Pick Of The Grand National Weights

It's no secret that horses who have to carry top weight for the Grand National don't always do particularly well in the event, no matter how good they are. In fact, only three horses, from the last 10 Nationals, won carrying more than 11-01. They were Many Clouds (11-09) in 2015, Neptune Collonges (11-06) in 2012 and Don't Push It (11-05) in 2010.

The average weight of a winning Grand National runner over the last ten renewals is actually 10-05 so a few pounds on either side of that is generally considered to be the sweet spot when the weights are revealed. So with this in mind it's very easy to see why Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is very happy that his main prospect, Vicente, has only been given 10-05. That is a full 12lbs less than the weight he carried when he won the Scottish National last April. He may only be eight years old but he has stamina in bucket loads and may just bag Nicholls his second Grand National title.

But it was Gordon Elliott who grabbed the headlines at the weights ceremony on Tuesday. No sooner was his charge, Outlander, given the dubious honour of top weighted, when Elliott advised he wouldn't be running in it anyway.

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Elliott said: “It's nice to have a few runners in the race and we will see what happens. I'm probably a little bit disappointed that a few of the top weights are carrying 2lb more in England than they would in Ireland.

“Outlander won't be running. Empire Of Dirt will run in the Gold Cup and we will see what happens after that.

“Don Poli definitely runs. He is in good nick at the moment and he's got solid Grade One form.

“We are planning to run him in the Gold Cup, then the Grand National.”

Not even 48 hours have passed since Elliott's summary of the weights and already all three are now looking doubtful. Eddie O'Leary, racing manager to Gigginstown, says Empire Of Dirt also won't run and Don Poli is “doubtful”.

Despite owning the 2016 winner, Rule The World, Gigginstown connections are clearly not happy with the way their horses have been handicapped.

O'Leary said “He (the handicapper) wants to compress the weights so better horses get more of a chance, and that's fair enough. Yet our three top horses got 2lb more from a guy who wants to compress the weights.

“A handicapper is meant to be impartial. What I'd call the National now is a pre-Brexit, post-Brexit handicap.”

While he may not have been able to make everybody happy, BHA Handicapper Phil Smith, did give James Moffatt's Highland Lodge a good boost. The 2015 Becher Chase winner narrowly missed out in 2016 but is back this year on a better rating, thanks to his consistency as well as his second place finish in the 2016 Becher Chase.

Moffatt said: “I’m very pleased. Obviously, it’s an opportunity for us now and I’m looking forward to it. He’s in great form and this season has just been about two races – the Becher and the National.

“He had a good summer out at grass. I genuinely think he’s a stronger, better horse.

“He looks great and we’re just building towards the National.

“We’re pretty confident and we dare to dream. I have respect for all the other horses, of course I do, but I don’t fear any of them.”

The Last Samuri, who was runner-up last year, saw his weight go up which is no great surprise. He'll run off 11lbs more than in 2016 and even then, with Outlander all but withdrawn, that weight looks set to increase further.

Kim Bailey accepted the weight but added: “He’s only a small horse, so it won’t be easy for him.”

Picture by: David Davies PA Archive/PA Images