The 2016 Grand National was good for the bookies as 33/1 shot Rule The World outstayed 8/1 joint favourite The Last Samuri to win by six lengths under David Mullins for Mouse Morris and owner Gigginstown, aka Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary.
The third placed 13-year-old Vics Canvas was totally ignored by punters at 100/1 but the handicapper rated the first three within a couple of pounds of each other.
The podium finishers all carried about ten and a half stone suggesting that it counted on the testing soft ground. Just one horse in the first ten home carried 11 stone or more, the fourth placed Gilgamboa (28/1). He had the assistance of Robbie Power who is adept at saving fuel and won this race on Silver Birch in 2007. Jim Dreaper’s dour stayer Goonyella (12/1) took fifth followed by Gordon Elliott’s Ucello Conti (25/1).
An exceptional Aintree debut
Morris said that Rule The World would be a good ride round Aintree after the weights were announced. The 19-year-old David Mullins was more emphatic after the race saying it was the best ride that any horse had ever given him. It was Mullins’ first spin round the National course and Rule The World’s first victory over fences.
Inexperience did not stop Mullins doing a great job of helping his horse to perform. He managed to find space without wasting too much ground even though they were not far from the pace from the off. He let Rule The World jump out of his hands rather than dictating things. There was only one major blunder four out which tested Mullins’ balance but did not result in much loss of momentum. He also rode more patiently than his closest rivals, only going for his whip after the elbow and taking the lead about 100 yards from the line.
Morris was uncharacteristically quiet after the win, eventually saying that it was Tiffer who was looking down on him. Tiffer was Christopher, Morris’ son who had died in tragic circumstances whilst travelling. Morris thought it was the second time that season that Tiffer had helped him, he saddled the winner of the Irish National too.
Why did punters miss out?
Some punters probably overlooked the nine-year-old winner because Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s number one jockey Bryan Cooper decided to partner his stablemate First Lieutenant (50/1). He was the runner-up in the Lexus Chase under Davy Russell but was beaten 95 lengths in the 2015 National after badly misjudging the first two fences under Nina Carberry. It quickly proved an unwise decision, Cooper tasted the turf when they hit the deck pretty hard at the second.
Rule The World’s recent form had not been stunning. He was well beaten in his only two starts in 2016 over much shorter distances but the clue was in the comment that he kept on at the same pace in both. Rule The World had previously run some very decent races in defeat, most significantly finishing second in the 2015 Irish National under Mullins, beaten four lengths by Thunder And Roses.
Rule The World had also been the runner-up in a Grade 1 novices’ chase in December over three miles at Leopardstown. This son of Sulamani was a class act over a trip but had been plagued by physical problems, twice suffering fractures to his pelvis. Morris wondered afterwards just how good he could have been if he had had ‘proper’ hind quarters.
While the winner was backed into 33/1 from 50/1, Vics Canvas was clearly friendless under Robert Dunne. His age made it highly unlikely that he would fill the top spot and the Co Meath-based Dermot Anthony McLoughlin was not a trainer that many punters would target. Like the two horses who finished in front of him, Vics Canvas had proven stamina, winning the three and a half mile Cork Grand National in 2014 and finishing a close second in Sandown’s Bet365 Gold Cup Chase in April 2015 under Ruby Walsh.
Vics Canvas had not got his head in front since 2014, in a handicap chase over three and a half miles. As a son of Old Vic, sire of the National winners Comply Or Die and Don’t Push It, he was well bred for this challenge and had proved his prowess over the National fences. He finished fifth, beaten less than four lengths in the Becher Chase in December 2015, looking to need further.
What happened to the other fancied horses?
Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds was the clear favourite before race day and was sent off as the joint favourite to make it two in a row in Aintree’s showpiece, after his 2015 Grand National triumph. He had shouldered 11 stone 9 successfully on good to soft ground and had only one pound more this time as it took him to top weight. Officially rated 6lb higher than last year he looked the proverbial good thing and likely to give his jockey Leighton Aspell a third consecutive National win.
Many Clouds’ followers had a run for their money as he raced handily and took the lead at the 19th. A serious blunder after he relinquished it at the 26th was telling, he weakened three out and having jumped the last he emptied totally and walked over the line. He was the last horse to cross it.
Another strongly supported class horse near the top of the weights was Paul Nicholls’ multiple Grade 1 winner Silviniaco Conti at 12/1. Noel Fehily rode him not far from the pace and he was jumping well until he was hampered at the 11th. That seemed to knock his confidence and he hit the next pretty hard and dropped back through the field. Fehily sensibly pulled him up a few fences later.
Jonjo O’Neill saddled Holywell (11/1) and Shutthefrontdoor (12/1). Now a nine-year-old, O’Neill hoped that Shutthefrontdoor would relax more and be better able to handle the trip this time. Ridden by Barry Geraghty rather than AP McCoy it was the same story as 2015, he ran short of fuel three out and finished ninth beaten over 60 lengths. Holywell was ridden by Richie McLernon and did not take to the fences. He misjudged the first and capsized at the second.
Tom George’s 2015 Grand National runner-up Saint Are (16/1) did not jump as well as this time and proved his jockey Paddy Brennan’s fears about the slow ground were well-founded. He led the field over the Chair but gradually lost momentum and was tailed off when Brennan pulled him up before the last.
Morning Assembly another 16/1 shot, coped better with conditions but weakened when it mattered, finishing eighth under Davy Russell for Patrick Fahey. The Druids Nephew started at the same price after his promising run last year but his jumping was sketchy and Denis O’Regan pulled him up after the 21st as they were tailed off.
Tony Martin is usually a force to be reckoned with in valuable handicaps but Gallant Oscar (16/1) made a hash of Valentines and blundered again at the 18th, unseating Mark Walsh.
Any useful tips for punters?
The big pointer for punters looking for value in the Grand National betting suggested by this renewal is to be prepared to forgive unimpressive recent form, especially if it has been posted over inadequate distances. Horses such as Kim Bailey’s The Last Samuri who have recently proved their aptitude for longer distances are never going to be generously priced.
When the ground is testing horses with proven stamina, fencing prowess and a relatively light weight to carry are worth a second look. Recently ‘out of form’ over less than optimal trips should be a green light for punters looking for generous Grand National returns.