Obstacle Illusions: Grand National Fences

Obstacle Illusions: Grand National Fences  To the casual observer, the fences on the Grand National course at Aintree may appear as formidable as ever but, in terms of construction, they are considerably less robust, and more forgiving, than was once the case. The National still range in height from 4’6” to 5’2” but, in most cases, are no longer supported by a rigid, timber frame, but rather by an inner core of pliable, plastic birch, 18” in height. The inner core of the fences known as Westhead, Booth and The Chair, all of which are open ditches, is still composed of traditional, real birch but, even so, they are more flexible and less hazardous to horses who fail to jump them cleanly.

While betting firms  have got you covered for horse racing tips for every race going, what the Grand National fences are covered in, is a story in its own right!  The National fences are still covered with distinctive Norway, or Sitka, Spruce, to a minimum depth of 14”. Nevertheless, the height of the orange-painted toe board, situated at the base of each fence on the take-off side to provide a clear ground line for horse and jockey, has also been increased to 14”. Likewise, solid timber guard rails – one of which ended the career of Arkle, probably the greatest steeplechaser in history – have long been replaced with padded PVC foam alternatives. The principal function of the guard rail is to keep the spruce apron of the fence in place but, at Aintree, guard rails were typically set very low on the ‘belly’ of the fences such that, at certain obstacles, horses could see into the ditch beyond, with unpredictable results. Raising the guard rails, to approximately one-third of the way up the fence, has improved visibility and safety in that respect.

It can, and has been, argued that removing the solid timber core of the National fences allows horses to jump lower – say 3’ as opposed to 3’6” – and faster, than before, thereby increasing the risk of injury if they do fall. Opinions differ as to whether horses that run in the Grand National consciously realise that they can ‘get away with’ hitting the top of the more forgiving fences, but jockeys certainly do. However, any danger of jockeys, as one veteran trainer put it, ‘winging round’ the National course has been alleviated, in part, by routinely watering to produce going no faster than ‘good to soft’ and that fact has been reflected in recent winning times. Indeed, with no fatalities in the Grand National since 2012, it is difficult to argue that the modifications to the fences have not improved the world famous steeplechase.

Graham Lee

Graham Lee  Nowadays, 42-year-old Irishman is known exclusively as a Flat jockey. Indeed, at the time of writing, he lies thirty-ninth in the Stobart Flat Jockeys’ Championship with 19 winners. However, in his earlier days, Lee was a highly successful National Hunt jockey, riding over 1,000 winners and famously winning the Grand National on Amberleigh House, trained by Donald “Ginger” McCain, in 2004.

 

In fact, Lee rode in the National eight times between 2003 and 2011, missing out just once, in 2008, when he gave up the ride on Idle Talk, trained by Donald McCain Jnr., after failing to recover sufficiently from a fractured jaw sustained in February that year. At the time, Lee said, “I’m going to sit tight, but it’s going to kill me that I’m missing it.”

 

Lee rode Amberleigh House in four successive Nationals, finishing third to Monty’s Pass in 2003, winning in 2004, finishing tenth behind Hedgehunter in 2005 and pulling up at the fence before Becher’s Brook on the second circuit in 2006. Lee fondly remembered his National winner, saying, “He was very small for an Aintree horse, but he loved the place. He was only 15.2 hands, but would grow a hand for just seeing an Aintree fence. He never made a single mistake in the National.”

 

Indeed, in four subsequent Nationals, Lee completed the course just once more, on Big Fella Thanks, trained by Ferdy Murphy, who finished seventh behind Ballabriggs in 2011 on his last ride in the race. Lee switched to Flat racing in 2012, citing weight issues – in his case, struggling to keep weight on, rather than take it off – as his reason for doing so.

Grand National Trends

Grand National Trends  Despite changes to the distance, fences, entry conditions and handicap over the years, the Grand National remains a formidable test for horse and rider. The prospect of a maximum field of 40 runners tackling 4 miles 2 furlongs and 74 yards and 30 unique fences, including the infamous Becher’s Brook, should be enough to give the most ardent punter sleepless nights.

However, take heart, because although just one outright favourite and two joint favourites have won the Aintree marathon in the last 15 years, more than half the winners in that period were in the first eight in the betting. Will this trend continue with 2019 Grand National Runners. The Grand National is not, in fact, the punters’ nightmare it might first appear, especially with some useful trends to help you narrow the field.

In recent years, the Grand National weights have been compressed, with a view to improving the previously moderate record of highly weighted horses. Consequently, six of the last 15 renewals have been won by horses carrying 11st or more. Obviously, that leaves 60% of winners who carried less than 11st, but the point is that weight is no longer as pertinent as it once was.

In terms of age, 8-year-olds have won three out of the last four Grand Nationals, but 12 of the last 15 renewals have been won by horses aged 9 years or older. Bogskar, in 1940, was the last 7-year-old, and Sergeant Murphy, in 1923, the last 13-year-old, to win.

As in any horse race, fitness is paramount in the National. Horses are trained to peak fitness, where they remain for a while, before tapering off. Consequently, discount any Grand National runner that has been off the course for more than six weeks, or 42 days.

It probably goes without staying that stamina and jumping ability are absolute necessities in a National winner, so look for an accurate jumper, who has fallen or unseated rider no more than twice in its career, and has won at least one steeplechase over 3 miles or further. Previous experience over the National fences, even if failing to trouble the judge, is a major advantage, so focus on horses that have contested the Becher Chase, Topham Chase or the Grand National itself in the past.

Could Sue Smith land her Second Grand National Success with Vintage Clouds?

Back in 2013, Sue Smith joined an exclusive club as she added her name to the relatively prosaic list of Grand National-winning trainers. She also became just the third female trainer to land the world famous Steeplechase and the first Yorkshire-based handler since 1960 to enjoy success in the race. The 70-year-old is a savvy operator and she is unlikely to be satisfied with just a single Grand National winner. She will be hoping that Vintage Clouds can follow in the footsteps of Auroras Encore at the Merseyside track in April 2019.

Could Sue Smith land her Second Grand National Success with Vintage Clouds?

Source: Sky Sports Racing via Twitter

Sue Smith is a prominent figure in the north of England and she has a number of runners who compete regularly at tracks such as Newcastle, Sedgefield and Hexham. It’s not been the most productive twelve months for the Craiglands Farm handler with the yard sending out just six winning hurdlers this year, although her statistics often tend to improve as the jumps season heads towards its thrilling denouement.

Vintage Clouds is one of Sue Smith’s stable stars and the nine-year-old has become a dependable operator. Owned by Trevor Hemmings, the powerful chaser has suffered a number of near misses and was third in the Scottish Grand National in 2018. Despite edging right at the final fence, Vintage Clouds managed to finish just four lengths behind the Rebecca Curtis-trained Joe Farrell and appeared to relish the four-mile trip, which certainly bodes well for the energy-sapping steeplechase at Aintree on April 6th.

Feeling refreshed after a 217-day break, Vintage Clouds saw off a field of six in the Betfair Exchange Handicap Chase at Haydock in November 2018 and may also be required to overcome another lay-off ahead of the 2019 Randox Health Grand National. At the time of writing, no further entries are in place for the talented chaser, although Sue Smith has refused the rule out the possibility of another run ahead of the big day.

It will be Vintage Cloud’s third appearance at Aintree racecourse with the nine-year-old previously enjoying success in a Novice’s Limited Handicap at the end of 2017 when romping home 18 lengths clear of The Lovely Job under the guidance of regular partner, Danny Cook. He’d also previously been forced to finish the race prematurely when pulling up in the 2016 Sefton Novice’s Hurdle.

Could Sue Smith land her Second Grand National Success with Vintage Clouds?

Source: OpinionYP via Twitter

He is currently priced at around 25/1 and has been popular in the ante-post betting over the last couple of months. There are a number of northern raiders who are prominent in the market and according to Oddschecker, they could stand to benefit from the uncertainty over Brexit. With the UK set to leave the European Union at the end of March, there is the possibility that some Irish trainers may not be able to send their stable stars to Merseyside this year. With very little sign of a resolution being reached, the likes of Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins will have to remain patient ahead of the 2019 Randox Grand National, although some of their runners have already begun to drift in the market.

2018 winner Tiger Roll is one of a number of runners whose place in the contest remains in doubt and his price has lengthened amid the political turmoil engulfing the UK. Definitly Red is another confirmed absentee although his non-participation is down to Brian Ellison’s desire to run him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup instead.

Sue Smith’s grey didn’t make the cut last year and wasn’t able to compete in the prestigious race but he’s clearly advertised his credentials in recent months and although he was asked to make the running at Haydock, he appears to be very adaptable and can cope with a variety of underfoot conditions. He was able to pull out a little bit more when pressed by his rivals in November and that is the sign of a very effective stayer.

Auroras Encore’s participation in the 2013 Grand National was in doubt ahead of the race due to a bout of bad weather in Yorkshire, but connections decided to go ahead with the plans and the gamble sensationally paid off. He was able to run off just 10st 3lb following a string of disappointing displays and went off at a price of 66/1. Anyone who backed him for success that day took a significant leap of faith but they were handsomely rewarded as a result. Jockey Ryan Mania steered him home in front of a packed Grandstand and later told reporters that he couldn’t believe his luck. Despite being retired just a year later, Auroras Encore’s name will go down in history and Smith will be hoping that Vintage Clouds can follow a similar path.

Could Sue Smith land her Second Grand National Success with Vintage Clouds?

Source: Ian Abrahams via Twitter

Unlike the 2013 winner, the 2019-hopeful won’t be entering the race under-the-radar and is likely to be shouldering a decent-sized weight in this year’s contest. However, the uncertainty over the participation of several Irish hopefuls will certainly help his chances. The race is always a highly unpredictable affair but Tiger Roll went off as one of the favourites in 2018 and the potential to go off at a short-price is unlikely to deter backers.

Having proved himself over four miles, Vintage Clouds undoubtedly has the stamina to cope with the various tribulations and his price is likely to shorten further ahead of the April contest. The nine-year-old has course form to his name and is likely to be well-rested ahead of this year’s energy-sapping steeplechase. Very few trainers are able to chalk up multiple successes in the Grand National during their career but Vintage Clouds could be the horse to help land Sue Smith a historic double.

 

 

Becoming Better Bettors

Becoming Better Bettors

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Most race fans think that in making a wise bet, a bettor should keep in mind the running styles of the horses. Well, it’s definitely right. But there’s more to mind of, actually. Favorites, trainers, track surface and the Preakness Stakes should be in your list. Aside from that, here’s a quick note of ways in becoming better bettors.


Figure out pedigree

I bet you heard about like mother, like daughter or like father, like son or any similar to these. The same goes with racehorses. All except three of the last 18 Belmont Stakes winners are by broodmare sires whose daughters bear stakes winners at 1 1/2 miles, or stallions who have previously sired a stakes winner at 1 1/2 miles.

Definitely, genetics can create the next top racehorse. There can be differences between one unraced horse and another. Yet, having an understanding of breeding is a good capability in making what that difference is likely to be. Knowing it can be a powerful predictor of what to be expected, not just only on a pony’s first start but also for a good time afterward.

Know about the jockey

Of course, horses don’t run alone. They are always accompanied by their jockey from the start to finish of the race. A lot of handicappers would have a rule of thumb in which jockeys who have at least 12% winning record, although it doesn’t show as high percentage, is someone to bet on.

Do an exotic wager

Try an exotic bet. Exotic bets started when there was one time in which there are only 35% of older bet types made, while 65% of new bets are made. This new kind of bets was a moniker, yet became most of the people’s choice.

So how exotic is an exotic bet? The idea is that a bettor will choose more than once on a single bet slip. A bettor tends to place wagers on more than one result, whether betting on the successive finishers of a single horse race or betting on the winners of more than one horse race.

It’s already daunting enough to pick one winner, so it’s like boiling the ocean when a bettor is going to pick three or four races or top finishers. You might think, this is being foolishly clairvoyant. Don’t be silly, you’re not gonna be if you’re a smartass.

If you bet in a complex manner, the chances are, you’ll receive much more handsome payoff. In fact, a few who have been winning Pick 6 wagers have disbursed in millions. Hence, payoffs are one of those prime sources of making real money. Other people think that you’re more likely not a professional if you’re just simply placing and showing bets.

Pakes makes the race

Read the race form carefully. It shows how horses performed in their previous races and what their ranks are at each beginning, middle and end, and other points in between stages of those races.

A few people think that a speed horse may be the best bet when the race has a lot of closers. The tendency is, by the time the closers are waiting to act their moves, the speed horses might already have made an unbeatable gap.

However, don’t focus on horses that rush to the front too much. It’s a common thought that speed horses will make themselves exhausted by the time they reach the stretch, so most of time those horses in the back may have an advantage.

Be profitably late

You might miss some scenarios, but being late would give an advantage. Most of the handicappers can’t wholly ascertain the value until it’s almost posted, literally like the final two minutes because the odds keep on changing constantly. A wise handicapper adjusts his/her betting strategy based on last minute-odds.

On the other hand, some handicappers like to be around 10 minutes in advance of the race in so that they can have a look at the horses as they appear out on the track. They usually take signs from the horses. For instance, having an arched neck is a good sign that the horse is ready to go, while foaming or sweating is a bad sign which can mean the horse is stressed.

Takeaway

Races like Belmont Stakes has very low-paying favorites. Thus, pick your targets meticulously. Essentially, there’s a higher chance of winning when you invest more in a race or in a horse that you really like.

Therefore, if you would like to become one of the best bettors for any horse racing competition you are looking forward to join, you may find additional tips and techniques in some websites like https://www.tvg.com/promos/belmont-stakes/ which will make your betting a piece of cake.