The Aintree Grand National is set to return on April 10th after the 2020 renewal was lost to the pandemic. There will be no spectators this year and high street bookmakers remain closed as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased in the UK.
The Grand National was the highest profile race lost to the pandemic last year but horse racing resumed in Britain behind closed doors last summer. That has remained largely the case ever since, although it is hoped that restricted crowds will be in attendance for the summer festivals such as Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood.
Tiger Roll withdrawn from Grand National
Last year’s cancellation denied Ireland’s Tiger Roll the opportunity to equal Red Rum’s record of three Grand National victories. The eleven-year-old was kept in training for another season but his name did not appear among the likely grand national runners & riders at the latest declaration stage. Connections have decided that it is unfair to ask him to carry a big weight at this stage of his career. Visit this Grand National guide for the latest updates on this year’s field.
With Tiger Roll an absentee, Cloth Cap has emerged as the clear favourite. The nine-year-old son of Beneficial had an official rating of 136 earlier in the season. He shot into the Grand National betting at Newbury in November when making all the running under Tom Scudamore to win the valuable Ladbrokes Trophy.
That success prompted a 12lbs rise but he has since won a listed chase at Kelso, prompting the handicapper to increase his rating by a further stone. If his assessment is correct, he is rated a handicap certainty at Aintree. While he is undoubtedly the best handicapped horse in the race, he is yet to tackle Aintree’s fearsome fences.
Hemmings seeking record fourth Grand National victory
Another factor to consider will be the going. Cloth Cap has shown his best form on a sound surface and his chances would be severely compromised in soft or heavy ground. Owner Trevor Hemmings has already won the race three times with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015). If he wins with Cloth Cap, Hemmings will be the most successful owner in the history of the Grand National.
Trainer Jonjo O’Neill won the race with Don’t Push It in 2010, providing some consolation for never having won it as a jockey. Tom Scudamore is the regular rider of Cloth Cap, son of former champion jockey Peter. The Grand National eluded his father so it would be a great day in the Scudamore household if Tom passes the post in front on April 10th.
JP McManus enters strong team for Aintree
Don’t Push It completed a life-long ambition for owner JP McManus and provided jockey Tony McCoy with a National winner at the fifteenth attempt. McManus has a particularly strong team assembled for Aintree this season.
The classy French-trained Easysland could carry top weight of 11st 10lbs. He left Tiger Roll toiling 17 lengths in arears at Cheltenham last year at level weights. Any Second Now is also set to carry the famous green and gold colours. He was among the market leaders before the race was abandoned last year and is trained by Ted Walsh, successful with Papillon in 2000. Walsh also saddled Seabass, ridden by his daughter Katie, to finish a close third to Neptune Collonges in 2012.
Kimberlite Candy is also on course for Aintree, a nine-year-old gelding by Flemensfirth. He has won four of his sixteen races over fences and has twice finished runner-up in the Becher Chase at Aintree. His experience of the big fences should hold him in good stead. It promises to be another thrilling renewal of the great race.