Grand National Festival: Timefigures Preview

Timeform's R&D team find the best bets at Aintree's Grand National Festival from a jumps timefigures perspective - including a 20/1 bet in one of the handicaps.

Grand National Festival: Timefigures Preview

Timeform's R&D team find the best bets at Aintree's Grand National Festival from a jumps timefigures perspective - including a 20/1 bet in one of the handicaps.


Supasundae Picture:Pat Healy Photography

Nonetheless, the pecking order is yet to be set in stone in the staying hurdle division and that is where we find our best bet of the week over the smaller obstacles. We were very sweet on Sam Spinner Horseform for the Stayers’ Hurdle and, with Cheltenham runner-up Supasundae Horseform opting to run in Thursday’s Aintree Hurdle, the path looks clear for Sam Spinner to put the record straight and re-establish himself as the leading staying hurdler around.

Sam Spinner
Sam Spinner Picture:Pat Healy Photography

Jockey Joe Colliver rode the gelding to strong-staying wins from the front at Haydock (155 timefigure) and Ascot (166) prior to Cheltenham where he was far too cautious in front and allowed the race to develop into a sprint. Should Colliver make the race a proper test at a track he is much more familiar with, Sam Spinner will surely have too much class and stamina for his only serious challenger, the Stayers' Hurdle third Wholestone (154). Odds of 7-4 are likely to turn out to be generous.

Neither the Aintree Hurdle nor the Juvenile Hurdle on Thursday make much appeal from a betting perspective – though we would have been keen to take Apple’s Shakira on had there been some stronger opposition to her – but the Top Novices’ Hurdle on Friday has a nice betting shape to it.

Top on Timeform ratings is Global Citizen who won impressively in a decent time (138) at Kempton despite being eased, but he has plenty to do to beat not only the runner-up that day, Scarlet Dragon, who was set far too much to do, but also the Supreme Novices Hurdle fifth Claimantakinforgan who stands out on time.

Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old will be effective over further in time, but his Ascot win over two miles in December in a good time (136) was characterised by a smart turn of foot and he ended up too far back in the Supreme when posting an even better effort (147). He might have most to fear from the mare Irish Roe whose form includes a defeat of the smart Maria’s Benefit at Doncaster in a fast time (140) prior to pulling up before the second-last in the Betfair Hurdle when last seen.

In the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle later on Friday, Nicky Henderson has a powerful team topped by Albert Bartlett second and third, OK Corral and Santini. We tipped Santini at Cheltenham on the back of a race-leading timefigure of 153 when beating Ballymore runner-up Black Op at Cheltenham in January, only to watch him get too far back before staying on strongly. He has unfinished business over hurdles and can take this before turning his attentions to chasing next season.

On Saturday, Shannon Bridge would make some appeal if he lines up for the opening Gaskells Handicap Hurdle. Dan Skelton’s charge was pulled up in desperate conditions at Haydock last time, but prior to that had gone like the best horse behind Enniscoffey Oscar in the River Don at Doncaster, only to get mugged on the line. That performance was worth 144 from a timefigure point of view and makes him look well handicapped here off a BHA mark of 140.


The Grand National is a tricky one to attack from a timefigure perspective as few races take place in excess of three and a half miles, and of those that do, few are truly run anyway. However, one horse that has a good record in well-run marathon events - indeed, he has recorded timefigures of 142 and 137 in two of his last three races, right up there with his 143 rating - is Milansbar. He has yet to run at Aintree, but he’s a sound jumper with bottomless stamina and acts well on very soft ground, assets that might all be required given the race-day forecast for Saturday.

Indeed, since being fitted with blinkers, Milansbar has looked a reformed character and is reunited with Bryony Frost for the first time since recording that 142 timefigure with a good round of jumping at Warwick. Her ratio of falls to rides over fences is far lower than the average jockey and, with Milansbar ticking a lot of boxes, he makes substantial each-way appeal at around 33-1.

Might Bite leads the way in the Betway Bowl after a valiant second to Native River in the Gold Cup. He was outlasted up the Cheltenham hill in very testing conditions, but should find this flatter track playing more to his strengths over this shorter trip.

Similar comments apply to Bristol de Mai who had put up the season’s best chase timefigure in his muddy Haydock romp, before Footpad - and then Altior - topped it at Cheltenham. However, he’s failed to back that up the last twice, and his jumping faltered when Might Bite put the hammer down in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Elsewhere on Thursday, the Red Rum Handicap Chase features the first three from the 2017 renewal, Double W’s, Theinval, and Bun Doran, all returning with strong chances. However, it’s the 10/1 shot Diego du Charmil who appeals most from a timefigure perspective.

He was an unfortunate faller at Ascot last time when stumbling on landing three out, having looked the most likely winner, with the Timeform report suggesting this could be the race in which to gain compensation.

A timefigure of 136 in the Kingmaker at Warwick in February - 8 lb higher than the bare form rating - still looks solid, even though Saint Calvados disappointed at Cheltenham. It supports the 'Timeform p' accompanying his chase rating, suggesting there should be more to come over fences.

Warren Greatex’s Theatre Territory requires four runners to pull out before she can sneak in at the bottom of the weights for the Topham on Friday, but that looks likely, and she has plenty going for her despite remaining a maiden over fences. She got into the race sooner than the first two who passed her late on when third at Kempton over three miles last time, but shaped with plenty of encouragement there.

Her previous performance - over two and a half miles in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase on Festival Trials day - saw her pull a long way clear with Mister Whitaker, who then gave the form a big boost when winning at the Festival. That performance is the second-best timefigure in the race, 169, and gives her leading claims for Robert Waley-Cohen and jockey son Sam who combined to win this race in 2015 with Rajdhani Express, having previously won the 2014 Becher with Oscar Time.

Recommended bets

Diego du Charmil at 10/1 in the Red Rum Handicap Chase on Thursday

Claimantakinforgan at 6/1 in the Top Novices’ Hurdle on Friday

Theatre Territory at 12/1 in the Topham Handicap Chase on Friday

Santini at 9/4 in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle on Friday

Shannon Bridge at 20/1 in the Gaskells Handicap Hurdle on Saturday

Sam Spinner at 7/4 in the Liverpool Stayers’ Hurdle on Saturday

Milansbar at 33/1 each-way in the Grand National on Saturday


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