Seabass: last year's National third given 11st 2lb for this year's racePICTURE: Getty Images
Seabass National weight leaves Walsh baffled
TED WALSH was left bemused but unconcerned after Seabass, who finished third in last year's John Smith's Grand National, was allotted 11st 2lb in the 166th running of the great chase, for which the weights were unveiled on Tuesday morning.
Betfred, betting partner at the 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 ten-year-old to be bang on course for the £975,000 contest at Aintree on 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 Fairyhouse] 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."
Jump racing's most famous prize is the only race for which the weights are specifically framed by the BHA head of handicapping, Phil Smith.
This year's weights are headed on 11st 10lb (rated 162) by Tidal Bay, 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 trainer Paul Nicholls finally saw his luck change last year when Neptune Collonges prevailed.
The champion trainer is also represented by Join Together, who has not been seen since finishing runner-up in the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree on December 8, 2010 Betfred Bowl winner What A Friend (11st 5lb) and Harry The Viking (10st 2lb).
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 Grand National victory.
A strong Irish-trained entry of 31 includes another top contender from Ted Walsh's stable in JP McManus's Colbert Station (10st 11lb), winner of the Paddy Power Handicap Chase over 3m at Leopardstown on December 27 and the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle qualifier at Punchestown on February 3.
Both the Walsh-trained pair hold entries at Gowran Park on Saturday and the trainer added: "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."
Ballabriggs, who won the 2011 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 okay. He will go to Kelso for the Premier Chase as he has done for the past two years and then on to Aintree."
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.