Talking Horses: Grand National news and Wednesday tips

Chris Cook
Trainers and punters are preparing for next week’s three-day Grand National race-meeting at Aintree. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Today’s best bets, by Chris Cook

I appreciate that there is some dispute about the value of wind operations in racehorses but it so happens that I know of a Grand National runner who has had a bit of tinkering to his breathing apparatus since he last ran. I’ve run out of space to mention it in the stories I’ve written over the last couple of days, so here it is now.

The beast in question is O’Faolains Boy, a talented fella who has become disappointing. He was fourth in the Albert Bartlett on just his third run over hurdles, then won the Reynoldstown (beating Many Clouds) and the RSA in 2014. Since then, however, his only success has been against one other finisher in December 2015. He hasn’t finished within 33 lengths of a winner in five subsequent runs, despite the fitting of a tongue tie and cheekpieces.

“He’s had a wind op since his last run,” Gearoid Costelloe told me. Costelloe is the partner of the horse’s trainer, Rebecca Curtis. “He seems a lot better for that.

“We hope to have him right on the day. It’s all been a bit of a rush with him. He had a bit of time off earlier in the season but I think he’s improved a lot again now, so fingers crossed.”

Costelloe acknowledged that the stable has been going through a quiet patch, with just one winner in each of February and March and fewer runners than normal. “We’ve had a few run OK and a few run not so well. They all look healthy and well now and the weather’s a bit nicer, so they’re going out in the field more and that might make a difference.”

Even with a wind op to help him, I personally don’t find a fragile horse like O’Faolains tempting for the National. But Curtis also has Shantou Flyer and The Romford Pele in the race and both of those would be pretty interesting if she could just show that she’s over whatever has been holding her horses back this spring. She’s got a few entries at Ascot on Sunday.

For what it’s worth, Costelloe says Shantou Flyer is “a very genuine, honest horse” who has “probably been crying out for a longer trip”. The Romford Pele needs some good ground and hasn’t had it since October. He got struck into at Cheltenham, so that run is best ignored. The injury has since healed nicely, Costelloe reports.

Odds of 2-1 are shorter than I was hoping for about today’s nap, Crackdeloust (3.40) at Sedgefield, but he’s still my focus for a tricky afternoon. He was a bumper winner in France and I think today’s step up in distance on good ground for his handicap debut will provide something close to his ideal conditions.

He ran a fair race on a much softer surface here last month and is now 9lb better off with Mr Clarkson for less than three lengths. Danny Cook returns to his saddle for the first time since a Haydock bumper in November.

The following handicap chase is really short on talent and I give a chance to Don Franco (4.10) at 5-1. His profile suggests fragility and awkwardness and he’s with his sixth trainer now but it’s less than two years and not that many runs since he beat 19 rivals in a handicap hurdle at Tipperary from a mark of 95, just below what he has today.

He did nothing in a recent point to point but should be sharper for the run and Stuart Crawford might be able to get something like his old ability out of him. The horse is only seven, after all.

With James Ewart in form (three wins from nine in the past fortnight), Ange Des Malberaux (5.20) is interesting at 13-2 on this first start since December. Cheekpieces and a sound surface helped him break his duck over this course and distance in September and he’s only 3lb higher this time.

Wednesday’s tips, by Chris Cook

Kempton
5.55
Sir Harry Collins 6.25 Classic Pursuit 6.55 Eskendash 7.25 Chamasay 7.55 The Warrior 8.25 Escalating
Lingfield
2.20
Bishop Cannings 2.50 Living Leader 3.20 Wonder Of Dubai 3.50 Athletic 4.20 Gala Celebration 4.55 Taajub 5.25 Moayadd
Sedgefield
2.10
Houndscourt 2.40 Little Miss Poet 3.10 Inchcolm 3.40 Crackdeloust (nap) 4.10 Don Franco 4.45 Bordeaux Bill 5.20 Ange Des Malberaux
Southwell
2.00
Treaty Of Rome 2.30 Hungarian Rhapsody 3.00 House Of Commons 3.30 Seaview (nb) 4.00 Red Flute 4.35 Cosmic Tigress



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