Randox Grand National tips: Punting Pointers ante-post bet

Randox Grand National tips: Punting Pointers ante-post bet

Ante-Post – Grand National

1pt win Panda Boy @ 26.0 Exchanges (min 21.0)

The Randox Grand National looms in a few weeks and it would be remiss not to have a stab given it’s the biggest ante-post event of the year, and while while we’ll be having a closer look at the each-way markets after declarations, the fact that the place terms are unappealing at this stage prompts up to have a win-only bet on the exchanges, where a bit more value can be found at the available odds.

The Grand National used to be a race where Aintree regulars had an advantage, but the modern race has a very different look and feel, and the vast majority of recent winners had no previous race experience, and there is little evidence that experience in any of the other races over the spruce fences is an advantage. Tiger Roll is an obvious outlier here as a dual winner, but I’d tend to take a previous run over the fences as a negative these days, with plenty of horses looking to enjoy the race first time only to spit out the dummy when re-presented with the unique obstacles.

The National also used to suit more experienced chasers, but the alteration to the course and fences have made it like almost any marathon chase in terms of its demands, and as such, unexposed chasers with proven form in big-field handicaps at three miles and further are the types to look for, with five of the last eight individual winners having raced ten times or fewer over fences before scoring at Aintree. It doesn’t take too long a perusal of the runners to find Panda Boy as the beau ideal for Aintree. A close fifth in the 2023 Irish Grand National, he ticks all the right boxes, as the list below confirms.

  • Age: 8-y-o – four of the last eight winners have been 8-y-o’s
  • Born: in Ireland, like 17 of the last 22 winners
  • Trained: in Ireland, like five of the last seven winners
  • Experience – nine chase runs at up to 3m5f
  • Trainer – Martin Brassil – five GN runners; one winner, one third, two sixths
  • Prep run over hurdles when running a screamer – why the hell not

Panda Boy has clearly been laid out for this race and Brassil hasn’t even entered him in the Irish Grand National, relying on his unerring instinct that a mark of 146 will be enough to get him in the race despite being below the cut-off at present. He’s joint 43rd in the list of entries now, but I’d expect him to sneak into the final field with a fair number of those still engaged having alternative targets.

Panda Boy has plenty in common with 2021 winner Minella Times and 2022 Noble Yeats having taken in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown in December, and he shaped very well there, finishing second to the much-touted Meetingofthewaters conceding that rival 10lb. He had his prep race at the Dublin Racing Festival over hurdles, again advertising his well-being when fourth in a Listed Handicap over 3m won by Maxxum. To my eyes he’s had the perfect prep, and I can see him starting close to favourite on the day, so he must be backed now with bits and pieces of 25/1+ available on the exchanges.

“At least we haven’t lost on the circus race this year.” Those were the words of Best Mate bookmaker Paul Johnson at the Cheltenham Festival last week. Paul detests the Cross-Country (the “circus race” to which he refers) like I detest a plateful of peas, but given he’s not won on the race for seven years (so he reckons) he was was delighted to see the rain on Tuesday that caused the inner field to waterlog, again.

However, I’d say Gordon Elliott was very much in the other camp; the abandonment of the Glenfarclas not only denied him a winner (probably) but meant that the likes of Delta Work, Coko Beach and Galvin all missed their prep race for the National next month.

The question is, is there any alternative they can run in over the next week or so? Nothing jumps out at us, so it might be a case of taking them there fresh.

That might not be the end of the world as far as Galvin is concerned. His record after a 100+ day break throughout his career reads 1F211118, that eighth coming in the November version of the Cheltenham X-Country when he looked very much in need of the run beforehand, despite going off a shortish price.

Gordon Elliott has been enthusiastic about his chances for some time, and must have been delighted with a mark of 155 for this and a racing weight of 10st12lb as it stands. For a horse that has a Grade 1 under his belt, that looks a more than workable mark, and to my eyes everything Galvin has been doing this year has been geared towards the spring. The first part of his particular double might have vanished with the rain, but he could yet make amends.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the fact he unseated at the first fence last year. That’s hardly ideal, but it’s the only time he’s failed to complete over fences and I’m tempted to give him an easy pass for it, as he did jump into the back of - irony alert - Delta Work, who himself made a mistake at the fence and took a stride or two to recover. You’d like to think they’ll not be making the same mistake again.

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