IT’S still a puzzle why the Grand National weights ceremony is held in London and not in Liverpool. So I afforded myself a quiet chuckle when I heard there was a power cut at the no-expense-spared “do” at the BAFTAs HQ in the West End. Before looking at the weights, those obsessed with finding the winner of the £1million Randox Health Grand National on April 14 will have their sights fixed on Haydock this Saturday. It stages the £100,000 Grade Three Betfred Grand National Trial, which should provide plenty of clues for the Aintree spectacular itself.
There are 15 entries on Saturday with 10 holding an entry at Aintree. Among them is Blaklion who is the current ante-post favourite for the Grand National, in which he was fourth last season. The nine-year-old is already a winner at Aintree this season, having cruised home in the Becher Chase over the Grand National fences on December 9.
Blaklion is just like Rummy
Nigel Twiston-Davies has compared Blaklion to Red Rum with the way he efficiently jumps the big Aintree fences. No pressure then! He is also in the Gold Cup but is likely to give that a miss and head to Aintree after Saturday. He has been given 11st 6lb in the National. Blaklion is not very big but I suspect he will be ridden with plenty more restraint than in last year’s National where he took it up a mile from home and played into the hands of One For Arthur. The latter was given a beautifully quiet ride by Derek Fox.
Vieux Lion Rouge also goes on Saturday at Haydock and won the race last year. He subsequently came home sixth to One For Arthur in the big one itself. Vieux Lion Rouge has been allotted 10st 9lb in the National, 1lb more than last year. The other entries for the Betfred Grand National Trial who are also in the Randox Health Grand National are The Dutchman, Three Faces West, Silsol, Wild West Wind, Mysteree, Sir Mangan, Alfie Spinner and Krackatoa King.
Money for The Dutchman
There has been some interesting National money for The Ducthman since the weights were revealed. Colin Tizzard’s eight-year-old, who has been allocated 10st 7lbs, has been backed into 28/1 from 50/1 with Betway, while Pleasant Company, who has been handed the same mark, is 33/1 from 50/1. Nearer the top of the weights, The Last Samuri has been clipped into 16/1 from 20/1 and Anibale Fly is into 22/1 from 33/1.
Last year’s runner-up, Cause Of Causes, is 18/1 from 25/1 but the third from 12 months ago, Saint Are, has drifted from 40/1 to 50/1, while Nicky Henderson’s Gold Present has been pushed out to 25/1 from 20/1.
One horse who does appeal at the weights is Seeyouatmidnight. He has not been sighted this season but has been given just 10st 10lb. If he wins his prep race, wherever that is, his odds will tumble. He is a class horse with few miles on the clock and his racing style and ability to stay extreme distances means he ticks plenty of Aintree boxes. He is generally a 33/1 shot but there is some 40/1 available.
Team horse racing competition
It’s been an eventful few weeks in the racing world with jockeys retiring left, right and centre, including Sammy Jo Bell and Liam Treadwell.
There was also the revelation that a new multi-million pound team horse racing competition is planned for summer 2019 in a series similar to F1. The series would involve 12 teams competing against each other at different Group One racecourses over eight consecutive Thursday evenings.
Leading trainers would take charge of each team, which would have a squad of 30 horses and four jockeys. Each race day will have six handicaps, with all 48 races having prize money of more than £100,000.
Eyebrows have been raised and early indications are that the sport is divided over whether this is a good idea. Is it innovation or a pointless gimmick? The organisers are Championship Horse Racing and the competition will have a points system to determine the winners of the team and jockeys’ championships.
Watch this space…