The weights for the Randox Health Grand National will be announced at the official luncheon in Liverpool today and all eyes will be on the weight allocated by BHA Handicapper Martin Greenwood to dual winner Tiger Roll who heads the market at 5/1 with BetVictor. Connections of Gordon Elliot’s superstar have said that they have a figure in mind for the horse and, if he is given more, they will not run him at Aintree in April.
The handicapper’s role is to be objective and fair to connections of all the entries for the greatest horse race in the world and not to pander to Michael O’Leary the owner of Ryanair and Tiger Roll. I appreciate the race would lack some of its lustre if Tiger Roll did not face the starter, but O’Leary cannot hold the sport to ransom.
No turf racing in Britain but Sunday’s postponed Punchestown card has been rescheduled for today and in the opener, I hope to see the talented but enigmatic Yanworth (1.20) return to winning ways having come down at Cheltenham in their Cross-Country Chase back in December.
The selection has never been the most consistent of animals, but he jumped well when scoring over today’s bank course back in November and Enda Bolger is likely to return to Cheltenham with the 10-year-old if he comes through today’s test unscathed. Stablemate Josies Orders is a standing dish in these events and is still only ten, but a bigger danger is likely to come from Neverushacon who is 8lbs better off with the selection for the 2L he was behind Yanworth earlier in the campaign.
The form of Francin’s (2.25) third at Leopardstown over Christmas has been franked by the subsequent exploits of winner Cobbler’s Way and runner up Sempo and the hope is that the Willie Mullins-trained French bred can break his maiden tag over timber.
Joseph O’Brien drops back last season’s Cheltenham Festival winner Early Doors to the minimum trip, and he did win a Grade 3 over timber at this trip earlier in his career. It will be fascinating to see if the market speaks in his favour, but preference is for Zero Ten (3.30).
The selection jumped out to his right when beaten 12L by Cash Back at Naas last time, but the winner was beaten less than a length in the Irish Arkle last time and today’s right-handed track will clearly suit the Emmet Mullins-trained seven-year-old.
In the opener at Newcastle I hope to see Le Musee (4.20) follow up his recent Southwell win from a 4lbs higher mark. Tom Frankel takes over in the saddle today and the seven-year-old makes the long journey north from the Devon base of Anthony Honeyball.
Blow Your Horn (7.20) ran a race full of promise when second here over a mile on debut and I will be disappointed if he doesn’t go one better this evening for Charlie Fellowes. The colt was a bit keen on his first start and I hope he is more amenable to restraint with that experience under his belt. Charlie Appleby’s Discovery Island is rated 88 and is obviously the one to beat on official figures, but he makes his all-weather debut this afternoon and is returning from a four-month break.
At Chelmsford I’m looking forward to the handicap debut of Prince Of Eagles (3.15) who won a modest mile maiden at Lingfield last time but finished his race well and gave every impression he would appreciate a step up in trip now handicapping. The selection has only had three career starts and his opening mark of 77 looks workable.
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