Saturday, 9 April 2011

Grand National Day

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I still want to do my paean to the glorious Master Minded, but that shall wait until tomorrow. Today, the sun is shining, and it is Grand National Day, and that is all I can think about.

It's a funny old race. In some ways, it is a freak show. It is over four miles, over crazy fences which most horses never see the like of in their lives. On the other hand, it calls on all the great attributes: courage, honesty, stamina, and heart. It stretches every sinew. It needs a dash of luck. It teeters on the edge of absurdity - four and a half MILES - and yet I love it.

I shall confess: I have absolutely no idea what is going to win. It is a wide open race. I have at least ten down with a good chance. But more and more, I keep coming back to a lovely Scottish horse called Silver by Nature. He is a fine jumper, neat and workmanlike. He does not stand off a mile, or give the fences too much air, which is important in a National, where you want to conserve all your energy. He is brave and honest, and I love the way he goes about his business. The two question marks are: he has never faced these fences before, and his best performances are on softer ground.

The question of the fences is unknowable. Either he will think: this is a gas. Or, he will be saying the equine equivalent of WTF??? There is no way to tell.

The ground is something else. A good, well-balanced horse will go on anything from good to soft. There are some horses who only show their best in the mud. I like to think that Silver by Nature is in the former category. It may be that he happens to have won on the soft, rather than needing the easier going. It may be that I am quite wrong.

So: two question marks. Up against them, there are ticks many other boxes. Jumping: yes. Stamina: yes. Age: yes. At nine, he is the perfect age for the race. A little bit of class: yes. He is not just a slogger, but was once considered for the Gold Cup. He turned out not to be in that category, but he's definitely a step up from a reliable old plodder.

So he carries my tenner at 15-1. I love that he is trained by a woman, and that he was bred in Scotland, and lives there still. So I hope it shall be one for the Scots.

Elsewhere, I really hope that the wonderful old veteran Hello Bud will run a good race with the 18-year-old Sam Twiston-Davies on board. He loves these fences, and tends to hunt round, enjoying himself. He's too old and not quite quick enough to win it, but I'd love to see him get a clear round. Dear old Comply or Die, who carried my money when he won in 2008, is always relied upon to jump beautifully. He is also too old now, but I would adore to see him run his race, and come home safe.

For absolutely no reason, I think Niche Market might run a decent race. Arbor Supreme has a chance if he jumps round, and I'd love to see the bold mare Bluesea Cracker go well. Ruby Walsh on The Midnight Club is well fancied, but I worry about his lack of experience, and I think last year's winner Don't Push it has too much weight. I like Ballabriggs, which would be a bit of a dream for the McCain family.

In other words: ANYTHING could happen.

Here we go. I wish any of you who are having a flutter the very Best of British.

The lovely Silver by Nature:

SILVER BY NATURE Ridden by Peter Buchanan wins at Haydock 19/2/11

(Photograph by John Grossick for The Racing Post.)

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