ROCKY CAN BE NATIONAL CHAMP
I’m in the privileged position of having won on two of the best fancied horses in the Crabbie’s Grand National but in the unenviable spot of not being able to ride either!
I’ve been on Shutthefrontdoor on his last two starts which he’s won - the Irish National a year ago and on his only run since in a graduation chase at Carlisle in November.
But he was always going to be ridden by AP as JP McManus’s number one rider so I’d have been happy enough to stay with The Druids Nephew on whom I won the three mile-handicap chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival last month.
Shutthefrontdoor has been off the track for a long time but he has the right profile to win and I’ve loved riding him.
He jumps, travels, stays and is old fashioned and uncomplicated. The race will suit him ideally because they will chuck plenty of water on to make it good to soft and that’s what he wants.
He has a very relaxed approach and will take the occasion well, which some horses don’t, and he is a worthy favourite.
Whether you think there’s any value in backing him is another matter but he has a massive amount going for him because despite that long time off the course, Jonjo will have had this target from a long way out so he’ll be ready alright.
I can’t think of a box that he doesn’t tick.
I would certainly have been on The Druids Nephew after our solid win at Cheltenham.
He stays on the same rating but has been raised by the handicapper for other races so is 10lb better in here – and that’s quite a big lump of weight – and I know he has the ability.
My only concern about him would be his ability to cope with the track. Trip and ground will be fine but it would be in my mind whether he has the physical scope and size.
I can’t find any negatives to ROCKY CREEK (4.15) who’s got a great profile for winning.
It was a good win last time that has seen him jump up 9lb but, like The Druid’s Nephew is off his old mark.
Paul Nicholls appears to have turned him around by having his wind done and he’s got track experience having finished fifth last year.
At nine he’s the ideal age, the ground will be perfect and he comes into the race on the back of a good win over three miles at Kempton. He’s still off that same mark so is 9lb the right way.
I like the look of Alverado down the bottom and nearer the top I’d expect a good showing from Many Clouds.
I’ve won on three of the contestants in the two and a half mile Mersey Novices’ Hurdle which starts National day, Days Of Heaven, Sub Lieutenant and PARLOUR GAMES (1.30) and I’ll just edge it to the last-named.
Days Of Heaven is getting better with each run and Sub Lieutenant appreciated the step up in trip and heavy ground at Thurles last time.
But I was very impressed with Parlour Games when I won on him at Cheltenham in November.
He was second in the Neptune at the Festival last month which is the best form in this race and I notice that John Ferguson has taken the hood off.
Providing AP can still switch him off then he could have the gears to pick these off in the closing stages.
In the two-mile Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase I wouldn’t look beyond GOD’S OWN (2.05). His Arkle second can’t be faulted and good ground is certain to suit him. Can’t find a negative.
I’m in a bit of a quandary in the three-mile Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle because I know that Cole Harden holds the best form with his World Hurdle win but it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t carry it over.
This is a different circuit altogether and although WHISPER (2.50) was ten lengths behind at Cheltenham he travelled well for much of the race and I’m sure he’s going to be a lot closer round this track.
I was pleased enough with him at Cheltenham and I’m certain that he will have improved a lot for that run which was his first since New Year’s Day.
He won this race last year so we know the track suits him and the same remark applies to Zarkandar who was third at Cheltenham but behind Whisper a year ago.
I wouldn’t look beyond BUYWISE (3.25) in the three-mile Betfred Handicap Chase. He was only put up 3lb for his good fourth over two and a half at Cheltenham, last month and the move to three miles here shouldn’t be a problem.
Evan Williams sent him out to win over three miles on heavy at Taunton when he was a novice.
One of my previous winners that I wouldn’t have been on could well win the race after the National which is for conditionals and amateurs, the One Stop Energy Handicap Hurdle.
ONE FOR THE GUVNOR (5.10) is improving steadily and has won his last two. I was on board at Kempton in a race that was there for the taking and he was left on the same rating of 135.
There’s still a good bit more to come and he’ll be ridden by Gold Cup-winning jockey Nico De Boinville. That’s certainly a positive even though he isn’t allowed to claim and this is another horse that’s going to love the track which will provide a good, competitive gallop which will let him settle better.
Nicky Henderson has a great record with mares and I won’t put anyone off CHOCCA WOCCA (5.40) in the Pinsent Masons Mares' Standard Open NH Flat Race.
She was in need of her debut at Ludlow in the middle of December and the time since has been well used because she’s strengthened and matured.
This is a difficult race to get a grip on but I’d be more than happy to be riding her.