‘Jumpability’ ratings attempt to measure how well a horse jumps fences using data that Timefom has as its disposal within its huge internal database. Essentially, the more evidence we have that a horse jumps fences well the higher its ‘jumpability’ rating will be and vice versa. We touched on some of the factors that prompt them in Friday's Topham preview but, as then, anyone keen to learn more about their evolution and calculation can find much more detail here.
The Aintree fences are not what they were but, even so, taking into account races only in the last five years, it still ranks up there with the Old Course at Cheltenham in Britain and Ireland as the ones that elicit most mistakes. Concentrating specifically on the Grand National, the number of horses that have got round hasn’t changed vastly in any of the five-year periods beginning in 1996 (45% of runners finished the race in the years between 1996 and 1999 whereas the figures for 2010-2014 and 2015-2019 were 42% and 43% respectively).
What has changed, however, is how those runners that didn’t finish the course fared. In the years around the turn of the century, it wasn’t uncommon to see half the field fall, unseat or refuse. That proportion has dropped gradually on a rolling five-year basis since 2008 to the extent that their number each year can now be counted on the fingers of one hand. On the other hand, the number of horses pulling up has increased significantly, up to nearly 40% in the last two runnings. The fences might not be as daunting as they once were but the jumping test they provide has still manifested itself attritionally in other ways.
The good news for those who have backed the officially ‘well-in’ favourite Cloth Cap is that not only is he comfortably clear on Timeform ratings, he is even further clear on ‘jumpability’ ratings as the table above illustrates. His high ‘jumpability’ rating isn’t a recent development as he was top on that metric back in November in the Ladbrokes Trophy, but he has driven that rating higher since by dint of a superb round of jumping at Newbury and a largely flawless display at Kelso. Stamina won’t be an issue given he finished third in the Scottish National as a seven-year-old, and even taking the view that his Kelso win last time might have been heavier on style than substance, able to dictate a modest gallop against ageing rivals, the best of whom Aso did nothing for the form in the Betway Bowl on Thursday, he clearly has plenty going for him. All things considered, he probably deserves to be favourite, but whether he represents value at around 9-2 when he could have been backed at 9-1 in what used to be known as the Hennessy off a mark 12lb lower is something to mull over.
Next best on ‘jumpability’ is Hogan’s Height who is proven over the fences having won the Grand Sefton back in 2019. He was a leading fancy for the abandoned 2020 National, but he comes here after an abject effort in the Cross Country at Cheltenham that might be explained by losing two shoes.
Neither of the next two in the list make significant appeal. Lake View Lad has shown next to nothing in his last two races (including behind Cloth Cap last time) and was pulled up in the National in 2019 off near enough the same mark, whereas 2017 National fourth Blaklion is a player on back form but has run only mildly encouragingly this year.
Sub Lieutenant could go well at a big price. He finished second in the Topham in 2019 when trained by Henry de Bromhead and hasn’t looked a back number in two runs for his new yard. He’d probably be a fair bit shorter if still with his old yard.
Two others in the top dozen who do make plenty of appeal, however, are stable-companions Burrows Saint and Acapella Bourgeois. They have crossed swords on more than one occasion, most recently in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February where Acapella Bourgeois made all at a strong pace and beat Burrows Saint by nearly five lengths conceding him 6lb. Burrows Saint had Acapella Bourgeois back in third when winning the Irish Grand National in 2019 and overall there’s very little to choose between these two high-class chasers on form or jumping prowess.
Just because many other leading fancies, such as the powerful J P McManus trio Minella Times, Any Second Now and Kimberlite Candy, don’t appear in the top 15 ‘jumpability’ horses doesn’t mean they are not proficient jumpers – they all have positive ratings but haven’t drawn themselves to our attention as much as others. Only three horses in the line-up (Canelo, Lord Du Mesnil and Cabaret Queen) have a negative rating. Cabaret Queen is relatively easy to put a line through after running a stinker at Cheltenham last time, but in their defence the other two have been a bit slicker over fences this season, not least Lord Du Mesnil who formerly had an ‘x’ (denoting a poor jumper) attached to his Timeform rating.
Among the reserves, Secret Reprieve and Fagan would have made the top 10 had they made the cut. It’s a shame Secret Reprieve hasn’t, as the Welsh Grand National winner would have added much interest to the race, not least since his trainer Evan Williams has an astonishing Grand National record (five top-four finishes from ten runners). His Chepstow win was accomplished with more ease than the result suggests having been produced to dispute the lead early in the straight, looking as if he had just joined in, and an 8lb rise doesn’t look harsh. There will be other days for him.
In summary, Cloth Cap looks the most likely winner, but price is everything of course and at the odds there looks to be value in Acapella Bourgeois. There’s very little between him and Burrows Saint on more than one bit of form but whereas Burrows Saint is trading at 10s, Acapella Bourgeois is available at 33-1. His rider Danny Mullins has been riding at the top of his game in Ireland lately, and he looks overpriced.
Back Acapella Bourgeois each-way at 33-1