GRAND NATIONAL 2018: TIMEFORM WEIGHT-ADJUSTED RATINGS
Senior horse racing analyst Phil Turner runs down the provisional Timeform weight-adjusted ratings for the 2018 Grand National at Aintree on Saturday 14 April.
Last week’s glitzy Grand National weights launch might have been derailed by a power cut, but no emergency generators are required forseveral of the best-handicapped Aintree contenders, who’ve been recharging their batteries by design so far this winter.
No less than four of the top nine on Timeform ratings haven’t been seen since at least the summer and, in most cases, their connections have opted to keep their powder dry until those Grand National weights were announced in order to protect their handicap marks.
In fairness, Seeyouatmidnight (Timeform adjusted rating c181) did have his 2016/17 campaign curtailed by an injury sustained when runner-up over hurdles at Kelso last March, but he’s reported to be fighting fit now and is due to make his comeback soon. A sound jumper whose front-running style often suits Aintree well, Seeyouatmidnight has shown deep reserves of stamina from early in his career, whilst his good third under a big weight in the 2016 Scottish National (on good to soft ground) proved he's not dependent on the mud either.
Meanwhile, defeats of high-profile names such as Blaklion, Bristol de Mai and One For Arthur clearly illustrate he’s potentially well treated off a BHA mark of just 151 and holds decent claims of becoming the second Scottish-trained winner in twelve months.
Seeyouatmidnight currently shares the honour with Abolitionist (c181) on Timeform ratings. Abolitionist, who needs 11 horses to come out between now and April 14th in order to be guaranteed a run, enjoyed something of an Indian summer upon joining Ellmarie Holden last season, his win in the Leinster National sandwiched by fine placed efforts in the Troytown Chase and Irish National.
A reproduction of this form should see him in the mix, whilst his recent purchase to join the shrewd Worcestershire-based handler Dr Richard Newland is hardly a negative – Newland, of course, won the 2014 National with another seemingly-exposed Irish import in Pineau de Re.
Strong Elliott team
Gordon Elliott is another trainer hoping to saddle his second National winner and came close to adding to Silver Birch’s 2007 victory last year with Cause of Causes (c177), who finished a gallant second to One For Arthur under crack amateur Jamie Codd (likely to retain the ride). The popular ten-year-old, as ever, has had his campaign geared around blooming in the spring, though the fact he’ll be racing off a BHA mark 5 lb higher than last year goes some way to explaining why so few runners-up in recent history have gone on to taste National victory twelve months later – indeed, the top-notch pair L’Escargot (1975) and Red Rum (1977) are the only two to have done so since World War II.
Elliott, meanwhile, is most unlikely to be relying on just Cause of Causes come the big day, his other potential Aintree contenders including two-times Irish National runner-up Bless The Wings (178), dual Cheltenham Festival winner Tiger Roll (c175$) and multiple Grade 1 winner Outlander (c178). Our idea of the best-value bet among the Elliott contingent, however, is Noble Endeavor (c180) at 33/1.
Noble Endeavor has proved well equipped to the demands of big-field handicaps down the years, notably when winning the very valuable Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in 2016 (also placed twice at Cheltenham Festival), and could well benefit from a quieter time of things this time around (not seen out yet in 2017/18) in a campaign geared solely around Aintree.
As for those who’ve actually advertised their Grand National claims on the racecourse this winter, Gold Present(c179+) and the hugely progressive Total Recall (c179p) arguably make the most appeal, though the latter reportedly has the Cheltenham Gold Cup as his primary target for now – similar comments apply to the very likeable Definitly Red (c177+), who exited the race early through no fault of his own when well fancied for the 2017 Grand National.
Previous course experience remains something of an asset even in the age of Aintree’s new modified plastic fences, so the likes of Blaklion (177), Gas Line Boy (176) and The Last Samuri (c178) are likely to prove popular in the betting come the big day.
To further muddy the waters for punters, the Grand National field now regularly features former top-class performers seemingly on the downgrade, but who are potentially very leniently-treated if Aintree’s unique test can elicit a revival from them. With this in mind, it’s worth noting the likes of Sub Lieutenant (c176+) and Carlingford Lough (c174+) are potentially the best-handicapped runners in the field if they can return to the sort of form they were showing in Grade 1 company not long ago.