Did The Grand National Pan Out How We Thought?

The 2019 Randox Health Grand National provided us with yet another outstanding showpiece to look back on as the jumps season begins to draw to a close, and it administered some much-awaited history.

Tiger Roll - trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell became the first horse to win the race back-to-back since the great Red Rum managed to do so nearly fifty years ago.

Yet really, it was easy for what many are describing as the 'pocket rocket', who despite carrying almost half a stone more than he did twelve months ago when prevailing by a neck, had lengths in hand this time on the second Magic Of Light - who ran a cracker for Jessica Harrington.

The tiger though was too good, and he travelled ever so well over the irregular National fences, cruising into contention after jumping the canal turn for the second time.

A couple of low leaps towards the conclusion of the race did have a few hearts in mouths, but once again he proved how much of a versatile and natural individual he is, as well as displaying his unbelievable ability as a racehorse.

But with forty horses in the mix, did the big race pan out as we expected it to do so?

HANDICAPPING:

The first thing we will take into account is the role of the handicapper.

The handicapper applies different weights to all the runners to provide each with a fair chance of winning. The horse at the top of the handicap is deemed the best, so must incur with 11st 10 on their backs, whereas at the other end of the spectrum - the horse at the bottom of the handicap requires a featherweight to see him in with a chance.

The idea behind every horse having an equal chances as it opens up the possibility of exciting racing, and should on paper see all forty cross the line at the same time.

It is near enough impossible for this to unfold in any race, let-alone a contest with so many horses involved with so much action.

Martin Greenwood - in charge of the weights for the £1 million contest, branded Tiger Roll's historic triumph as one of the greatest performances ever seen over Aintree's famous fences.

He gave the dual Glenfarcas Cross-Country winner the task of 11st 5lb, which was almost half-a-stone more than he won by a nose last year, and number three in the list of loads.

However, the weights for the National were released before the nine-year-olds twenty-five length domination in what was his fourth success at the Festival last month, and he was described as significantly 'well-in' on his pre-Cheltenham mark.

A horse who has improved even more from his exploits last term, may not have been stopped even with an extra stone on his back.

That won't tame the handicapper nevertheless, who will be sure to raise his mark in a bid to attempt to shadow his chances of a hat-trick in twelve months time, if connections give the green light.

The 66/1 shot Magic Of Light - who was well treated beforehand, ran a personal best to claim second for what was trainer Jessica Harrington's first ever participant in the race, and in third was the Willie Mullins-trained Rathvinden.

As for the others, Anibale Fly who carried top weight after Bristol De Mai's exclusion finished a staying-on fifth, but the task was a step too far.

BETTING MARKET:

The ante-post betting for the race got the outcome absolutely spot on.

Although Tiger Roll was weak on the day - which was understandable given the nature of the event with a lot of uneducated punters who sprung up for their annual flutter, he was well supported in the lead-up to the world's greatest steeplechase.

The nine-year-old was heavily backed prior to his run at Cheltenham, which came a few weeks after his triumph in the Boyne Hurdle, where he was incredibly sent off at odds of 25/1 with the run only used by connections to prepare him for the spring festivals.

An 11/1 shot before the Cross Country Chase was snapped up by punters and regarded as a late Christmas present, as after his demolition job around the Prestbury Park contours, he was no bigger at 5/1 for the Liverpool highlight.

As for the rest of the field, the market got it right on the day for Rathvinden, who well was punted for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins into clear second-favouritism.

Anibale Fly - who carried top weight finished in fifth, leaving a couple of surprises in the places.

Magic Of Light; already mentioned in the previous tab was sent off a 66/1 chance which many would have not been on, with the Becher Chase winner coming home fourth at 25/1.

However, the other significant market principles away from the two favourites; the likes of Pleasant Company, Jury Duty, Lake View Lad, Joe Farrell and Vintage Clouds - all priced between 10/1 and 14/1 all failed to finish due to falls or spills, leaving plenty of big prices to finish in the top ten.

Regal Encore, Outlander, Singlefarmpayent and Valseur Lido completed the rest of the top ten (along with One For Arthur in sixth), who were all sent off 50/1 or bigger.

Aside from the winning favourite, you could say the market got many prices of the horses wrong, but on the other hand the fallers were a shade unlucky; take Pleasant Company for example, who was running another cracker for Paul Townend.

STATISTICS:

The ITV Virtual Grand National chucked all the stats into one big computer, which would hope to predict the winner, the placees and even the fallers and non-finishers.

Back in 2017, they predicted that Cause of Causes would land the spoils, and were not far wrong with him only finding one too good in the race, when finishing second to One For Arthur.

Twelve months ago, they picked out Tiger Roll as the winner of the world's greatest steeplechase, for which they got absolutely right, whilst this year they selected Rathvinden to prevail, a couple of yards ahead of Tiger Roll.

Full credit to the Virtual Grand National, who's 1-2 came home in the top three in a different order, with their predictive fourth [Anibale Fly] eventually coming home in the real thing one place worse off in fifth.

Jury Duty was the Virtual Grand National third - however he fell early on the second lap for Robbie Power and Gordon Elliott, and we will never know what might have been.

But, the market credentials and the horses to the fore in the VGN fought out the finish, meaning for the third year running, the ITV build-up race was a perfect solution to those struggling to find their winner.

Overall, with all the stats chucked in together, the race was won by the rightful winner - the supreme, the ultimate, the unbelievable Tiger Roll, who made history in Liverpool as the first horse since Red Rum back in the 70's, to win back-to-back renewals of the world's greatest steeplechase.

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