Synchronised heads 2012 Grand National weights

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Outstanding Grade One Lexus Chase winner Synchronised, owned by J P McManus and trained by Jonjo O’Neill, has been allotted top-weight of 11st 10lb for this year’s John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 14.

The weights were revealed today for Jump racing’s most famous event at the official John Smith’s Grand National Launch in London and the competitiveness of this year’s race is illustrated by the fact that 69 of the 82 entries (84 per cent) are in the handicap.

The John Smith’s Grand National, which has record prize money of £975,000 this year, is the only race of the year for which the weights are specially framed by the British Horseracing Authority’s Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith.

Ballabriggs, who carried 11st to victory in 2011 for owner Trevor Hemmings, trainer Donald McCain and jockey Jason Maguire, is second in the weights with 11st 9lb this year. Synchonised and Ballabriggs are the joint 16/1 second favourites with Betfred, the betting partner of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting.

Mon Mome, who sprang a 100/1 surprise in the 2009 John Smith’s Grand National, is the other past winner among the entries. He carried 11st  when winning three years ago, 11st 7lb when falling at the 26th in 2010 and this year has been given 10st 8lb (40/1 Betfred).

Irish-trained raiders have a tremendous recent record in the John Smith’s Grand National, winning six of the last 13 runnings, and they have strength in numbers this year, accounting for 31 entries. An Irish-trained winner is priced at 11/4 by Betfred.

Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins, successful in the 2005 John Smith’s Grand National with Hemmings’ first winner Hedgehunter, accounts for no less than 12 of those 31 and among his leading contenders are 20/1 chance Quel Esprit, who has a weight of 11st 7lb following his victory in the Grade One Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Stablemate On His Own (20/1), winner of the Thyestes Chase for owners Graham and Andrea Wylie, has 10st 11lb, while Blazing Tempo (40/1), the only mare entered, will have to overcome 11st 4lb after winning the Grade Two Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse on January 22. Apt Approach (25/1) has 11st 1lb on the back of his Grade Two Kinloch Brae Chase victory last month, while Scotsirish (11st 2lb & 50/1) and Prince De Beauchene (10st 6lb & 20/1) are two others of Mullins’ formidable dozen.

Many of the leading contenders in Betfred’s betting are set to carry 11 stone or above including Weird Al (11st 8lb & 33/1), the stable companion of Ballabriggs who captured the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, and Midnight Chase (11st 8lb & 20/1), owned by Lady Clarke and trained by Neil Mulholland, who was successful in the Grade Two Argento Chase at Cheltenham last month.

The David Pipe-trained Junior, the 14/1 market leader with Betfred, failed to get in the field last year but has a certain place in 2012 with 11st 2lb.

The Henrietta Knight-trained Calgary Bay (25/1), winner of the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last month, has been given 11st 6lb, while the runner-up that day, Shakalakaboomboom (25/1), has 10st 12lb as he bids to give trainer Nicky Henderson a first victory in the John Smith’s Grand National. Henderson also has the lightly-raced Burton Port (11st 7lb & 25/1), another owned by Hemmings, and Quantitativeeasing (11st 2lb & 33/1) for McManus.

The rapidly-improving Hold On Julio (25/1), who has won both his starts for trainer Alan King, has been given 10st 7lb, while his stablemate West End Rocker (20/1), winner of the Betfred Becher Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree on December 3, has a weight of 10st 12lb.

High-class hunter-chaser Roulez Cool (25/1), owned, trained and bred by Robert Waley-Cohen and ridden by his son Sam, who finished second on Oscar Time last year, has been allotted 10st 5lb.

Evan Williams has strong representation with his three entries, led by State Of Play (10st 3lb & 33/1) who has run in the John Smith’s Grand National for the last three years and finished fourth, third and fourth. His owners, Angela and William Rucker, also have the fancied Cappa Bleu (10st 10lb & 25/1), while the Welsh trainer’s third possible representative is Deep Purple (11st 3lb & 25/1).

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