The first National of the season is upon us, so lets hope it goes ahead at some point. Below are my initial thoughts. I'll approach it to begin with from a statistical approach as always.
1-2 runs season
14+ runs total
Won at Chepstow if run there
Won over 3m+
Won 2-5 Chases
Won MAX 2 chases
Run in class2+ season
Placed in a graded chase
If run in handicaps placed in a graded one
Placed in a 26f+ handicap
140+ Chase RPR
20-54 day break
Top 4 last time out
Not out of the top 4 this season
Placed in 17+ field
Run over 30f+
2nd/3rd season chaser
Of these 20 stats, all of the last 10 winners have scored at least 17. The top scores for this year are as follows;
18 - Bluesea Cracker
17 - Arbor Supreme, Ballyfitz
16 - Dream Alliance
15 - Synchronised, Dance Island, Maktu, Hello Bud, Lochan Laca, Royal Rosa, Silver by Nature
Synchronised + Watamu Bay
Personally find it hard to see Synchronised winning off this weight. To put in into perspective the only horses to carry at least this much weight to victory in the races history were Carvill's Hill, Bonanza Boy and Master Oats. All three were grade one class on the day, and in fact the latter won the Gold Cup 3 months later. Also all three had won the rehearsal chase that season over the course (since moved to Newcastle and abandoned this season).
Looking at it from an RPR perspective all the last 10 winners (bar the Irish Trained Notre Pere) had achieved an RPR of at least 6lbs in excess of it's OR, Synchronised has not. Also All the last 10 winners have run an RPR in this race of at least 13lbs above it's OR. To do this Synchronised would have to run to a mark of 169, which to be honest seems unlikely.
The race that Synchronised won as novice, has a very good record for those in their first season chasing so it wasn't the biggest shock to see him win. He needed reminders throughout the race so perhaps the drop in trip by half a mile won't be in his favour either. It must be also noted that there were big question marks over his jumping before that run, so there still has to be a slight doubt in that regard. Also he's not overly big, so giving weight away to quality animal could be hard work for him.
He's a very ground dependent horse, the more bottomless the better, and although I have no idea how the ground will end up, it's only officially good to soft at Chepstow at the moment so this has to be a worry. At the prices there are more than enough reasons to take him on.
I'd have similar worries with regards to Watamu Bay in how well handicapped he is. He also will have a big weight on his back (11st 3) and using typical RPRs he'd have to run to 161+ to win an average Welsh National, on just his 4th start over fences this looks a nigh on impossible task for a horse who's 3 chase RPRs have been 129, 140, 144. In his one start at the course he lost to Balthazar King whilst getting 6lbs from that horse, which is nowhere near to the quality needed to win this race. Since then he's only won a 3 and 5 runner race, both odds on. Over hurdles he only ran one RPR greater than 118. At 12/1 he has to rate at poor value also.
My shortlist are the top three in my ratings - Bluesea Cracker (14/1), Arbor Supreme (25/1) and Ballyfitz (33/1).
First of all looking at them at RPRs they have all already achieved an RPR of at least 6lbs in excess of their OR - Arbor Supreme (10), Bluesea Cracker (7), Ballyfitz (18!).
So theoretically Ballyfitz has already run 3 races in his lifetime good enough to win an average Welsh National of this mark, there is also obvious hope for the others to improve. Arbor Supreme ran his mark over 21f which is obviously an inadequate trip for him, so if he produces that kind of performance over this kind of trip (has won over marathon trips before) he can easily find the 4lbs or so improvement needed. Bluesea Cracker won the Irish National last year more easily than the margin suggests, and that being only her 3rd run out of novice company there is surely more to come. Now going through them one by one.
Arbor Supreme (25/1) - Hard to get right, but if he puts his best foot forward he'll definitely be there thereabouts. A winner twice over Marathon trips in Ireland (29f on soft and 30f on good) he should get the trip well and is adaptable with regards to ground. He's falls down on 2 of his 3 stats because of his poor run first time out. However, he wasn't great first time out last season and also even though he won first time out 2 seasons ago Mullins didn't think he had him fully fit, so you'd be inclined to forgive him the run. His form over 3m4f+ over regulation fences is 24110, and was fancied for the Grand National off a similar mark last year before unseating at the chair. Adaptable with regards to ground, with a slightly lower weight than usual, if he's sent over he's sure to run a nice race.
Bluesea Cracker (14/1) - Out of the 3 I've shortlist she's the most consistent as so probably has to rate the most likely winner. Stats she falls down are not out of top 4 this season (unplaced in hurdle prep first time out) and the fact she hasn't run over 30f. It seems a bit harsh to mark her down on this though as she's won an Irish National over 29f on soft ground! She's only up 9lbs for that and it seems more than fair for an unexposed horse over these distances who was also a grade 2 winner as a novice. She ran a great race off a 1lb higher mark at Cheltenham last time, travelling visibly well (travelling miles better than anything else bar Midnight Chase) before blowing up. Obviously much better than that she will run a massive race if she turns up.
Ballyfitz (33/1) - Very in and out horse but if he gets soft ground he'll be a horse to be reckoned with off this declining mark. Loves it soft, with his last 6 runs on ground quicker than soft reading PP0F84. Very well handicapped on his novice chase form there was also room for encouragement last year. Beaten 10l off a 12lb higher mark in Paddy Power on soft ground, staying on over a trip too short (RPR good enough to win this of this mark). He then won on heavy over hurdles at Sandown off a 8lb higher mark. He then ran in this race off a 10lb higher mark last year, beaten 20l. This was especially encouraging as he made a shocking blunder down the back straight and did well to get back into it. He's weighted to beat Silver by Nature on that form and be close to Dream Alliance, and those 2 are much shorter int he betting even though they have shown nothing since. His run first time out can be excused because of the ground and his 4th at Haydock was very promising (off a 14lb higher mark) finishing only behind the exciting trio of Grand Crus, Barafundle (won since) and Peveril. He's obviously likely to hit one but if he doesn't or doesn't make too many mistakes he will go very close off this lenient mark of 134.
It's hard to know yet who will run/what the ground will be/how badly the trainers have been held back with the weather, so I haven't placed any bets yet but will keep this page updated through the week if i do.