From 106 Grand National 2021 entries, we now have 90 still in contention. March 2nd, 2021 marked the first declaration stage for this year’s race, two weeks after the BHA Handicapper revealed the weights that had been allocated.
In that time quite a lot has happened. Horses such as Yorkhill have retired with Delta Work injured and of course the incredibly sad death of The Conditional. So we always knew that some of the big names, for obvious reasons, were not going to move forward in the National. But what took everybody by surprise is the withdrawal of Tiger Roll.
The dual-winning 11-year-old was given 11-09 in weight by the BHA Handicapper. Unsurprisingly the O’Leary’s were not happy but they had already stated that if he was lumbered with too much weight he would be taken out of contention. And they have now stuck to their word.
Tiger Roll Out Of 2021 Grand National
In a statement, Gigginstown said that a handicapper mark of 166 – seven pounds higher than Tiger Roll’s second National win in 2019 – was “patently unfair, unjustified and does not reflect the horse’s age or form over the past two seasons”.
They added: “We made clear that if Tiger Roll was rated in the 150s (ie where he was two years ago) which is what his age and form now warrants, he would be allowed to run this year’s National and go for a historic three in a row”.
“However, the Handicapper has decided to rate him on his reputation rather than his form – which we fully accept is his prerogative – but we have a duty of care to Tiger, and so we will not ask him to carry an unfair weight burden especially as he gets older and his form declines.”
There is still the option of Cheltenham in a couple of weeks as the handicap weights have not yet been issued. However, the O’Leary’s did insist that retirement could then be an option “if his handicap mark is not adjusted to more fairly reflect his age and form over the past two seasons.”
The first scratching stage is generally uneventful. Connections have had a couple of weeks to mull over the weights and a few will decide to take their chances elsewhere.
The numbers withdrawn are also low because many of the hopefuls also have Cheltenham entries. Depending on how well they run there, often impacts the decision to go to Aintree.
This year though, it’s anything but uneventful! Along with the omission of Tiger Roll, Presenting Percy has also be taken out. The reason is unknown but it has thrown the odds out as he was a firm favourite with a lot of punters.
For the first stage in 2021, 16 horses were withdrawn.
All The Horses Scratched:
- Presenting Percy
- Tiger Roll
- Al Roc
- Champagne Classic
- Robin des Foret
- Rocky’s Treasure
- Cap Du Nord
- A Toi Phil
- Delta Work
- Saint Xavier
- St Barts
- The Conditional
Incidentally, 16 horses were also taken out at the same stage in 2020 so the number is fairly consistent with past years.
The declarations do change a few things. Quite a few from the original top 40 have come out so that has guaranteed a place for eight of the other runners.
Now making the cut are: Potters Corner, Class Conti, Nilan Native, Discorama, Vieux Lion Rouge, Cloth Cap, Cabaret Queen and Minellacelebration.
Prior to the latest stage, both tiger Roll and presenting Percy were in amongst the favourites. A poor last run from Tiger Roll had seen his odds dip but both were around the 16/1 mark.
Now though the honour of being the 2021 Grand National favourite goes to Cloth Cap. Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, who won the Grand National with Don’t Push It in 2010, Cloth Cap is owned by Trevor Hemmings as he bids for a fourth win in the race.
Cloth Cap enjoying the sunshine in the field pic.twitter.com/MPjYrhDFud
— Jonjo O'Neill (@JonjoONeill) February 27, 2021
His win in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury in November boosted his claims. But it was the relatively low 10-05 given by the BHA Handicapper that made him a very attractive prospect for this race.
O’Neill is optimistic about his chances and says in January: “He is a National horse as we know he stays and he jumps well normally, so those boxes are ticked.
“I wouldn’t be worried about him not staying, but the ground is very important to him.
“The only problem with the Grand National is that he might not get the ground as quick as it was in the Ladbrokes Trophy.”
Rest of the 2021 Field
Cloth Cap’s biggest competition, at least in the betting markets, comes from Burrows Saint. Trained by Willie Mullins, Burrows Saint very nearly didn’t qualify this year. A horse has to have run in at least one steeplechase in the current season and both of Burrow Saint’s runs were over hurdles.
Mullins rectified this by starting Burrows Saint in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on February 27th, where the 8-year-old finished second.
On odds of 14/1 with Paddy Power, Burrows Saint is also joined by Secret Reprieve and Santini. Despite winning the Welsh Grand National in January, Secret Reprieve will still have to wait for his place. Thankfully, after the first declaration stage, his future in the race is looking better as he moves up ten places and now sits at number 56.
Santini, who has been handed joint top-weight, could still bow out at some point. The Nicky Henderson chaser is heading back to Cheltenham for another shot at the Gold Cup having finished in 2nd place in 2020.
For now though we still have 90 hopefuls. With the Cheltenham Festival just days away, the next scratching stage for the 2021 Grand National is March 23rd.