It’s the Grand National again and time to part with some money. And as is traditional I’ll pay for the bets, but won’t get to keep the winnings.
For many people putting a bet on today it’s the only time they do so all year and as a result many a seasoned punter grumbles about it being little more than a lottery. Just as well – chances are most of those who put their annual horseracing bet on for this play the lottery most weeks anyway.
People pick lottery numbers based on memorable dates or just buy a “lucky dip”. Picking horses for a Grand National requires about the same amount of thought, but if you’re really serious you can look at other factors. The colour the jockey will be wearing can be important, but not as important as a name that sounds, if you say it in a funny enough accent, like a place you once went to on holiday.
So I set about picking my horse for this year.
I decided against the choice a lot of Liverpool fans might make. “Oscar Time” (as Twitter pointed out to me) is part-owned by the former temporary chairman of LFC, Martin Broughton. Whatever he did about the owners, he actually thought Hodgson could be a winner at Liverpool. If his horse performs the same way at Liverpool today we can expect it to run backwards, rubbing its face and blaming everything on Liverpool’s previous winners.
The next horse ruled out, after also being alerted to it by some of the kind folk on Twitter, was “What A Friend”.
It’s Fergie’s horse. Which Fergie? Well I can think of three famous Fergies and they’re sort of colour-coded based on parts of their heads: Ginger-Haired, Black-Eyed and Purple-Nosed. The horse isn’t owned by the former princess or the pop-star which means as a Liverpool supporter I’m going to avoid it all costs.
And colours are of course part and parcel of what makes people pick horses for this race, so I’m also going to rule out “Ornais” because its jockey will be wearing colours that remind me of an old-fashioned Man Utd scarf, red white and black.
That means I’ve also got to rule out a host of other horses now because they’re wearing colours that remind me of the more up-to-date colours of the scarves they wear. “Green and Gold” is the colour the anti-Glazer protesters wear, although I’m told these scarves are also available in their club store.
In fact they’re probably also available in the Norwich City club store.
Ruling out any horses wearing green and yellow (it’s not gold) means I ditch “Don’t Push It”, “Ballabriggs”, “Quolibet”, “King Fontaine”, “Bluesea Cracker”, “Can’t Buy Time” and “Arbor Supreme”.
Enough about that lot from down the East Lancs.
I won’t pick a horse just because it’s wearing the red and white of Liverpool, if I did I’d probably pick “The Tother One” (stupid name because it sounds like it means “The The Other One”) or “West End Rocker”. In fact now that I look at them I’m going to cross both of them off.
Another family member has already chosen “Quinz”, and did so before I realised it was going to be wearing what looks like bluenose blue-and-white.
I’ve drawn a line at horses with odds that are greater than 30/1. I’ve literally drawn a line there, using one of the ads in the paper, and that leaves me with 11 horses I’ve not ruled out already.
A quick glance at that list and straight away I ruled a couple out based on their names. “Becauseicouldntsee” is a reminder of Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger. Given the bad news about Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard being out for the rest of the season I’m going to also avoid “Skippers Brig”.
Although I don’t mind ruling horses out based on their names or colours I can’t pick them for either, otherwise I’d pick “Silver By Nature” (thinking how much picking up silverware has been part of King Kenny’s nature down the years) or “Big Fella Thanks” (thinking of the King’s company for that Boyzone concert).
With nine left to choose from I redrew my line at 25/1, removing “Hello Bud” and “Majestic Concorde in the process.
The seven left were “The Midnight Club”, “Backstage”, “Silver By Nature”, “Big Fella Thanks”, “Niche Market”, “Character Building” and “State Of Play”. At this point now it’s not about ruling them out, it’s about ruling them in – and trying to ignore the names and colours.
“The Midnight Club” is a possibility, as is “Backstage”. I’m dropping “Silver By Nature” though, because the jockey had a 17th and a fall in his two previous Grand Nationals. It’s also because of the jockey that I’m ruling “Big Fella Thanks” out – he’s won the race previously, and also got a third, but not done as well the last four times he’s raced in this big one.
“Niche Market” drops out because its form doesn’t look too good (to me). “Character Building” stays in for now. Also staying in for now is “State of Play”, the horse and jockey having a 4th and 3rd in their last two outings for this race.
So, down to four, it’s a case of deciding which I think is the best of them and there’s no hard and fast rule now. After a bit of thought “The Midnight Club”, “Character Building” and “State of Play” have gone onto my reserve list (in case another family member decides to pick the horse I’ve gone for as my own choice).
The choice for me this year, after all that, is “Backstage”. It wears 14 (Xabi Alonso’s old number) and with Liverpool FC’s “Backstage” looking far better than it did at the start of the season I think it’s as good a choice as any.
After all, it’s the Grand National. I could have closed my eyes and stuck a pin in the page.