Grand National 2020: the Timeform view on the weights
Much of the build up to Tuesday’s Grand National weights reveal had been dominated by comments from Gigginstown supremo Michael O’Leary, and the operation’s racing manager Eddie O’Leary, who had said dual winner Tiger Roll was not a certain runner unless his mark of 172 was reduced.
Tiger Roll has been dropped 2 lb, but he still heads the weights alongside Gordon Elliott-trained stablemate Delta Work. This means that if Tiger Roll is to become the first horse to win three successive Grand Nationals he must defy top weight – last achieved by Red Rum, the only other three-time winner – and a mark 11 lb higher than last year.
Reacting to the weights, Timeform’s Jumps Editor Dan Barber said: “All the talk on this day every year – and, indeed, for several weeks before in the form of the traditional Gigginstown v BHA sparring match – centres around hair-splitting of who has been let in lightly and who has been hard done by.
“In truth, it’s only after the weights have been announced that contenders really have the scope to push themselves towards the ‘thrown-in’ bracket, as subsequent improvement, however vast, cannot be factored in between the release of the weights and the race itself.
“This leads on smoothly to arguably the most salient point as regards Tiger Roll, the dual winner whose participation or otherwise has been the only story in town in the lead up to the reveal of the weights.
“Tiger Roll, and other Aintree naturals before him, force a departure from the usual Timeform conventions of ‘chance at the weights’. What Tiger Roll has shown is a rare effectiveness on the course that can’t be reflected in pounds, and the fact he widened his winning margin from his first success to his second – despite a mark some 9 lb higher – goes a long way to confirming that view.
“Yes, others will emerge between now and then, but it’s hard to picture any scenario that doesn’t see Tiger Roll sent off a worthy favourite – provided Eddie and Michael deign to ‘cross the road’ one more time.”
Timeform’s Chase Handicapper Phil Turner said: “Tiger Roll will face a much stiffer task at the weights this time around, but that goes with the territory of being an outstanding Grand National performer. Red Rum, for example, had to shoulder top weight of 12 stone when bidding for his third consecutive National win in 1975, when he had to carry 1 lb more than former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner The Dikler (who was placed in another three Gold Cups!) and 13 lb more than dual Champion Chase winner Royal Relief.
“Admittedly, the concession of 11 lb to two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner L’Escargot proved too much in the end for Red Rum, who had to settle for second in that 1975 renewal and filled the same spot again twelve months later. He successfully defied top weight for his record-breaking third win in 1977, though, when he’d been allotted 9 lb more than that season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Davy Lad.
“Native River is a much higher-quality Gold Cup winner than Davy Lad and has long appealed as the sort who’d relish the test at Aintree, so he looks the clear pick at the weights at present for the 2020 edition. Definitly Red and The Storyteller are other classy performers who look well handicapped on their best form and make appeal at even bigger odds. That said, Tiger Roll’s exceptional record over National and cross-country fences is hard to ignore and he remains a far more attractive betting proposition than most of the others currently above him in the ratings.”
Four well-handicapped horses to note
Native River (weight-adjusted rating 185)
The 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River endured a winless campaign last season but he has looked as good as ever this term, putting up a dominant success on his return at Aintree – where he was seemingly sharpened up by the application of blinkers – before making the most of a good opportunity to win a third Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday. He is still capable of producing top-class form, has already won ultra-competitive handicaps off high marks and, with his key assets being boundless stamina and bold jumping, he looks tailor-made for the Grand National.
Native River stays on brilliantly to claim a third victory in the (Grade 2) Betfair Denman Chase at @NewburyRacing! 👏— Timeform (@Timeform) February 8, 2020
Is he your fancy for the Gold Cup next month? 🏆🏇
Definitly Red (183)
Definitly Red looked the pick of the weights when tackling the National in 2017 but was put out of the race early on through no fault of his own after he was badly hampered at Becher’s Brook and his rider’s saddle slipped. He was by no means disgraced on his only subsequent start over the National fences in the Becher Chase in December, avoiding mistakes and rallying well from the last to finish fourth. He built on that when runner-up in the Peter Marsh Chase, producing his best effort of the campaign, and, while there’s a chance he’s not quite the force of old, he evidently retains plenty of ability and the National appeals as a suitable target.
Lake View Lad (183)
Lake View Lad was pulled up in the National last season but a line can be put through that effort as he was immediately put on the back foot by the standing start. He has yet to score this season but has had a light campaign, including a start over hurdles last time, which suggests the National may have been on the mind of connections all along. He is unexposed over marathon trips but looked a strong stayer when an excellent third in the Ultima last season, and it is well worth having another crack at the National.
Death Duty (182+)
Death Duty has plenty to prove as he made no impact on his return from a two-year layoff in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park last month, but he was an exciting, Grade 1-winning novice chaser in 2017/18 and has been allotted a fair handicap mark if all his ability remains intact. He also has stamina to prove but could be an interesting wildcard, particularly if showing some zest prior to the National (he is entered at Gowran Park on Saturday and has multiple options at the Cheltenham Festival).
Timeform weight-adjusted ratings:
185 NATIVE RIVER
183 DEFINITLY RED
LAKE VIEW LAD
182+ DEATH DUTY
182 ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS
RAMSES DE TEILLEE
WALK IN THE MILL
180+ ONE FOR ARTHUR
179 BURROWS SAINT
TOP VILLE BEN
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