31.03.08 - THE GRAND NATIONAL
RECORD 99 REMAIN IN JOHN SMITH'S GRAND NATIONAL
An unprecedented 99 horses remain in Saturday's £800,000 John Smith's Grand National at Aintree after today's five-day confirmation stage although only the 40 highest-weighted horses at the final declaration stage on Thursday will be able to challenge for racing's most famous prize.
Horse number 40 in the race this year would currently carry 10st 8lb. There are two horses - Black Apalachi and Philson Run - on that weight and they are at the moment arranged in alphabetical order - but tomorrow an official elimination order will be released by the British Horseracing Authority for horses on the same weight.
In 2007, there were 68 horses remaining in the John Smith's Grand National at the same stage with the 40th horse on 10st 2lb.
Just 16 horses came out at today's confirmation stage and Cloudy Lane, winner of his last three outings, could start one of the warmest favourites for many years. The eight-year-old is trained by Donald McCain junior - whose father Ginger won the John Smith's Grand National four times, most famously with Red Rum (1973, 1974 and 1977) and then Amberleigh House (2004).
The 2005 winner Hedgehunter and fellow Irish raider Hi Cloy head this year's weights on 11st 12lb and they are among 21 hopefuls trained in Ireland.
Other leading Irish-trained entries include last year's third Slim Pickings, the Willie Mullins-trained Snowy Morning, the well-backed King Johns Castle, Chelsea Harbour, representing Mullins' brother Tom, and the Tony Martin-trained Dun Doire.
Last season's totesport Becher Chase hero Mr Pointment will bid to give champion trainer Paul Nicholls a first John Smith's Grand National success, while 12-times champion jockey Tony McCoy will be aboard Butler's Cabin as he bids to land the £800,000 contest after a dozen previously unsuccessful rides.
Trainer Howard Johnson, owner Graham Wylie and jockey Denis O'Regan, who enjoyed a big-race Cheltenham Festival double with Inglis Drever and Tidal Bay, will be represented by Bewleys Berry.
Last year's runner-up McKelvey and fourth Philson Run also represent the
2007 form, while other notable contenders include the David Pipe-trained Comply Or Die, winner of the Eider Chase last time out, and Simon, who finished fourth in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton last month, and the French-trained L'Ami.
The official going on the Grand National course was changed to good to soft this afternoon. The Mildmay course at Aintree remains good to soft, good in places. There could be some rain tomorrow.
Totesport, the official betting partner of the John Smith's Grand National meeting, has reacted to strong support for the Donald McCain-trained big-race favourite Cloudy Lane, by this morning cutting the eight-year-old's odds to 5/1 from 6/1.
Cloudy Lane landed a hat-trick of victories when handing a seven-length defeat to Ungaro over three and a quarter miles at Doncaster on March 1 and could start the shortest-priced favourite for the £800,000 John Smith's Grand National since Red Rum finished second to L'Escargot in 1975.
Cloudy Lane's impressive form this year has seen his odds tumble. The Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding was a 25/1 shot with totesport when the weights were announced on February 5 and he is now officially 20lb well in, having since climbed the handicap with wins at Ayr and Doncaster.
Totesport spokesman Damian Walker said today: "Cloudy Lane's chance has been boosted by positive weather bulletins that indicate the ground on John Smith's Grand National Day might not be as slow as had earlier been expected.
"Punters have taken this as the green light to get behind the National favourite and his price could continue to contract from now until race time.
"The big question is this: Will the once-a-year punters, who would have backed Cloudy Lane because of the "McCain Factor", be put off by his skinny odds on the day and look elsewhere?
"The answer to that question will ultimately determine whether Cloudy Lane will trade as short as Red Rum's 1975 Grand National starting price of just 7/2."
Latest totesport betting on the John Smith's Grand National
5 (from 6) Cloudy Lane, 9 Slim Pickings, 11 Comply Or Die, 12 Simon, 14 Bewleys Berry, Butler's Cabin, 16 Chelsea Harbour, Kings John Castle, Snowy Morning, 18 Mr Pointment, 20 Hedgehunter, Point Barrow, 22 McKelvey, 25 L'Ami, Mon Mome, Philson Run, 28 Dun Doire, Turko, 33 D'Argent, Joes Edge, Kelami, Vodka Bleu, 40 Idle Talk, Knowhere, Newbay Prop, Ossmoses, 50 Backbeat, Baily Breeze, Black Apalachi, Fundamentalist, Irish Raptor, Longshanks, Madison Du Berlais, Naunton Brook, Noir Et Vert, Opera Mundi, You're Special, 66 BAR
Each-way a quarter the odds 1, 2, 3, 4
Non-runner no bet
EARLY ARRIVAL FOR WELL-SUPPORTED KING JOHN'S CASTLE
King John's Castle, backed in from 40/1 to 16/1 for Saturday's John Smith's Grand National, is expected be the first horse to book in at Aintree Racecourse, with Arthur Moore's nine-year-old due to arrive in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Moore, whose father Dan won the Grand National in 1975 with L'Escargot, will be hoping that King John's Castle can break a poor record in the race that started in 1982 when his nitial runner, Mullacurry, fell at the first fence. In the 25 years since, Moore has had another 12 starters in the John Smith's Grand National, but has yet to have one compete the course.
King John's Castle is owned by JP McManus and will be ridden by Moore's nephew Paul Carberry in Saturday's showpiece event which, with prize money of £800,000, makes the 2008 John Smith's Grand National the richest jump race ever.
Tom Taaffe's two Grand National hopefuls, Slim Pickings and Tumbling Dice, are also expected to be early arrivals on Tuesday. Taaffe, who for many years rode for Moore's stable, had his first runner in the John Smith's Grand National last year and came close to a dream start when, in a fabulous finish to the race, Slim Pickings finished third, just two and a half lengths behind the winner Silver Birch.
Stable manager Derek Thompson can remember the times when he would stay up and greet in all the overnight arrivals: "When I was a bit younger, I could do that. I remember one year when I went eight days without going to bed but, as you get a bit older, you have to be more sensible," he said.
McGovern is still not taking it too easy though, expecting to be working till 11:30pm each night and back in the stables by 4:30am in the morning.