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National outsider Raz De Maree set to make it lucky 13 for Power and Cromwell

By Wayne Bailey

A chap by the name of Pitirim Sorokin, who was a Russian-born American sociologist, coined the phrase quantophrenia in the 1950s. It means having an obsessive reliance on statistics and figures.

We all have our own ways of narrowing down the 40-runner field for the Aintree Grand National (5.15), and I must admit that I like to use stats and trends to help come up with a shortlist.

But you've also got to throw in some common sense, and your shortlist should always contain horses that have proven talent in decent races, can stay the distance, and can handle the ground on the day.

There are stats which suggest it's almost always worth opposing 13-year-old horses in National Hunt racing as they usually have too many miles on the clock. I still stick to that assertion, but I'll make the odd exception for a horse that's still bang in form and looks overpriced.

Considering the last 13-year-old to win the Grand National was Sergeant Murphy in 1923, some would say I need my head examined by suggesting that Raz De Maree could land a place at the least in this year's renewal.

However, 28/1 each-way about a horse which was as good as ever when winning the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in January is my idea of a value bet, despite the stats and trends.

Fair enough, it's a big ask at that age but the Grand National can suit a certain type of horse near the end of their career. Of the last three horses aged 13 that partook in this race, Swing Bill (66/1) was ninth in 2014, Tranquil Sea (33/1) was seventh in 2015 and Vics Canvas (100/1) was third in 2016, the latter having traded as low as 6/4 in-running.

Rather unlucky when unseated last year, Raz De Maree comes back off the same rating of 146 and, in the 12 months since, he's shown he's still got plenty to offer with second place in the Cork Grand National, having won the race in 2012 and 2016.

Second place in a handicap hurdle in December warmed him up nicely for the Welsh National, in which he put in a nice round of jumping to land the prize under teenager James Bowen.

Eighth in the 2014 Grand National, Robbie Power takes the reins this time and it's encouraging to know he has some of the key attributes mentioned earlier - with plenty of stamina and no problem with some cut in the ground.

His trainer Gavin Cromwell, who is based in Navan, has said that while he stays all day, he's quite slow so it's important that he keeps up with the pack.

A number of horses are bouncing around at the top of the market priced in the 10/1 to 14/1 region including Tony Martin's Anibale Fly, under Barry Geraghty.

While the price is somewhat restrictive, he looks well-in at the weights considering he was third in the Gold Cup. That's an excellent piece of form, although the Gold Cup can take a lot out of a horse so it will be interesting to see if he can handle the pressure in the last mile or so when it gets tough.

Another with strong claims is Willie Mullins' Total Recall, also trading near the top of the betting market.

He's come on in leaps and bounds since joining Mullins, winning a number of big handicaps and was going very well in the Gold Cup before falling, suggesting he still has more to come.

Gordon Elliott's Tiger Roll won the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival and should prove popular in the betting but I prefer Ucello Conti, which is expected to go off around 20/1.

Sixth in 2016, he unseated his rider last year and while he's yet to win a race for Elliott, he's been knocking on the door and was a good 25/1 second to Anibale Fly in the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas at Leopardstown.

I also want to give Elliott's Bless The Wings a mention, priced in the region of 66/1.

He's failed to complete in four of his last five races but may have one big race left in him since he tasted success in the race he did complete - a decent cross country handicap at Cheltenham in December.

Belfast Telegraph

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