The Jonjo O'Neill horse seemed perfectly placed for the victory, taking up a position that was out of traffic and generally giving the impression of being a horse with plenty left in the tank. And, so it remained, as he hit the straight with clear daylight between him and Seabass. He looked a cert and with the knowledge that he ticked every profile box for a winner of the race, nothing could catch him.
As Neptune Collonges closed, it was surely only a matter of time before the line appeared but it just wouldn't come and as the horses crossed the line two things came to mind: Sunnyhillboy's Cheltenham exertions – during which he won the Kim Muir – had perhaps taken just a little bit too much out of him.
It was the one negative against his name – that horses who go to the Festival rarely win the National but it was not as if he was breaking new ground since others had done the same. The other was that the handicap trend, normally the most reliable of measuring tools had also been bucked with Neptune Collonges lumping 11st 6lbs around the four mile course. That immediately brought the naysayers out to proclaim the death of trend watching. Yet, the weight trend had only been broken by a mere pound and there had long been speculation that the 11st 5lbs mark was due for revision. Another trend to fall was to discount horses that had not raced for longer than 50 days. Neptune Collonges had raced 56 days earlier, hardly a fact that would cause the stat book to be thrown into the dustbin.
If broader analysis is required and by extension – a slightly longer shortlist is the result, then so be it. This week we get the chance to find a National winner all over again with the running of the Scottish equivalent at Ayr and a number of key trends can be followed.
Ideally, we are looking for horses that have run within the last seven to 84 days, had between three and eight prep runs since September 1, run in 5+ chases, finished in the top six last time out, have a 40% chase win/place record, have finished in the top two over 25+ furlongs, have at least runs over 25+ furlongs, have 5+ handicap chase runs or a handicap chase win, have an official rating of 150 or less and have 12+ hurdle/chase runs. Each of these trends has a 100% strike rate for the past 15 renewals but unlike the Grand National it takes much more research to apply stats since information on the Scottish equivalent is not as ubiquitous.
Nevertheless, the field can be narrowed down quite quickly using age profile, placing and official rating stats. It leaves a long list of nine that comprises: Knockara Beau, Fruity O'Rooney, Galaxy Rock, Auroras Encore, Ikorodu Road, Portrait King, Garleton, Quentin Collonges and 2010 winner and last year's second Merigo.
The fancied picks come from that group and are taken each way.
Selections Portrait King (8/1, general), Galaxy Rock (12/1, general), Ikorodu Road (12/1, general), Auroras Encore (20/1, general)
Season's total -£22.13