Grand National set to return behind closed doors

March 22, 2021

The Aintree Grand National will be run on Saturday 10th April but without spectators due to the pandemic. Last year’s meeting was the first high profile meeting to be lost to British racing in 2020. With it went dreams of a record-equalling third Grand National victory for Tiger Roll who had been successful in 2018 and 2019.

The Irish-trained gelding had been seeking to join the legendary Red Rum, the only horse in history to win the race three times. Those plans were shelved but Tiger Roll was kept in training for this year’s race. A combination of lack-lustre performances and a big weight have convinced connections to withdraw the eleven-year-old at the latest declaration stage.

Cloth Cap hot favourite for 2021 Grand National

Despite the absence of Tiger Roll, there is still a very strong entry for this year’s Grand National which is worth £375,000 to the winner. Favourite in the Grand National betting is Cloth Cap, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by Tom Scudamore. The horse is owned by Trevor Hemmings, already successful in the race with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).

Cloth Cap won the valuable Ladbrokes Trophy by 10 lengths at Newbury in November and followed up in a listed race at Kelso in March. He has improved so rapidly this season that the handicapper would re-assess him on a 14lbs higher mark if he had the chance to re-frame the Grand National weights.

Burrows Saint popular in Grand National Betting

Another horse certain to attract plenty of support is Burrows Saint, trained by Willie Mullins and the likely mount of Paul Townend. He won the Irish Grand National in 2019 and was fancied last year before the pandemic intervened. Mullins has trained him to be at his peak for Aintree this year and he ran an encouraging race behind Acapella Bourgeois at Fairyhouse in February.

Ted Walsh trained Papillon to win the 2000 Grand National with son Ruby in the saddle. He also went close with Seabass, third under daughter Katie in 2012. He has another live contender this year in Any Second Now, currently second favourite in the Grand National odds. He won at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and returned to his best when winning at Navan in March.

Magic Of Light bids to go one better at Aintree

One horse with proven form over the notorious Aintree fences is Jessica Harrington’s Magic Of Light, runner-up to Tiger Roll in 2019. History would appear to be against her as the last mare to win the race was Nickel Coin back in 1951. She belied her odds of 66-1 to get within two and three-quarter lengths of Tiger Roll two years’ ago and has maintained her form well since.

Other notable entries include Welsh Grand National winners Potters Corner (2019) and Secret Reprieve (2020) and the exciting French steeplechaser Easysland. The latter beat Tiger Roll by 17 lengths at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and has been allotted top weight at Aintree with 11st 10lbs.

Henderson continues quest for Grand National glory

The Grand National is one of the few top races to elude Trainer Nicky Henderson. His entries this year include 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Santini. Jockey Richard Johnson has ridden in the race 21 times without success, going closest when second on What’s Up Boys in 2002. That won’t deter the four-times champion jockey. His old rival Tony McCoy was beaten fourteen times in the Grand National before tasting victory aboard Don’t Push It in 2010.

The Grand National remains the most popular horse race in the UK as well as attracting a huge TV audience worldwide. The course has undergone significant safety improvements in recent years, without detracting from the thrilling spectacle of forty runners and riders tackling the Aintree fences. With Britain gradually easing out of Lockdown, the return of the world’s greatest steeplechase will provide racing fans with a timely boost ahead of the big summer festivals.

By Harvey Mayson

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