Cap fits again for Aintree lover Hemmings

Last Updated 3 Nov 2021 | By Enda McElhinney | Commercial content | 18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply | Wagering

Renowned Grand National-loving owner Trevor Hemmings is once again plotting an Aintree assault this season as he’s set to rely on Cloth Cap to embellish his record in the Merseyside marathon.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Cloth Cap won the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November and his connections are eager for one more run before lining up at Aintree on April 10th.

Cloth Cap coming of age

A lightly-raced hurdler earlier in his career, Cloth Cap is turning himself into a fine staying chaser and the nine-year-old has an improving profile for a tilt at the Grand National.

He was third in the 2019 Scottish National at Ayr over a stamina-sapping three-miles-and-seven-furlongs, while he boasts winning form at up to three-miles-and-two-furlongs as a steeplechaser.

He was being aimed towards Aintree last season before the cancellation of the race amid the early stages of the pandemic.

After a pleasing comeback at Cheltenham in October in a handicap won by subsequent King George scorer Frodon, Cloth Cap produced the best effort of his career to date when running out a 10-length winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.

That came off a mark of 136 and should be enough to ensure he gets his spot at Aintree.

“He has been put up 11lb, but he won well in the Ladbrokes Trophy and jumped great. He only had 10st that day and everything was right for him,” O’Neill recently reflected.

“Trevor (Hemmings, owner) is keen to go for the National as it was the plan last year, but it obviously didn’t happen.”

Cap fits but ground a worry

O’Neill, who sent out Don’t Push It to win the Grand National in 2010 under AP McCoy in a famous Aintree renewal, believes that Cloth Cap has the perfect profile for the race.

Going beyond four-miles for the first time isn’t a source of worry but – with Britain enduring a wet winter – the Jackdaws Castle handler does worry that conditions might come up softer than he wants.

“He is a National horse as we know he stays and he jumps well normally, so those boxes are ticked,” he added.

“I wouldn’t be worried about him not staying, but the ground is very important to him.

“The only problem with the Grand National is that he might not get the ground as quick as it was in the Ladbrokes Trophy.”

The trainer confirmed the plan is to get ‘a race into him before’ Aintree in April.

Hemmings no stranger to Aintree followers

Owner Trevor Hemmings is already enshrined in the pantheon of Grand National folklore.

His famous green and yellow quartered silks have been carried to ultimate glory in the Grand National three times since 2005.

Hedgehunter (7/1 favourite) broke his duck after some near misses previously, winning for the Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh team in ’05.

In 2011, it was the turn of another name synonymous with Aintree, Donald McCain, to saddle Ballabriggs (14/1) as Jason Maguire steered him to Grand National glory.

Most recently, Hemmings’ colours were brought home in front by the wonderful Many Clouds (25/1) in 2015 – a recalled for the back-to-back successes of jockey Leighton Aspell – who became the first rider to manage that feat since Brian Fletcher won the 1973 and 1974 Grand Nationals on Red Rum.

Hemmings will be hoping that another glorious chapter can be penned in 2021 in his own association with the world’s greatest steeplechase.

See Cloth Cap odds in our Grand National ante post favourites lineup here.

Enda McElhinney

Enda McElhinney is a racing writer with a growing portfolio of work on both British and Irish racing, with a particular fondness for National Hunt racing. While he acknowledges there have been many great runners; there has only ever been one Denman.

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