Last year's Grand National winner, Many Clouds, has topped the weights for the Grand National 2016 after they were revealed today by the BHA Handicapper, Phil Smith, at a special weights lunch held at the Sky Garden in London.
Just one pound heavier than last year's winning weight, Many Clouds will run off 11-10, much to the relief of all of the other contenders. With Many Clouds almost certainly destined to make a bid for a second consecutive Grand National win, no matter who now drops out, none of the weights should change for those who remain in contention.
Don Poli, trained by Willie Mullins, is the second heaviest at 11-09 but he is far more likely to go to the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Of course that doesn't mean that he can't run in both, it's just an unlikely scenario.
Silviniaco Conti is third on the billing with 11-08, though again, he is more likely to be aimed at the Aintree Bowl Chase with his trainer, Paul Nicholls, intimating that they may wait another year to give him a run in the Grand National.
As we head further down the weights, Carlingford Lough has been given 11-07 which, other than a trip to Navan back in November, will be his lowest running weight in two years. He almost always runs off 11-10 but has never won beyond 3m1f so the step up in distance will pose it's own challenge.
Next up is Valseur Lido who, up until recently, was going great guns. He fell at Kempton in the King George VI Chase in December and despite leading in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, unseated Ruby Walsh at the last fence. At this stage, he's more likely to go for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
The interesting thing to note about the top five is that Phil Smith, the senior British handicapper, has for the last 17 years compressed the top of the weights for the Grand National to encourage trainers of better horses to take a chance on the race.
This time around the top five only have 1lb less to carry than they normally would, which Smith says is the smallest amount of tinkering he has ever applied to the National.
He went on to say that he believes the cut will fall among those set to carry 10st 1lb and advised connections of those horses to run them before the big day.
While they will get no extra weight if they happen to win another race before 9 April, any rise in their rating would mean they would make the cut before other horses set to carry the same weight.
So who are those horses that fall around the 10-01 mark? They run from numbers 70 – 76 and include Bally Beaufort and Benbens, both from Nigel Twiston-Davies, Cause Of Causes from trainer Gordon Elliott and Double Seven from trainer Martin Brassil with both horses owned by JP McManus. Midnight Prayer, Welsh National winner Mountainous and Royale Knight round off those entrants that are most likely to line-up.
Early indications are that Shutthefrontdoor is one of the best handicapped after he was given 10-11, 3lbs less than when he finished fifth last year. Only nine years old, decent weight, can get around the course, runs well on good ground and can go the distance. His odds have already shortened and I expect he will go off as one of the favourites this year.
For those of you who would like a more in-depth look at how the proceedings went today, then the full list of weights is below:
11st 10lb Many Clouds
11-9 Don Poli
11-8 Silviniaco Conti
11-7 Carlingford Lough
11-6 Valseur Lido
11-5 Houblon Des Obeaux
11-4 First Lieutenant
11-3 Foxrock, Wonderful Charm
11-2 Ballynagour, Third Intention
11-1 Gilgamboa, Lord Windermere, O’Faolains Boy, On His Own, Sam Winner
11-0 The Druids Nephew, Triolo D’Alene, Wounded Warrior
10-13 Rocky Creek, Roi Du Mee, Sir Des Champs
10-11 Shutthefrontdoor, Soll
10-10 Aachen, Boston Bob, Buywise, Turban
10-9 Double Ross, Morning Assembly
10-8 Gallant Oscar, Goonyella, Le Reve, Long Run, Onenightinvienna, The Last Samuri, Ucello Conti, Unioniste
10-7 Bear’s Affair, Kruzhlinin, Rule The World
10-6 Ballycasey, Black Thunder, Hadrian’s Approach, Just A Par, Katenko, Living Next Door, Thunder And Roses, Vics Canvas
10-5 Katkeau, Mendip Express, Pendra, Saint Are, Spring Heeled, Vieux Lion Rouge
10-4 Home Farm, Mon Parrain, The Romford Pele
10-3 Bishops Road, Knock House, Open Hearted, Shotgun Paddy
10-2 Alvarado, Highland Lodge, Maggio, Perfect Candidate, Pineau De Re, Present View
10-1 Bally Beaufort, Benbens, Cause Of Causes, Double Seven, Midnight Prayer, Mountainous, Royale Knight
10-0 Bless The Wings, Broadway Buffalo, Corrin Wood, Dare To Endeavour, Emperor’s Choice, Splash Of Ginge, Ziga Boy
9-13 Gas Line Boy, Gray Hession, Milborough
9-12 Bob Ford, Night In Milan, Our Father, Rogue Angel, Russe Blanc, Seabass
9-11 Firebird Flyer, Mr Moonshine, Operating, Paint The Clouds
9-10 Big Water
9-9 Benvolio, Cogry, No Secrets, Summery Justice
9-8 Amigo, Competitive Edge, Golden Chieftain
9-7 Doing Fine, Dromnea, Golden Wonder, Indian Castle, Rivage D’Or, Standing Ovation
9-6 Ikorodu Road, Ned Stark, Rathlin, Rigadin De Beauchene, Wyck Hill
9-4 Portrait King, Woodford County
9-3 Any Currency, Dark Lover, Seebright
9-2 Godsmejudge, Saroque, Tour Des Champs
9-1 Aerlite Supreme, Financial Climate, Harry The Viking