The head of the betting for both the world’s richest race and the world’s most famous contest shifted yesterday.
From Dubai, ahead of Saturday’s $10m (£6.6m) Dubai World Cup, came news that the draw for starting positions had been kind to one fancied horse, Hunter’s Light, and had done no favours to another, Animal Kingdom. And in Ireland it was confirmed that the leading Grand National fancy Prince De Beauchene had, for the second year in succession, succumbed to an 11th-hour injury.
The Dubai World Cup has been largely farmed by runners from the United States or those in Maktoum family colours, with 15 victories between them, including from some genuine superstars. Hunter’s Light, one of three Godolphin representatives this year, hardly yet provokes the same sort of frisson of anticipation as a Cigar, a Dubai Millennium or a Curlin.
The five-year-old’s only European Group One success came in last year’s Premio Roma and he is one of the lowest-rated in the field. But he is proven on the Tapeta artificial surface at Meydan and yesterday secured a favourable middle stall, No 4. Last year’s winner, Monterosso, another of the Blues, will break from box 10.
Of the two leading US challengers, the top-class mare Royal Delta, will from stall eight split Britain’s best hope, Planteur, and Meandre from France, but the 2011 Kentucky Derby hero, Animal Kingdom, who has won on dirt, turf and Polytrack, is drawn wide, with only one of the 13 runners outside him. He is one of the classiest in the field and had been well-backed, but his odds have now lengthened to 11-2, with Hunter’s Light hardening to join Royal Delta at the head of the market at 4-1.
Prince De Beauchene had been around 12-1 for the National, but the mishap to him, a minor hip fracture, means his Willie Mullins stablemate On His Own is now 7-1 across the boards. Mullins added yesterday that Quel Esprit would join his stablemate in the Aintree showpiece on Saturday week.
The postponement for seven days of the Lincoln Handicap has handed Graham Lee the opportunity to join a club so exclusive it has just one member. The only jockey to have ridden the winners of both legs of the traditional spring double, the Lincoln and the National, has been Dave Dick on, respectively, Gloaming in 1941 and ESB in 1956.
Lee, who scored on Amberleigh House at Aintree nine years ago and switched to the Flat last season, will ride the third favourite Chapter Seven at Doncaster on Saturday, replacing Jamie Spencer, who is required for the outsider Side Glance in the Dubai World Cup.
Chris McGrath’s Nap
The Bear Trap (4.00 Ffos Las) Had looked progressive this season in two starts at today’s track before flopping in better company at Ascot.
Makari (4.40 Ludlow) Has clearly improved for his transfer to a top yard and looks on a manageable mark for his handicap debut.
One To Watch
The regally bred Royal Peculiar (Mick Appleby) was acquired cheaply out of Sir Henry Cecil’s yard last year and, if his last two all-weather runs are an indication, looks a fine headhunt by his upwardly mobile trainer with stayers’ handicaps in mind.
Where The Money’s Going
Rich Revival now heads the market at 7-1 for Monday’s Irish Grand National after the withdrawal yesterday of other leading fancies Back In Focus, Alfie Sherrin and Boston Bob.