Highland Lodge connections have an anxious wait ahead of them over the next week as they wait to find out if they will make the starting line up for the Grand National 2016.
The five day confirmation stage takes place next Monday, April 4th where at least 12 potential runners need to be withdrawn to ensure a place for Highland Lodge who currently sits at spot number 52 on the Grand National card.
At the second scratching stage 96 stood their ground, 56 more than will be allowed to run. At the same stage in 2015, 74 were left in contention but the number of entries, particularly those with very high ratings, has had a dramatic impact on potentially who will actually run in the Grand National 2016.
A win in the Becher Chase over the National fences in December boosted Highland Lodge’s claims and when he was given 10-02 by the BHA Handicapper, Phil Smith, it was fully expected that he would make the cut. But so few horses have been withdrawn up to this point that it’s going to be difficult for the horses further down the list to get in.
Trainer James Moffatt admits that the wait is ‘unbearable’ saying: “Phil Smith seems to think the chances of making it are still pretty good.
“It’s out of my hands, as it has been all along. Historically, he gets in, but this is an exceptional year and I think it is probably the strongest National that has ever been assembled.
“Speaking to Phil Smith, there are about five or six almost certain not to run. We need 12 to come out, there are those six almost certain to, which leaves us needing six.
“Five or six are almost certainly going to be racing somewhere else. We just need those other six.
“Phil Smith is really optimistic. He has thought all along that all the 10-2s would get in and he was surprised at how many had stayed in.
“It’s going to be close. Closer than I anticipated and probably than anyone anticipated.
“I think when you’re at the lower end of the weights – which is where you want to be – this always happens.
“If it happens, it happens. We’re preparing him like he will get in and that’s it.”
“I can’t do anything about it, it’s out of my hands. But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t say that at the moment, it’s unbearable.”
Highland Lodge isn’t the only potential runner being made to wait this year. Other fantastic horses are still on the periphery including Cheltenham Winner Cause Of Causes from Gordon Elliott, 2014 winner Pineau De Re, 2015 runner up Saint Are – who should still easily make the cut, Welsh National winner Mountainous and both the winner and runner up of the most recent Irish Grand National – Rogue Angel and Bless The Wings, though they may both get withdrawn as the races are only two weeks apart.
Oldest Horses Running This Year
If Pineau De Re does get in, and he needs 10 to be withdrawn for that to happen, then that will leave both him and Vics Canvas as the two oldest horses to run this year. Both are 13 years old.
Dermot McLoughlin, who trains Vics Canvas is looking forward to the National and with his charge still pleasing connections saying: “Vics Canvas is on target for the National.
“He’s a bonny little horse and has a nice weight at 10st 6lb. He’s 13 but is still pleasing us.
“He’s got experience of the fences and ran well in the Becher this season.”
He finished fifth in the Becher, in a closely contested race that saw him finish just four lengths behind the winner, Highland Lodge.
Pineau De Re isn’t having as successful a season and from six runs since October 2015, has produced a mixed bag of results including a win and a second place along with a fall and being pulled up.
Whether or not he can genuinely contend again in 2016 is unknown but he will certainly have to raise his game to cause an upset.
Highland Lodge is a general 33/1 for the Grand National 2016 with bookmakers, with Pineau De Re on 40/1 and Vics Canvas on 50/1.
Picture by: John Giles / PA Wire/Press Association Images