Pointment faces tough task

Mr Pointment will have to defy a welter of statistics if he is to claim John Smith’s Grand National glory at Aintree.

Mr Pointment will have to defy a welter of statistics if he is to claim John Smith’s Grand National glory at Aintree.

Paul Nicholls’ Becher Chase winner has been allotted 11st 8lb for the April 5 feature but no horse since Red Rum in 1977 has shouldered that kind of burden when winning.

Bewleys Berry finished second behind Mr Pointment in the Becher and he has been given a mark of 10st 11lb by handicapper Phil Smith – much to the delight of trainer Howard Johnson.

He said: “I’m happy with that, very pleased in fact.

“We’ll give him one more run and then go to Aintree nice and fresh. He’s in at Newbury on Saturday but I could go to the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster with him.”

Red Rum was trained by Aintree legend Ginger McCain to win his three Nationals and although the handler has bowed out of the sport, his son Donald continues to send out the winners from their Cheshire base.

He has Cloudy Lane (10st 8lb), Idle Talk (10st 6lb) and Bannister Lane (10st) to pick from.

“I’d be happy with Cloudy Lane’s weight – when all’s said and done, getting them in the race is the most important thing and he should make it off that rating,” said McCain.

“It would be nice if Beef Or Salmon were to turn up as we would have a cracking weight then.

“Idle Talk’s weight gives him more of a chance than last year. He’s not certain to go but if we do decide to run, it seems a sensible rating.

“He ran a very nice race at Doncaster the other day, so no complaints.”

Beef Or Salmon tops the weights for the four-and-a-half-mile marathon on 11st 12lb with Celestial Gold and Turpin Green next best on 11st 10lb.

Irish raider Point Barrow has been given 10st 10lb this year after crashing out at the first when sent off the co-favourite in the 2007 renewal.

Trainer Pat Hughes said: “I would be happy enough with that, it’s about the same as he carried last year.

“The plan is to run in the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup Chase later this month and then go straight to the race from there.

“Hopefully he can have a bit more luck this year.”

Another handler satisfied with the outcome of the handicap was Peter Bowen and he is looking forward to letting last year’s runner-up McKelvey have another crack at the big fences.

The nine-year-old has been sidelined by a leg problem since but having gone up 7lb on last year to 10st 11lb, Bowen is hoping for another bold show.

“You would have to be happy with McKelvey’s weight as it’s not that much more than he carried last year,” he said.

“He’s in really good form and we had the leg checked yesterday and it’s fine.”

Bowen has 11 runners entered but with a record 105 horses in the handicap this year, some of those are unlikely to run.

Other notable contenders include the Willie Mullins-trained Snowy Morning (10st 12lb) with the bookmakers reporting a stream of money for Royal & SunAlliance Chase runner-up.

Stablemate and 2005 winner Hedgehunter is also among a record-equalling 38 Irish-trained entries along with Royal County Star (10st 7lb) and Newbay Prop (10st 1lb), who hail from Tony Martin’s stable.

Last year’s third Slim Pickings (11st) and fourth Philson Run (10st 5lb) could turn out again along with Irish National winner Butler’s Cabin (11st).

Colin Tizzard’s Grade One-winning novice Joe Lively has been allotted 11st 4lb while the French boast five entries including Francois Doumen’s L’Ami (10st 12lb).

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