The Longshot: Capodanno can be a National hero over big fences

The Grand National will be off at Aintree tomorrow at 5.15pm
The Longshot: Capodanno can be a National hero over big fences

Capodanno and Mark Walsh on the way to winning the the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Steeplechase at Punchestown last year. He is our choice to win the National at Aintree tomorrow. Picture: Healy Racing

AND THEY’RE OFF! And you’re off the sofa and inching towards the TV trying to catch sight of the flashing violet of the jockey in charge of your tenner.

And they’re all over the first.

But what is that horse doing veering all the way over there? He’s carrying your colours. But this one’s name is Silver-something so you’ve still got a chance.

A few fall at the next. Two more tumble at the third. The commentator must have mentioned every horse in the race but hasn’t uttered yours yet. And now he’s handing over to the next commentator.

Just mention him for God’s sake... just say his bloody name!

And you’re looking at the newspaper to make sure you didn’t get his colours wrong. Nope. Is that him holding up the rear? Or is that mauve? Are you cheering on the wrong horse and how will this affect his chances?

No, they are simply not going to mention him.

If that’s him — and he seems to be gaining a bit of ground — these commentators must have hatched a plan not to acknowledge his participation.

I bet they do that every year: choose one horse not to name during the whole race once he’s not in contention — a competition between them. And you pick that horse every year...

They have mentioned him finally. The jockey moved in one direction and the horse the other at the preceding fence, but he’s still running. The horse, not the jockey. And he’s actually going faster now. That bloody jockey must’ve been useless, look how good he is without him. He’s jumping like a stag. Christ, he’s hit the front... they should have sent him off without the jockey — can they do that?

Ever wonder why the most difficult race of the year to predict is also the one with the most money staked on it? The Grand National is a lottery (and Lottery was the name of the first winner of the race in 1839), yet it is easy to feel slighted when your horse appears to give you less than a run for your money.

I have picked the winner at Aintree three times. The first two times Richard Dunwoody was on board. West Tip in 1986 (I picked the horse, my dad pocketed the money) and Minnehoma in 1994 (32 old pounds won on a two-quid win bet at 16/1).

The circumstances behind why I didn’t get anything down on Bobbyjo in 1999, despite telling everyone else he was my tip, will haunt me until my grave. I am serious when I say I still get upset every year with the memory of not getting his name down on a docket that year.

I have had the distinct displeasure of putting down bets on Papillon, Hedgehunter, Numbersixvalverde, and Neptune Collonges for other people who couldn’t get to a betting shop or online, while something else caught my wonky eye.

So what of this year, I hear you impatiently cry?

Corach Rambler is the 6/1 favourite, but I don’t fancy it one bit. Last year’s winner, Noble Yeats, at 8/1, would be someone to favour at shorter odds, after he warmed up for his title defence with an impressive fourth-placed effort in the Gold Cup last month. Or Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work (9/1), after his second Cheltenham Festival Cross Country win.

I’m in the hunt for better value and am teetering between JP McManus-owned and Willie Mullins-trained Capodanno and Munster National and Troytown Handicap Chase-winner, The Big Dog. A third in the Welsh National for the latter is a good pointer for Aintree and his experience in big-field handicaps is worth noting and he possesses stamina in abundance. He was also in front of Galopin Des Champs, when falling two out in the Irish Gold Cup,

I’ll plump for Capodanno. He signed off last season with success in Grade 1 company at Punchestown and he remains open to improvement after just six starts over fences. Due to an injury, he hadn’t raced for nearly 300 days before February’s Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park and was then sent straight here instead of the Gold Cup.

Odds are your horse won't win

MANY of you will pay your annual visit to the local turf accountant tomorrow to lose some of your hard-earned cash on the big race.

For the uninitiated, who have never been in one before — “the great washed” — going into a betting shop can be confusing. A survey has shown one of the reasons more people don’t gamble is they don’t know what to do or understand the rules. There are just two rules: 1. Give the bookie money 2. Wave goodbye to your money.

Betting offices tend to attract an older crowd (as young people prefer to click and not collect nowadays): the die-hards, including guys who at some point in their betting careers probably had an accumulator involving Ben Hur. These are the near-permanent residents of the shop during the day and, who knows, possibly the night too. Gone though are the lads who used light a cigarette when a race started and stare at the screen for the duration without talking a puff. They would then head off, rarely to collect winnings, butt in mouth, leaving a stain of ash and drool in their wake on the floor.

Gone are the guys who, when the TV commentator announced, “They’re under starter’s orders,” would shout, “get your knickers off.” The commentator would always oblige: “And they’re off.” Grand National day is one when Joe Public joins us regular bettors and understands briefly our pain: Anyone who bets is one of life’s sufferers for fate always conspires with diabolical perversity to deprive us of our rightful gain. Yet the National is not always the lottery we may think. You may not always pick the winner, but a brief study of the form can usually rule out half the field.

Those Grand National odds explained: 

500-1: Two men in a pantomime horse costume protesting climate change/animal rights have hoodwinked the public yet again.

250-1: If the commentator did know the name of your horse before the race began, he doesn’t now.

200-1: Your horse will win the race, but only in the likelihood of it being declared void afterwards.

150-1: This horse will, sadly, choke to death on the starting tape.

100-1: In an amazing pile-up at one of the fences, all the horses fall. Except yours! He falls at the next.

66-1: Your horse will be kidnapped by the IRA somewhere between the sixth fence and The Chair.

33-1: At a significant point in the race — the first fence — the jockey on your horse will make a leap for freedom.

25-1: Neither the horse nor jockey’s fault. The stable boy did not secure the saddle correctly around the horse’s midriff, resulting in the jockey slowly slipping off as she approaches Becher’s Brook. If it’s any consolation, the stable boy will be whipped.

16-1: Not exactly fancied, yet not exactly an outsider. But definitely a faller at the third fence.

10-1: Ah, the easiest price to figure it. You put down €1 you get back €10. You put down €500 you get back nothing. Will lose this one at a canter.

9-1 or under: The winner will come from one of these nags. Probably. Or one of those at a bigger price might win. Who knows? Here’s what I do — something I guess a lot of you do: I take a biro in my hand, close my eyes, open the paper and stab. Then I remove the pen from my thigh and stab again.

Rocket seeks a record win

ALSO hoping to fill their pockets this Grand National weekend will be the 32 players cueing up for the World Championships at the Crucible, which begins tomorrow.

Reigning champ Ronnie O’Sullivan is 4/1 favourite to land a record eighth snooker title in Sheffield. He beat Judd Trump (6/1) to equal Stephen Hendry’s haul last year.

The Rocket hasn’t been in amazing form so far this season but that doesn’t matter when you are the game’s greatest ever player. He won the Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions (10-6 against Judd Trump) this season so don’t let 4/1 put you off as he has won one in three Crucibles he has appeared in since the turn of the century.

2021 finalists Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy (6/1 and 9/1 respectively) head into the 47th staging in the best form of the field. Selby is a four-time winner, while Murphy won when a qualifier in 2005 and is a three times losing finalist since.

Dublin-based Murphy ended a three-year title drought by lifting the Players Championship with a 10-4 win over Ali Carter (40/1) and Tour Championship courtesy of a 10-7 victory against Kyren Wilson (14/1) after narrowly losing the Welsh Open final to 9-7 Robert Milkins (50/1).

Selby had a 9-6 final win over Luca Brecel (50/1) at the English Open in December. Murphy denied Selby the chance to move above O’Sullivan as the World No. 1 before the Crucible with a tense 10-9 win in the Tour semi-finals. Aussie potter and 2010 champ Neil Robertson is 15/2.

Irish interest rests with the North’s Mark Allen (14/1), who has won three tournaments since slowing his game considerably. The Belfast man’s Crucible form is not good, though. He has had three quarter-final appearances, but rarely ventures beyond the second round and changing the pace of his game may address this.

During a season in which match-fixing allegations were levelled against 10 of his compatriots, 2016 finalist Ding Junhui, entirely innocent of any such shenanigans, has rediscovered some form and reached the UK final and the Tour semis earlier this month and, at 20/1, he is my choice.

The Bet

CAPODANNO and The Big Dog are both 25/1 at time of writing. A tough one, but we’ll take the Mullins-McManus combination. He’ll be wearing green and yellow!

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