The evergreen Major Malarkey is fancied to roll back the years
Betfred Midlands Grand National, 4m1f110y (due off 3.50pm)
The Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter has gone to a David Pipe-trained horse for the last five years but that won’t happen this year as none of his six original entries were declared.
It’s back to the drawing board then and the rather obvious starting point is Jonjo O’Neill’s Catching On, who is chasing a hat-trick after two wide-margin wins in staying handicaps. He carries a 6lb penalty here for his latest Exeter success and looks well treated with just 10st 9lb on his back, not to mention he will be ridden by a certain AP McCoy. Given that sort of profile, the seven-year-old has the potential to go off a very short price and bookmakers aren’t exactly giving him away at the current time at just 4/1.
He may well win but this has not been a particularly good race for favourites with just two obliging in the last decade. Besides, he’s not the most straightforward of horses and it took him a while to get going last time, after jumping sticking early on. Uttoxeter is not as galloping as Exeter by any means and it’s also left-handed. Indeed, both of the gelding’s last two chase wins have been going the other way around. Enough there to take him on at the odds, I think.
And it’s not as if we’re short on alternatives. Champion trainer elect Paul Nicholls runs Classic Chase (3m5f) winner Hawkes Point and he must go well, despite being 6lb higher now. Oliver Sherwood’s Global Power finally got his head in front in a decent chase at Ludlow last time, when appreciating the switch to front-running tactics, and he could take some catching with the ground coming in his favour. At 12/1 he makes some each-way appeal, as does Irish raider Goonyella at the same price as he loves nothing more than a slog in the mud.
But I’m going in search of even bigger odds and I’ve landed on the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained MAJOR MALARKEY, who finished second to Master Overseer in the 2012 version of this race off a 1lb higher mark. He’s in the veteran stage now at the age of 12 but showed the fire was still burning when chasing home Rebeccas Choice in a Cheltenham handicap last April. He enjoys a stone pull in the weights with that horse for a neck beating, and he proved his current wellbeing when hacking up by 30-lengths in a Kelso hunter chase at the end of last month.
That stiff track suited him as all he does is stay and that’s exactly what is required here. With Ryan Hatch taking a further 5lb off his back, meaning he carries just 10st 1lb, he will think he’s been let loose and he could have a lot of these in trouble. He might be done by younger legs at the finish but at 33/1 we only need a place to ensure a good profit, and I think we’re guaranteed a run for our money.
Selection – Major Malarkey @ 33/1 BetVictor (1/4 odds, 188.8.131.52)