Grand National Clues: A look at the Eider Chase and Bobbyjo Chase

Acapella Bourgeois is fancied to claim Bobbyjo Chase glory at Fairyhouse.
Acapella Bourgeois is fancied to claim Bobbyjo Chase glory at Fairyhouse.

Our resident columnist Tanya Stevenson takes an in-depth look at the Eider Chase and Bobbyjo Chase, which should through up some Grand National clues...

Social Media is congested with the buzz of Cheltenham Festival countdown and they’ll be clues enough at an always very informative Kempton, however Aintree’s Grand National meeting has always been my preference.  What a renegade!   I’m keen then, to take a closer inspection on two races that could further our thoughts, opinions and clues of the great race.

Newcastle hosts the Eider Chase and there is also the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, named after the 1999 winner.  Let’s start in Newcastle, I have been lucky enough to actually be in attendance for a few of the renewals, This Is Serious success in 2002 a favourite of mine, he’d just won the Thyestes Chase before coming on to secure victory in the Eider.  He was one of only six winners from the last 20 runnings to have won on their most recent run.  I say runnings rather than years as the race has been blighted by 21 abandonments since it was first run in 1952.  

Scouring across the last 20 runnings only four favourites have won, 1993 Into The Red, 1997 Seven Towers, 2002 This Is Serious and 2012 Portrait King, bit of a drought for punters.  Yet when researching stats, rewriting those results while sitting at the bar at the ‘Aftertime Arms’ the actual winners had the credentials, but you really do have to get the microscope out.

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Some basics and perhaps obvious, you need to have won over at least three miles, 18 winners had failed to complete over bigger obstacles no more than twice, the other two Philson Run and Tyneandthynagain had failed to finish on three occasions.  15 of the 20 had won in their last four runs, many had just taken in (so run in not necessarily won) a big staying chase, Warwick’s Classic Chase, Tommy Whittle at Haydock, SkyBet Chase, one of the many Nationals.  Don’t let the burden of weight scare you off, for 13 of the 20 winners carried over 11stone, with three top weights successful and one second.  If there is a thought re age then it holds no boundaries, as 11-year-olds have held their own as much as seven-year-olds.  But Friends Don’t Ask would be the youngster ever winner at 6!

Crosspark is defending his title as he was the winner when the race was last run in 2019 and since he has caught a bought of seconditis.  That comment is a bit harsh as he has been running up against some solid performers at Sandown including Seeyouatmidnight last time.  He would be just the third multiple winner of the Eider and the first since Highland Wedding in 1969.  He has gone up plenty in the weights since he won at Newcastle but he bears it well.  

Sam’s Adventure won a gruelling Tommy Whittle Chase, then just through halfway in the Peter Marsh he unseated Ryan Mania, he has experience of Newcastle but I sense he needs the heavy ground to bring his rivals back to him, the forecast is for dry and bright weather so there may be some Good to Soft in the description.

Big River boasts a fifth in the 2019 Scottish Grand National, and ran a blinder in eighth in the recent Welsh National, if you check back there have been subsequent winners to come out, Yala Enki who was third and Lord Du Mesnil in ninth won last Saturday.  The comments for Big River after that Chepstow run was that he had signs of post-race heat stress.  It was a mighty run, be prepared for at least one unforced jumping error and while he Derek Fox is trying to recompose the others may get away from him.

David Bridgwater finished second as a rider in this on Dakyns Boy and won it as a trainer in 2014 Wyck Hill, after the heartbreak of losing The Conditional last week, could his Salty Boy build on his Tommy Whittle third to Sam’s Adventure.  It’s hard to know what happened in the subsequent Sussex National, perhaps Plumpton as a track is too tight for him and he wasn’t a fan of the undulations.  

The Dutchman won the 2018 Peter Marsh Chase but after the 2018 Grand National he sat out 931 days before his return to the course, there is one stand out run the second to Late Romantic at Haydock in a Veterans race.  He hasn’t been given any relief by the handicapper despite his absence.  It’s here where I stop and pause to think about Aintree.  On his last start The Dutchman fell in a race won by Canelo.  It was actually Wetherby’s Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Chase.  Delving deeper into Canelo for a moment you realise what a strong hand JP McManus has in the Grand National.  I’ve already flagged up Kimberlite Candy but should Alan King decide to run Canelo, he is currently 49 in the list carrying 10-4 and was favourite when running on late into fourth in the Sky Bet Chase.  Another to add to the Aintree list!

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Everyone will have one eye on Cyclop, see what I did there, not very funny I know.  He has been placed in the Lincolnshire National and the Somerset National and now has the services of Brian Hughes on board.  He to me would prefer there to be some give in the ground.

Now to the pair that I may dabble on Strong Economy who is going to wear first-time cheekpieces, he has run all but one of his 20 races at Ayr, a similar course to Newcastle and faired pretty well, he is improving steadily without scaring the handicapper and is just three pounds out of the handicap here.  Conor O’Farrell has the mount and Ian Duncan has had some luck with the likes of Another Rum in 2005 when third in Scottish National.

Paul Henderson will be having his first ever runner at Newcastle with Crossley Tender, the trainer is quiet on the winner front for the season with only six victories, four of which attributed to his Eider Chase runner.  The horse has had a busy season with eight runs already but that has not stopped him improving.  He needs to sharpen up his jumping but last time at Ascot he may have been a bit clumsy due to always being on the hurry up against superior rivals.  Today he can run at a better tempo.  He is in the handicap proper and has Tom O’Brien guiding him round 26 fences.  He just has to enjoy himself.  I’ll be backing him and having a saver on Strong Economy.

Eider Chase
Crossley Tender silk

Crossley Tender

Eider Chase
Strong Economy silk

Strong Economy


Before they have gone to post at Newcastle we would have seen a few Grand National entries compete in the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase.  Through its short history the first three home are littered with Aintree specialists, Hedgehunter, Black Apalachi and Vic Venturi have all won the Bobbyjo Chase while Seabass, Oscar Time, Garvivonnian and Snowy Morning have all been placed.  So watch this with intent.

It’s a race that has befallen to the fancied runners with five of the ten favourites winning and since it was first run in 2003 Willie Mullins has claimed it on ten occasions.  He has two of the five runners, last year’s winner Acapella Bourgeois and Burrows Saint, the latter towards the top of the betting for the Grand National, he has  been kept to hurdling for his two runs this season and I’d prefer to look elsewhere for Fairyhouse.  

Acapella Bourgeois is following the same route as last season if not better, this is his big race.  Like last season he lead round Al Boum Photo until he got tired at Tramore, and like last season he went to the Thyestes with a big weight but this time round he finished one place better, which bodes well for today.  Tout Et Permis got tired and pulled up so I find it hard to see him reversing the form.

It leaves us with the JP McManus pair. The Long Mile had been improving nicely only to disappoint at Leopardstown last time, he’d won easily at Limerick the time before so perhaps that and the weight increase took their toll.  This is a further step up in grade.  

And then there is 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly, he was then fifth at Aintree to Tiger Roll and no doubt connections will be desperate to tackle the Grand National once more.  For a horse who frequents Grade 1s he only has 10-12 in the big race and after three dismal runs post-Grand National he finally showed a glimmer in a hurdle race at Navan almost a year ago.  No doubt they have gone back to the drawing board and 356 days on here he is, he will receive six pounds from Acapella Bourgeois yet I just think he will need the race.

Jot this down for win number 11 for Willie Mullins with Acapella Bourgeois and I suspect the price for Anibale Fly for Aintree will shorten considerably if he runs up a nice second or third on return.

Bobbyjo Chase
Acapella Bourgeois silk

Acapella Bourgeois

Grand National
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