On His Own set for third tilt at blue-ribbon event
Veteran Tidal Bay awarded top weight of 11st 10lbs but trainer happy with rating
Trainer Willie Mullins: a Grand National winner in 2005 with Hedgehunter. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA.
On His Own is among the ante-post market leaders to make it third time lucky in April’s Crabbie’s Aintree Grand National as Irish trainers pursue a first win since 2007 in the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Last month’s Thyestes winner is one of eight National entries by champion trainer Willie Mullins, a National winner in 2005 with Hedgehunter. That was one of six Irish victories in nine years between 1999 and 2007 but it has been a blank since Silver Birch won out seven years ago.
On His Own has fallen in the last two Nationals and after the horse was given 11st 3lbs at yesterday’s weights announcement owner Graham Wylie said: “He needs a bit of luck in running this time as he’s been there twice and fallen twice when going well.”
But the principal focus on a Wylie horse came when his veteran star Tidal Bay was handed top weight of 11st 10lbs, a mark 7lbs lower than his official handicap mark.
Trainer Paul Nicholls was delighted with the rating. “Phil Smith [handicapper] has given him a realistic chance off 161, 7lbs lower than his current mark. He’s getting on a bit as a 13-year-old . . . but he wasn’t far off his best when a close third off 163 in the Welsh National. I was more than satisfied with his second in the Hennessy. given the race didn’t play to his strengths. In fact that was an awesome run for a 13-year-old in a Grade One.”
One Irish trainer a lot less happy with the allotted weights is Tom Gibney whose former Irish Grand National winner Lion Na Bearnai has been given 10st 10lbs.
“I can’t believe that. It’s good in a sense that we’ll probably get a run, but that’s more than last year. I don’t know where they got that weight from, but there’s nothing we can do about that,” he said. “The plan all along was the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse in two weeks’ time and then Liverpool. So that’s what we’ll probably do.”
One Irish trainer happy with the handicap is Peter Maher who is pondering whether or not to target the National after his Cheltenham cross-country winner Big Shu was given 10st 8lbs.
Teaforthree dropped 5lbs
“That’s a great weight. If he’d given me 11st I wasn’t going to go. It’s now tempting to go back to Cheltenham. He’s definitely a dark horse for the National
,” said Maher. “Five National winners were bred on my grandfather’s farm so we’re no strangers to Liverpool!”
Teaforthree, third last year, has been dropped 5lbs to 10st 12lbs. “I think that’s a lovely weight . . . You’d have to be hopeful,” said trainer Rebecca Curtis. “I do want to get two runs into him before Aintree. So he’ll probably run at Ascot on Saturday and then in something at Cheltenham.”
Teaforthree was among seven initial 20 to 1 co-favourites with Paddy Power after the weights disclosure. As well as On His Own, the other Irish hope among the market leaders was Colbert Station. Paddy Power goes 6 to 4 about an Irish-trained winner this year.