Favourite Seabass given 11st 2lb in 2013 John Smith’s Grand National

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The Ted Walsh-trained Seabass, who finished third in last year’s John Smith’s Grand National, has been allotted 11lb 2lb in the 166th running of the great chase, for which the weights are unveiled this morning.

Betfred, betting partner at the John Smith’s Grand National meeting, make Seabass – who carried 10st 12lb in 2012 – one of their 14/1 co-favourites to go two places better this year and Walsh reports the 10-year-old to be bang on course for the £975,000 John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 6.

“Seabass will run somewhere in the next three weeks to a month. There is just over seven weeks to Liverpool so I would like to get a run into him. The Bobbyjo Chase at Naas and the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton are possible targets,” said Walsh.

But, speaking before seeing the full weights, he added: “I don’t know how Seabass can get over 11st this year if Tidal Bay is rated 171 and my horse is rated 154. Whatever Phil Smith does, he does – it is immaterial to me and I can’t change it. You don’t have to be a great mathematician to subtract 54 from 71.”

The weights for Jump racing’s most famous prize were announced at the John Smith’s Grand National Launch in London today. It is the only race for which the weights are specifically framed by the British Horseracing Authority’s Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith.

This year’s weights are headed on 11st 10lb (rated 162) by the mercurial but hugely-talented Tidal Bay(16/1), who boasts three wins over hurdles and fences at Aintree. After saddling 52 beaten horses in the John Smith’s Grand National, Tidal Bay’s handler Paul Nicholls finally saw his luck change last year when Neptune Collonges prevailed.

The champion trainer is also represented by Join Together (10st 12lb, 20/1), who has not been seen since finishing runner-up in the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree on December 8, and a pair part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson – 2010 Betfred Bowl winner What A Friend (11st 5lb, 33/1) and Harry The Viking (10st 2lb, 25/1).

Tidal Bay’s owners, Andrea and Graham Wylie, boast an enviable hand this year and account for Betfred’s two other 14/1 co-favourites with Seabass. On His Own (10st 10lb) and Prince De Beauchene (11st 3lb) are among seven entries bidding to give Willie Mullins, successful with Hedgehunter in 2005, a second John Smith’s Grand National victory.

A strong Irish-trained entry of 31 includes another top contender from Ted Walsh’s stable in J P McManus’s Colbert Station (10st 11lb, 20/1), winner of the Paddy Power Handicap Chase over three miles at Leopardstown on December 27 and the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle qualifier at Punchestown on February 3.

“Like Seabass, Colbert Station will possibly have one more run. I have no idea where he will go at this stage as he only recently ran. I would also be looking at running him in three weeks to a month’s time, which will be ideal timing for the National.”

Nearly all of Colbert Stations’s races have come on soft or heavy ground but this does not concern Walsh: “I wouldn’t be worried about the ground for Colbert Station as it is never anything worse than good jumping ground at Aintree.

“He has 10st 6lb in the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton and is 3lb higher in England than he is in Ireland, which makes him worse off with Seabass in England.”

Walsh’s daughter Katie achieved the highest-ever John Smith’s Grand National placing for a female rider when third last year on Seabass, while McManus’s retained jockey Tony McCoy has been aboard Colbert Station for his two recent successes. But Walsh, also father of Ruby, stated that there is plenty of time to decide who will ride his duo.

“The question of who will ride both horses is the least of my worries at the moment. My only worry is the two horses arrive at Liverpool in good form, healthy and well,” added the trainer.  “Who rides them is a question for another day. I am not even thinking about it and there is no pressure on anybody.

“Nobody has to make their mind up until I have to declare for the race – I don’t need to know if Tony McCoy is available or Ruby Walsh is available until they make their minds up and at the declaration stage will do for me.”

Ballabriggs, who won the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National off 11 stone, has been allotted the same weight again this year, having finished sixth under 11st 9lb in 2012. Trainer Donald McCain is happy with the weight given to the 33/1 chance.

“That weight is fine for Ballabriggs and it will be grand if the top horse (Tidal Bay) runs because then we will have a lovely racing weight,” said McCain. “He has come out of his race at Warwick OK. He will go to Kelso for the Premier Chase as he has done for the past two years and then on to Aintree.”

There has been only one Welsh-trained Grand National winner, Kirkland in 1905, but  the principality could field a formidable team this year with eight entries. Leading contenders include Welsh National runner-up Teaforthree (10st 13lb, 20/1), based in Pembrokeshire with Rebecca Curtis, and last year’s fourth, Cappa Bleu (10st 7lb, 25/1), whose trainer Evan Williams has had a runner reach the frame in the last four renewals.

The three-time John Smith’s Topham Chase winner Always Waining (10st 6lb, 50/1) could step up in trip for Peter Bowen, while Tim Vaughan’s 2011 Scottish Grand National winner Beshabar (20/1) has 1lb less on 10st 5lb.

The John Smith’s Grand National now regularly attracts some of the best chasers in training and among those engaged this year are the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander (33/1), who has 11st 6lb, and Albertas Run (11st 8lb, 33/1), winner of the 2010 Grade One John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree and two Ryanair Chases at Cheltenham.

The Colm Murphy-trained Quito De La Roque (40/1), who bounced back to form when winning the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles last month, has 11st 5lb.

There is one entry based in France, the Yann Porzier-trained Odysseas, but the 100/1 shot is not certain to make the final line-up with a weight of 9st 3lb. Last year the 72nd horse in the weights at the time of the Launch was the lowest-weighted horse to make the line-up, which would equate to a weight of 9st 8lb this year.

John Baker, Regional Director North West of Jockey Club Racecourses, commented: “The countdown really gets underway today to what promises to be both an ultra-competitive and high-class renewal of the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 6.

“Alongside the Aintree specialists and winners of many of the top staying handicaps, we also have some of the top chasers in training engaged, including a Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup victor.

“Irish raiders have won six of the last 14 renewals and there is a particularly strong entry from Ireland that could enhance that record this year while there looks a real chance of a first Welsh-trained winner since 1905.”

Latest odds from Betfred  – Official betting partner of the 2013 John Smiths’ Grand National:

14/1 On His Own, Prince De Beauchene, Seabass; 16/1 Tidal Bay; 20/1 Beshabar, Colbert Station, Join Together, Roi Du Mee, Sunnyhillboy, Teaforthree; 25/1 Cappa Bleu, Harry The Viking, Katenko, Magnanimity, The Package; 33/1 Across The Bay, Albertas Run, Alfie Sherrin, Ballabriggs, Balthazar King, Big Fella Thanks, Bostons Angel, Frisco Depot, Imperial Commander, Lambro, Lion Na Bearnai, Oscar Time, Outlaw Pete, Roberto Goldback, Romanesco, Saint Are, Tofino Bay, Weird Al, What A Friend, Wyck Hill; 40/1 Call The Police, Chicago Grey, Jessies Dream, Lost Glory, Mister Hyde, Planet of Sound, Quel Esprit, Quiscover Fontaine, Quito de La Roque, Tarquinius; 50/1 Always Waining, Any Currency, Auroras Encore, Becauseicouldntsee, Bob Lingo, Forpadydeplasterer, Joncol, Little Josh, Ninetieth Minute, Pandorama, Problema Tic, Quinz, Rare Bob, Swing Bill, Tartak, The Rainbow Hunter, Treacle; 66/1 Backstage, Calgary Bay, Cloudy Lane, Cross Appeal, Midnight Chase, Mr Moonshine, Pearlysteps, Poker De Sivola, Shakervilz, Soll, Summery Justice, Viking Blond; 100/1 Fabalu, Gullible Gordon, Major Malarkey, Matuhi, Mortimers Cross, Mumbles Head, Odysseas, Pentiffic, Tatenen


¼ 1-2-3-4 – All Quoted


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