-year-old to the head of the betting.
Sure, he’s in with a decent chance, but the odds are false, and there are at least another eight or ten horses with equally strong claims.
There is much to commend him – an Irish Grand National win, and his undoubted staying power, for example. But his relative inexperience and lack of great preparation are big negatives.
Last seen on a racetrack in November, it’s asking a lot for him to be in peak form for this. But if anyone can get him there, it is trainer Jonjo O’Neill.
The very short price (6/1 overnight) is good news for those of us who bet more than once a year, for it means better value prices on the horses with a significantly clearer chance.
I have looked carefully at the entire field and ruled out more than half due to inexperience, stamina doubts, poor preparation or injury doubts.
Of the other better-known contenders, I am also ruling out last year’s winner Pineau De Re, 8lb higher in the weights, and another year older too. Rarely does the national winner come from the ranks of the 12-year-old horses.
Top weighted Lord Windermere, a game winner of last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, is simply too pinned down with 11st 10lb.
Many Clouds is similarly harshly treated, carrying just one pound less, and paying too high a price for success in November’s Hennessy Gold Cup. The dry ground will not be to his liking either.
A better case can be made for The Druid’s Nephew, strong in the betting market thanks to a good win at Cheltenham last month, and escaping any penalty for that. If he can keep out of trouble from loose horses, we expect him to be thereabouts.
There is a lot of enthusiasm for Rocky Creek too. The probable second favourite faded fast last year, finishing a tired fifth, nearly 20 lengths behind the winner. Connections believe a wind operation has done the trick; but this is the National – and it will stretch even the best of horses, so Turpin will be steering clear.
So where will Turpin’s money be going?
In the tradition of YorkMix – and because some bookmakers are offering a return on the first six home – here are my six – in no particular order – that I reckon have a chance of filling those six places after the four miles, three furlongs and 110 yards of the Aintree course.
Al Co: Thanks to all the attention on Shutthefrontdoor, Scottish National surprise, Al Co, has avoided the spotlight and should represent excellent each-way value at around 25-1.
Godsmejudge: He triumphed in the Scottish National a couple of years back and came second in that race last year, has similarly escaped a lot of the attention. A slight worry has been his winter form, but conditions are back in his favour this weekend and we expect a huge race from him.
Dick’s six Mix picks
1. Balthazar King
4. Al Co
5. Saint Are
6. Spring Heeled
Soll: The Pipe/Scudamore combination is respected and feared throughout the National Hunt fraternity, and big powerful Soll could be the one to give them a great day at generous odds. The weight (10st 2lb) should not be a problem; the only question might be one of stamina. He faded at the end of the 2013 race, finishing seventh; but sources suggest that David Pipe’s magic touch is reaping dividends in that department. The only real question is whether the build-up to this weekend has beena shade too busy. Expect a strong showing come what may.
Spring Heeled: It would be no surprise to see Nick Scholfield’s mount in the winner’s enclosure this year. A good showing at Cheltenham, and the knowledge that the Culloty yard have been focusing only on the Aintree event fills Turpin with huge confidence. The good to firm ground – if it stays that way – will be an added bonus.
Balthazar King: Stepping up from last year’s second is a distinct possibility; the 11-year-old has only gone up a shade in the weights, and his 2013 showing suffered because he was steered on a wide course; a more enterprising ride for the Johnson / Hobbs hope could be all it needs to steal the crown this time.
Saint Are: Possibly the most interesting horse in the race. No one who saw his amazing Catterick win in February will ever forget it, defeating the field by seven lengths in imperious fashion. He has proved his liking for the Aintree fences, and a poor showing in the 2013 National can be disregarded as he was off colour. The canny Brennan/George team are known to be very, very optimistic about a bold showing at excellent odds.
But such is the perverse nature of the racing game, that no one would be happier than Turpin if his choices are beaten by the one and only A.P.McCoy on Shutthefrontdoor.