Ray Flanagan offers his two against the field in the 2015 Grand National.
The Grand National is always an enthralling spectacle to watch and indeed always an absorbing puzzle to solve. This years renewal is no exception and while there is about half a dozen I believe with a serious chance, I have narrowed it down to these two selections.
Grand National Aintree- Rocky Creek and Cause of Causes
Rocky Creek appeals as the class horse of the race. Fifth in the corresponding race last season, Rocky is one of the few horses in the line up who would not be out of place in a Cheltenham Gold Cup. As a novice he beat Houblon Des Obeaux in a Reynoldstown at Ascot and as a second season chaser he recorded some fine placed efforts in the Hennessey at Newbury and the Argento at Cheltenham. Last year he travelled like a dream for a long way before fading dramatically from the second last. That does raise a stamina question, however with another year under his belt it is plausible that Paul Nicholls charge will be a man this year where as he was still only a boy twelve months ago.
Nicholls speaks in glowing terms of the horse this season stating that an operation on his wind has helped him no end and indeed outlining breathing difficulties as the main reason for him fading last year. At any rate, a more patient conserved ride could be the key difference this year as arguably he was given an overly exuberant ride which killed his final finish. He reminds me in many ways of Hedgehumter who won here in 2005. In 2004 he was “blooded” given his head with an exuberant ride and he faded on the run to the last just like Rocky last year. Hedgehunter returned to run away with the following years National. I think Rocky Creek will do the same.
I have to include Cause of Causes who will have a serious chance if he can negotiate the fences. The statisticians will write him as far too young at the age of seven, but Gordon Elliot’s gelding has always been a bit different. A versatile performer he is one of those unique horses who is equally comfortable on very quick and atrocious ground conditions. It is worth mentioning that he produced three very fine speed figures in handicap hurdles in the past few seasons a statistic which pointed some shrewd judges towards Pineau De Re last year. He was second in a Galway Hurdle as a five-year old and a few months later he went on to win the Ladbroke at Ascot. The ground was like a bog that day and while virtually every other horse struggled, Cause of Causes powered through it outlining his toughness.
He proved equally effective on quick ground when an unlucky second in the 2014 Kim Muir and he went on to gain compensation at this years festival winning the four miler and jumping possibly the best he ever did in the process. That being said his jumping is the concern, he tends to clout a few and it is never easy for his racing style held up off the pace in a Grand National. I am happy that McCoy has not picked him as despite the brilliance of the retiring champion, his one weakness has always been to get a suspect jumper fencing fluently. In Carberry, he has the right man to ghost him around and get him over the fences. If he can survive the frenetic early exchanges, the son of Dynaformer could pick them all off on the second circuit.
2.5 pts ew -Rocky Creek- Grand National- 10-1 Paddy Power/Ladbrokes/bet 365
1.5 pts ew – Cause of Causes-Grand National-20-1 William Hill