The Grand National 2015 hype and excitement truly got underway this week with the revealing of the weights by the BHA Handicapper Phil Smith. In a day that saw Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders Lord Windermere and Carlingford Lough get joint top weight, many have speculated that the weights are likely to go up for the rest of the field if they get withdrawn and aim for the festival instead.
In fact, John Kiely, trainer of Carlingford Lough spoke after the weights saying: “That's interesting. The owner and Frank Berry will decide but I don't think it would be likely he'd run. The Gold Cup is his main aim and the horse is in good form.”
The bookmakers have adjusted the odds accordingly and it now looks like two runners are set to battle it out as Grand National race favourites.
[custom_headline type=”left” level=”h1″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true” style=”color:#027c04″]Ante Post Favourites[/custom_headline]
Following the announcement by AP McCoy that this is was to be his last season as a professional jockey and with the likelihood that he will partner Shutthefrontdoor for owner JP McManus and trainer Jonjo O'Neill, odds were slashed and are now as little as 8/1 with betfair ante-post.
To spice things up even further, jockey Sam Twiston-Davies has been speaking about riding Rocky Creek for the National and speaking to Sporting Life said: “He ran a blinder in the race last year. He jumped really well that day and what was nice was he nearly jumped the last in front.
“This year he's been trained for the race whereas last year the Gold Cup was a bit more his aim. He seems in great form and has come out of it well.
“He's got 11st 3lb at the minute. If the top weights come out he'll get a little bit more. Even so he's a big horse and is well able to carry the weight.”
With the plan for Rocky Creek all but solidified by those comments, bookmakers were keen to reflect the updated status on their betting markets and now Rocky Creek is as little as 12/1 with Betfair but that still provides very good value for a horse that is very likely to line up on the day.
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Along with the weights this week, announcements were also made regarding the retirement of not one, but two, Grand National stalwarts – Cappa Blue and Sunnyhillboy. Despite both getting entries into the Grand National 2015, both have subsequently bowed out of the racing world and will be living out the rest of their years grazing in a lovely pasture.
Cappa Blue, trained by Evan Williams, is now 13 years old and having pulled up on his last run out at Ascot, the decision was made that it was time to hang up the saddle. His career earnings have topped £329K, thanks largely to two previous Grand National places which earned connections £258K, and with nine wins or places from 13 chase starts, he has more than paid his dues.
Sunnyhillboy, with an equally impressive Grand National record, placing second in 2012, didn't run last year. After he was well-beaten at Haydock last weekend on his first run for 14 months the connections decided to call it a day. He's now off to spend his retirement at his owner's Martinstown Stud in County Limerick having earned close to £400K during his career.
Jonjo O'Neill said: “He's a great little horse. He wasn't that big, but he was full of heart. I wish we had a yard full like him.”
[custom_headline type=”left” level=”h1″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true” style=”color:#027c04″]What The Trainers Are Saying[/custom_headline]
The trainers have all been chatting this week about their own Grand National prospects following the weights and first up is Paul Nicholls who spoke about Unioniste saying: “Unioniste could be a National horse. Ruby Walsh always said to me that this horse could be the next real Aintree candidate.
“He has lots of experience even though he is only a seven-year-old as he was going round Auteuil when he was three and won the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham when he was four. He stays, jumps and is a real candidate. Aintree should suit him.”
Keith Reveley, trainer of Night In Milan, is very happy with the 10-09 allotted to his charge and has already confirmed that it will be son James in the saddle on the day.
Speaking to the Yorkshire post he said: “Perfect. As long as one of the top ones stay in we’ll stay below 11st and that was the sort of weight I was thinking of, which means James can ride him at a comfortable weight.”
“He’s in great form at the moment, he’ll go for the Grimthorpe a week on Saturday at Doncaster and that gives him a month to recover which is just what he likes between his races.”
Night In Milan is a top tip for the each-way bet and at ante-post odds of 50/1 with Betfair could be the real bargain this year.
Jonjo O'Neill has more or less confirmed Shutthefrontdoor's participation in the National and said to the Irish Examiner: “It is probably a fair weight he has been given. We would like a bit less but that is what he has got to carry.
“He is a much better horse on flatter tracks and he likes good ground. I think everything will suit him.
“He maybe just lacks a bit of class to win a Gold Cup, but he will be okay in the National.”
Irish trainer, Peter Fahey is delighted with Owega Star's chances saying: “He has been running very well this season and the Crabbie’s Grand National has been his long-term aim from the start.
“We are hopeful that he can run a good race at Aintree, although of course you always need loads of luck in running in the National. Touch wood though, he has always been a good jumper.”
[custom_headline type=”left” level=”h1″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true” style=”color:#027c04″]£50m Goodbye From McCoy[/custom_headline]
While many of us racing fans are just a tad devastated by AP's plans to retire at the end of this season, the bookmakers are probably not.
McCoy's thousands of winners over the years have cost them a fortune and they now face the biggest payout in betting history if the racing legend wins the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup before bowing out at the end of the season in April.
With McCoy set to ride Carlingford Lough in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Shutthefrontdoor in the Grand National 2015, both of whom have an excellent chance of winning their respective races, Ladbrokes’ David Williams says “It would be the biggest whipping we’ve ever known.
“The industry could be staring into a £50million black hole.”
If you fancy his chances then Shutthefrontdoor is 8/1 ante-post and Carlingford Lough is 10/1 for the Gold Cup with Betfair (Non Runner No Bet applies to that race).