The distance was shorter (slightly), the fences had been modified and it was on Channel 4 for the first time. Did it still serve up the same buzz and excitement as previous renewals? Well I guess if you were called Aurora or Oscar or were having Tea for Three that night it was an amazing day!!
As always there is plenty we can take from the race so here are my own thoughts on the winner, placed horses and also-rans…
The winner: AURORAS ENCORE
Did he fit the profile of recent winners?
Well for starters he did sit comfortably in the Dosage Green zone. His profile of 5-0-10-5-4 (20+) (24) | 0.71 | -0.13 was a snug fit with regards to recent winners and in what is a strong race for the Dosage figures this Second Empire gelding upheld that side of things well. Looking at the other trends I use for narrowing the National field Sue Smith’s horse wasn’t too far wide of the mark, although he didn’t quite make my own shortlist.
I’ve written about the horse a couple of times on NTF in the past and although, with hindsight, he did have conditions in his favour on Saturday he never really crossed my mind as a potential winner, certainly not a comfortable 9 length winner of one of the worlds greatest and toughest races.
What chance does he have of defending his crown next season?
If we are honest, not much. He will be hit by the handicapper for this and he is a horse that has a fairly clear ceiling to his handicap abilities. He won this from 137 and will be hiked into the 140’s and that is an area where he struggles to win from. Of course they could get his mark down a bit by next April, since running 2nd in last seasons Scottish National his mark dropped from 150 to 133, but one suspects the handicapper won’t be quite as lenient this time around. If we add to the fact it’s extremely hard for any horse to land 2 Grand National’s and Aurora will be a 12yo next term we must make the judgment that a place is surely his best option next term.
Who were the eye-catchers for the 2014 renewal?
Let’s start with the placed runners…
CAPPA BLEU – Clearly a horse that loves this place but as a potential winner? I can’t have it. He just sits too far out the back to get competitive and for the 2nd year in a row he has stayed on from the back once the race was over. I imagine it will be a similar story next year, a story that connections seem quite content with.
TEAFORTHREE – It was a brave move from Nick Sholfield to try and kick on when he did and although that may have ultimately cost him at least 2nd I can see why he made the move. The horse clearly relished jumping the fences and already looks like short-list material for next year. My one concern would be his handicap mark, I have a feeling he may be very close to his ceiling and as such dropping a couple of pounds would not go amiss. One assumes this will be the aim for next season and it will be interesting to note how he is campaigned.
OSCAR TIME – The fences obviously reinvigorated this fella somewhat but he just ran out of puff when push came to shove. It was an extremely commendable run but he will be a 13yo next term and although you could see him completing I wouldn’t be convinced he has another National placed effort in him.
RARE BOB – A decent effort in 5th but he probably needs a much softer surface and in honesty he is always going to find at least 1 or 2 too good for him (only 4 wins from 41 career starts). He will be 12 next year and I can’t really have him on my mind as a future contender, his chance has been and gone.
Now onto some of the also-rans…
SOLL – This Presenting gelding is interesting for next term. He seemed to enjoy jumping the fences and was in there for long enough before fading into 7th. If it comes up soft or heavy next year then I can see him improving on this performance, especially with a bit more experience under his belt come next April.
JOIN TOGETHER – They seemed to being going just a tap or 2 too fast for him here and it may just be he needs softer ground to slow the rest of the pack down for him. His 2014 chances depend upon the ground in my opinion.
SEABASS – Is too high in the weights and despite being on the premises for long enough here he never really looked like getting involved. I thought it was a strange run, almost if he was holding himself back a little. As a future contender for this race I wouldn’t be convinced.
ACROSS THE BAY – Gave a decent sight out-front but unless it comes up soft or heavy he won’t be winning future National’s.
BALTHAZAR KING – I had high hopes for this lad but he was far too lit up out front and he paid for that as they approached 2 out, his early exertions left him with very little in the tank. I think the occasion maybe buzzed him up too much and although he seemed to relish the fences it may just be that the race as a whole is not entirely suited to him.
CHICAGO GREY – For the 2nd year running he just never got into this race. He isn’t a National type for me, never has been and never will be.
ON HIS OWN – Failed to complete in 2 attempts in this race now and another that just isn’t a National type. The main worry was how quickly his chance went, almost a flick of a switch. He is a talented beast and personally I think they should look at other targets with him.
COLBERT STATION – This one rates as potentially very interesting. He made a complete mess of ‘The Chair’ but until then I don’t think he did too much wrong, in fact he seemed to be jumping the fences very well. McCoy said he new quite early that he “wasn’t going to win“, due in the main to the horse being hard to switch off and settle. In my opinion that could well be down to the fact this was only his 6th Chase start. He lacked experience of jumping fences in public and maybe this test came a year too early for him in his chasing career. Providing this doesn’t leave a mental scar on the horse and providing they can keep his mark to a similar level I would certainly be keeping this lad in my thoughts for the 2014 renewal.
How did the Dosage figures stand up this term?
5 of the first 7 home sat comfortably in the Dosage Green zone.
It is a demanding race and you need the required stamina to last home and battle up the run-in. The Dosage figures held up extremely well this year and were a solid indicator of the merits of this method.
Here are the Dosage figures of the first 7 home…
AURORAS ENCORE – 5-0-10-5-4 (20+) (24) | 0.71 | -0.13 (Dosage Green)
CAPPA BLEU – 0-1-7-0-0 (8) | 1.29 | 0.13 (Dosage Orange)
TEAFORTHREE – 2-1-7-8-2 (DQ) (20) | 0.48 | -0.35 (Dosage Green)
OSCAR TIME – 4-0-6-10-2 (20+) (22) | 0.47 | -0.27 (Dosage Green)
RARE BOB – 1-2-17-0-0 (20+) (20) | 1.35 | 0.20 (Dosage Orange)
SWING BILL – 1-1-4-2-2 (PATB) (10) | 0.67 | -0.30 (Dosage Green)
SOLL – 1-3-2-4-4 (PATB) (14) | 0.56 | -0.50 (Dosage Green)
Obviously just having the correct Dosage figures isn’t enough on its own to win this race but it does clearly help and is a solid angle to attack the race from.
How did the 6 Dosage Red contenders get on?
5 of the 6 runners in the Dosage Red zone FAILED to finish the race.
Whilst it is important to have the correct Dosage figures it is even MORE important not to have INCORRECT Dosage figures for the race.
Here is a breakdown of the 6 runners from the Dosage Red zone…
ALWAYS WAINING – 7-4-13-2-0 (20+) (26) | 2.06 | 0.62 – 10th
BIG FELLA THANKS – 5-1-4-0-0 (10) | 4.00 | 1.10 – Unseated Rider
HARRY THE VIKING – 9-2-8-0-1 (20+) (20) | 3.00 | 0.90 – Pulled-Up
ROBERTO GOLDBACK – 3-4-13-0-0 (20+) (20) | 2.08 | 0.50 – Unseated Rider
TATANEN – 3-1-7-1-0 (12) | 1.67 | 0.50 – Fell
CHICAGO GREY – 1-2-5-0-0 (8) | 2.20 | 0.50 – Pulled-Up
Miserable reading from that bunch with only Always Waining managing to complete, albeit 61 lengths adrift of the winner.
Was the 2014 winner lurking in this year’s renewal?
I’m inclined to say no if I’m honest. The most interesting one for me is COLBERT STATION, providing he gets plenty more chasing experience and they can keep his mark at a similar level, possibly not the easiest thing to do in truth but it will be interesting to keep him on the radar. TEAFORTHREE certainly strikes as a lively contender but I can’t help think his handicap mark will only rise rather than slip, again it will be interesting to see how he is campaigned. SOLL is clearly a horse that is now coming back to his early career promise but his chance really depends on a much more testing surface, if he gets that then he is of interest, chances are, however, he won’t get it.
But what is your take on this years renewal?
Did you see next year’s winner lurking amongst this years 40?
Do you have someone else in mind when it comes to a potential 2014 contender?
Drop your thoughts in the comments box below.