By Craig Kemp
1st February 2019
Much of the talk has been about Ireland following the announcement that 112 horses are in the hunt to contest the 2019 Grand National.
A record 47 Irish-trained horses are positioned on the entry list, with 22 of these hailing from the yard of Gordon Elliott, including last year’s winner and current 20/1 ante-post favourite Tiger Roll.
However, it’s the appearance of British representative Bristol De Mai that may be the most significant.
The next noteworthy date in the Grand National process is the unveiling of the weights on Tuesday 12th February and based on current official ratings, it’s Nigel Twiston-Davies’ eight-year-old that will sit top of the pile.
Bristol De Mai and his lofty official rating
Assuming that none of the entrants will run and see their marks hiked or dropped in the next fortnight, Bristol De Mai is top rated on 173. This means he’ll run at Aintree off 11st 10lbs.
Next is fellow Twiston-Davies inmate and this year’s Welsh Grand National victor Elegant Escape, whose current rating is 162.
If Bristol De Mai pulls out at the first scratching stage on Tuesday 26th February, Elegant Escape would be promoted to top weight of 11st 10lb.
However, if both remain in the field, the seven-year-old could compete at a much more desired 10st 13lbs, dependent on the handicapper’s discretion in the one race of the year in which he is allowed to take some poetic licence with some entrants’ weights to make things more competitive.
Given that the Aintree marathon is run over 4m2f and requires the jumping of 30 fences, it makes logical sense that a lighter burden is beneficial. After all, five of the last six Grand National winners, including all of the last three, carried less than 11st to victory.
What’s more, if Bristol De Mai runs, a rating of around 149 would be required for a horse to stay in the handicap and carry the Grand National minimum weight of 10st.
Any horse lining up at Aintree weighted 148 or less would instantly have a weaker chance as they would be considered ‘out of the handicap’, meaning they would have to carry more weight than their official rating should indicate.
This would also place extra demand on the smaller and lighter jockeys, as not all riders have the capability of cutting weight to 10st.
Step Back (147), Vintage Clouds (144) and General Principle (143) are among those prominent in the Grand National betting at 25/1 currently at risk of running from out of the handicap.