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Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Bubble Boy

Respected professional punter Alan Potts once said, 'The principle is that if as a result of your form analysis, you can make a good argument for supporting a longshot, then you must make the bet.The key factor is that no bet on such a horse can be expected to fulfil the same exacting criteria that you would apply to a 4/1 shot.' A case in point was Bubble Boy, a six-year-old gelding, trained by Brendan Powell, who won a beginners' chase at Fontwell, on his chasing debut, on January 24, 2005, at odds of 100/1.

Sired by the American-bred stallion Hubbly Bubbly – at that stage, already responsible for winning steeplechaser Cloudy Bays – Bubble Boy was bought by Powell, on behalf of the late John Plackett, from former weighing room colleague Adrian Maguire. According to Powell, Maguire told him 'not to waste our time over hurdles and to put him straight over fences'. Bubble Boy did run twice in National Hunt Flat Races for his new connections, while he didn't win, but finishing fifth of fifteen at Exeter in April, 2004 and tailed-off tenth of thirteen, after a 202-day break, at Plumpton the following November.

Obviously, when he lined up at Fontwell, his previous form was, at best, modest, but he was, at least, unexposed, which is not something that could be said for many of his six rivals. The decision to send him straight over fences was intriguing and, for a horse with sufficient size and scope to justify the idea that he would make a steeplechaser, his earlier defeats were entirely forgiveable. In any event, Bubble Boy made all the running under conditional jockey James Davies and, although all out at the finish, held on to beat 8/13 favourite Distant Thunder – who had been beaten on his four previous starts over fences – by half a length.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Auroras Encore


In the history of the Grand National, several of the longest-priced winners, notably Tipperary Tim in 1928 and Foinavon in 1967, have taken advantage of atrocious weather conditions and/or a mid-race pile-up, which put paid to the chances of many of their rivals, to record unlikely victories. However, the victory of Auroras Encore in 2013, while almost equally unlikely, had little to do with meteorlogy or fortuity.

In fact, during the 2013 renewal of the Grand National, run on good to soft going, in fair weather, just eight horses fell or unseated rider and 17 of the 40 starters completed the course. Indeed, for the first time in 166 runnings of the celebrated steeplechase, the whole field reached The Canal Turn – the eighth fence on the first circuit of the Grand National Course – unscathed and 32 horses were still standing heading out into the country for the second time.

Auroras Encore, an 11-year-old trained by Sue Smith, in High Eldwick, West Yorkshire, had finished second, beaten just a head, in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr the previous April but, after seven subsequent unplaced efforts, was sent off at 66/1 on his first attempt in the Grand National proper. Arguably well handicapped, off a mark 6lb lower than at Ayr, Auroras Encore mainly jumped well for his jockey, Ryan Mania, who was having his first ride in the race. He survived a mistakes at the tenth and twenty-seventh fences and, having jumped the second last in third place, joined the leader, Teaforthree, at the final fence. Thereafter, he never looked like being caught and was driven clear on the run-in to cause a 'huge shock'.