Johnny Ward's alternative guide to finding the Grand National winner

By Johnny Ward
Fri 13 Apr 2018

By Johnny Ward in Dublin

I met the guy who came up with the 'For Dummies' self-help books and he was a character, to say the least (a brother of a woman married to a cousin).

Johnny Ward - Ireland

I'm not sure he ever dealt with gambling, or the conundrum that is the Grand National. The most difficult race to solve all year is the one most popular with people who want a bet – such is this madcap life.

I've a terrible record in it. I did back Hedgehunter to be fair – the year he fell; and 12 months before he romped home.

Sometimes you can get demoralised about a race and feel defeated before you start, a bit like looking in the drawer and not believing that what you are looking for is there. When it is, you don't even notice it.

Thankfully, I'm not there with the National – quite yet – but the powers that be in Racing UK wanted me to take an alternative look at the race, perhaps getting into the minds of the once-a-year punters (imagine being so afflicted as to not bet every other day of the 365).

What I have come up with includes so many horses that one of them has to win. Hopefully.

In Ireland right now, there have been plenty of spats between women and men on Twitter, defending whatever sex you belong to.

BoyleSports Tied Cottage Chase Day - Punchestown Racecourse Baie Des Iles will tick all the boxes for many once-a-year punters (PA)

It's a long and complicated story. But if the gamble on Baie Des Iles has come a bit early it can hardly stop on Saturday, the only day all year when women rival men in terms of betting turnout. Simples:

Baie Des Iles:

She is a female.

Her rider is a female.

Her (the rider's) husband is the trainer.

A female rider has never won the Grand National.

And Baie Des Iles is a grey!

Perfect Candidate:

On offer about 66-1. Hopefully those would be extremely attractive odds about that job interview you might have next week.

Quite simply, if you are on the lookout for a new employer – between jobs, in the jargon of the eternally hopeful narrative of our time – this one is for you.

His trainer, Fergal O'Brien, has been something of a sensation on Twitter, so take to the tweet machine if this 11-year-old comes good.

What's your favourite animal/unhealthy snack?:

Because if you are a fan of tigers, or even the absurdly popular Frosties cereal that none of us kids appreciated was essentially orange sugar in a cardboard box, then Tiger Roll is for you.

2018 Cheltenham Festival - Ladies Day - Cheltenham Racecourse Will supporters of Tiger Roll be roaring with delight? (PA)

Or perhaps you've more a soft spot for the lion, or a Lion bar – and there is nothing wrong with that. Blaklion needs no introduction, while Vieux Lion Rouge translates from the French as 'Old Red Lion' in English.

The Lion Bar was originally designed by Alan Norman, Experimental Confectioner, at a factory in Fawdon, Tyneside. So you Geordies know what to do.

What's more, these felidae have realistic chances.

For the cocky/arrogant/self-assured:

You're the girl who loves an argument, even when knowing yourself you are wrong. You are the bloke who makes spurious claims in the boozer, passing them off as factual, safe in the knowledge that Google won't solve the problem, even if your mates are nothing but sceptical.

You're never wrong, be it an argument about Messi and Ronaldo, or Keane and Vieira. I Just Know is trained by Sue Smith and, for you self-assured who know what to do in the kitchen, Danny Cook riding makes this a no-brainer.

Me? I love a bargain:

I've often spent a morning agonising over how to save a few cents in Lidl, needlessly buying meat straddling its sell-by date with a view to freezing it for a rainy day and thereby saving 30 per cent.

Horse Racing - Ludlow Racecourse Buywise - something I try to keep in mind when shopping (PA)

Then there is the three-for-two on the veg stand in Centra, without appreciating I am cooking just for myself.

The same day, I would blow four figures on the horses. Go figure, or back Buywise. Trainer Evan Williams gives him a chance.

(By the way, I know a lot of you reading this get a kick out of a prudent policy in the supermarkets too).

Because I've a family member called...:


Double ROSS

I'm a believer, I couldn't leave (him) if I tried:


LORD Windermere

BLESS The Wings

And finally…:

Cheltenham Races - New Year's Day Seeyouatmidnight? Hopefully he will have finished long before then (PA)

I was struggling a little to come up with a final horse, so I put it to a Whatsapp group, and this was the only reply I got – seriously. He will not be named for myriad reasons.

Might have one. Aintree legend Paul “Alice” Carberry was known for singing the Smokie song Living Next Door To Alice mid-race. Another Smokie song is Meet You At Midnight. Close enough to Seeyouatmidnight

Seeyouatmidnight after I've found the winner of the National at last.

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