Grand National Weights Explained

Grand National 2018

Jockey Davy Russell on Tiger Roll (L) leads Jockey David Mullins on Pleasant Company over the last fence on his way to winning the Grand National horse race on the final day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, northern England on April 14, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS

So racing’s worst kept secret became official on Tuesday – Tiger Roll will carry top-weight at Aintree on April 4 in his attempt to win an historic third successive Randox Health Grand National.

Owners Gigginstown House Stud are less than impressed with his official mark of 170 for the race, although they were not expecting anything bar top weight.

Trainer Gordon Elliott has been more accepting of the weights announcement, suggesting the handicapper had a tough task and that the outcome was ?fair play? for all.

Tiger and Delta get top weight

Tiger Roll and stablemate Delta Work were handed joint top-weight on 11st 10lb for the Aintree spectacular, both rated 170.

The latter is bound for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and very unlikely to be heading towards Aintree for this race. Both are owned by Gigginstown and trained by Elliott.

The high-profile Michael O’Leary-led Gigginstown had hoped for the weights to be compressed in favour of Tiger Roll, ensuring he would have less weight to concede to talented rivals.

Official BHA handicapper Martin Greenwood offered a 1lb compression to Tiger Roll.

Gigginstown’s problem therein was that former Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River was compressed 2lb and will – if he runs – be getting 4lb from Tiger Roll. Connections of the Colin Tizzard-trained Native River have strongly suggested he will not run in the Grand National this year.

The thought process behind the weights

Greenwood, who framed the weights for the second time this year, retained the notion of compressing the handicap that was introduced by his predecessor Phil Smith.

Many well-placed pundits expect this to be phased out in the coming years but, for now, it survives.

“This decision was made essentially on two factors – historical compression, which was brought in by Phil Smith and has been used for the last 10 years or so,” said Greenwood.

“On the other hand, I have to give Tiger Roll this mark based on his efforts over the National fences at Aintree, where he is of course unbeaten.

“Tiger Roll was rated 172 at the end of last year and obviously there is no recent evidence to go on because of his fitness issues, so his handicap mark has been unquantifiable since.

He is therefore coming down 2lb and carries the same weight as Suny Bay did when he was second in the 1998 Grand National. No other horse has carried that rating since. Many Clouds won off 11st 9lb, but he did not have as high a rating.”

Notable contenders in the pack

Last year’s Jessica Harrington-trained runner-up Magic Of Light has been handed 10st 12lb as she bids to become the first mare to win the race since Nickel Coin in 1951, giving her a 4lb turnaround with Tiger Roll for a defeat of just over three lengths.

Robert Walford’s stable star Walk In The Mill is a dual winner of the Becher Chase over the famous fences and finished fourth last year, the best of the British-trained runners. He will carry 10st 4lb this time around.

One For Arthur (10st 2lb) claimed Grand National glory for Scotland off a mark of 148 in 2017 and Lucinda Russell’s charge will return to run off the same rating this year.

Welsh Grand National victor Potters Corner (10st 6lb), Tom Lacey’s Warwick Classic Chase scorer Kimberlite Candy (10st 4lb) and Sky Bet Chase winner Ok Corral (10st 9lb) are other leading contenders, the last-named bidding to give legendary trainer Nicky Henderson his maiden Grand National victory.

Handicapper happy with the field

Despite Gigginstown suggesting Tiger Roll may not run, it is improbable they will turn down a chance at three-in-a-row, with trainer Elliott confirming if the decision is left to him the horse will run.

Greenwood is very happy with the overall quality of contender in the mix for Randox Health Grand National glory this year.

“The race is full of top-class individuals and boasts the winners of races such as the Grand National, Irish National, Welsh National, Rowland Meyrick Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup and much more. It is as good a staying handicap as would be run anywhere,” he added.

“You could argue it is the highest-quality Grand National in modern history.”

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