The Grade One-winning Bristol De Mai will be the top weight for the 2019 Randox Health Grand National carrying 11st 10Ib, it was revealed today (12 February).
Bristol De Mai, who is owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, is one of nine entries for dual National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies in the Aintree feature race on 6 April. The eight-year-old grey gelding gained his second Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November, when he beat Gold Cup hero Native River by four lengths.
Nigel’s big Aintree successes came courtesy of Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree in 2002. The Gloucestershire-based handler also has hopefuls in Go Conquer (10st 13lb) and Blaklion (10st 12lb) among his nine 2019 entries.
The 2018 victor Tiger Roll, who is trained by Gordon Elliott, has been given 11st 1lb. He will bid to become the first dual winner of the race since the legendary Red Rum.
Tiger Roll is the 20/1 joint-favourite alongside Colin Tizzard’s Welsh Grand National winner Elegant Escape (11st 4lb).
Gordon — also successful with Silver Birch in 2007 — accounts for 22 of the record 47 Irish-trained entries. His team of 2019 National runners include Cheltenham Festival winner The Storyteller (11st 3lb) and General Principle (10st), winner of the 2018 Irish Grand National.
“It was fairly straightforward to do the weights,” said British Horseracing Authority handicapper Martin Greenwood, who framed the weights for the first time this year. “I tried to treat it like any other race, while bearing in mind there has to be some digression when needed.
“Bristol De Mai heads the weights and his rating has been compressed by 5lb, as I thought it was better to have a horse at the top of the handicap whose rating was slightly out of kilter.
“Tiger Roll is up 9lb from his mark for last year’s Grand National and Pleasant Company [is up] 7lb. I have them both on the same mark for what they were rated after last year’s Grand National. Tiger Roll confirmed that rating in the Cross-Country Handicap at Cheltenham in November. Pleasant Company has been a bit disappointing in a few runs since, but I think the Aintree fences will bring out the best in him, so that is why I left him on that mark,” he added.
“I think there are several interesting runners like Vintage Clouds and Elegant Escape. The latter is towards the top of the betting, he is an improving horse and was a good second to Frodon at Cheltenham last time out — so you can see why he is one of the more fancied horses.”
Swot up on your Grand National knowledge ahead of the big race on Saturday with our guide to interesting facts
The 2017 winner One For Arthur, who is trained by Lucinda Russell, was unable to defend his crown last year due to injury, but will return with an allotted weight of 10st 10lb.
No mare has won the Grand National since Nickel Coin in 1951. The four female contenders for 2019 are Shattered Love (Gordon Elliott, 10st 10lb), a dual Grade One-winning novice over fences last season, National Hunt Chase runner-up Ms Parfois (Anthony Honeyball, 10st 2lb), Magic Of Light (Jessica Harrington, 10st 7lb) and Baie Des Iles (Ross O’Sullivan, 9st 12lb).
With a prize-fund of £1million, the Grand National is the most valuable jump race across the globe, over 4m2f and 30 fences, and will take place at 5.15pm on Saturday, 6 April.
“The countdown to the 172nd running of the world’s greatest and most valuable chase begins in earnest today, with the unveiling of the weights,” said John Baker, Aintree’s managing director.
“Our thanks go to Martin Greenwood for framing the weights for the first time in 2019. The entries look very strong, with a record Irish-trained presence, and we look all set for an outstanding race.”