The weights for the 2014 Crabbies Grand National were announced this week by the BHA’s Senior Handicapper Phil Smith. Unlike all other national hunt races run in Great Britain, the Grand National is the only race in the calendar where the handicapper is in a position to exercise discretion when allocating the weights. The unique challenges posed by Aintree are taken into account and Smith is allowed to given ‘course and distance’ specialists extra weight where it is deemed necessary.
The highest horse in the handicap announced this week is veteran Tidal Bay. The Paul Nicolas trainer teenager is enjoying an Indian summer in his career and will carry 11st 10lbs if he runs on April 5th. While it may seem unfair for a thirteen year old to carry top weight, had Smith applied the official BHA rating, Tidal Bay would be carrying even more weight in relative terms, conceding 3lb extra to Long Run and 4lb extra to Hunt Ball.
On this Smith said “Framing the handicap had its moments. A week after I started, I tore up what I had done and started again. Tidal Bay’s run last Sunday really helped. I had him performing to a mark of 161, which is below his best, but I have put him on that mark for the National. He was actually rated 1lb higher last year.” Tidal Bay may in fact be ‘well in’.
Thirteen year old Tidal Bay appears too old. In fact, only two thirteen year old horses have ever won the race; once in 1894 and again in 1923. Amazingly, Peter Simple won the race in 1853 at the grand old age of fifteen!
As far the weights are concerned, since 1984 the average winning weight has been 10st 7.73lbs, with a median weight of 10st 6.5lbs and a stand deviation of 5.64lbs. Tidal Bay’s 11st 10lbs would again appear to be too much, however, four of the last five winners have all carried 11st or more.