It was billed as Phil Smith’s handicapping swan song, the Grand National weights dinner for the race he had presided over for the last twenty years, but alas things did not all go to plan. After an embargo, a single horse weights teaser and a major power cut, the weights were finally revealed in a mad, free-for-all, media scramble as it was decided the presentation would be unable to go ahead.
It is the second year that the event has failed to come off as was originally planned, begging the question – why keep holding it at a fancy venue in the capital? The calls for “bring it home” were certainly resonating around social media for much of the evening following yet another disappointing dud.
Eventually it came to light that Definitly Red, the winner of the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham last month, was heading the handicap with 11st 10lb off a rating of 165.
“I sort of expected him to be top-weight really. He's rated 167 so they couldn't do much else.
“The Gold Cup is the plan. We'll get that out of the way and see about Aintree after that.
“He's in great form at home. I couldn't be happier with him” said Brian Ellison.
Blaklion, the current bookies favourite at 10/1, has been allotted 11st 6lb following his impressive victory in the Becher Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree in December.
Those odds could easily contract furthermore should the Nigel Twiston-Davies nine-year-old win the Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday.
Twiston-Davies said: “We've got the Becher Chase in the bag and races in the bag are better than prayers. We could get struck by lightning next week!
“He will be ridden differently at Aintree this year. He was beaten eight lengths last year and there was no blame on Noel (Fehily) at all, but he kicked on a mile from home. Maybe if you don't kick on a mile from home that eight lengths could be found.
“I did a bit of research ages ago and Red Rum used to win with 12st. I don't know if I'm being a bit silly, but he reminds me a bit of Red Rum. He is small and very neat over his fences and after watching him jump round there twice, he doesn't seem to make a mistake.”
The Last Samuri currently sits ninth in the weights' list with 11st 4lb off a rating of 159.
Trained by Kim Bailey for owners Paul and Clare Rooney, The Last Samuri finished second behind Rule The World in the 2016 running of the world's greatest steeplechase.
The 10-year-old finished runner-up to Blaklion in the Becher Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree earlier in the season and was last seen out to good effect in the Cotswold Chase.
Bailey, who won the National with Mr Frisk in 1990, said: “The Last Samuri's weight is what we were expecting given his rating.
“If the weights stay as they are and don't rise, I think he would have more of a chance.
“I have been very happy with him since Cheltenham and he will have a prep race somewhere between now and Aintree.
“We have got several options, but there are no firm plans as we will have to see what the weather does first.
“The Last Samuri doesn't need to have a prep race, but we are lining up to have one at the moment.”
Last year's runner-up Cause Of Causes (10st 12lb), trained by Gordon Elliott, is one of seven entries for owner J P McManus, who also has the recent Irish Gold Cup scorer Edwulf (Joseph O'Brien, 11st 9lb), last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup second Minella Rocco (Jonjo O'Neill, 11st 7lb) and Anibale Fly (Tony Martin, 11st 4lb).
Elliott is currently mob handed with a total of ten runners entered but this list will be probably whittled down to a maximum of five come April time. As of the weights revealing day he has: Outlander (11st 8lb), Mala Beach (11st 3lb), Noble Endeavor (10st 13lb), Cause Of Causes (10st 12lb), Tiger Roll (10st 9lb), Ucello Conti (10st 6lb), Bless The Wings (10st 2lb), General Principle (9st 12lb), Out Sam (9st 3lb), Poormans Hill (8st 7lb).
Asked about his intended runners, Elliott replied: “I wouldn't like to second guess Michael O'Leary about the Gigginstown horses. If I was a betting man, I would say Outlander's most likely target is the Punchestown Gold Cup. The handicapper has a job to do and you won't hear me complaining.
“I'd imagine I will run Cause Of Causes, Noble Endeavor, Ucello Conti and Tiger Roll. They would be the four at the moment. Bless The Wings could also go if he gets in.
“You'd have to imagine Cause Of Causes is the principal one. He was second in the race last year and he looks like he has a lovely weight with 10st 12lb there again. I'm not complaining and I'd imagine he will go for the cross-country again at Cheltenham.
“Noble Endeavor will have one run and then go for the National and that will definitely be in Ireland.
“Ucello Conti is going to go straight to the race and Tiger Roll will run in the cross-country race at Cheltenham, all being well.”
There is every chance that Phil Smith may have left some lucky owners attached to the Gordon Elliott stable a small parting gift.
Smith explained his reasoning behind one of his many quandaries: “Bless The Wings is rated 17lb higher on his Cheltenham cross-country form compared to his rating in Ireland, and the form of the cross-country races at Cheltenham has historically been very good in relation to Aintree, with the likes of Silver Birch, Balthazar King and Cause Of Causes.
“On the one hand, Bless The Wings’ rating of 137 in Ireland would not get him in the race, but 154, his cross-country rating, seemed to me to be too high compared to his form on park courses.
“In the end I settled on 143 as a compromise, which should hopefully get him in. He's a very interesting horse – even though he's 13. He is an absolutely super jumper and his cross-country form is very good indeed.”
At number 66 in the pecking order it will be touch and go whether the thirteen-year-old will make the final cut, but at 50/1 for a horse that has never fallen in his career, he is certainly worth an ante-post flutter.
Dr Richard Newland and owner John Provan combined to land the 2014 race with Pineau de Re. This year they have purchased another interesting contender in Abolitionist (10st 4lb), who finished third in last season's Irish Grand National. Abolitionist is 51st on the list off a mark of 145, and looks a safe bet to get into the race proper.
Dr Newland said: “I bought him for the race in the autumn and although he had a little stress fracture he's over it now and I'm hoping to run him at the weekend over hurdles at Ascot.
“He's got to get through Ascot for a start then he needs to run over fences, probably in the Kim Muir, but it's very much our intention to train him for the National and I think he has the right profile.”
Odds of 33/1 ante-post says that he has the right profile for the race according to the bookmakers.
Please see the full list of weights below:
|1)||DEFINITLY RED (IRE)||9||11-10||165||Phil & Julie Martin||Brian Ellison|
|2)||BRISTOL DE MAI (FR)||7||11-09||164||Simon Munir & Isaac Souede||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
|3)||EDWULF||9||11-09||164||J P McManus||Joseph O’Brien IRE|
|4)||OUTLANDER (IRE)||10||11-08||163||Gigginstown House Stud||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|5)||MINELLA ROCCO (IRE)||8||11-07||162||J P McManus||Jonjo O’Neill|
|6)||BLAKLION||9||11-06||161||Simon Such & Gino Paletta||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
|7)||SUB LIEUTENANT (IRE)||9||11-05||160||Gigginstown House Stud||Henry de Bromhead IRE|
|8)||ANIBALE FLY (FR)||8||11-04||159||J P McManus||Tony Martin IRE|
|9)||THE LAST SAMURI (IRE)||10||11-04||159||Paul & Clare Rooney||Kim Bailey|
|10)||MALA BEACH (IRE)||10||11-03||158||Chris Jones||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|11)||VALSEUR LIDO (FR)||9||11-03||158||Gigginstown House Stud||Henry de Bromhead IRE|
|12)||AMERICAN (FR)||8||11-02||157||The Jago Family Partnership||Harry Fry|
|13)||TOTAL RECALL (IRE)||9||11-01||156||Slaneyville Syndicate||Willie Mullins IRE|
|14)||ALPHA DES OBEAUX (FR)||8||11-00||155||Gigginstown House Stud||Mouse Morris IRE|
|15)||GOLD PRESENT (IRE)||8||11-00||155||John & Barbara Cotton||Nicky Henderson|
|16)||NOBLE ENDEAVOR (IRE)||9||10-13||154||Chris Jones||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|17)||PERFECT CANDIDATE (IRE)||11||10-13||154||ISL Recruitment||Fergal O’Brien|
|18)||SIZING CODELCO (IRE)||9||10-13||154||Ann & Alan Potts Limited||Colin Tizzard|
|19)||CAUSE OF CAUSES (USA)||10||10-12||153||J P McManus||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|20)||SHANTOU FLYER (IRE)||8||10-12||153||Carl Hinchy||Richard Hobson|
|21)||CARLINGFORD LOUGH (IRE)||12||10-11||152||J P McManus||John Kiely IRE|
|22)||O O SEVEN (IRE)||8||10-11||152||Christopher Hanbury||Nicky Henderson|
|23)||TENOR NIVERNAIS (FR)||11||10-11||152||Boultbee Brooks Ltd||Venetia Williams|
|24)||GO CONQUER (IRE)||9||10-10||151||Paul & Clare Rooney||Jonjo O’Neill|
|25)||TRAFFIC FLUIDE (FR)||8||10-10||151||Galloping On The South Downs Partnership||Gary Moore|
|26)||VICENTE (FR)||9||10-10||151||Trevor Hemmings||Paul Nicholls|
|27)||ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS (FR)||8||10-09||150||Slaneyville Syndicate||Willie Mullins IRE|
|28)||RATHVINDEN (IRE)||10||10-09||150||Ronnie Bartlett||Willie Mullins IRE|
|29)||REGAL ENCORE (IRE)||10||10-09||150||J P McManus||Anthony Honeyball|
|30)||TIGER ROLL (IRE)||8||10-09||150||Gigginstown House Stud||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|31)||VIEUX LION ROUGE (FR)||9||10-09||150||Prof Caroline Tisdall & John Gent||David Pipe|
|32)||A GENIE IN ABOTTLE (IRE)||7||10-08||149||Gigginstown House Stud||Noel Meade IRE|
|33)||AS DE MEE (FR)||8||10-08||149||The Stewart Family & Judi Dench||Paul Nicholls|
|34)||CHASE THE SPUD||10||10-08||149||Christine Banks||Fergal O’Brien|
|35)||ROCK THE KASBAH (IRE)||8||10-08||149||Diana Whateley||Philip Hobbs|
|36)||SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT||10||10-08||149||Quona Thomson||Sandy Thomson|
|37)||WARRIORS TALE||9||10-08||149||Michelle & Dan Macdonald||Paul Nicholls|
|38)||BELLSHILL (IRE)||8||10-07||148||Andrea & Graham Wylie||Willie Mullins IRE|
|39)||FLYING ANGEL (IRE)||7||10-07||148||Rob Rexton||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
|40)||GAS LINE BOY (IRE)||12||10-07||148||The Three Graces||Ian Williams|
|41)||PLEASANT COMPANY (IRE)||10||10-07||148||Malcolm C Denmark||Willie Mullins IRE|
|42)||THE DUTCHMAN (IRE)||8||10-07||148||SprayClad UK||Colin Tizzard|
|43)||BEEVES (IRE)||11||10-06||147||Paul & Clare Rooney||Jennie Candlish|
|44)||SAINT ARE (FR)||12||10-06||147||David Fox||Tom George|
|45)||UCELLO CONTI (FR)||10||10-06||147||Simon Munir & Isaac Souede||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|46)||VYTA DU ROC (FR)||9||10-06||147||Simon Munir & Isaac Souede||Nicky Henderson|
|47)||CAROLE’S DESTRIER||10||10-05||146||Carole Skipworth||Neil Mulholland|
|48)||LONG HOUSE HALL (IRE)||10||10-05||146||Carl Hinchy||Dan Skelton|
|49)||POLIDAM (FR)||9||10-05||146||Simon Munir & Isaac Souede||Willie Mullins IRE|
|50)||RAZ DE MAREE (FR)||13||10-05||146||James Swan||Gavin Cromwell IRE|
|51)||ABOLITIONIST (IRE)||10||10-04||145||Mark Albon, John Provan & Chris Stedman||Dr Richard Newland|
|52)||BAIE DES ILES (FR)||7||10-04||145||Zorka Wentworth||Ross O’Sullivan IRE|
|53)||BUYWISE (IRE)||11||10-04||145||T Hywel Jones||Evan Williams|
|54)||CHILDRENS LIST (IRE)||8||10-04||145||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|55)||I JUST KNOW (IRE)||8||10-04||145||M B Scholey & the late R H Scholey||Sue Smith|
|56)||MAGGIO (FR)||13||10-04||145||Douglas Pryde/James Beaumont||Patrick Griffin IRE|
|57)||PENDRA (IRE)||10||10-04||145||J P McManus||Charlie Longsdon|
|58)||VIRGILIO (FR)||9||10-04||145||C J Edwards, D Futter, A H Rushworth||Dan Skelton|
|59)||CAPTAIN REDBEARD (IRE)||9||10-03||144||Stuart Coltherd||Stuart Coltherd|
|60)||HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (FR)||11||10-03||144||Mrs Julian Blackwell||Venetia Williams|
|61)||LORD WINDERMERE (IRE)||12||10-03||144||Dr Ronan Lambe||Jim Culloty IRE|
|62)||SILSOL (GER)||9||10-03||144||Michelle & Dan Macdonald||Paul Nicholls|
|63)||THIRD INTENTION (IRE)||11||10-03||144||Robert & Sarah Tizzard||Colin Tizzard|
|64)||THREE FACES WEST (IRE)||10||10-03||144||Paul & Clare Rooney||Philip Hobbs|
|65)||WILD WEST WIND (IRE)||9||10-03||144||Simon Clarke||Tom George|
|66)||BLESS THE WINGS (IRE)||13||10-02||143||Adrian Butler & S P O’Connor||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|67)||DOUBLE ROSS (IRE)||12||10-02||143||Options O Syndicate||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
|68)||FINAL NUDGE (IRE)||9||10-02||143||Corbett Stud||David Dennis|
|69)||MILANSBAR (IRE)||11||10-02||143||Robert Bothway||Neil King|
|70)||MORNING ASSEMBLY (IRE)||11||10-02||143||Clipper Logistics Group Ltd||Pat Fahy IRE|
|71)||DELUSIONOFGRANDEUR (IRE)||8||10-01||142||McGoldrick Racing 3||Sue Smith|
|72)||ROAD TO RICHES (IRE)||11||10-01||142||Gigginstown House Stud||Noel Meade IRE|
|73)||THUNDER AND ROSES (IRE)||10||10-01||142||Gigginstown House Stud||Mouse Morris IRE|
|74)||SAMETEGAL (FR)||9||10-00||141||John & Barbara Cotton||Paul Nicholls|
|75)||VINTAGE CLOUDS (IRE)||8||10-00||141||Trevor Hemmings||Sue Smith|
|76)||WALK IN THE MILL (FR)||8||10-00||141||Baroness Harding||Robert Walford|
|77)||GENERAL PRINCIPLE (IRE)||9||9-12||139||Gigginstown House Stud||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|78)||VIC DE TOUZAINE (FR)||9||9-12||139||Andrew Brooks & G Moore||Venetia Williams|
|79)||VIEUX MORVAN (FR)||9||9-12||139||M L Bloodstock||Joseph O’Brien IRE|
|80)||WOUNDED WARRIOR (IRE)||9||9-12||139||Gigginstown House Stud||Noel Meade IRE|
|81)||ARBRE DE VIE (FR)||8||9-11||138||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|82)||BALLYALTON (IRE)||11||9-11||138||John Westwood||Ian Williams|
|83)||BONNY KATE (IRE)||8||9-11||138||Patricia Hunt||Noel Meade IRE|
|84)||COGRY||9||9-11||138||Graham & Alison Jelley||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
|85)||MISSED APPROACH (IRE)||8||9-11||138||Alan & Andrew Turner||Warren Greatrex|
|86)||MYSTEREE (IRE)||10||9-11||138||Mrs Lynne Maclennan||Michael Scudamore|
|87)||SIR MANGAN (IRE)||10||9-11||138||Frank McAleavy||Dan Skelton|
|88)||SPLASH OF GINGE||10||9-11||138||John Neild||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
|89)||BRAQUEUR D’OR (FR)||7||9-10||137||Corsellis & Seyfried||Paul Nicholls|
|90)||MINELLA DADDY (IRE)||8||9-10||137||Roddy Owen & Paul Fullagar||Peter Bowen|
|91)||PAIROFBROWNEYES (IRE)||9||9-10||137||Fibbage Syndicate||Willie Mullins IRE|
|92)||RELENTLESS DREAMER (IRE)||9||9-10||137||Nigel Morris||Rebecca Curtis|
|93)||KNOCK HOUSE (IRE)||9||9-09||136||Tim Leslie||Donald McCain|
|94)||THE YOUNG MASTER||9||9-08||135||Mike Burbidge & The Old Masters||Neil Mulholland|
|95)||ALFIE SPINNER (IRE)||13||9-06||133||Alan Beard & Brian Beard||Kerry Lee|
|96)||HENRI PARRY MORGAN||10||9-06||133||Ednyfed & Elizabeth Morgan||Peter Bowen|
|97)||PHIL’S MAGIC (IRE)||8||9-06||133||Lyreen Syndicate||Tony Martin IRE|
|98)||BRAVISSIMO (FR)||7||9-05||132||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|99)||DANCING SHADOW (IRE)||9||9-05||132||The Dancing Shadows||Victor Dartnall|
|100)||ROGUE ANGEL (IRE)||10||9-05||132||Gigginstown House Stud||Mouse Morris IRE|
|101)||THEBARROWMAN (IRE)||8||9-04||131||D Keys||Adrian Keatley IRE|
|102)||OUT SAM||9||9-03||130||D Charlesworth||Gordon Elliott IRE|
|103)||KRACKATOA KING||10||9-00||127||JC Harrison Lee & T Howard Partnership||Kerry Lee|
|104)||GOODTOKNOW||10||8-13||126||Burling Lee MacEchern Nolan Potter||Kerry Lee|
|105)||POORMANS HILL (IRE)||7||NQ||120||V Caldwell/Mrs K Caldwell||Gordon Elliott IRE|