Tag Archive for: Martin Greenwood

Handicapper says to expect just a handful of British-trained National starters

British Horseracing Authority handicapper Martin Greenwood is anticipating just a single-figure home representation in this year’s Randox Grand National at Aintree.

A total of 56 of the 87 handicapped entries are trained in Ireland, with the new safety limit of 34 meaning the current minimum rating at the initial weights stage is 149 – with just seven UK runners making that cut as things stand.

Although Greenwood expects the bottom rating to be slightly lower come the day, he does not anticipate a strong British squad numerically. Last year there were 13 British-trained starters, with Lucinda Russell’s Corach Rambler coming home in front for Scotland.

Greenwood said: “If the top 34 stood their ground, there would be seven UK runners. I reckon the cut-off will be about 144, even with a slightly small field. There’s every chance the will be single figures from the UK this year.

“I just get the horses and handicap them, the politics of the sport are nothing to do with me, I just get the horses and give them figures.

“I think the quality is there. Noble Yeats will definitely run, all being well, so the top-weight will be no lower than 165 and who knows with Hewick, they are such a game team. He could run a stormer in the Gold Cup and they might think it is ‘off we go’.”

In previous years the handicapper has taken advantage of what has been termed ‘the Aintree factor’ in allowing some tweaking of the weights, compressing the ratings in the hope of encouraging the best horses to take part.

This year’s top-weight Hewick is off his true mark of 169 following his King George VI Chase success, with Greenwood believing that to be an accurate assessment and a good starting point for the handicap.

Greenwood, who took over handicapping responsibilities from Phil Smith in 2019, said: “There’s no compression at all this year which is the first time, certainly since I’ve been doing the race.

“Hewick was on 169 after the King George and Ireland have rated him the same. I thought the King George flattered him to some extent. We all know his story, it’s a great one but they went flat out at Kempton and it is probably the one race in the calendar year in that division that doesn’t fit in if you like, given the nature of the track.

“We all know he’s a blinking good horse, but 169 is his actual UK rating. I just didn’t think there was any need to tinker.”

Corach Rambler is rated 13lb higher this time around, but Greenwood is far from certain he has got to the bottom of Russell’s charge.

He explained: “Corach Rambler is 159 this year which is the rating Tiger Roll won his second National off for a bit of historical precedence.

“He won off 146 last year but whatever he won by didn’t tell the whole story. He’s an incredible horse, he keeps a lot in the tank, he idles, we all know that and that makes him a handicapper’s nightmare.

“I think he’s going to run a big race and he’s joint-favourite. He ran pretty well on the maths last time in a small field at Haydock (when third in the Betfair Chase in November), he’s got a lot going for him, he’ll be well ridden by Mr (Derek) Fox who knows him very well and that is why he’s joint-favourite.

“(Runner-up) Vanillier ran off 147 last year and this year is 151. You could argue he did everything too late last year but part of that is because Corach Rambler was idling.

“In my eyes nothing would have beaten Corach Rambler last year but Vanillier did shape really well and has been hiding his light under a bushel this year like many do, but I think we know enough about him.”

One horse who does have a sizeable discrepancy in his official rating versus his National weight is the Mouse Morris-trained Foxy Jacks, winner of a cross-country event at Cheltenham in November.

His mark is 147 but he is off 11st in the National, which puts him at a perch of 157, although Greenwood offered his explanation.

He said: “I just have to treat this as any other race, and that is not me being blase. The one horse who sticks out on UK v Ireland ratings is Foxy Jacks but that is because the Irish don’t take into account cross country races so he’s 147 in Ireland and he ran off 149 at Cheltenham in November when he beat Latenightpass. That is why there is 10lb gap.”