November 18, 2018, 6:26

Definitly Red handed top weight in Grand National

Definitly Red handed top weight in Grand National

Nigel Twiston-Davies compared Blaklion to Red Rum after he was allotted 11st 6lb for the Randox Health Grand National on April 14.

The 2016 RSA Chase hero was the market leader for last year’s renewal of the Aintree spectacular and was far from disgraced in finishing fourth behind One For Arthur when carrying 11st 1lb.

Blaklion has taken his game to another level this season, filling the runner-up spot behind stablemate Bristol De Mai in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby before dominating his rivals in the Becher Chase over the National fences in December, and he is the clear 10-1 favourite to provide trainer Twiston-Davies with a third National success following the victories of Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002).

Twiston-Davies said: “We’ve got the Becher Chase in the bag and races in the bag are better than prayers. We could get struck by lightning next week!

“He will be ridden differently at Aintree this year. He was beaten eight lengths last year and there was no blame on Noel (Fehily) at all, but he kicked on a mile from home. Maybe if you don’t kick on a mile from home that eight lengths could be found.

“I did a bit of research ages ago and Red Rum used to win with 12st. I don’t know if I’m being a bit silly, but he reminds me a bit of Red Rum. He is small and very neat over his fences and after watching him jump round there twice, he doesn’t seem to make a mistake.”

The Naunton-based trainer is hoping Blaklion can enhance his Aintree claims in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday.

The nine-year-old holds an entry in next month’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, but is unlikely to head to Prestbury Park.

“He is flying and he is running on Saturday,” Twiston-Davies continued.

“I am very tempted by the Gold Cup, but we probably won’t go.

“Nothing is ruled out, but we will probably go for the National after Saturday.”

Blaklion is one of six National entries for Twiston-Davies, but Bristol De Mai, who is second in the weights on 11st 9lb behind the Brian Ellison-trained top-weight Definitly Red on 11st 10lb, will not be lining up.

“He’ll go for the Betway Bowl (Aintree, April 12),” Twiston-Davies confirmed.

A 40-strong Irish representation is headed by the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall, who has been allotted 11st 1lb.

The nine-year-old has won the Munster National at Limerick, the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and a hurdle race at Leopardstown since joining Mullins from the now-retired Sandra Hughes.

Mullins trained Hedgehunter to claim a popular National success in 2005 and has 10 entries in total this time around.

Speaking at a special ceremony to unveil the weights at BAFTA in London’s West End on Tuesday evening, Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “We are very happy with Total Recall. With over 11st it will be hard, but he has got that kind of an improving profile that makes him very interesting.

“He looks like a fantastic jumper, he handles big handicaps and he should stay.

“He is entered in the Gold Cup, but the form of his Ladbrokes Trophy win over Whisper probably puts him a good bit off that.

“The Bobbyjo Chase (at Fairyhouse) has been a lucky race for Grand National winners prepping (for Aintree) and they are two possibilities.”

The £1million Grand National is the only handicap of the year when the British Horseracing Authority’s heading of handicapping, Phil Smith, has absolute discretion to deviate from normal handicap ratings when determining the weights.

Smith has framed the weights for the world’s most famous steeplechase every year since 1999, but this will be his 20th and final year in the role.

He said: “This is my 20th and final year of handicapping the Randox Health Grand National.

“It is a task that has got easier in some respects and harder in others. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time – it has been both a privilege and a pleasure to frame the weights for the great race.

“This year, 73 per cent of horses are in the handicap, compared to 67 per cent in 2017.

“In terms of getting a run on April 14, I would say you have a reasonable chance if you are in the top 70, which is down to 10st 2lb.”


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