Three who catch the eye at the weights in the Grand National

Tiger Roll will give Gold Cup winner Native River 4 lb in his bid for a third National.
Tiger Roll will give Gold Cup winner Native River 4 lb in his bid for a third National.

Following the release of the Grand National weights on Tuesday, Joe Tuffin has picked out three horses who he thinks the handicapper has given a good chance too…

There seemed to be a lot more build up towards the Grand National weights dinner than usual this year, although there is an obvious reason as to why. With Tiger Roll just two months away from an historic bid for an unprecedented third Grand National success in as many years, a feat that even the great Red Rum couldn’t manage, his allocated weight was the main topic of conversation between avid fans of the game.

As expected, he was eventually allotted top weight on a mark of 170, much to the expected yet perhaps unwarranted annoyance of Eddie O’Leary, who almost immediately claimed that he was only ‘fifty-fifty’ to line up in April. However, if anyone is entitled to be annoyed it should probably be connections of Bristol De Mai, who has only been compressed by 2 lb despite having no experience over the fences and holding a winless streak that goes back to November 2018.

However, several connections will be licking their lips with their allocated marks, and we’ve picked out three worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks…

Obvious claims: Native River

There is no denying that the handicapper has given Native River half a chance, with a mark of 166 inviting connections to flirt with the idea of a tilt at the Grand National instead of a proposed fourth bid for a second Gold Cup success. In fact, it took all of about 10 minutes for Joe Tizzard, the assistant trainer in the Tizzard operation, to come out and say: “If he was mine I would perhaps skip the Gold Cup and go straight to the National.”

Everyone is aware of Native River’s knack for staying, he’s a winner of some of the most high-profile staying chases around the country, such as the Welsh Grand National, the Ladbrokes Trophy and of course the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Naturally, the mammoth trip does mean he’ll be running seven furlongs further than the distance of his greatest winning trip, but a very respectable second to a prime Minella Rocco in the 2016 four-miler at the Festival suggests there really shouldn't be too much concern.

The compressed Grand National marks have certainly given him a chance at the weights, as they mean that Native River will run off 166 - down 2 lb from his true rating - and Tiger Roll will have to give him 4 lb despite only being rated 3 lb superior. It is debatable that the only horse capable of matching Tiger Roll for class in the Grand National field is Native River, and with the weights quite favourably on his side a trip to Aintree must now be quite an appealing prospect for connections. Can he do it over the National fences that Tiger Roll so dearly loves? That remains to be seen, but they’ll be a whole lot keener on the idea now. 

Eye-catcher: Ramses De Teillee

It's shaping up into being one of the strangest campaigns seen in recent times, as last year's Welsh Grand National runner-up and current Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle protagonist (yes you read that correctly) Ramses De Teillee could have a very live chance come April - thanks to a generous mark given by Martin Greenwood, the man in charge of the Grand National weights.

Campaigned this season as a novice hurdler, which he is eligible to do having failed to pick up a win during his actual novice season back in 2017, Ramses De Teillee possess a fine mixture of versatility, ability and stamina - three key ingredients in the complicated recipe for Grand National success.

Another vital factor in is favour is that he already has Aintree experience, having lined up in last year’s renewal as a well-fancied 20/1 selection. The con to that is that he failed to complete the race, and struggled involve himself in the tussle at the front in any way. However, a combination of his rein snapping and only being a seven-year-old meant a sustained challenge was always going to be a tricky one.

Now, onto his mark. Having started the season as a 153-rated chaser, he now finds himself on 151, which is the mark he’ll run off should he take his place in the 40-strong field. His runs over hurdles, including a facile win in a three-mile Grade 2 novice contest, will not affect his chasing mark and the fact that he has competed over fences once this season means he has qualified for the National. Admittedly, his only start over fences was a disappointing one, but he was giving a huge amount of weight away to his rivals that day, and it also came only 21 days after a testing race on heavy ground, which he won.

The way he has been campaigned suggests the Grand National has always been the end goal and bearing in mind he is almost certain to get into the race (only needs one to come out), the 40/1 on offer looks generous if he lines up on anything near 10-05. 

Wildcard: Hogan’s Height

It’ll be touch and go for Hogan’s Height as to whether he’ll make the cut, needing 24 ahead of him to come out if he’s to be given his chance, but should that be the case he’s a very intriguing runner off a potential featherweight of 10-00.

Jamie Snowden’s nine-year-old will have a whole lot to prove, but he may be the perfect wildcard selection at juicy odds. The horse's ability to tackle the course is half the battle when it comes to the Grand National, and with Hogan’s Height running out a rampant 16-length-winner when last seen in the Grand Sefton over these specialist fences, you can be sure that his jumping will be assured. What you can’t be sure of, however, is whether he will be able to stay the marathon trip. The Sefton - as impressive as his victory in it was - is only over 2m 5f,  meaning the gelding will receive the shock of his life when he is asked to cross the Melling road for a second time having already jumped his heart out for a full circuit. 

That said, carrying such little weight could well unlock extra stamina reserves, and it’s unlikely connections will be sending him if they didn’t have at least a small suspicion that he’ll cope just fine with the trip. His mark of 146 is incredibly workable and bearing in mind that it has already been made public that the National is his aim - there are certainly a lot worse gambles that a small bet on him at 50/1. 

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