Multiple G1 winner Bristol De Mai heads the weights on 11st 10lb, with a lowered rating of 168, for the 2019 Randox Health Grand National
With a prize fund of £1 million, the world’s greatest chase is the most valuable Jump race globally and takes place over four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards and 30 fences at Aintree at 5.15pm on Saturday 6th April, day three of the Randox Health Grand National Festival. This year sees the 172nd running of the great Aintree chase.
Bristol De Mai, one of nine entries for dual Randox Health Grand National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, gained his second G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November, when he defeated Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River by four lengths.
Twiston-Davies, whose Aintree successes came courtesy of Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002), also has impressive Sky Bet Chase victor Go Conquer (10st 13lb) and 2017 Becher Handicap Chase winner Blaklion (10st 12lb) among his nine entries.
The 2018 Randox Health Grand National hero Tiger Roll (Gordon Elliott IRE) has been given 11st 1lb, as he bids to become the first dual winner of the race since the legendary Red Rum.
Tiger Roll is the joint-favourite with Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival, alongside Welsh Grand National winner seven-year-old Elegant Escape (Colin Tizzard, 11st 4lb) – Earth Summit was the last horse to win the Welsh Grand National and Randox Health Grand National in the same season (1997/98).
Tiger Roll’s trainer Gordon Elliott, also successful with Silver Birch in 2007, accounts for 22 of the record 47 Irish-trained entries. Elliott’s team also features Cheltenham Festival winner The Storyteller (11st 3lb) and General Principle (10st), winner of the 2018 Irish Grand National.
Elliott’s big Irish rival Willie Mullins, responsible for 2005 Grand National scorer Hedgehunter, has 10 entries in total. Mullins’ contenders are headed by last year’s head runner-up Pleasant Company (10st 11lb), G2 National Hunt Chase winner Rathvinden (10st 10lb) and Up For Review (10st 2lb), who was an eye-catching third in the Thyestes Chase on his latest start.
Anibale Fly (Tony Martin IRE, 11st 6lb) has the biggest weight of any Irish-trained challenger. The JP McManus-owned runner finished fourth last year on the back of a career-best third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Owner Trevor Hemmings is chasing a fourth Randox Health Grand National triumph, which would make him the winning-most owner of all time. His three entries include the highly-progressive Lake View Lad (Nick Alexander, 10st 11lb), winner of the Listed Rehearsal Chase and G3 Rowland Meyrick Chase already this season, and Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase scorer Warriors Tale (Paul Nicholls, 10st 9lb).
The 2017 Randox Health Grand National victor One For Arthur (Lucinda Russell) was unable to defend his crown last year due to injury. He has been allotted 10st 10lb.
Other entries with proven form over the Grand National fences include this season’s Becher Handicap Chase winner Walk In The Mill (Robert Walford, 10st) and Ultragold (Colin Tizzard, 10st 3lb), who has captured the two most recent renewals of the Randox Health Topham Chase.
Trainer Dr Richard Newland, who tasted Grand National glory in 2013 with Pineau De Re, is chasing another victory with Abolitionist (10st 1lb). Third in the 2017 Irish Grand National for Ellmarie Holden, the 11-year-old won a three-mile handicap hurdle impressively at Aintree in November on his first start for Newland and has not raced since.
No mare has won the Randox Health Grand National since Nickel Coin in 1951. The four female contenders this time around are Shattered Love (Gordon Elliott, 10st 10lb), a dual G1-winning novice over fences last season, G2 National Hunt Chase second Ms Parfois (Anthony Honeyball, 10st 2lb), Magic Of Light (Jessica Harrington IRE, 10st 7lb) and Baie Des Iles (Ross O’Sullivan IRE, 9st 12lb).
Other entries include Rock The Kasbah (Phillip Hobbs, 10st 9lb), winner of a G3 handicap chase at Cheltenham in November, and Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase second Mall Dini (Pat Kelly IRE).
British Horseracing Authority Handicapper Martin Greenwood, who framed the weights for the first time this year and has total discretion for the Randox Health Grand National, said: “It was fairly straightforward to do the weights. I tried to treat it like any other race whilst bearing in mind there has to be some digression when needed.
“Bristol De Mai heads the weights and his rating has been compressed by 5lb as I thought it was better to have a horse at the top of the handicap whose rating was slightly out of kilter. If Bristol De Mai does run then I think it was the right call to make.
“I found Auvergnat (10st 8lb) of Enda Bolger’s hard to weigh up. He has a lot of Cross Country form and he was the hardest one I had to deal with. He has been running primarily in Cross Country races and they are events which are having an increasing impact on the Grand National, highlighted by Tiger Roll’s success last year.
“His form ties in with Josies Orders and Tiger Roll. He would almost have three different ratings, one in the mid-140s for regulation fences, a high 150s for the Cross Country fences and I have put him somewhere in the middle of that (152) to tie in with Josies Orders.
“Tiger Roll is up 9lb from his mark for last year’s Grand National and Pleasant Company 7lb. I have them both on the same mark for what they were rated after last year’s Grand National. Tiger Roll confirmed that rating in the Cross Country Handicap at Cheltenham in November. Pleasant Company has been a bit disappointing in a few runs since, but I think the Aintree fences will bring out the best in him, so that is why I left him on that mark.
“I think there are several interesting runners like Vintage Clouds and Elegant Escape, who is towards the top of the betting and he is an improving horse and was a good second to Frodon at Cheltenham last time out so you can see why he is one of the more fancied horses.
“I think it would be a knee-jerk reaction to make too much of the small amount of horses who are weighted 11st or higher. I wouldn’t want to get too clever about what the reason is.
“At the entry stage, you needed to be around the mid-70s to get you into the race. I think anything based in the top 80 has a chance of getting in. Four of the last five years, horses approaching that number have got in so some connections shouldn’t give up because they are rated towards the bottom.”
John Baker, Managing Director at Aintree Racecourse, said: “The countdown to the 172nd running of the world’s greatest and most valuable chase begins in earnest with the unveiling of the weights for the £1-million Randox Health Grand National.
“Our thanks go to Martin Greenwood for framing the weights for the first time in 2019. The entries look very strong, with a record Irish-trained presence, and we look all set for an outstanding race at Aintree on Saturday 6th April.”