Gordon Elliott, Ireland’s leading jumps trainer this season, dominated the weights for the Randox Health Grand National revealed on Tuesday night with a sensational 11 of the top 40 in the running for the Aintree spectacular.
However, he was quick to rule Outlander, top weight for the race with a BHA rating of 166, out of the contest. The nine-year-old, who is being aimed at the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, is one of three chasers in the top four of the weights trained by Elliott and owned, like last year’s winner Rule The World, by Gigginstown House Stud. Elliott, who won the race with Silver Birch in 2007, is also responsible for Empire Of Dirt and Don Poli on 11 stone 8 pounds and 11 stone 7 pounds.
Champagne West, impressive winner of the Thyestes Chase last time, has been allotted 11 stone 9 pounds and Carlingford Lough is on 11 stone 6 pounds in an all-Irish domination of the first five slots in the field for the April 8 prize.
Ante-post favourite The Last Samuri, the Kim Bailey-trained runner-up of 12 months ago, is next with 11 stone 5 pounds, having carried 10 stone 8 pounds last year. The 14-year-old Vics Canvas, third last year, is 1 pound lower on 10 stone 5 pounds.
The Grand National is the only handicap of the year for which the weights can deviate from normal handicap ratings. They were unveiled on Tuesday night at a ceremony held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
BHA head of handicapping Phil Smith has total discretion and the final word on the weight allocated to each horse. Although there is no contender of the level of former National winner Many Clouds, rated 172 at the time of his death, Smith said the overall depth of the field is at a record high.
Smith, who has handicapped the field every year since 1999, said the outcome of Sunday’s Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, in which Empire Of Dirt, Don Poli and Carlingford Lough were second, third and fourth, had a significant bearing on the look of the top of the handicap. He has rated Outlander, who beat Don Poli on his last start, on 166.