There were a few raised eyebrows and more than a few happy bookmakers when Auroras Encore won the Grand National at Aintree earlier in the month at 66/1, but there seemed to be no fluke about the way Sue Smith’s horse surged to glory.
The 11-year-old will bid for a historic National double on Saturday when he takes his place at Ayr for the Scottish Grand National. Only Red Rum in 1974 has completed the English and Scottish National double in the same year.
Music Hall, Little Polveir and Earth Summit are the only three others to have completed the double in different years.
However, the gelding has to carry top weight of 11st 12lb and only once in the last ten renewals has a horse overcome that burden.
Only two 11-year-olds have taken the prize in the last decade, although one was last year, Merigo. Horses aged eight and ten have the best record with three wins apiece in that time with Garleton (12) and the likes of Big Occasion and Tour Des Champs (six), as well as Our Mick and Nuts N Bolts (seven) looking up against it on trends.
No favourite has won in the last ten years so Rival D’Estruval might be one to avoid. In fact, only three horses have won at a single figure price in the last ten runnings. All three returned at 15/2.
Timmy Murphy has been aboard two of the last three winners of this prize and he rides the likely favourite.
The world’s most famous horserace takes centre-stage at Aintree tomorrow with a global audience of over half a billion people expected to watch the 40 runners set off on the newly modified four-mile-three-and-a-half furlong course.
With 30 demanding obstacles to be jumped it’s a thrilling spectacle and trend followers will have seen that the last four winners have all carried 11st or more to glory. Before Mon Mome in 2009, only two horses since 1984 shouldered such a burden to victory.
Amberleigh House in 2004 was the last 12-year-old to win and no horse younger than nine has won any of the last ten renewals.
Silver Birch in 2007 was the last Irish-trained winner of the race and Nigel Twiston-Davies is the only trainer with an entry tomorrow who has won the National more than once.
Joint or sole favourites have won just three of the last ten runnings and every other winner has been priced in double figures. Last year a 33/1 shot won and 2009 saw a 100/1 winner scoop the prize in the shape of Mon Mome.
You need to have won at least four chases to make an impact in this race. Only Ballabriggs and Numbersixvalde had won less than four (three) chases before going on to be crowned National champion in the last ten years.
While the flat action back on the turf gets underway today, it’s not until tomorrow’s Lincoln Handicap at 3.50pm that for traditionalists the turf season is officially off and running.
A field of 22 are still engaged for the one mile contest that has a prize fund of £100,000.
Captain Bertie, an unlucky fourth in the consolation race for this last year, is the current favourite but bettors are advised that only three of the last ten runnings have gone the way of the jolly.
There have been five horses at double-figure prices in that time, including winners at 25/1, 22/1 and 20/1. In fact, during the last decade only two horses have won at an SP below 5/1.
Babodana won off top-weight of 9st 10lb in 2004 but since that horse is the only to have carried a burden of more than 9st 4lb to victory since 2003. Half of those winners have carried under 9st.
That’s good news for Captain Bertie off 8st 11 and all the fancied runners like Lahaag and Gladys’ Gal are under 9st.
They often say you need to be a ‘Group horse in a handicap’ to win contests like this, although a series of exposed winners in recent years undermine that, but looking for a progressive lightly raced horse is generally the way to go.
Four-year-olds have won six of the last ten but the first three in the market are all five.
Previous course form at Town Moor is not important with nine of the last ten winners not having won at Doncaster before. Blythe Night had landed a maiden there but the 2006 renewal was held at Redcar.
Tomorrow’s Listed Imperial Cup at Sandown has been farmed by the Pipe family in recent years. Martin won it six times between 1989 and 2005 and his son David had back-to-back successes in 2007 and 2008.
Tanerko Emery and Kazlian are David’s two representatives for the two-mile 110 yard handicap contest but, even with Kieron Edgar's claim taking 7lb off Tanerko Emery’s top weight burden of 11st 12lb, the gelding will have to defy recent trends that have seen no winner shoulder more than 11st since Korelo in 2003.
That’s also not good news for Mr Mole, current favourite, who carries 11st 6lb, but he will have the assistance of AP McCoy, who has won this race five times.
Mr Mole’s trainer Paul Nicholls has yet to gain a success in this race, though.
Scorned at nine was the oldest runner to triumph in the last ten renewals and eight of the remaining winners in that time were between four and six.
Tanerko Emery is seven.
Favourites have a decent record considering how competitive the race typically is, winning five of the last ten. But there have also been victors at 12/1, 14/1 and 20/1 in that time.
Qaspal, Ashkazar and Korelo were the three winners in the last decade to have previously registered a Sandown win.
Last year’s winner Paintball, Tanerko Emery, Claret Cloak and Tominator are the four horses in the field who have won at the course before.
Perhaps the biggest compliment a horse can get – not that they’ll ever be aware – is when an owner of JP McManus’ stature buys you.
Wyck Hill has won his last two races in decent style but it is the subsequent exploits of Katenko, a horse he beat four lengths in his last race, that attracted the leading Irish owner to snap him up this week and made the David Bridgewater-trained gelding such a hot favourite for the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton tomorrow.
Katenko has gone on to smash two decent fields and his new rating makes Wyck Hill look very well-handicapped off 142.
The three-mile Grade Three chase has been won five times in the last ten runnings by eight-year-olds. Duke Of Lucca and Mister Hyde fit that trend this time around.
Wyck Hill will be bidding to become only the second nine-year-old after Farmer Jack in 2005 to scoop the £56, 950 first prize in the last ten renewals.
Favourites have a poor record with only one outright jolly justifying its market position in the last decade. La Landiere in 2003 was a joint-favourite.
Four of the last ten winners had previously won at Kempton. Nacarat is a dual-winner of this race and if he wins again he will become the most successful horse in the race’s history.
Quinz is another former winner of the race back for more tomorrow. Mister Hyde and Summery Justice are previous winners at this track.
Paul Nicholls has saddled the last five favourites. Aside from Gungadu in 2008, the last four have all lost and three of those failed to complete.
Nicholls has What A Friend and Rolling Aces entered with Ruby Walsh, twice a winner of this contest, riding the latter.