Grand National 2021: Can Anybody Stop Cloth Cap?
The Grand National is back! After last year’s race being cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the iconic Aintree showpiece will return on April 10th, and already excitement is rife amongst the punters ahead of the four-mile outing.
The field is beginning to be dwindled down with the first scratchings taking place earlier this month, leaving us with a possible 90 entries, before the second scratching later this month narrows the field further.
With the news that Tiger Roll won’t be given the chance to land an historic third successive Grand National victory, as his entry was withdrawn due to his owner Michael O’Leary deeming the 11-year-old’s handicap ‘unfair’, the spotlight has since shifted to Cloth Cap.
The Trevor Hemmings-owned horse’s recent victory at Kelso has reaffirmed his place as the favourite in the Grand National betting odds. The nine-year-old was already heavily fancied in the betting, but that seven-length win in the Premier Chase has resulted in his odds being slashed from around 14/1 to as short as 6/1, making him the outright favourite and leaving the likes of Burrows Saint, Kimberlite Candy and Secret Reprieve still out at 14/1.
Many expected the Class 1 Listed Race to be a warm-up run for Cloth Cap, as he undoubtedly needed a final outing before the National having not run since November. However, it was quite the opposite and the nine-year-old, who lined up for starter’s orders as the third favourite, was impressive from the off, setting the pace for much of the race before leaving his opposition in awe as he romped up the home straight and over the line seven-and-a-half lengths clear of favourite Aso.
“He jumps well and he stays well, which are two good things to have when you’re going for a National,” trainer O’Neill, who won the Aintree race with Don’t Push It in 2010, said afterwards. “The plan was to go and win the National last year. We don’t mind if it’s a year late!”
Of course, the National will be a completely different ball game for Cloth Cap, whose win at Kelso was his second on the spin after landing the Trophy Chase at Newbury back in November. It’s almost two miles longer than the Premier Chase and it goes without saying that Aintree is a much more challenging track, whilst the field will be much bigger than the one he got the better of on March 6th.
That said, the aforementioned entries also pose much more of a threat to Cloth Cap than the four horses he went up against at Kelso. Secret Reprieve is heading to Aintree having won the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow back in January, whilst Kimberlite Candy will be more than familiar with the Merseyside track having finished second in the Becher Handicap Chase at the course twice in the last two years.
Willie Mullins-trained Burrows Saint is also in with a chance. The eight-year-old, who the Irish trainer will be hoping lands him his first National since Hedgehunter’s victory in 2005, is a dangerous competitor.
The Grand National is a notoriously difficult race to predict, and truly anything can happen on the day. However, Cloth Cap is a worthy favourite and if he performs as fluently at Aintree as he did at Kelso, then he will be incredibly difficult to stop!