Chief handicapper Phil Smith defended his decision to allot Crabbie’s Grand National top weight Tidal Bay a more lenient handicap rating than would usually be the case.
Paul Nicholls’ 13-year-old will still have to saddle 11st 10lb for the first �1million National on April 5, but will be running from 161 rather than his official mark of 168.
Smith, in his role as the British Horseracing Authority head of handicapping, is given dispensation in the National to make adjustments to the usual ratings of horses.
He decided to give Long Run just 1lb less to carry than Tidal Bay, with Nicky Henderson’s star currently valued at 163 ahead of a likely outing at Kelso on Thursday.
“We’re very, very happy with 114 entries,” said Smith.
“In Tidal Bay we’ve got a creditable top weight, and I think we’ve got the most creditable second top weight we’ve ever had.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a horse that has won a Gold Cup and two King Georges that hasn’t been top weight. Overall it looks absolutely fantastic and, for a handicapper, what you look for most is depth.
“Most of these horses have handicap marks based on three miles but over four and a half miles and the Grand National fences, this is a completely different test.
“To carry top weight as Tidal Bay did in the Welsh National is wholly different to what he’s being asked to do at Aintree.
“You look at the figures and when did the top weight last win the race?
“We’re trying to attract the really nice horses and the important thing is for them to run and have a chance of winning, but you don’t want those just behind to feel at a disadvantage. But many of those horses just behind Tidal Bay are entered in the Gold Cup, so they would be happy to take him on at levels, but in the National they get weight from him.”
There were a handful of others which gave Smith most difficulty this time around.
He said: “I probably spent most time on the three which have been running in hunter chases – Mossey Joe (11st 1lb), Quel Esprit (10st) and Pandorama (10st 2lb).
“I don’t think any of us would claim to be experts on hunter chase form and Mossey Joe hasn’t run since Stratford last June, where he beat Chapoturgeon by 20 lengths, whereas Pandorama won a Lexus three years ago but last weekend he was only sixth in a hunter chase at Leopardstown. Clearly three years ago he deserved a chance, but you also need to look at recent form.
“You want to entice everyone to race, and for them to think they’ve got a chance.”Read the rest of the story British Horseracing Authority News Headlines