Alvarado Pins National Hopes On Handicapper

Historically if your horse is within the first 75 when the weights are announced by the BHA Handicapper, you have a pretty good shot at making the line-up for the Grand National.

This is largely in part to horses getting multiple race entries, such as at both Aintree and Cheltenham, and connections opting for the latter and bypassing the Grand National Festival.

Horses get entered but subsequently get injured, they also get withdrawn if the weight they are allocated is deemed to high for them to take the chance over such a long distance and for some, much closer to the day, the ground doesn't go their way and trainers opt for alternative races such as the Scottish Grand National which takes place a couple of weeks later.

For those reasons, and probably a few more, the number of horses originally entered into the National gets whittled down and as those at the top half of the list are taken out those on the lower weights get moved up the pecking order and closer to the final forty that will compete on the day.

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In 2013 84 horses got an entry. Viking Blond was at number 76 when the weights came out having been allocated 9-07. He ultimately made it into the top 40, was bumped up to 10-00, the minimum you can run off in the Grand National. Likewise in 2014 when 115 were entered and Swing Bill was given 10-01 and found himself in spot number 79. He too ultimately made the cut.

In 2015 the number of entries dropped slightly to 98 of which Royale Knight was at number 68 after the weights were announced. A higher calibre of entries meant the Official Rating of the runners had also gone up and now 138 was the lowest OR of the forty National runners – up from 131 in 2013.

In 2016 things changed again. With some spectacular entries such as Don Poli, Many Clouds, Silviniaco Conti and Valseur Lido all potentially in the running and a bumper crop of entries at 126, many assumed it would be par for the course when it came to defections and that those who found themselves somewhere in the middle of the table would still have a decent shot of making the final cut. However, fewer than expected were withdrawn, only 19 in total which meant that the Romford Pele was the last to book his place on a staggering official rating of 145.

So now it's 2017 and the likes of Alvarado find themselves in very precarious positions when it comes to this year's renewal of the Grand National. A runner that finished fourth in both the 2014 and 2015 runnings, he missed the cut in 2016. Clearly a horse still in his prime he went to the Scottish Grand National where he finished in second place behind Vincente.

His problem this season is that he is currently running off a handicap of around 135 and based on last year, this is not high enough to secure him a place. His opportunity to be viewed more favourably by the BHA Handicapper suffered a set back when he fell in the Becher Chase back in December and his chance to boost his credentials, before the weights are revealed next Tuesday, didn't go to plan when he could only manage 6th place at Musselburgh in the bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase last Saturday.

Trainer Fergal O'Brien remains optimistic though saying: “His handicap mark is not something we worry about and if he misses out hopefully he can go one better in the Scottish National.”

It would be great to see Alvarado back around the National course and maybe if the declaration stages go his way we might just see him there again on April 8th. For now though his best chance is with the Handicapper.