With the weights revealed today for the 2023 Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, 15 April 2023, connections have been giving their reaction to the weights.
Trainer Emmet Mullins admitted he “can’t complain” after the handicapper gave last year’s winner Noble Yeats a 19lbs higher rating this year.
At 11st 11lbs only three horses – Any Second Now, Conflated and Hewick on 11st 12lbs – will have more on their backs, but Mullins remains optimistic his stable star can create more history on April 15th.
Noble Yeats was a shock 50-1 winner in 2022, handing jockey Sam Waley-Cohen a fairytale victory on his final career ride and becoming the first seven year old to succeed since Bogskar in 1940. A year later and with a new rider on board the eight year old bids to become only the second horse in history – after Golden Miller in 1934 – to win the prestigious Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup and Randox Grand National in the same year.
Mullins said: “I can’t complain with a rating of 166. It’s 19lbs more than last year which will be a big ask but he seems to have progressed well this year and we know he takes to the fences. It’s horses for courses and fingers crossed he can put up a bold show.”
Gordon Elliotthas said it would be “a dream come true” if one of his 19 entries in this year’s Randox Grand National can help him equal the record of training four winners of the race.
The County Meath-based handler only took out a trainer’s license in 2006 and had already won his first Grand National at Aintree just a year later when Silver Birch was triumphant in 2007.
Tiger Roll then landed the world-famous race in 2018 and 2019 before Coronavirus forced the cancellation of the 2020 renewal and ended hopes of an historic hat-trick attempt for his stable star.
Elliott saddled seven runners in the race in 2022 but could eclipse that number this year with his current tally of entries standing at 19.
Elliott’s highest rated contender is Conflated, whose mark of 167 and weight of 11st 12lbs comes as no surprise.
He said: “Conflated has won two Grade One chases at Leopardstown including last year’s Irish Gold Cup and we knew he would be close to top weight or have top weight.
“He will go to Cheltenham first for the Gold Cup and we will see from there whether he will be one for the Grand National this season or next season. He would be a very classy horse to have in the race. I could see him being a horse for the National but it might be a year too early to run him in the race.”
Another of Elliott’s intended runners with a date at Cheltenham between now and Aintree is Galvin, who is just a pound lighter than his stablemate on 11st 11lbs.
Elliott said: “He started off the season very well winning a Grade Three at Punchestown but his form has just tapered off a bit. He has just had a little procedure done on his back and he is back working well.
“The plan is to run him in the Cross Country race at Cheltenham then on the National. We sort of thought last season that he could be one for the National as we thought he was probably just lacking a gear for races like the Gold Cup and those sort of Grade One races.
Fury Road is further down the field at 11st 6lbs and Elliott added: “He will probably be a doubtful runner I would say at the moment. We will probably just go for the Ryanair and see after that.”
Stablemate Delta Work, another of Elliott’s entries owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, is on 11st 4lbs after finishing third in 2022 and Elliott admitted: “This has been the plan all season. He has a nice weight for the race and I’m happy with that.
“We just switched him back to hurdles on his last start to sharpen him up a bit as he had gone a little bit rusty. It was a race we had run Tiger Roll in before he went to Cheltenham and then on to Aintree. I thought he ran very well in the National last season behind Noble Yeats. He got a little bit far back early on and he had lots to do. Having had that experience over the fences we go back there with plenty of confidence and we are looking forward to it.”
Trainer John “Shark” Hanlon shrugged off the handicapper’s decision to make Hewick the joint-top weight for the Randox Grand National, as his bargain €850 purchase bids to make horseracing history.
The County Carlow handler plans to run Hewick in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 17th, before sending him to Aintree for the world’s greatest steeplechase on April 15th.
But in order to join 1934 winner Golden Miller as the only horse to triumph in both races in the same season, the eight year old must overcome top weight of 11st 12lbs after being rated 167.
Hanlon is philosophical about the task ahead. He said: “Hewick has a big weight, but he’s used to carrying a big weight. What can we do? There isn’t anything we can do about it. When they’re good they get those weights and that’s it.
“He gave a stone-and-a-half to everything in Listowel that was going to beat him so I don’t see why we wouldn’t go again.”
And while Hanlon and connections are dreaming of success with Hewick he has a second chance at a fairytale result with Cape Gentleman.
After learning his weight – 10st 8lbs – for the April 15th race at Aintree, Hanlon added: “That’s lovely, I’m very happy with that. I’m delighted with that weight – he’ll think he is loose. I’d say they’ll both run.”
Ted Walsh claimed he was “absolutely shocked” that his stable star Any Second Now is joint top weight for the Grand National.
Despite the allocation of 11st 12lb he will bid to go one better than he did last year, when finishing two and a quarter lengths behind winner Noble Yeats. Since then the 11 year old has finished second in a 2m 3f hurdle contest at Punchestown on New Year’s eve and fourth in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown earlier this month.
And after learning the weight his JP McManus-owned gelding has been allotted, trainer Ted Walsh said: “All I can say is that I know he’s not Red Rum, I know he’s not a Crisp and he’s not a L’Escargot, so make your own mind up.
“I’m absolutely shocked that he has top weight. He goes there in as good form as he did last year. He is in as good nick as he was last year but he’s got top weight so make your own mind up. I think he’d have to be an exceptional horse to win it with top weight.”
Champion Jumps trainer Willie Mullins has a record 88 Cheltenham Festival winners to his name and has also enjoyed Grand National success with Hedgehunter back in 2005.
The 48 National runners hailing from Mullins’ Closutton base over the years also include two runners-up, most recently Pleasant Company in 2018.
Mullins’ son and assistant Patrick Mullins, who was fourth as a jockey aboard Burrows Saint in 2021, ran through his father’s eight entries for the April 15th contest:
Capodanno (11st 5lbs)
“That is definitely a very workable weight. His form at Punchestown, when he beat Lifetime Ambition and Fury Road, in the Grade One looks very good. The fact that he had a little setback at the start of the season and hasn’t got to improve his rating might work for him. I think that is a mark he could be competitive off.
“Noble Yeats had a similar profile last year and he has got that touch of class about him with a Grade One next to his name. I think the handicapper over the past 10 or 15 years has given the good horses a chance of winning the National.
“You can be competitive over 11 stone so that is a weight you would have to be happy with. He jumps well and he ran well on Sunday at Gowran Park. He might have another run before the National.”
Franco de Port (11st 3lbs)
“Franco’s main aim is to go back to the French Grand National. He was third in that last season. He ran very well in the Thyestes last year off top weight so it showed he can carry a big weight in a handicap. The experience around Auteuil would be an advantage to him around Aintree.
“He could definitely have a live each-way chance. He stays very well and he should be good at jumping those types of fences. Auteuil has been his main aim but timing-wise, the Grand National works quite well with that.
“He probably needs extreme distances to bring out the best of his ability even though he won a two mile novice chaser when he was younger, now he just prefers going a lot further.”
Carefully Selected (11st 1lbs)
“He could be a fascinating contender. He is 10, so he is quite old, but he is fairly lightly-raced. He is a very old-fashioned horse and he almost looks like a dinosaur. He was able to win two bumpers and be second in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham so he is not slow, but he obviously stays very well.
“He won the Thyestes last time out and he has the physique to carry that weight so that shouldn’t be any problem. He should stay the trip and again he is kind of unexposed. You would like to think he could improve again from Gowran Park as it was only his second run back after a very long break.
“I’d imagine he could be one of our leading fancies. He just had lots of small niggly problems, but you get that with those big heavy horses and he has the ability to make it worth the wait.”
Gaillard Du Mesnil (11st)
“He could be tailor made for this as he ran very well in the Irish Grand National last year. He is obviously a high-class horse that has got plenty of Grade One form. He stays very well and has plenty of experience.
“I’m not sure running in Grade Ones is the right prep for the Grand National as it maybe leaves you a little bit exposed. With that kind of weight it could be different this year if those at the top of the weights stay in.
“You have to take him seriously, but he could just be a bit more exposed than some of our other horses. The plan is to go to Cheltenham and I’ll do my best to have him heading towards the National Hunt Chase, but you know what Willie is like – nothing is set in stone yet.”
Burrows Saint (10st 12lb)
“He gave me a fantastic spin in it a couple of years ago when I thought his stamina probably gave out in the last half a mile. He is back in again and he is in good form. He looks great and is working great and the plan has always been to go back to Aintree.
“The Topham would be an option for him as well so we will see which route we are going nearer the time. Hopefully he can get a bit further than last year if he runs in the National as he didn’t complete the race last year. Maybe as an older horse he will stay better, but we will definitely consider the Topham as well. He is not a soft ground horse. He needs good ground and he wears a tongue strap. He needs to be kept fresh for the spring.”
Mr Incredible (10st 4lbs)
“He is a horse with a lot of ability. He ran a really good race in the Classic Chase at Warwick. He jumped well and stayed well. He did everything perfectly. He looks an ideal National horse and looks like he could be unexposed.
“He will go to Cheltenham first for the Kim Muir and that should be a great experience for him again. I think he has to have a huge chance. He looks like he will have a fantastic weight. We are looking forward to having a good go at Cheltenham and we are really looking forward to going on to Aintree afterwards.”
Recite A Prayer (10st 1lbs)
“He got a short break after his last run and he is back in now. He has continually surprised and has some good form from some of those big handicap chases in Ireland when he is usually carrying high weights. If he could get in here carrying a low weight that would be a big advantage. He finished 12th in the Becher so he has had a run around the track on ground that would have been too soft for him so that will work in his favour as well.”
Captain Kangaroo (9st 8lbs)
“He won the Cork National very well but just seems to have lost his confidence a little bit now. He will need to brush up his jumping before he goes to Aintree if he did manage to get in, but that is probably unlikely.”