‘Smile and take it’ – Elliott’s reaction to Grand National weights

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

Gordon Elliott has urged Gigginstown House Stud supremo Michael O’Leary to ‘smile and take it’ after the weights were announced for the 2021 Grand National.

Dual winner Tiger Roll was handed a mark of 166 by BHA Handicapper Martin Greenwood – 7lb higher than when he retained the Grand National crown in 2019.

It means only three horses – Bristol De Mai (Nigel Twiston-Davies), Easysland (David Cottin) and Nicky Henderson’s 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Santini – can carry more weight than Tiger Roll in the April 10th showpiece.

Tiger Roll Grand National

Grand National Festival – Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, Britain – April 14, 2018 Tiger Roll ridden by Davy Russell (R) crosses the line as he wins the 17:15 Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs @SCANPIX

Elliott labels weights ‘fair enough’

Like many connections, Elliott admits he’d have preferred to be 2lb lower but the Cullentra handler isn’t about to get caught up in complaining about the weights.

O’Leary had suggested Tiger Roll might be retired after next month’s Cross Country assignment at the Cheltenham Festival if he wasn’t happy with the National weights.

Elliott says that decision is O’Leary’s to make given that he owns Tiger Roll and ‘pays the bills’ but the trainer – seeking to win the National for the fourth time in his career – wants Tiger Roll to run.

“He has got 166 and he won off 159 two years ago when the race was last run. He seems in good form at home and we are looking forward to the race,” said Elliott.

“You are always hoping you are going to be a couple of pounds less than what you have been given, but to be honest we will just smile and take it.

“It will be disappointing for everyone if he doesn’t turn up, but as you know [Michael O’Leary] makes the decisions. He is 7lb higher than what he won off before, but it is probably fair enough.”

Bristol De Mai has class for top-weight

Tiger Roll remains a general 10-1 chance to win a third Grand National, heading the betting, despite his possible 11st 9lb burden.

Above him could be the grey Bristol De Mai for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. The Naunton handler has saddled Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002) to Aintree glory and he feels his three-time Betfair Chase winner has the class to carry his weight.

Typically, Twiston-Davies suggests the Simon Munir and Isaac Suede-owned ten-year-old won’t be shying away.

“Bristol De Mai would have run in the race last year – we have just simply delayed it by 12 months. There is no reason why he can’t carry top-weight as he has the class to,” he said.

“I’m not worried about the ground as it will never be fast so that isn’t going to be a problem. He galloped them all into the ground over three-miles in heavy ground at Haydock so I think he will get the trip as he is a real stayer.”

Henderson goes ‘scattergun’

Veteran trainer Nicky Henderson remains without a Grand National of any description in Britain or Ireland to show for his near 40-year career. The Seven Barrows supremo has entered Beware The Bear (10st 10lb), Pym (10st 10lb), OK Corral (10st 8lb), Gold Present (10st 2lb) and Valtor (9st 13lb) as well as possible top-weight Santini.

The 2020 Gold Cup runner-up is headed once more for the Cotswolds next month and his National hopes will likely be held over until 2022. Henderson however makes no secret of the fact he doesn’t want his career to end without a win in this famous race.

“I’ve gone for the scattergun approach this year! The two that are most likely to go for the race are Beware The Bear and OK Corral, though Pym is another possible,” Henderson said.

“I’m not saying I would retire on the spot if I won it, as I wouldn’t, but it would be awfully nice to win the race. It’s a very special race and goes a long way back in history – it would be sad if I didn’t manage to win it at some point.”

Find the weights of all antepost runners 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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