There’s a point in every Grand National when something happens that throws the whole plan into chaos.

This year, it is the announcement from trainer Shark Hanlon that he plans to send Hewick to the Aintree Bowl rather than the National.

Ordinarily, that wouldn’t pose much of a problem; after all, that’s what the series of scratching stages are for.

However, in this case, Hewick also happens to be the top-weight horse for 2024. Burdened by the handicapper with 11-12, he is the horse that sets the bar for every other horse in the running.

And, as we all know, there must be a top-weighted horse, so if Hewick goes, he will need a replacement.

That dubious honour now looks likely to be passed to Conflated from Gordon Elliott. Currently on 11-09, his weight will increase by 3 lbs, as will the weight of every other potential runner on the list.

How The Other Runners Are Affected

A weights increase of three pounds may not seem a lot in the context of a race as significant as the 2024 Grand National, however, that can often be the difference between winning the race and not.

For those of you familiar with the various trends that Grand National winners follow, you will already know that the heavier the weight, the smaller the chances of winning.

And that, of course, affects the betting markets. So if you have a favourite bookmaker or online casino in the United Kingdom, then take a look at the odds now and after the next scratching stage on March 26th.

Whatever chance Conflated, Noble Yeats, Nassalam, Coko Beach, and Capodanno had before the announcement, their attempt to win the race will now be exponentially more difficult with a rise in the weights.

Noble Yeats will run off 11-11, a far cry from the 10-10 he carried when winning the race in 2022. That said, he ran off 11-11 last season and finished fourth. So there is a chance he can still make the places, but a repeat win is a more difficult task.

Nassalam, who won the Welsh Grand National in December, took his chances more recently in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but he pulled up four out after a couple of mistakes.

For that, he carried 11-10, but the race is nearly a mile shorter. So all things being equal, these extra three pounds at Aintree could really scupper his chances.

In 2022, when carrying 10-13, Coko Beach finished in 8th place. He returned last year carrying 11-00 and pulled up. However, despite his ability to really go the distance at a bump from his current 11-04 to 11-07 will certainly hamper his chances.

Why Will Hewick Not Run?

Any decision to send a horse to the Grand National has to be seriously considered. Plenty of changes have already been made to the race in 2024 to increase safety for both runners and riders, but there is always a risk.

In the case of Hewick, trainer Shark Hanlon had genuine concerns and when speaking to the Racing Post, said that “After missing the Gold Cup, I think it would be too big of an ask to shoulder top weight in the Grand National.

“The Gold Cup was his National prep and he’s missed that so we might have a go at the Bowl instead.

“Nothing is set in stone and I have to have a proper chat with his owner later this week, but the way I’m thinking at the moment is for him to go for the Bowl at Aintree and then on to the Punchestown Gold Cup…I’m not sure the Grand National would be the right place to go this season.”

Without the prep run at Cheltenham, it means Hewick would essentially be going to Aintree cold, having not raced since winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton last time out.

And that, it would seem, is just not worth the risk for Hanlon.

Can A Top Weight Win The Grand National?

Yes, of course, a top weight can win the Grand National. The problem is that it doesn’t happen very often.

In fact, you have to go all the way back fifty years to 1974 when Red Rum last achieved the feat.

In that time, the closest any horse has managed was Many Clouds in 2015 when he won carrying 11-09. At that time, the top weight was 11-10, so he was a pound off.

Statistically, he was the exception and not the rule. Of the last 20 winners, only five horses carrying more than eleven stone have won the race.

They were:

  • 2019 – Tiger Roll – 11-05
  • 2015 – Many Clouds – 11-09
  • 2012 – Neptune Collonges – 11-06
  • 2010 – Don’t Push It – 11-05
  • 2005 – Hedgehunter – 11-01

The idea of handicapping horses in the Grand National stems from the hope that by levelling the playing field, every runner has an equal chance of winning the race.

The idea is that the better a horse has performed in the past, the more weight it must carry in the race, making it harder for the top-rated horses to win.

In reality, this is such an incredibly difficult race that the current top weight almost guarantees that all but the exceptional could ever really win it.