Grand National 2021 tips and verdict on favourite Cloth Cap

Randox Grand National eve and punters are placing their bets ahead of the big race.

Cloth Cap heads the market at around 4-1, the price Tiger Roll was sent off when winning the 2019 renewal.

That was the last National to be run, as a virtual race was scheduled in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.

As usual a full field of 40 runners line up this year, with seven of them owned by JP McManus.

Rachael Blackmore bids to become the first female jockey to triumph and the Cheltenham Festival's leading rider teams up with Minella Times.

Patrick Mullins has been called up to partner Burrows Saint, in place of Paul Townend who is injured, while the well-fancied Secret Reprieve is a reserve and needs two horses to drop out before Friday's deadline.

Here we look at Cloth Cap's credentials for the big race :

Positives

Preparation

The nine-year-old has flourished ahead of the race, landing an easy win at Kelso which followed up his Ladbrokes Trophy heroics.

If the handicapper had his way, he would be running with 11st 5lb on his back rather than 10st 5lb.

That makes him a stone 'well in' at the weights, which were formulated well in advance.

Trainer Jonjo O'Neill won the National in 2010 with Don't Push It and Cloth Cap has a similar training regime – with both preferring to live outside to spending time in a stable.

Connections

O’Neill was a central figure in the aforementioned National, as Don’t Push It gave Sir AP McCoy the triumph that had eluded him in 14 previous attempts.

The Jackdaws Castle handler is a master at preparing horses for big handicaps – and he was one of a few English trainers to win one at the Cheltenham Festival, which was dominated by the Irish.

Grand National 2021




He has found the key to Cloth Cap this season, while owner Trevor Hemmings has taken the race with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).

Conditions and trip

As well as the chaser's excellent weight, the ground looks ideal.

The course has been watered to keep it good to soft, because very little rain fell in the build-up.

Never really at his best when the ground is worse than that, Cloth Cap has excelled on decent going this season.

It was also dry when he was third in the 2019 Scottish National, over a four mile trip, which is nearly as far as the Aintree race.

And he has improved a lot since then.

Negatives

The field

When he won his big handicap at Newbury earlier in the season, Cloth Cap jumped from fence to fence in the lead for Tom Scudamore.

Such tactics are not easy to pull off in the National, with 40 runners and competition for the lead.

Horses have to measure their jumps accurately at pace, which he clearly does, but it depends if he can do it with plenty of horses around him early on.

Odds

From the year 2000, only two clear favourites have won the race.

In 2019, Tiger Roll followed up his 2018 victory – and Cloth Cap does not have any Aintree experience.

The shortest-priced winner was Poethlyn at 11-4 in 1919, so it is not likely Cloth Cap will break that record.

Recent Nationals have been prone to a shock result, with 66-1, 33-1 and 25-1 scorers in the past ten years.

Backers never really know whether a horse will take to Aintree's unique test until the race is underway.

Verdict

Plenty of positives for Cloth Cap, but he is too short to be a betting proposition.

His jumping was excellent at Newbury two starts ago, however he will probably have to be a little less bold to navigate his way around Aintree.

The likes of Burrows Saint and Minella Times have excellent claims and they are at least double the price at current odds.

Outsiders with decent each-way chances include Mister Malarky and Milan Native – both smart handicap chasers on their day.

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