2018 Grand National Handicap Weights Revealed
The 2018 Grand National Handicap weights were revealed on Tuesday 13th February – but what does this actually mean?
With 105 horses entered to run in the 2018 Grand National, and with the race being a handicap, then each horse has to be allotted a weight for it to carry. A handicap race means that horses of varied ability will be given different weights to carry in a bid to make the race as fair as possible.
A bit like if we were to run against Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter might have to run with a 10 stone weight on his back to even things out………he’d probably still win! So, the best horses in the race will, therefore, carry the most weight. The official handicapper has a rating for every horse and based on these this is how the weights for each horse is worked out.
In theory, all 40 runners that make the final Grand National line-up should cross the line together. However, as we know this is horse racing, and a lot can happen, so it will never pan-out like that. For example, the highest-rated horse in the current entries is Definitly Red, who has an official mark of 165. The British Horseracing Authority allotted top-weight of 11st 10lbs and then all the other weights are worked back off this horse.
Last year’s Grand National fourth – Blaklion – has a current handicap mark of 161. With this being 4lbs lower than Definitly Red’s mark of 165, Blaklion will carry 4lbs less – 11st 6lbs. It’s as simple as that!
We’ve a full list of the remaining 105 entries and the weights they’ve been given . However, don’t forget the maximum runners for the Grand National is 40 so 65 of these won’t run!
Which Horses Were The Big Movers In The 2018 Grand National Handicap Betting Market?
We take a look at 10 of the main players in the 2018 Grand National. Once the weights were revealed, how did their prices change? (Weights are in brackets).
– Fourth in the 2017 Grand National, beaten just 8 ¾ lengths. This 9 year-old ran off a mark of 152 in the race 12 months ago. But is now rated 161 (9lbs higher). He carried 11-1 in the race last year. But has another 5lbs to lump round this year (11-6). So, has the horse improved enough from running 4th in the race 12 months ago with 11-1 to now win the Grand National handicap with 5lbs more and 11-6? The bookmakers remain fairly unchanged regarding his betting odds – but he’s still the clear 2018 Grand National favourite at around 10/1*.
“He’ll be ridden differently,” Twiston-Davies added. “No blame on Noel at all, but he kicked on a mile from home. If we don’t kick on a mile from home then that eight lengths can be found.”
“He’s a bit like Red Rum,” he said.
“He’s small and very neat over his fences. Twice he’s been round there, he doesn’t seem to make a mistake, and is agile and nips around horses who have fallen ahead of him. He’s a clever little horse.
“He doesn’t compare to any of them. At this stage he is more natural than the others. Earth Summit was a real slogger, and Bindaree was a very talented horse but didn’t try that hard. He was clever on his way around.” Blaklion, Nigel Twiston-Davies (Racing UK & Liverpool Echo)
Total Recall (11-1)
– Didn’t run in the race last year, while this Willie Mullins-trained 9 year-old will be running at Aintree – and over these fences – for the first time. He landed another big handicap race this season – The Ladbrokes Gold Trophy (Hennessy) – off a mark of 147, but is now rated 156. He only had 10-8 to carry in that Newbury race, so with 11-1 this time more will be needed. However, he’s a fast-improving stayer and connections have protected his handicap mark by running him over hurdles recently at Leopardstown. For those that don’t know National Hunt horses have different ratings over fences and hurdles – a good run over one set of obstacles only impacts its rating over those. The bookmakers have reacted positively though, with his Grand National odds coming in from 20/1* to 14/1*.
“With over 11st is going to be very hard,” Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer, said. “Only two horses in the last four years have finished in the first four. But he has an improving profile that makes him very interesting.
“He is fantastic jumper, handles big handicaps and should stay. It is just going to be hard to go win two handicaps in one season.”
“When he ran in the Munster National we thought he was much better than his rating and since the Ladbrokes Trophy the National has been on the horizon.
“He’s entered in the Gold Cup but the Bobbyjo Chase is a lucky race to prep for the Grand National.
“He is not simple horse to ride – you saw that at Leopardstown and he is ridden in a head collar at home.” Patrick Mullins, Total Recall (Racing UK & Liverpool Echo)
The Last Samuri (11-4)
– The ‘once-a-year’ punter will recognise this name as he’s run in the race twice before. He ran second in 2016 with just 10-8 in weight, while 12 months ago he could only manage 16th with a massive 11-10 to carry. The handicapper has given him a better chance this time though with 6lbs less to lump round than last year. He also ran well to be second to Blaklion here in the Becher Chase in December and was only 11 lengths behind Definitly Red in the Cotswold Chase last time at Cheltenham. The 10 year-old remains around the 20/1* mark in the Grand National handicap betting market. However, with proven form over these tricky fences then we can expect those odds to drop come the day – he looks a solid each-way bet that punters are sure to latch onto again.
“If the weights stay as they are and don’t rise, I think he would have more of a chance.
“I have been very happy with him since Cheltenham and he will have a prep race somewhere between now and Aintree.
“We have got several options, but there are no firm plans as we will have to see what the weather does first.
“The Last Samuri doesn’t need to have a prep race, but we are lining up to have one at the moment.” Kim Bailey, The Last Samuri (Racing UK & Liverpool Echo)
Definitly Red (11-10)
– This improving Brian Ellison-trained 9 year-old was pulled-up in the 2017 Grand National after being sent off a well-fancied 10/1 in the betting. It’s worth pointing out he was hampered that day, and has returned this season better than ever. A lot will depend on how he gets on in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – run the month before the Grand National – as connections haven’t ruled out running in both. With 11-10 then he’ll have a massive 13lbs more to carry than 12 months ago. But there is no question he’s a better horse this time. That said, 11-10 is a monster burden to carry. Many Clouds won with 11-9 in 2015 so there is hope. But before that you’d be looking at the mighty Red Rum, who won two of his three Nationals with 11-8 and 12-0. His Grand National odds remain around 20/1*.
Cause Of Causes (10-12)
– Many will remember this horse finishing second in the 2017 Grand National and with a similar weight then all looks in-place for a big run again. He’s likely to run in the Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival again before come here. He won that Festival race 12 months ago and is a warm order to do so again, while with a month between Cheltenham and Aintree he’ll have plenty of time to recover. He had 10-13 in the 2017 National so with 10-12 this year the handicapper has given him a real chance. Take the 2017 Grand National winner – One For Arthur – out of the race then he was still almost 4 lengths clear of the rest. The bookmakers have reacted with his price coming in a bit from 25/1* to 20/1*. It’s worth noting he was sent off 16/1 in the race 12 months ago.
“You’d have to imagine Cause Of Causes is the principal one. He looks like he has a lovely weight again and I thought he ran well on his first run back. He seems to come alive in the spring and I’d imagine he’ll go the cross-country route at Cheltenham. Gordon Elliott, Cause of Causes (Racing UK & Liverpool Echo)
Minella Rocco (11-7)
– Another of the more classier sorts with an entry. This Jonjo O’Neill-trained 8 year-old was runner-up in the 2017 Gold Cup. But he hasn’t really set the world alight yet this season. He’s now 8 races without a win, plus having fallen, or unseated, in three of this last 7 races then that’s not a great sign ahead of tackling the tricky Aintree fences. Having said, that he’s a classy sort on his day and the yard won the race for these connections in 2010. His price has also dropped from 25/1 to 20/1 with the bookmakers taking little risks.
“He’s going for the Gold Cup and it is four weeks after that so we’ll see if he is still alive,” O’Neill said.
“He’s been disappointing and he is not as economical as we would like him to be. He needs to be a little more consistent, really.
“I have no idea why he can’t string it together. He gets plenty of schooling. If the ground was good he’d go around.” Minella Rocco, Jonjo O’Neill (Racing UK & Liverpool Echo)
Gold Present (11-0)
– From the Nicky Henderson yard that are yet to win the Grand National. This 8 year-old has gone into many a notebook after winning two decent staying chases at Newbury and Ascot this season. The step up in trip is a slight unknown. But the form of his Ascot win over Frodon has been franked since. At 8 years-old there should be more to come and with 11-0 then he’s been given a decent chance by the handicapper. A lot will depend on whether he runs at Cheltenham first – he’s got an entry in the Ryanair Chase. But a good run in that race would see his current 25/1* odds plummet.
– From the Paul Nicholls yard that’s sole win in the Grand National came in 2012. This 9 year-old got no further than the first fence in the 2017 race. But at 16/1* was well-fancied by punters. He carried the same 10-10 last year so he’s another the handicapper has given a squeak to and, don’t forget, he’s already a National winner – after landing the Scottish version in 2017! You can still get a bit of 33/1* about his chance. But some bookmakers are as low as 20/1. If making the final 40 runners, we can expect his price to be a lot nearer the 16/1* it was 12 months ago.
Pleasant Company (10-7)
– Another that ran in the 2017 race. This Willie Mullins-trained 10 year-old was a fair ninth 12 months ago carrying 10-12. Therefore, with another year on his back and 5lbs less to carry this year he must have a chance. He gained valuable experience of the tricky fences and has been lightly-raced this season with another crack at this race his target. He was going well last year too, until an error at Valentines on the second circuit – he was allowed to come home in his own time after that. At 40/1 he remains fairly unchanged in the market and despite having 5lbs less this time still has a lot of ground to make up. Having said that, he did go off at 11/1* in the race last year and if Ruby Walsh decides to ride him again in 2018 then one things for sure – he won’t go off 40/1*!!
“The biggest difference we do have is with Pleasant Company (10st 7llb) who was going really well last year before making a terrible error at Valentine’s on the second circuit (25th). After that, he just coasted home and finished ninth.
“I didn’t feel I needed to drop Pleasant Company very much for Aintree this year because of that one bad error – his finishing position was not commensurate with how he actually ran on the day. I have him 3lb higher than his Irish rating.” Patrick Mullins, Pleasant Company (Racing UK & Liverpool Echo)
– The Dr Richard Newland camp know what’s required to win the Grand National – they did just that in 2014 with Pineau De Re. That horse won the race for them with 10-6, so with Abolitionist carrying 10-4 then this 10 year-old gets in with a featherweight. He was a fine third to the classy Our Duke in the 2017 Irish National so is no stranger to these big staying races. His mark has been protected with a run over hurdles since and of those at the slightly bigger prices looks interesting. The bookmakers have reacted by shortening his price to 33/1* (25/1* in places). But once punters see he’s trained by a past winner of the race he’s another that we expect to shorten in the betting.
Can the Grand National Handicap Weights Change From Now Until The Race?
In short – No!
Yes, there will be horses that don’t make the final 40 and if the top-weight – Definitly Red – is one of those then we’d have a new top-weighted horse for the rest to work off.
However, each horse’s official handicap mark CAN’T be changed now. So, for example, if Definitly Red comes out and wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March (before the Grand National) by 20 lengths then in future the handicap would certainly raise his current rating of 165. But with the weights and official Grand National handicap weights already set in stone from Feb 13th his rating would NOT increase.
Of, course this can work both ways. If that horse (or any other) had a stinker of a race between now and the Grand National in April his mark (or weight carried) wouldn’t be dropped.
Simple put, the Grand National Handicap weights are now set in stone. This is to help punters, the bookmakers, trainers and the race organizers. It means everyone knows where they stand and also gives a full 2 months preparation before the big day.
What Are The Key Grand National Handicap Weight Trends?
Some recent winners have carried 11st (or more) to victory. But looking back at recent trends make this weight your cut-off point. If you look back over the winners we’ve only seen the mighty Red Rum (1974 & 1977) and Many Clouds (2015) carry 11-8 or more.
21 of the last 27 winners carried 10-12 or less, while a massive 30 of the last 33 winners carried 11-1 or less.
What Happens Now To The 105 Runners?
First scratchings deadline February 27, second scratchings deadline March 20, five-day confirmations April 9, final declarations 10am April 12. Maximum field of 40 plus four reserves.