Tidal Bay tops National weights but Irish dominate betting
Irish-trained horses have a stranglehold at the top of the John Smith’s Aintree Grand National betting after yesterday’s weights announcement, with Ruby Walsh facing a potential embarrassment of riches as he pursues a third victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Tidal Bay, on who Walsh secured a memorable Lexus Chase victory over Christmas, tops the weights for Liverpool on 11st 10lb but it is the Willie Mullins-trained pair of On His Own and Prince Du Beauchene who share 14 to 1 ante-post favouritism for the big race in April, alongside last year’s third Seabass, trained by Ted Walsh.
The Mullins horses are part of a seven-strong entry by Ireland’s champion trainer, the most by any handler, while Ted Walsh also has a live contender in Colbert Station, winner of the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas.
Both Mullins (Hedgehunter in 2005) and Walsh (Papillon 2000) have won the National before during a 14-year period that has been among the most successful in National history for Irish racing with six winners in total. Paddy Power rates the chances of an Irish winner this April at 6 to 4.
“There is a particularly strong entry from Ireland that could enhance that record,” the Jockey Club spokesman, John Baker, admitted yesterday.
Inevitably there were some happier than others with the weights assigned by the BHA handicapper Phil Smith who has framed an eighty three-strong entry including a massive 31 potential Irish hopefuls in total.
They include the 2011 runner-up Oscar Time (10 to 7) whose trainer Martin Lynch pointed to Tidal Bay as a big threat to all despite carrying topweight.
“Tidal Bay looks to very well handicapped to me,” Lynch said, a common theme, on the back of Smith’s decision to use his discretion and place the topweight on an effective mark of 162 compared to his official BHA rating of 171.
No topweight has won the National since the legendary Red Rum in 1974 but bookmakers are taking no chances with Tidal Bay emulating his former stable companion Neptune Collonges last year and winning for Paul Nicholls.
“The handicapper has certainly given Tidal Bay every chance,” Nicholls said. “Aintree is the number one priority for him. If it means foregoing running in the World Hurdle to have him at his peak for Aintree, then so be it.”
Ted Walsh expressed some bemusement at the comparative rating of Tidal Bay and Seabass (11 to 2) who ran a memorable third last year but is now likely to carry 3lb more.
“I don’t know how Seabass can get over 11st this year if Tidal Bay is rated 171 and my horse is rated 154,” he said.
“Whatever Phil Smith does, he does – it is immaterial to me and I can’t change it. You don’t have to be a great mathematician to subtract 54 from 71.”
Fairyhouse’s Bobbyjo Chase later this month, named after Tommy Carberry’s 1999 National winner, is a possible prep option for Seabass and for many of the other Irish hopefuls.
Prince De Beauchene (11 to 3) was an impressive winner of the Bobbyjo last year but missed out on a run at Liverpool due to a setback.
He returned to action this season with a win over hurdles at Limerick.