- As we draw ever nearer to the 2021 Aintree Grand National, the field will whittle down to a maximum of 40 Grand National runners (plus 4 reserves). The back-to-back winner in 2018 and 2019, Tiger Roll, has been removed from the upcoming Grand National 2021 race due to “unfair weight” allocation.
- Tiger Roll, ridden by Davy Russell, won the 2019 Grand National at Aintree for the second successive year. Magic Of Light (66-1) finished almost three lengths behind in second, Ruby Walsh finished.
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Randox Grand National favourite Cloth Cap warms up for next month’s Aintree spectacular in the bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso on Saturday.
A small but select field of six runners line up for the £45,000 contest, with the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Cloth Cap making his first competitive appearance since landing the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.
The nine-year-old is the 14-1 market leader to provide owner Trevor Hemmings with a fourth Grand National success on April 10, following the previous triumphs of Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).
O’Neill said: “He’s in grand form and it looks like the ground is drying out for him.
Watch a full replay of Cloth Cap's thrilling Ladbrokes Trophy success
“He’s not chucked in the race – he’s not well-in (at the weights). We’re going there for the ground more than anything else.
“He has his little issues, but he’s fine at the minute and everything is going according to plan.”
Tom Scudamore, who steered Cloth Cap to big-race success at Newbury, is once again on board with a view to keeping the ride at Aintree.
“I hope that’s what will happen, as long as everything goes according to plan,” O’Neill added.
“I don’t want to ride him, anyway. I don’t think I’d do the weight, so he (Scudamore) won’t have a lot of competition!
“We’ve only got one plan in mind, which we’ve had for the last two years.”
Kelso will feature among some superb action on Racing TV on Saturday
The Hemmings colours are also set to be carried this weekend and at Aintree by Nick Alexander’s stable star Lake View Lad.
The grey beat Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders Santini and Native River when landing the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December, but finished a long way behind that pair in the rescheduled Cotswold Chase at Sandown on his latest outing.
“It’s a proper race and I’m pleased it’s a really good race. Kelso have put on some great prize-money and it looks like the number one meeting on the day,” said Alexander.
“It’s a slight step down in grade for Lake View Lad – this is more his grade than the Cotswolds Chase was, so hopefully he can run well.
“This has always been the plan. Sun bingo no deposit bonus. It’s a nice prize and a nice race.
“He’s not particularly well in at the weights – if everyone performs to their mark he’s going to be third or fourth, but hopefully he’ll run very well before heading back to Aintree.”
Last year’s winner Definitly Red is back to defend his crown for Brian Ellison, but does have something to prove, after finishing well-beaten in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby before falling in the Rehearsal at Newcastle.
Ellison said: “This his prep run for the National, hopefully. Everything has been fine since the Rehearsal. He went to Wetherby last week for a hack round and we’ve just been waiting for this race. He’s in good fettle.”
Two For Gold (Kim Bailey), Aso (Venetia Williams) and Cool Mix (Iain Jardine) complete the sextet.
The Shunter seeks Morebattle riches
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With a total prize fund of £75,000 up for grabs, the most valuable race on the card is the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle.
The likely favourite is Emmet Mullins’ Irish raider The Shunter – winner of the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, before reverting to fences to finish third in a handicap chase at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival.
The home team includes Skelton’s Faivoir, who switches back to handicap company following a Grade Two novice win at Haydock.
Skelton said: “He won the graded race for us last time and is quite a progressive horse. I think a fast-run race will suit him and this is the next step up the ladder.
“He’s running off 143, which is a high mark for a novice, but I’m very happy with him and we’ll see how we get on.”
McCain is hopeful the application of blinkers can help Blakeney Point bounce back from a slightly underwhelming effort at Musselburgh, saying: “It just didn’t quite work out for him the last day – he got a little bit lost early on.
“We’re putting a pair of blinkers on to sharpen him up and he’s got a good weight, so hopefully he’s got a squeak of sorts.”
Ann Hamilton’s Tommy’s Oscar and the Nicholls-trained pair of Christopher Wood and Solo are others to consider in a fiercely-competitive affair.
Nicholls said: “Christopher Wood is up 7lb to a mark of 150 after his latest success at Musselburgh, so Angus Cheleda’s 7lb claim is obviously a big help.
“The first two were a long way clear of the rest that day and I’m hopeful that Christopher Wood can again be bang there at the finish in a strong field of runners.
“Solo made a big impression on his debut in this country a year ago in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton, but the horses he beat that day have hardly advertised the form.
“Solo has not found life easy racing off a stiff handicap mark this season, but it has dropped to a more realistic level now and he has started to come together in his work over the past couple of weeks and is showing us the right signs.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see him run well at a nice price.”
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My Drogo heads classy field
🗣 They are running really well.'@PFNicholls has his team in fine form & looks ahead to @KelsoRacecourse's most valuable raceday tomorrow in which the Ditcheat maestro will run the likes of Eritage, Solo and Lucky One pic.twitter.com/3su8gyGJod— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 5, 2021
My Drogo heads a high-class field for the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle.
The £40,000 contest forms part of a quality card in the Borders, with the huge prize-money on offer in the three feature events in particular tempting the likes of Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls to send runners on the long journey north.
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My Drogo must concede weight to each of his six rivals, having already won at Grade Two level on his latest outing in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial at Ascot in December.
Nevertheless, Skelton is anticipating a big run in Saturday’s two-and-a-quarter-mile contest.
He said: “We’ve had this race in mind for some time for My Drogo. Obviously he carries the penalty, but I think the trip will be perfect for him and there are no real excuses.
“I’m very happy with him. We decided it was the best thing for him to miss Cheltenham this year and he might go here and then Aintree, but we’re taking it one race at a time.”
Irish point-to-point recruit Bareback Jack is stepped up in grade by Donald McCain in the same race, following a hat-trick of novice wins at a lower level.
“It’s a good race. Credit to Kelso – they’ve put the money on and they’ve got the horses,” said the Bankhouse handler. “Bareback Jack is a smart horse, we think a lot of him. Obviously it’s a step up, so we’ll see where we are.”
The Nicholls-trained Lucky One and Any News from Neil Mulholland’s yard also feature.
Nicholls told Betfair: “He has kept improving as he learns to settle better in his races, which is key to his performance and the form of his latest win at Wincanton is red hot, with the horse he beat 20 lengths hacking up earlier this week.
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“He is very much going the right way and deserves to take his chance in this better race.”