It’s a decision-making process that ultimately shapes who will run in the Grand National and who won’t.
The handicapper has been going about his work prior to the 2020 edition of the Aintree fan’s favourite, and there was bad news for Tiger Roll and his connections.
On the back of a stellar couple of seasons that have brought him a pair of Grand National triumphs and a pair of handsome victories at the Cheltenham Festival, the Gordo Elliot trained stayer has been given the top mark of 170 for this year’s National – meaning that he will carry the highest weight of 11st 10lb.
It’s a decision that may yet have repercussions for Tiger Roll’s participation in the April showpiece, with owner Michael O’Leary repeatedly claiming that he would withdraw his star from the race if he was treated ‘unfairly’ in the weights.
His brother Eddie, racing manager for the Gigginstown Stud, has said:
“Whether Tiger Roll runs in the Grand National or not very much depends on the handicapper. We’re not playing games, not at all. See More Business was compressed 8lb in 2001, Exotic Dancer was compressed 8lb in 2009, and in 2010 Albertas Run was 5lb lower.
“More recently, Synchronised in 2012 was 6lb lower, in 2013 Tidal Bay was compressed 11lb and the following year by 7lb. In 2015 Carlingford Lough was compressed 5lb and Bristol De Mai was 5lb lower last year. What does that tell you?”
The Irishman will be frustrated then that his charge has only been compressed by a pound, and sadly that might mean he is pulled from the Grand National in 2020 altogether – ending hopes of the first-ever three-on-the-spin champion.
“We’re not going to jump up and down about it as we have said all we wanted to say already, but we will have to have a serious think about whether he will run or not,” Eddie O’Leary told the Racing Post.
“I mean that. He really is not certain to line up.”
Native River In At the Deep End
The weights are so pivotal ahead of the Grand National because it is so rare for a top weight to enjoy glory on Merseyside.
Many Clouds went off at a mark of 11-09 ahead of his win in 2015, but prior to that you have to go back to the days of Red Rum – the only three-time winner of the race – to see the heaviest of horses thrive.
Modern racing is not kind to top weighted runners in the Grand National, as you can see from the dates that these heavy hitters took the honours:
|Red Rum||12st 0lb||1974|
|Many Clouds||11st 9lb||2015|
|Red Rum||11st 8lb||1977|
|Royal Tan||11st 7lb||1954|
Some other quality operators have also been harshly – or justifiably – treated by the handicapper.
Delta Work will also go off at 11st 10lb to infuriate the O’Learys yet further, while former Gold Cup champion Native River has been handed a mark of 11st 6lb.
Other notables include Bristol De Mai, a proven stayer, who will run off 11st 8lb for Nigel Twiston-Davies, while Anibale Fly catches the eye at 11st 2lb given his Grand National pedigree.