The Grade Three Topham Chase is the big race on the Aintree Grand National card the day before the main event, the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National itself. The race is run over 2 miles 5 1/2 furlongs and is for horses aged five years old and above. For the 2012 renewal, we’ve lined up two decent priced Each-Way horses, courtesy of BetVictor.

First run in 1949, the Topham Chase is named after the family that bought Aintree racecourse back in 1949. The Topham family have been connected with horse racing in the area for many years and it was Edward William Topham who was responsible for making the the Grand National into a handicap race way back in 1843.

But enough trivia, let’s set about the serious business of trying to find the winner of the 2012 Topham Chase. With the field currently standing at 45 runners, we need to identify some key trends by analysing previous Topham winners and by looking only at those horses that meet all of the key trends, we can hopefully increase our chances of picking a winner.

There are two immediate trends that leap out when looking at recent winners of the Topham Chase, and they concern age and weight.

Horses aged eleven or older have a woeful record in the Topham, with none of the 90 or so entrants managing to taste victory in the last couple of decades. Furthermore, horses aged 9 and 10 are the stand out performers, with eight victories in the last 11 years and in the past five years, 13 of the 20 place positions were filled by horses aged 9 and 10.

With regard to weight, eight of the last nine Topham Chase winning horses had carried home 10st 5lbs or less, so I’ll be concentrating on those horses allotted lighter weights for the 2012 renewal.

In the past seven years, 23 of the 28 Topham Chase places have been filled by horses with an official rating between 124 and 141, which suggests that horses of a certain calibre are required to win the Topham, but anything with an official rating of more than 141 is likely to be too heavily weighted in the handicap.

Ten of the last eleven winners of the Topham Chase had run their preparation race within the past 35 days, a trend that suggests we’re looking to avoid horses returning from a lengthy lay off, preferring instead those horses with some kind of race fitness under their belts.

Another important trend shows that any horse bidding to win the Topham Chase must already have proven that they can cope with the trip, as nine of the last ten Topham winners had won a race of at least 2 miles 4 furlongs prior to their victory at Aintree. Furthermore, each of the past eleven winners had already won a race at a left handed track before their trip to the left handed Aintree racecourse.

Applying all of the above trends to the 2012 Topham Chase field leaves us with just eight horses: Aimigayle, Buffalo Bob, Douglas Julian, Gansey, Herons Well, Schindler’s Gold and Your Busy.

Looking at preparation races for the Topham Chase, the most reliable indicators are the Byrne Group Plate and the Kim Muir from the Cheltenham Festival, as well as the Grand Sefton Chase and the previous year’s Topham Chase at Aintree. Five of the last ten winners had run in Byrne Group Plate at some point in their career, while three of the last eight winners had run in the Grand Sefton. Four of the of last ten Topham winners took part in either the Kim Muir or Byrne Group Plate last time out.

Filtering through the race history of the eight horses that we are currently left with, we can see that Aimigayle finished second in the 2011 Byrne Group Plate; Buffalo Bob ran in both the Grand Sefton (3rd) and last year’s Topham Chase (Fell); Gansey has finished 9th and 12th in the Byrne Group Plate at the last two Festivals, falling in last year’s Topham; Schindler’s Gold came 16th in this year’s Byrne Group Plate and Your Busy finished 10th in the Kim Muir. None of the others have featured in these races, and so I will strike a line through their names.

I have to admit, that none of the above form is amazing, but let’s sort through it all the same.

I simply can’t have Schindler’s Gold, whose bare form is horrendous, reading PPP005. The horse has never won a chase worth more than £2,000 and I doubt it has the class to win the 2012 Topham Chase. I will also be ruling out Your Busy, due to a lack of experience over the Aintree fences (the horse has never lined up at Aintree before).

Gansey is a tough horse to rule out of the 2012 Topham Chase and could well represent value at a best price of 33/1 (34.00, Bet365) but I have a marginal preference for the two others due to their record of superior jumping. Gansey has fallen twice in his career (once at Aintree) as well as unseating his jockey on another occasion. Once I could forgive, but not three times – we all know how tricky the Aintree fences are – so I am ruling the horse out on that basis.

Aimigayle‘s effort at the Cheltenham Festival was a good one, and it was only her second run of the season having pulled up on return from a lengthy lay off. This season she has followed a similar pattern, returning from a ten month absence only to pull up, before finishing third at Newbury. After Cheltenham in 2011, her third and final run of the campaign was an eighth place finish in the Bet365 Gold Cup but this season, having bypassed the Festival in favour of an easier race, she may have more to offer on her third appearance and could be worth an Each-Way bet at a best price of 25/1 (26.00, BetVictor). The only real negative by her name is that from one run at Aintree, she unseated Colin Bolger (the only such time she has unseated / fallen in her career) – but at least she now has experience of those tricky fences to build on.

But the one I really like for the 2012 Topham Chase is Buffalo Bob, who fell in last year’s Topham Chase (the only fall / unseat in his career) but returned to Aintree for a crack at the Grand Sefton, where he made a blunder but still ended up finishing third. With that experience under his belt, plus his running style which is sure to be suited to the course, this year’s Topham could be third time lucky at Aintree. At a widely available 16/1 (17.00), Buffalo Bob looks to be a decent value Each-Way bet – especially if the ground comes up on the softer side.


The John Smith’s Topham Chase
Friday 13th April 2012, 15:40

Buffalo Bob (Each-Way) @ 17.00 (BetVictor)
Aimigayle (Each-Way) @ 26.00 (BetVictor)