Historically, the decision to hold the weights lunch in London, has always been one of the more puzzling aspects of the Grand National Festival. Why, when the race is so synonymous with the great city of Liverpool, would the powers that be decide that London is an appropriate venue?
Thankfully common sense has finally prevailed and it has now been confirmed that this season’s Grand National Weights Lunch will be held in the Cunard Buildings on February 12th 2019. It marks 100 years since the Aintree marathon came back to Merseyside, after being staged at London Gatwick during the First World War, but will the first time ever that the lunch will be held in the city.
The Cunard Building is a Grade II listed building located at the Pier Head at the world-famous Albert Dock UNESCO World Heritage site. Along with the neighbouring Port of Liverpool Building and The Liver Building, The Cunard Building is one of the waterfront’s three iconic landmarks, known collectively as the Three Graces.
The choice of venue was will help Aintree Racecourse celebrate what has made Liverpool such an iconic and globally recognised city across sport, music and the maritime industry.
In a city that has been home to legends such as Red Rum, Don’t Push It and Many Clouds, as well as the 2018 winner, Tiger Roll, it really is about time that the lunch was hosted there as well.
John Baker, Aintree Racecourse’s managing director, said: “We’re delighted to bring the Randox Health Grand National Weights Lunch home for the first time ever, and to mark one hundred years since the Grand National returned from London
“Liverpool is a fabulous city and the people of Liverpool have very much helped make the ‘People’s Race’ the greatest steeplechase in the world.
“Therefore, we felt the prestigious Weights Lunch should be hosted in Liverpool next year – we’ll ensure we celebrate the very best of the city of Liverpool on the day as well.”
And, in another first, the BHA’s Steeplechase Team Leader’s Martin Greenwood will be handicapping the weights since the retirement of Liverpool-born Phil Smith last July after 22 years at the helm.
Baker added “We welcome Martin Greenwood and look forward to announcing his handiwork at the Grand National Weights Lunch in February.”
Undoubtedly Greenwood will have his work cut out for him as following a handicapping review, there are a whole host of new initiatives due to be implemented. Industries such as online casino’s and bookmakers have consistently been reviewed with sites like https://www.casinopedia.org/ offering online guides for customers and the BHA is no different. There is to be a re-vamped ‘Guide to Handicapping’ to sit on a newly designed handicapping section of the BHA website.
There will also be a new online handicapping appeals process, which will be carried out by an independent external panel of experts ensuring all appeals are heard fairly, independently and following due process. And while they may not directly affect handicapping of the 2019 Grand National, the longer term goal of harmonising British & Irish Jump handicapping, will.
It has frequently been a bone of contention that potential Grand National runners from Ireland have not been handicapped in the same way. This has led to arguments between the BHA and owners, the most public of which was between Michael O’Leary and Phil Smith. That said, O’Leary hasn’t faired too badly winning the race in 2016 with Rule The World and again in 2018 with Tiger Roll.