Grand National 2022: UK Punters Play the ‘Weighting’ Game

| March 8, 2022

For punters, the lead-up to the Grand National (9th April) can be a little bit messy. The allure of the Cheltenham Festival, which takes place a few weeks before, and the growing stature of the Aintree Festival that hosts the Grand National, means that many runners don’t get a clean shot at one or the other. In short, you’ll see many horses taking on double duty at both Cheltenham and Aintree, and that can muddy the waters somewhat when it comes to ante-post betting. 

Perhaps most important of all this year is the issue of weights. The handicapper has already drawn the ire of Michael O’Leary, the owner of double Grand National winner Tiger Roll. O’Leary took issue with the handicapper, who handed Tiger Roll a 11st 4lbs weight for the Aintree showpiece based on a rating of 161. As he did in 2021, O’Leary decided to pull Tiger Roll from the racing, citing the “idiotic opinion” of the handicapper. While it is his prerogative to do what he likes with Tiger Roll, there is a sense of disappointment that the public won’t get to see the horse have a tilt at the record of legendary Red Rum, who won the race three times in the 1970s. 

Tiger Roll pulled out of the National

Galvin was early market leader 

Nonetheless, the show will go on without Tiger Roll. But there are questions centred around the weights given to many of the top horses, and it can be a bit of a pain for punters trying to engage in some savvy horse racing betting in the lead up to the National. For a start, there are doubts hanging over the participation of the horses given top-weight, i.e., those that are most highly rated. Galvin, for example, was the early ante-post favourite, but his weight of 11st 10lbs has meant his odds have dropped significantly. He also has an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and it’s rare for horses to try to complete the double these days. 

But there is risk further down the weights, too. For instance, the new ante-post market leader (odds of around 10/1), Any Second Now, was given a weight of 11st 02lbs, which is arguably manageable. Yet the fact that so many of those weighted above him are likely to drop out means his weight is almost certain to increase. His trainer, Ted Walsh, who trained Papillion to victory in the Grand National in 2000, recently hinted that he feared as much. You should note that six of the last eight winners of the Grand National have carried weight lower than 11st. Punters should overlook this factor at their own peril. 

Aintree, home of the Grand National

Minella Times showed that weights matter

Last year’s winner, Minella Times, carried a weight of 10st 3lbs, placing Henry de Bromhead’s horse at 35th on the list of 40 starters in terms of the handicap. At this point, with just over a month to go, punters are looking for horses with a similar profile, i.e., those who have largely gone under the handicapper’s radar. A couple of months before the 2021 Grand National, Minella Times was priced at 40/1, but the horse went off at 11/1 on the day. It was astute betting by the punters, who were aware that the underexposed Minella Times had the goods – and the weight advantage – to deliver. 

The Grand National is rightly termed a bit of a lottery. We can cite as many winners over 33/1 (some have won at 100/1 in the last couple of decades) as we can short-priced favourites. But there is an art in trying to beat the handicapper. Trainers and owners have bought into this strategy, and punters should too. 

Category: International

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