Grand National Runners 2010: Cerium

This may seem like an unusual choice for the next horse to put up in our runners to discuss for the Grand National 2010 series but I’m intrigued by Cerium’s surprise performance in last year’s race. Also, I want to open up a debate as to if horses that appear to be running with little or no chance of winning should have to meet some additional criteria to make the race.
If a horse is in the race primarily to give its owners a day out at the Grand National and this stops another set of owners getting their horse into the race that has a realistic chance of winning, is this unfair and how would you feel if a big ante-post gamble of yours had gone astray as a result of a “fun” horse making the race instead?

Prior to the 2009 Grand National Cerium’s best form has been at up to 2m 3f and his efforts at three miles and above gave little indication that he could potentially get close to finishing placed in a Grand National. Does this performance then entitle any horse that qualifies to run whatever their current form?

Cerium’s owners regularly come under fire for running horses with little chance in top class races but is that their right or should there be some additional check in place to make sure that the likes of other horses they have run such as Arteea and Contraband had won over, say, at least as far as 2miles 6 furlongs or even 3 miles?

I think most of our contributors would agree that horses without at least placed form at three miles or above have little chance of winning a Grand National these days so even horses such as Fondmort and Thisthatandtother etc were really just making up the numbers.

As it becomes harder and harder to qualify a Grand National runner should the entry requirements be tightened up so all the competitors have a realistic chance of winning the race?

Let us know what you think about this general issue and if you think Cerium can improve still further and be involved in the finish of the Grand National 2010.

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16 Responses to Grand National Runners 2010: Cerium

  1. Neil says:

    This is an interesting debate here about Cerium and in general about no hopers.

    We use stats to find our winners (I think, although not sure, thats everyone on this site). For example age 8-12 years, weight 11 stones or under, OR over 135, I’am very safe stating these stats. Anything which doesn’t fit these stats will find it tough winning.
    People who don’t normally bet at my works say that ‘anything’ can win the National and in a way they right, take Foinavon I would not have backed that if it was 1000/1 and given someone else money to place on it. Yet on the Grand National History Category , thread Favourite Grand National Horses I speak of a workmate’s father’s friend who had £1 on him.

    So no hopers do have a slim chance, and in theory anything which falls outside our stats we consider to be a no hoper.

    Cerium did pick up fifth prize money that day, but how would the owners felt if something had happened to their horse.

  2. Ben Aitken says:

    It’s a tricky one.

    If a horse is entered and makes the final 40 it is because it had a high enough rating to allow it to run in the race. As this is a handicap I think this is how it should stand. If the horse was not good enough then its rating should not be that high, if a horse is “overrated” then this is the handicappers fault and not the owners fault. I think this type of argument is more suited to the Champion Hurdle/Gold Cup or similar other non-handicap type races. Just because the owner can afford to enter a 120 rated horse in a grade 1 championship race, does not mean he should be allowed too. These top level races arguably should have a ratings cut-off point, not the handicaps, this would almost defy the point of handicaps.

    I myself am a stats man; I have just released a book that is stats/trends based. However, I am fully aware that stats are there to be broken and they do not work 100% of the time. Now, if trainers and owners stuck religiously by stats a mass percentage of horses would not be entered in most of the races they are due to run in. Imagine if Fondmort’s or Thisthatandtother’s owners looked at the stats before the national and thought “let’s not bother”?!? Just wouldn’t be right and in all honesty would make our job (the punters) even harder than it already is!

    Regards

    Ben

    http://narrowingthefield.blogspot.com/

  3. Pablo says:

    The great thing about the ‘stats’ and ‘trends’ quoted about various races, and the GN in particular, is that they are all open to interpretation and a degree of subjectivity.

    Some people quote 7/10 did ‘x’ or 9/10 have ‘y’. Others only use stats that are 100% over a longer period.

    Whatever the approach to creating a shortlist, I am not aware that there are any short cuts to long-term profitability in this game unless you a) work at it very hard and, if you’re lucky, b) have some reliable inside information.

  4. crisp 73 says:

    He did look a bit of a fun horse beforehand but Cerium had an RPR of 154 compared to his National OR of 139.(As I believe did Arteea) Never shown much at 3 miles plus but looking at his form, lots of
    P-UP’s, perhaps he had problems after a such a good start to racing over fences. Won C1 at 19f, beat Knowhere giving him 11lbs, and looking through performances of National winning/placed horses, C1 chase win/place at any distance shouldn’t be ignored.

  5. Neil says:

    Remember that place money for owners go further than for punters and owning horses is expensive, even if you part own a horse. So if you can win money for sixth place it could pay some of the bills.

  6. Pablo says:

    Agree that Cerium looks very well-handicapped at the moment – rating down to 133 – perhaps one to keep an eye on this season

    But it would have taken an enormous leap of faith to back him for last year’s GN having seen him well beaten in the Gold Cup in his first run back for almost a year

    From what I remember he was staying on past beaten horses but was never really in contention to win, whereas Arteea did move up to challenge the leaders before weakening

  7. daniel edwards says:

    Dont forget he ran well enough for a long time in the Gold Cup last season, given he had been off the track for a year.

  8. admin says:

    Thanks for your input on this guys.

    I seem to remember that one of the horses that just missed out on a place last year was Niche Market and considering what he went on to do in the Irish National wouldn’t we have had a potenitally more interesting (and truly representative) race if a horse such as this had run in the race?
    I realise the point I am trying to make may have been negated by the fact that Cerium actually finished 5th and that Arteea was competitive for a good part of the race but in the case of Contraband the year before he wasn’t going to stay four and half miles in a month of Sundays and really had no place being in the race.
    Irrespective that the GN is a handicap it is the premier National Hunt race of the year and whilst, as Ben says, the fun horses make it easier for us to narrow down the field, the Grand National should be full of horses that have a realsitic chance of winning and even given the performances of Cerium and Arteea I don’t believe either had that whereas Niche Market and others may well have.

  9. The Stayer says:

    Cerium was given a clever ride by Keith Mercer to try and gain the best place possible. He obviously had doubts about the horse getting home, so held him up and then stayed on past horses that were paying the price for trying to compete. Fair play to Keith and the horse for running on to finish 5th and pick up £28k prize money. I can’t see the horse fairing any better next year. If he is ridden more prominently he will probably not last home and if he’s ridden the same way he will probably be looking at 5th/6th again. He seemed to jump the fences ok so the Topham might be a more realistic target. However, knowing his owners I imagine he’ll go for the National again.

    As for the general debate about “no-hopers”, this is a very tricky one. I know a few years ago Ginger McCain was furious that Amberleigh House didn’t make the cut. The horse has previously run well in the Becher Chase and I think after this the handicapper starting taking the “Aintree Factor” into consideration when framing the handicap. Horses like Amberleigh House that were a few lbs short of getting in were upped by a few lbs in light of previous form over the course.

    The system that we have in place whereby horses are allocated weights, and on the day the top 40 in the handicap get a run, is at least transparent. If additional criteria are set e.g. horse must have been placed over 3m etc, this just makes the whole situation too complicated. I really can’t see what can be done.

  10. Pablo says:

    If the horse is rated high enough then the owner and trainer have every right to run it the National in my opinion. Nothing wrong with dreaming of winning the National.

    Take King John’s Castle as an example. One run over 3 miles (admittedly a very good 2nd place in the Pierse) and one win over fences in a Beginners’ event over 17f.

    Hardly a ‘trends’ horse but ran very well for 2nd.

  11. Neil says:

    Admin, point taken about the likes of Cerium making Niche Market miss the cut, but lets analyse this more.

    Niche Market did go on to win the Irish National, true, but this was after the National, and he did ran at the festival so maybe he would have still been feeling the effects.

    Niche Market trainer said after the Irish National. “He missed out on getting in the English National by four and that may have been a blessing in disuise as this was much more suitable for him.”

    This arguement is deeper though than this one case. I agree with Ben its all about the handicap mark. Niche Market handicap mark in this case just didn’t make it and Cerium did. Although adjusting for the “Aintree Factor” is wrong, I mean I’ve not heard of any other handicaps which is affected this way.

    Maybe if the horse has shown a number of fallen (percentage; say 5 or 10) in it’s career you might want to factor that in, for safety, but this would reflect in its handicap mark.

    Owners who have a fun horse happen all the time, flat and NH, I mean some owners can say my horse was leading THE NATIONAL or DERBY or whatever, fact is without the owners we wouldn’t have a sport, so you can’t denied them their chance of the big time.

  12. Neil says:

    Admin the year that comply or die won, I was in the exact same situation. A horse I had backed ante post got balloted out. At the time I thought that it could have a chance if it got in, but whose to say horse A is better than horse B. Sometimes an extra year waiting could be a blessing.

  13. Neil says:

    To put things into perspective about horses like Niche Market who miss the cut and go on to show he had some promising signs to do well I will quote the great man himself Ginger Red Rum Mc Cain when talking about why Tommy Stack didn’t kick on and win the 76 national from Rag Trade, which everyone says he should have do.” We can all be wise with hindsight.”

  14. Nick Mannion says:

    Perhaps the way to solve this is to look at how the race handicap is framed. Perhaps add ‘penalties’ to horses who are given say 10st or near enough (these days that rarely makes the final 40)for their wins/placed runs in chases AFTER the weights come out so they can climb the ladder and underperforming ‘freak’ weights (Cerium etc)might end up being leapfrogged by very very live chances.

    Most of the top weights tend to run prep hurdles anyhow and maybe a sliding scale (anything with an original weight of say 10.10 or bigger) gets a much much smaller ‘penalty’ if it has a prep run in a chase and runs well of course!

    Yes of course rubbish runs well sometimes (I personally dont think Mon Mome ran at true odds. The Williams stable are not a punting stable and he had finished 8th/9th the year before and won a good race at Cheltenham in Dec 08) and I may be speaking from my pocket (20£ e/w on Cavalero after it won the Cheltenham Foxhunters and ended up 41st on the list) but a penalty system will ensure improving horses running well AFTER the weights published will pobably get in to the race.

  15. Nick Mannion says:

    Another possible solution is to extend the Topham to Becher Chase distance to give all the National entries who are not going to make the 40 a proper consolation alternative perhaps?
    A thought. Amberliegh House didnt make the 40 the year before it finished third (when the entry standard wasnt as high as it seems to be now) then of course won the following year.

  16. Nick Mannion says:

    Final thought to underline my idea. In years gone by, horses who have run a decent race in the Gold Cup (Minnehoma and Rough Quest to name but 2) end up ‘thrown in’ for the National as the weights DO NOT reflect the current true form of the horses. A sliding penalty system (it is a handicap and the theory is to have all 40 with an equal chance…) would ensure far fewere currently in form live chances will miss out and perhaps the freak allocations will be overtaken and not get a run.
    Is this unfair to the freak allocations? I say ‘if you think your horse is good enough/in form enough to run, give it a prep race in a chase and if it runs well enough an extra pound or two penalty will ensure it gets in to the National. If it doesnt run well and gets leapfrogged in the weights then you can’t complain.’

    Fair enough I think.