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Aintree Grand National  

Aintree Grand National RacecourseAintree Grand National Racecourse

The Aintree Grand National Festival for 2024 is fast approaching so keep an eye on this page for the latest upcoming news and tips.

A good starting point in assessing whether a contender has the ability and conditions to win the race is by analysing the case of the Jonjo O'Neill's 2010 winner Don’t Push It.

Then we will look at his entries for the 2024 renewal to see if there are any similarities with his famous winner. 

The passage  below highlights several attributes and conditions that can be conducive to producing a Grand National winner, using Don't Push It's story as an example. Here's a breakdown:

Horse Attributes:

  • Early promise: Don't Push It showed potential early on, winning two of his first three hurdle races.
  • Stamina and jumping ability: He was quickly moved to chasing after displaying an aptitude for jumping bigger obstacles.
  • Toughness and resilience: He was able to bounce back from setbacks like falls and disappointing performances.

Training and Jockey:

  • Experienced trainer: Jonjo O'Neill strategically planned Don't Push It's races, giving him confidence-building opportunities and targeting suitable preps for the National.
  • Top jockey: Having a skilled jockey like Tony McCoy on his back certainly didn't hurt Don't Push It's chances.

Preparation:

  • Targeted races: Don't Push It's program included races that built him up for the grueling challenge of the National.
  • Adaptability: The horse could perform well on both hurdles and fences, giving trainers flexibility in planning.

Favorable conditions:

  • The right race: Finding a National where the horse's weight allowance and the overall field suited his strengths played a role.
  • A bit of luck: The passage mentions the heavy ground in the 2010 National potentially aiding Don't Push It's success.

It's important to note that even with these attributes and conditions, winning the Grand National is incredibly difficult. Don't Push It only managed one win in his career, highlighting the exceptional talent and perfect circumstances needed for victory.

Grand National Winner Don't Push ItGrand National Winner Don't Push It

Aintree Grand National winner Don’t Push It, the horse that finally gave champion jockey Tony McCoy his first win in the race at his fifteenth attempt, has been retired after failing to please his trainer on the gallops.

While Don't Push It's trainer Jonjo O’Neill felt that the horse was missing his old sparkle and it was better to retire him in good health.

Aintree Grand National Winner Don’t Push It's Story

Unlike the winner of  the Ulster Grand National, Pineau De Re, he will spend his retirement at Martinstown Stud in County Limerick belonging to his owner JP McManus. He won eight races and £750,000 in prize money during his career and also brought a first National victory to both owner and trainer.

Don’t Push It was always going to make a chaser and was quickly sent over the bigger obstacles after winning two of his first three races over hurdles. In only his second race over fences he came up against none other than Denman and got within ¾ length of the future Gold Cup winner. His Cheltenham target in 2007 was the Arkle Trophy but he fell 2 out when threatening the leaders.

A disrupted season followed and in 2008 he had his first visit to Aintree to contest a Handicap Hurdle, eventually finishing well down the field. His trainer kept him over hurdles in an effort to rebuild his confidence after a couple of disappointing efforts over fences and in January 2009 he chased home Big Bucks.

He returned to the larger obstacles at Aintree in April for the John Smith’s Handicap Chase and came home the first of only five to finish in rain-softened ground. Although he was unable to show the same level of form in his subsequent races, the seed had been planted to return for the 2010 renewal of the Aintree Grand National.

His prep race for Aintree was the Pertemps Hurdle Final and it did not go to plan as he struggled after an early mistake and was pulled up. His Aintree chance was not immediately obvious until McCoy chose him ahead of stablemate Can’t Buy Time, sparking a nation wide gamble as the horse’s odds tumbled from 25-1 to 10-1 joint-favourite.

There had been much speculation about McCoy’s National mount and his great desire to finally win the world’s greatest steeplechase. The race could hardly have gone any better for McCoy as he joined the front-running Bold Apalachi two out before racing clear after the last.

In 2011 O’Neill plotted a similar path to Aintree, again running the horse over hurdles at Cheltenham prior to the National. He put in a fine performance but his burden of 11st 10lb eventually proved too much and he had to settle for an honourable third place behind Ballabriggs.

The plan had been to train him for another tilt at the Grand National this year but his seasonal appearance over hurdles at Cheltenham in November proved to be his last race.

Grand National StartGrand National Start

Jonjo O’Neill Jr entries for 2024

Jonjo O’Neill Jr has 2 runners entered for the 2024 renewal Monbeg Genius 50/1 and Iron Bridge 100/1.

The former appears to have had quite a similar preparation for the race kicking off his campaign in early March in the bet365 Premier Chase (Listed Race) at Kelso in which he finished a creditable 5th having run out of puff towards the end.

In late March he was entered in the Ultima Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race)(Class 1) (5yo+) 3m1f on Heavy ground at Cheltenham. He was pulled up 4 out having lost a shoe and having struck into himself. 

So the two prep races were quite similar to that of Don't Push It.

Iron Bridge has plenty of stamina as he proved when coming 2nd to Nasalam in the Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) in December 2023.

He then came 3rd in the Virgin Bet Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock in February and then contested the bet365 Midlands Grand National Handicap Chase at Uttoxeter where he was pulled up with heat stress.

Conclusion:

  • Monbeg Genius has a better chance (50/1 odds compared to 100/1 for Iron Bridge).
  • His pre-race program mirrors Don't Push It's successful preparation to some extent, with similar races and decent performances.
  • However, the pulled-up incident at Cheltenham due to a lost shoe raises a question mark about his fitness and potential for the National.
  • Iron Bridge has proven stamina but his recent form is concerning.
  • Two pulled-ups in his last three races suggest potential issues and raise doubts about his ability to handle the rigors of the National.

Overall, both horses are longshots (high odds) to win. While Monbeg Genius' prep looks promising, the recent setback is a worry. Iron Bridge's stamina is there, but his recent form is a red flag.

It's important to consider these factors alongside other information like jockey selection, weight allowance, and the overall field strength when making predictions for the Grand National.

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