It’s that time of year again, where punters spend hours or even days carefully studying the form book and various intangible factors before picking the horse they are going to back at the Grand National.
That is, at the very least, more thought and consideration than making your selection on impulse after a boozy social dinner with friends.
Though for rugby players Mike Tindall, James Simpson-Daniel and Nicky Robinson, such a spur-of-the-moment turn of events led to them not just placing a bet, but purchasing a horse.
Together with trainer Michael Scudamore, the trio bought Monbeg Dude for £12,000 at Cheltenham bloodstock sales a month after the now-nine-year-old horse was a point-to-point debutant winner at Nenagh Racecourse in early 2010.
But now, the peculiar purchase could become a Grand National winner after a fascinating journey from the auction to Aintree.
“My story is probably partly exaggerated because I had also partaken in the boozy dinner,” Simpson-Daniel, Gloucester winger capped 10 times for England, told the BBC.
“We’d been invited along to join Mike and some of the other owners on the table.
“Tinds is renowned for wanting auction prices to go up as far as bidding is concerned at rugby dinners.
“It came to the end of the night. I think he was the last one out, Tinds put his hand up – I think he was bidding against himself – right hand, left hand.
“It was sold to Mike on the rugby table with his back to the horse.
“I was at the table and I said I’d take a leg. We rang Nicky Robinson who was having a family evening, and didn’t have a clue what he was doing, but said he would take a share, saying can we go and run in Dubai or the Melbourne Cup.”
Wales international Robinson, formerly also at Gloucester but now with Bristol, was unaware the horse was bred for jump racing, and Tindall admitted it was a surprise purchase.
“James, me and Zara were at the sale with ‘Scu’ and he was an impulse buy – all the other horses that night made £20,000-plus so I thought I would be out-bid,” said former England captain Tindall.
“But the bidding suddenly stopped with him. Zara wasn’t happy when I got landed with him!
Mr and Mrs Tindall (Reuters)
“I went to look at him in the stable and he looked tiny. We then had to find a way of transporting him so Scu had to drive home and come back with the box.”
Scudamore’s jockey brother Tom’s strong faith in the horse, however, began its remarkable rise.
“It all really started when Tom rode him at Newbury and said he could be a National horse, although he couldn’t say whether it was a Welsh or Aintree National,” said Michael.
“He was proved right about the Welsh bit [Dude won the 2013 Welsh National under Paul Carberry at Chepstow] and it would be great to get the other bit now.”
Though Zara wasn’t pleased with her husband’s tipsy buy, the equestrian star played a key role in preparing Monbeg Dude in its journey to the weekend’s Grand National.
“After the Welsh National, Zara said he was not quite respecting his fences and was lazy with his jumping,” said Tindall.
“So she started doing some pole work with him and getting him sharp on his feet. The progression is there to see, now he bounces over his fences. He travels a lot better now and is conserving his energy and speed.
“He goes to Gatcombe most Mondays to do it, in the outdoor arena. He was there a few days ago and will go on Monday ahead of Aintree.”
Now, despite being due to feature for Gloucester at Wasps the day after the National, Tindall will be at the annual event for the first time to see how his horse – which even has its own Twitter account – gets on.
Fascinating story aside, Monbeg Dude could well win the Grand National (Getty)
“I’ve never been to the Grand National before and it’s just something having a runner,” he said.
“It’s going to be tight because I’ll be training early on Saturday but I’ll get up there and watch the race.
“Unfortunately if we do well I’ll have to come straight back down and we’ll have to delay the celebrations.”
Monbeg Dude is fourth favourite to win the 2014 Grand National, valued at around 20-1. Teaforthree – the third-placed horse at the 2013 run – is market leader at 8-1 but lost out to Dude at the aforementioned Welsh National on heavy ground.