2019 Crabbie’s Grand National
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Grand National 2019: Top Four Runner Profiles

Runner Profile: Pleasant Company

Everything you need to know about Grand National hopeful Pleasant Company

Willie Mullins has already enjoyed a superb season. The Irish trainer won his first ever Gold Cup at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. Can he double up and win his second Grand National too?

Pleasant Company
© Caroline Norris
Pleasant Company

He came thrillingly close last year, when 25/1 shot Pleasant Company romped to second, beaten by a head by Tiger Roll.

Can the 11-year-old go one better this year? Mullins will sorely hope so.

Age – 11 

You can’t win the National without experience. No seven-year-old has won the famous race since Bogskar in 1940, while 21 of the last 25 have been won by nine-year-olds and above.

And 11-year-olds have done particularly well in the past decade, winning three of the last seven Grand Nationals.

That bodes well for Pleasant Company then. Willie Mullins’ raider has the age, and the experience with 19 runs to his name under Rules.

Pleasant Company has plenty of Grand National pedigree too, finishing ninth in 2017 before that excellent run to second behind Tiger Roll in 2018.

Weight – 10-11

Handed 10-11 by the handicapper, Pleasant Company sits beautifully in what appears to be a golden bracket for Grand National winners.

Each of the last three Nationals have been won by horses carrying between 10-07 and 10-13.

The stats heavily suggest that any weight around the late-10st and early-11st mark appears to be optimum weight for victory.

Only one National winner has won off less than 10-06 since 2002, and just three have won carrying more than 11-00 since Corbiere in 1983.

Trainer – Willie Mullins

As we mentioned, Mullins has already landed a big one this season with the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

And the Irishman knows what it takes to win the National, having done so with Hedgehunter in 2005.

Pleasant Company almost came good for him in 2018, and there’s certainly a luck of the Irish around Aintree lately. Mouse Morris and Gordon Elliott won for the Emerald Isle in 2016 and 2018 respectively.  

Jockey – David Mullins

Each of Mullins’ top jockeys, Paul Townend, Ruby Walsh and his nephew David Mullins have ridden Pleasant Company over the years.

But it was Mullins Jr who rode the 11-year-old for his trainer uncle in that run to second at Aintree last year, and he was on-board for the raider’s only run of 2019 in January.

It seems logical therefore that the combination will be retained, particularly with Townend tipped to steer Rathvinden.

Owner – Malcolm Denmark

Malcolm Denmark hasn’t won the National. Yet. He’ll be sorely hoping Pleasant Company can go one better this time around.

Denmark also owns the highly rated Next Destination, Lip Service, Minella Scamp and Scaramanga, among others.

Lifetime Losses and Wins

Runs: 19

Won: Four

Frame Finishes (excluding wins): Four

Pleasant Company hasn’t picked up a top-three finish in seven runs over hurdles, but that improves to five from 11 when chasing.

That includes three wins and last year’s second place in the 2018 Grand National.

Four of those five results came on heavy going, so connections will be hoping for a splash of rain in the days ahead of the race.

He isn’t overly raced though, with 19 runs in his career, and only five since the 2017 Grand National.

Form

Last 10: 002PU09141

Mullins’ charge has only run twice since last year’s National. Pleasant Company began his season with a disappointing run at Leopardstown, beaten by 51l over 3m.

There wasn’t much improvement at Gowran Park in January, coming home 11th some 47l behind Invitation Only.

But we can’t read too much into that. Both races were over 3m on good or soft ground. Pleasant Company best days seem to come over the 4m and on much heavier turf.

It’s also worth noting his season schedule is identical to last season. Pleasant Company offered little in both races back then too, before romping to second when it mattered in the big one.

Course Record and Ground 

Pleasant Company doesn’t mind Aintree at all. In fact, we fancy he thrives when presented with the 4m 2f challenge.

In two runs he has come through the melee with aplomb, and oh so nearly won it all in 2018. Will it be third time lucky?

Conclusion 

Pleasant Company isn’t one you’ll be looking at the formbook for. But Willie Mullins knows what he is doing and his 11-year-old seems to revel around Aintree.

The Irish camp have put him on the exact same schedule as last season, and if it worked 12 months ago, then why not again?

He almost had Tiger Roll on the line last year, and many will be fancying Pleasant Company to be in Grand National contention once again.

Runner Profile: Rathvinden

By all accounts, he has a decent chance. Rathvinden has the necessary experience, form in the book and an undoubted ability to stay the 4m 2½f slog required to win the National. 

Rathvinden
© Caroline Norris
Rathvinden

The Heron Island gelding is already guaranteed to make the weight required to get into the National.

With less than three weeks to go until the Aintree showpiece, he makes an interesting proposition outside of the favourite, Tiger Roll. 

Age – 11 

Experience and nous are key in the National. You want a horse that has plenty of runs under its belt and has a proven ability to stay the daunting trip. Rathvinden has both.

There’s a reason no seven-year-old has won since Bogskar in 1940, while eight-year-olds account for just four of the last 25 winners.

11-year-olds, on the other hand, have won three of the last seven renewals, including a hat-trick from 2012 to 2014.

Weight – 10-10

Rathvinden is in a nice pocket in terms of weight. He’s been allotted 10-10 by the handicapper, with each of the last three winners carrying between 10-07 and 10-13.

Around the late-10st and early-11st mark appears to be optimum weight to carry.

Only one National winner has won off less than 10-06 since 2002. Only three have won carrying more than 11-00 since Corbiere in 1983.

Trainer – Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins already has one big race win under his belt this season. A second Grand National success to go alongside his first with Hedgehunter in 2005 would be the icing on the cake.

He came close last season, with eventual winner Tiger Roll edging out the Closutton-trained Pleasant Company by a neck in a nail-biting finish.  

Irish trainers are very much in vogue at Aintree at the moment too. Ireland-based pair Mouse Morris and Gordon Elliott won the race in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

Jockey – Paul Townend

There’s no guarantee with who’ll pilot Rathvinden at Aintree just yet. But it looks increasingly likely that Gold Cup winning jockey Paul Townend will be trusted with the ride.

The 28-year-old was on board as the 11-year-old won on his seasonal debut at Fairyhouse in February.

He’s likely to retain the ride as he bids to finish the race for only the third time in 10 attempts. His bid aboard 7/1f Total Recall in 2018 ended in the horse being pulled up at the 29th fence.  

Owner – Ronnie Bartlett

Ronnie Bartlett doesn’t own too many horses. He’s never had any success at the Grand National either. Yet he was formerly the owner of a top chaser in Simonsig.

The Nicky Henderson-trained horse enjoyed great success prior to his death as an 11-year-old, including in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle and latterly the Racing Post Arkle at Cheltenham.  

Bartlett also owns former Scottish Grand National entrant Fagan and is a part-owner in Angels Breath, who finished seventh in the 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Lifetime Losses and Wins

Runs: 20

Won: Nine

Frame Finishes (excluding wins): Four

Rathvinden has a 41.2% strike rate over obstacles. That increases to 46.2% solely over fences.

He’s a reliable type who has won or hit the frame in almost three quarters of his career races, improving steadily as a chaser.

Despite his age he’s also lightly raced. 20 runs for an 11-year-old suggests there’s still plenty left in the tank, which could be crucial in a stamina sapping race like the Grand National.

Form

Last 10: 13112BU14-1

His bare form is good. He’s coped well since switching to chasing and a 3½l win over Alpha Des Obeaux in the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February is a smart piece of form.

The runner-up that day finished just over a length off Invitation Only in the 3m 1f Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park in January when running off top weight.

He also had the likes of Mall Dini, General Principle and 2018 Grand National runner-up Pleasant Company all comfortably behind that day.

Previous impressive staying performances for Alpha Des Obeaux behind Presenting Percy and Total Recall further frank Rathvinden’s form from earlier in the season.

Mullins’ 2005 winner Hedgehunter also won the Bobbyjo and went straight to Aintree.

Course Record and Ground 

Rathvinden has never run at Aintree. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Only seven of the last 16 winners had any experience over National fences prior to running in the real thing.

Mullins’ horse also conforms to key trends including having won over 3m, rated 137 or higher, ran less than 50 days ago and is aged seven or older.

He’s versatile in terms of ground too. The 11-year-old has won on good, soft and heavy ground over the last two years, so the weather holds no fears ahead of a National tilt.

Conclusion 

Rathvinden has an excellent chance in the 2019 Grand National and should go close for trainer Willie Mullins and owner Ronnie Bartlett.

The gelding has plenty of trends on his side and his franked form behind Alpha Des Obeaux last time out only serves to increase his chances.

Tiger Roll will take some beating at the top of the market. But Rathvinden should be there or thereabouts providing he can get negotiate the treacherous Aintree course safely.

Grand National Runner Profile 2019

Runner Profile: Lake View Lad

Lake View Lad will be among the 40-strong field in this year’s renewal. He’ll be making his National debut, with owner Trevor Hemmings chasing a record fourth win in the blue ribbon race.

There’s a strong field, headed by last year’s runner Tiger Roll, but can Lake View Lad bring it home after a strong season? Keep reading for all you need to know about him…

Age – 9

Experience can make a real difference in a race like the National. That’s one of the reasons that no seven-year-old has won the race since Bogskar’s triumph in 1940. 

But you also want a horse that still has plenty of gas in the tank. At nine-years-old, Lake View Lad could be in a sweet spot, going by recent history. The last four Nationals have been won by horses aged either eight or nine-years-old.  

Weight – 10-11

Lake View Lad’s age bodes well, and so too does his weight.

The nine-year-old has been allotted 10-11 by the Grand National handicapper, putting him a nice slot based on recent Aintree winners.

Each of the last three to triumph over the 4m 2f distance have done so carrying between 10-07 and 10-13. 

In fact seven of the last 16 winners have been between those weights, suggesting Lake View Lad has every chance in the 2019 Grand National.

Trainer – Nick Alexander

Based in Kinneston, Scotland, Nick Alexander has been training horses since 2002 and took out a full licence in 2007. 

Since gaining a full licence, he’s seen over 150 winners, with a 14% strike rate during the 2018-19 season so far. 

He’s been training Lake View Lad since November 2015, taking over from Margaret Mullins. The gelding has gone on to become the star of his stable, as his most successful horse in both Hurdle and Chase races. 

The nine-year-old was also Alexander’s only runner at Cheltenham this year, coming third in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Jockey – Henry Brooke (unconfirmed)

Stephen Mulqueen was in the saddle for Lake View Lad’s first 16 races under Nick Alexander’s watch. Henry Brook has taken over for each of the last three races though. 

It looks likely that Brook will get the nod at Aintree. He was on board during Lake View Lad’s impressive wins at Newcastle and Wetherby in December. 

Owner – Trevor Hemmings

As mentioned earlier, Hemmings is one of the most successful trainers in Grand National history. 

He’s level with James Octavius Machell and Noel Le Mare on three wins in the iconic race. If Lake View Lad brings it home, following in the hooves of Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015), Hemmings will become the first owner with four National wins.

The London-born businessman owns over 100 horses in total. He also owns Championship club Preston North End, among several other businesses. 

Lifetime Losses and Wins

Runs: 20

Wins: 8

Frame Finishes (excluding wins): 7

Lake View Lad tends to there or thereabouts on the home straight. He’s got an impressive 40% win rate in total, though that drops to 33.3% in chase races. 

He could be one to keep an eye on as an each-way pick, finishing in the top three in 14 of his 20 races. 

He’s not been too heavily raced either. With only three runs since last April, he should be raring to go. That could be crucial, especially as he hasn’t been tested over the National distance. 

One potential concern is the sheer distance of the Grand National. The gelding has only ever won one race at 3m and never over a longer distance. Does he have the stamina to go all the way? 

Form

Last 10: 132123-113

He’s coped well since making the change from hurdles to chasing and comes into the big race in decent form. 

Those wins at Wetherby and Newcastle showed a horse in fine fettle, and he wasn’t too far behind Ultima Handicap Chase winner Beware the Bear at Cheltenham. 

Looking back over his last 10 races, dating back to November 2017, he’s never finishing outside the top three. Standout displays during that run a win over Solomn Grundy in the Weatherbys General Stud Book Online Chase, and an impressive staying performance in the Liz Adam Memorial Chase. 

Course Record and Ground

Lake View Lad has never run at Aintree before. That doesn’t have to be viewed as a negative though. Only seven of the last 16 Nationals winners had visited the Liverpool racecourse before their big day. 

He’s also rated over 137, ran less than 50 days ago and is older than seven-years-old, all of which bodes well according to the recent history books. But he has never won a race over further than 3m, which could be a big drawback. 

In terms of ground, the nine-year-old has posted wins over heavy, good and soft ground since December 2017. Whatever the conditions on the day, they shouldn’t be a problem. 

Conclusion

With Tiger Roll the clear favourite for back-to-back Grand National triumphs, Lake View Lad could be of real interest as a longer shot.

He’s adapted well to new challenges in the past. And there’s a sense that a Trevor Hemmings-owned horse always has a chance in the National. 

His lack of experience over this marathon-distance could be an issue, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him among the leading contenders on the day. 

Trainers Quotes

Runner Profile: Tiger Roll

Coming into the race as the favourite, the gelding is in great form and has already proven his quality over the track so there’s little doubt about whether the repeat win is possible. He could even become the shortest-priced winner since 11/4 shot Poethlyn all the way back in 1919.

There’s not long left now until the Grand National gets underway, so here’s all you need to know about the favourite, Tiger Roll.

Age – 9

At the age of nine, and in the current form that Tiger Roll is in, it seems to be the perfect chance to retain the National.

The gelding has the previous experience required over course and distance, as well as the experience over different conditions which could stand well in his favour.

The course has favoured eight and nine-year-old runners in recent years, with the last four winners all being eight or nine, including his win last year. That leaves Tiger Roll at a great age to retain the crown.

Weight – 11-1

Tiger Roll enters this year’s Grand National at a heavier weight than he was carrying last year, at 11-1 compared to the 10-13 mark he won with 12 months ago.

The last three winners have been carrying between 10-7 and 10-13. Elliott will hope the extra weight the gelding is carrying doesn’t affect the form and keeps him at a good weight to compete.

However, it’s not common to see a winner over the mark of 11st, with only three picking up National victories since 1983.

Trainer – Gordon Elliott 

It’s already been a good year for the Irish trainer with the success of Tiger Roll at Cheltenham, but he’ll have been working hard to make sure his star chaser stands the best chance of getting a second Grand National victory.

After picking up his first National win as a trainer when Tiger Roll won by a head last year, he’ll be hoping for an easier time of it this time around, especially with the form his gelding is showing.

With a total of 1012 wins for his horses in his training career, and a further 1670 placings, he’ll be hoping Tiger Roll can add to his impressive tally on a course which seems to serve the Irish training elite well.

Jockey – Keith Donoghue

It’s still not certain who will be riding Tiger Roll at the National, but Donoghue has ridden the charge in each of his last three events for Gordon Elliott.

The Irishman guided the horse to the 22l win last time out at the Cheltenham Festival in a sensational showing for the partnership.

He’ll be hoping to ride the gelding to their fourth win together in five attempts, though Davy Russell could take the ride after jockeying Tiger Roll to the close National win last year.

Owner – Gigginstown House Stud

The ownership group fronted by Ryanair owner Michael O’Leary are one of the biggest in National Hunt racing, with an illustrious portfolio of horses.

In the last five years of the group’s ownership, they’ve an 18% win rate over different race types, with 722 wins from 3931 runs, and a further 907 placings to boot.

In the stables alongside Tiger Roll, they’ve also had Rule the World, the 2016 Grand National winner, and Don Cossack who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same year.  Apple’s Jade also sits under the watchful eye of their ownership.

Lifetime Losses and Wins

Runs: 34

Won: 11

Frame Finishes (excluding wins): Five

In the three races the gelding has ran in since the National win, he’s managed to take the win in two of them, giving him a 66% strike rate.

The form guide shows there can be no concerns about the reliability of the horse, and if he’s in peak physical shape before the race he should be competing at the front throughout and living up to that favourite tag.

With a total of 309 days break since the last Grand National win, that could be the only concern. However, the way Tiger Roll has managed to step straight back into form is promising.

Form

Last 10: 1P / 2P511 / 411

Tiger Roll‘s form is good ahead of the National, winning his last two with relative ease. Despite two lengthy breaks, the gelding has found it easy to get back into his stride.

A fourth-place finish in the Cheltenham Cross Country in November 2018 is the only black mark in the last five, with the Gordon Elliott-trained horse winning four. Last year’s National win was the closest call winning by a head, with other wins coming at a distance of 22l, 4l and 2l.

Course Record and Ground

Tiger Roll comes into the 2019 Grand National as the reigning champion after a close win by a head over Pleasant Company in 2018.

In his only Aintree run before last year’s National, he placed 14th of the 19 runners in April 2016. The Elliott-trained horse won the last time out at Cheltenham in the Cross Country by 22l over a 3m 6f distance.

The gelding has won on all types of going so has proved he can handle any type of track. Going was heavy in his last Grand National win, though he won on soft track in Cheltenham, so weather shouldn’t prove to be an issue ahead of the National.

Conclusion

Tiger Roll’s tag as the favourite to win the race comes with very good reason. After winning last year, and with the form shown already, he’ll be right up there.

The versatility of the gelding on different types of ground gives no room for concern about whether the weather could hamper his chances of back-to-back National wins.

The Cheltenham win last time out would also have given trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Keith Donoghue added confidence that they’ll be taken to victory by Tiger Roll again.

There will be some tough competition coming from Anibale Fly, Rathvinden and Vintage Clouds. But if on form, Tiger Roll should be well-placed to canter to another victory.

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