16 withdrawals at latest declaration stage shake up Grand National scene
The latest declaration stage for the Grand National has seen the withdrawal of the three of the top five in the weights with Albertas Run, Quito De La Roque and Katenko all passing up this year’s tilt at glory in the world’s richest steeplechase.
There is little degree of certainty that new top weight Imperial Commander will make it to Aintree meaning the likeliest top weight is currently the Sir Alex Ferguson-owned What A Friend.
As it stands even in the event of Imperial Commander’s withdrawal from the race, the entire field will run from within the handicap in this year’s contest, with Kim Bailey’s The Rainbow Hunter lurking in unofficial bottom weight position as the entries stand.
Among those currently attractively weighted are last year’s second Sunnyhillboy and Ballabriggs, the 2011 winner.
The same Cholmondley yard that houses Ballabriggs is also home to another highly intriguing runner in Donald McCain’s Across the Bay.
Many horses aimed at the National have a hurdles prep to ensure their chase mark doesn’t rise unduly ahead of the big day and the nine-year-old is no exception. What’s more exceptional is that he won his hurdles race at Grade 2 level.
Having smashed last year’s Grand National fourth Cappa Bleu by 28 lengths over 3m on his penultimate chase start he’s clearly got the ability to get in the mix. The only caveat is that the ground must remain soft as he’s yet to win on good to soft or better.