Nigel Twiston-Davies’ dual Grade 1 winner Bristol De Mai has been unveiled at the top of the weights for the 2019 Grade 3 Randox Health Grand National, revealed in Liverpool on Tuesday afternoon.
The eight-year-old will carry 11st 10lb if he contests Aintree’s showpiece in April, having been handed a lowered rating of 168. He is one of nine entries for his trainer, who landed the Grand National with Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree in 2002.
Twiston-Davies’ other entries are impressive Sky Bet Chase victor Go Conquer (10st 13lb) and 2017 Becher Handicap Chase hero Blaklion (10st 12lb), who was brought down at the first fence in the 2018 Grand National having finished fourth behind One For Arthur in 2017.
One For Arthur, who missed defending his title in 2018 due to injury, has been allotted 10st 10lb for 2019.
We look all set for an outstanding race at Aintree
Last year’s Grand National hero Tiger Roll has been allotted 11st 1lb in his bid to become the first dual winner of the race since the legendary Red Rum in 1973 and 1974.
His trainer Gordon Elliott, who was also responsible for 2007 scorer Silver Birch, is responsible for 22 of the record 47 Irish-trained entries and his team for 2019 also features 2018 Cheltenham Festival hero The Storyteller (11st 3lb) and last year’s Irish Grand National winner General Principle (10st).
Willie Mullins, who trained the Trevor Hemmings-owned Hedgehunter to victory in the 2005 edition, has ten entries and they are headed by last year’s Grand National runner-up Pleasant Company (10st 11lb), Grade 2 winner Rathvinden (10st 10lb) and the eye-catching Up For Review (10st 2lb), who finished third in the Thyestes Chase on his latest start.
Hemmings has had his silks carried to victory a further two times in the contest with Ballabriggs in 2009 and the late Many Clouds in 2017 and is chasing a fourth Grand National which would see him become the winning-most owner of all time.
His three entries for 2019 include the Nick Alexander-trained Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Chase winner Lake View Lad (10st 11lb), Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase scorer Warriors Tale (10st 9lb), trained by Paul Nicholls, and the Sue Smith-trained Vintage Clouds (10st).
The BHA’s handicapper Martin Greenwood, who framed the weights for the first time this year, said: “It was fairly straightforward to do the weights. I tried to treat it like any other race whilst bearing in mind there has to be some digression when needed.
“Bristol De Mai heads the weights and his rating has been compressed by 5lb as I thought it was better to have a horse at the top of the handicap whose rating was slightly out of kilter. If Bristol De Mai does run then I think it was the right call to make.
Tiger Roll is up 9lb from his mark for last year’s Grand National
“I found Auvergnat (10st 8lb) of Enda Bolger’s hard to weigh up. He has a lot of cross- country form and he was the hardest one I had to deal with. He has been running primarily in cross-country races and they are events which are having an increasing impact on the Grand National, highlighted by Tiger Roll’s success last year.
“His form ties in with Josies Orders and Tiger Roll. He would almost have three different ratings, one in the mid-140s for regulation fences, a high 150s for the cross-country fences and I have put him somewhere in the middle of that (152) to tie in with Josies Orders.
“Tiger Roll is up 9lb from his mark for last year’s Grand National and Pleasant Company 7lb. I have them both on the same mark for what they were rated after last year’s Grand National. Tiger Roll confirmed that rating at Cheltenham in November. Pleasant Company has been a bit disappointing in a few runs since, but I think the Aintree fences will bring out the best in him, so that is why I left him on that mark.
“I think there are several interesting runners like Vintage Clouds and Elegant Escape, who is towards the top of the betting and he is an improving horse and was a good second to Frodon at Cheltenham last time out, so you can see why he is one of the more fancied horses.
“I think it would be a knee-jerk reaction to make too much of the small amount of horses who are weighted 11st or higher. I wouldn’t want to get too clever about what the reason is.
“At the entry stage, you needed to be around the mid-70s to get you into the race. I think anything based in the top 80 has a chance of getting in. Four of the last five years, horses approaching that number have got in so some connections shouldn’t give up because they are rated towards the bottom.”
John Baker, Managing Director at Aintree racecourse, said on Tuesday: “The countdown to the 172nd running of the world’s greatest and most valuable chase begins in earnest today with the unveiling of the weights for the £1 million Randox Health Grand National.
“Our thanks go to Martin Greenwood for framing the weights for the first time in 2019. The entries look very strong, with a record Irish-trained presence, and we look all set for an outstanding race at Aintree on Saturday, April 6.