DANNY COOK believes Vintage Clouds has been handed a “nice racing weight” ahead of a tilt at the £1m Randox Health Grand National.
The sole Yorkshire-trained representative in this year’s Aintree marathon, the Trevor Hemmings-owned grey has been rated 65th in the handicap – and handed 10st.
He’s got a nice racing weight. All being well, he will get a run. He’s in good form and he will have a prep run – probably the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster early next month.Jockey Danny Cook
The 110 runners are headed by the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai after the dual Betfair Chase winner was given 11st 10lb ahead of the iconic race on April 6. Next is Anibale Fly on 11st 6lb, with just nine horses handed 11st or more.
Yet, with Bristol De Mai likely to have other targets, the remaining horses will rise in the handicap and mean that Cook does not have to go on a starvation regime to make the minimum weight on Vintage Clouds who is trained at High Eldwick by Sue and Harvey Smith.
They are no strangers to National glory after winning the 2013 renewal with Auroras Encore, and Cook is more than hopeful that Vintage Clouds will make the 40-runner cut.
“He’s got a nice racing weight,” the jockey told The Yorkshire Post. “All being well, he will get a run. He’s in good form and he will have a prep run – probably the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster early next month.”
Cook also schooled Vintage Clouds over National-type fences at Malton last year when the staying steeplechaser just missed the cut for the Aintree race won by Tiger Roll. “He was very good, He was electric. He jumped them very well,” reported the jockey.
Guaranteed a run, however, is Lake View Lad who is 18th in the handicap with 10st 11lb. Though trained in Scotland by Nick Alexander, he has been ridden to victory in both the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle, and Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day, by Middleham jockey Henry Brooke.
Defending champion Tiger Roll is on 11st 1lb – up nine pounds on last year – while 2017 winner One For Arthur is on an eyecatching 10st 10lb if he can return to the form that saw him come from virtually last to first under an inspired Derek Fox.
Other entries with proven form over the National fences include Robert Walford’s Becher Chase winner Walk In The Mill (10st) and the Colin Tizzard-trained Ultragold (10st 3lb) who has captured the two most recent renewals of the Topham Chase.
British Horseracing Authority Handicapper Martin Greenwood, who framed the weights for the first time this year, said: “It was fairly straightforward to do the weights. I tried to treat it like any other race whilst bearing in mind there has to be some digression when needed.
“Bristol De Mai heads the weights and his rating has been compressed by 5lb as I thought it was better to have a horse at the top of the handicap whose rating was slightly out of kilter.
“I think there are several interesting runners like Vintage Clouds and Elegant Escape (Welsh Grand National winner). I think it would be a knee-jerk reaction to make too much of the small amount of horses who are weighted 11st or higher.
“At the entry stage, you needed to be around the mid-70s to get you into the race. I think anything based in the top 80 has a chance of getting in. Four of the last five years, horses approaching that number have got in so some connections shouldn’t give up.”