The most competitive and puzzling handicap of the year can go the way of WHAT A FRIEND who is an incredible 15lbs well in at the weights after his fourth to Long Run in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Hugely talented but equally quirky, What A Friend travelled supremely well at Cheltenham and he was finishing so well at the finish, he nearly collared Kauto Star for third after Denman and Long Run had secured the first two places. The four of them finished well clear of their rivals and the time and quality of the first three would suggest that the race is one of the best Gold Cups for some time.
There will be plenty of punters that believe the actual weight What A Friend has to carry in the National will offset his huge advantage and many will believe that the handicapper has little to worry about with the gelding having to carry 11st 6lbs over a frightening 4m4f.
However, ever since the compression of the weights the classier horses are really beginning to assert themselves in the Grand National and the first two home in 2010 and the first four to finish in 2009 all carried eleven stone or more, including Don’t Push It who powered to success under 11st5lbs last year. With a Grade One victory in the 2009 Lexus Chase to his name, What A Friend is certainly classy.
If the thought of backing a 12/1 at bet365
shot doesn’t capture your imagination and you fancy betting on a horse at a bigger price, the alternative to What A Friend could come in the shape of Dermot Weld’s Irish raider MAJESTIC CONCORDE.
Weld’s eight-year-old was given the green light for the Aintree showpiece after he impressed with a schooling session at the Curragh on Tuesday and, similar to What A Friend, he looks one of the classier horses lining up in Saturday’s forty horse field.
100 rated on the flat, he still looks unexposed over fences and has only been over the larger obstacles twice in the last year. His master trainer is sure to be worried about his lack of experience, but he certainly knows how to place his horses and despite being hit with an 11lb hike in the weights for his success at Leopardstown at Christmas, he looks to have plenty of untapped potential.
Nick Wilby’s selections
What A Friend (12/1, bet365