Briggs team content with National burden

Donald McCain had “no complaints” after ante-post favourite Ballabriggs was allotted a weight of 11st in the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National.

Donald McCain had “no complaints” after ante-post favourite Ballabriggs was allotted a weight of 11st in the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National.

McCain’s family is synonymous with the great race following the exploits of his father and three-time winner Red Rum.

Ballabriggs won at the Cheltenham Festival last March and has won two novice hurdles easily enough so far this season, giving McCain plenty of hope that he is great form.

The weights are headed by last year’s hero Don’t Push It and Neptune Collonges who are both on 11st 10lb.

“I’ve no complaints with that for Ballabriggs. He’s a Cheltenham Festival winner so it was always going to be around the 11st mark,” said McCain.

“The bonus is that Don’t Push It is likely to run so the weights aren’t going to change at all. I’ve no complaints.”

Just behind the top two in the weights is Howard Johnson’s mercurial talent Tidal Bay on 11st 9lb.

Winner of the Arkle over two miles back in 2008, he now appears to need every yard of three miles and is on target for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Johnson has yet to confirm his participation, but was keen on the chances of Santa’s Son off a weight of 10st 5lb.

“The main aim for Tidal Bay is the Gold Cup so we’ll see,” said Johnson.

“I have schooled him over National fences before and he jumps them like a buck. There’s nearly a month between them and he’s 10 now but we’ll see.

“He wants a marathon trip these days, which is strange for an Arkle winner.

“If he ran, we’d know our fate early. He’ll either take to it or tail himself off.

“Santa’s Son should get in and at this stage he’d be my main hope. He’s won a Castleford Chase so he’s got a bit of class and he came out of his win at Musselburgh in very good shape. He’ll stay.”

Another Cheltenham Festival winner in the mix is Jimmy Moffatt’s Chief Dan George who has been given 10st 12lb.

“That’s a good racing weight. I’d be happy with that, he’s off his correct mark,” said Moffatt.

“Don’t Push It will run so we’ll stay under 11st. We don’t want to go through that barrier as not too many win above 11st.

“He’ll have a spin over hurdles at Haydock on Saturday, then he’ll go to Cheltenham for the handicap chase he won last year, then he’ll go to Aintree.”

Henrietta Knight has targeted Calgary Bay at the race for some time and his weight of 10st 10lb seems fair enough.

“I suppose that’s not too bad a weight and he’ll go straight for the National,” she said.

Noel Glynn’s Becauseicouldntsee suffered a setback recently but if his Irish handler can get him fit in time, he will shoulder 10st 8lb.

“I’d be happy with that, hopefully we get him there now as we had a setback the other week,” said Glynn.

“He’s only a week away from going back into work so he’s going the right way. We wouldn’t have time for a run so it will be straight there.”

Alan King’s West End Rocker is prominent in the betting and will put his claims on the line at Haydock this weekend in their National Trial. He will carry only 10st 5lb if he runs at Aintree.

“I’m very happy with that. It’s a good racing weight so let’s just hope things go according to plan on Saturday. Once we get this weekend out of the way, we’ll start worrying about the National,” said King.

Another going to Haydock is Malcolm Jefferson’s King Fontaine, who has been frustrated by the weather this season. He has been given 10st 6lb.

“That seems all right. Don’t Push It will probably run so it won’t be going up either,” said Jefferson.

“We want to see how he goes on Saturday first, that will tell us something. If he isn’t in he can’t run. He’s eight which isn’t a bad age for the National.”

Irish National winner Bluesea Cracker has 10st 4lb and trainer James Motherway feels that is a fair assessment.

“It’s a nice racing weight, we can’t complain about that,” he said.

“She’s due to run in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse next week. My owners and myself will probably make a decision after that as to whether she’ll go to Aintree or not.”

However, Andrew Parker, trainer of Scottish National winner Merigo, feels he has little chance of getting a run off just 10st 1lb.

“He’s got the same rating (137) as last year. He’s not altered us so it’s going to be a struggle to get in,” said Parker.

“There are masses of horses above us in the weights so we will just have to see if we are lucky.”

Jonjo O’Neill was philosophical about Don’t Push It being set a stiff task in his repeat bid.

The Jackdaws Castle handler instead feels Can’t Buy Time may be his best chance of success this year off just 10st 4lb.

“Don’t Push It is in good form, it’s a shame he’s got top weight but there’s not a lot we can do about that,” said O’Neill.

“There are a lot of better-handicapped horses in there, but it’s more about getting him in the mood than what weight he’s got.

“He really did enjoy it last year, it was a fantastic performance and let’s hope he can do the same again.

“Synchronised (11st 6lb) has plenty of weight and he wouldn’t be as good a racehorse as Don’t Push It. He really needs soft ground as well.

“Can’t Buy Time has a nice racing weight and he would have a live chance. He definitely likes better ground and is a good jumper, although he’s not had a lot of luck.

“I don’t know a lot about Quolibet. He can be a lazy horse but he seems a pretty good jumper.

“It looks like he likes soft ground but the good thing is at least he’ll get in.”

Owner Graham Reagan said of the well-fancied Niche Market, trained by Paul Nicholls and given 10st 13lb: “We wanted anything less than 11st so we are delighted.

“He had a wind op at the start of December and he won’t want for fitness.

“Paul has got to win it sometime and I think the Niche is his best chance.”

Nicholls agreed, adding: “I’ll probably have about four runners, of which Niche Market would be the main one.

“He’s going to run over two and a half miles at Newbury on March 5. The other one I’ve really trained with the National in mind is Ornais and he’ll have another run in a hunter chase at Fontwell.

“I knew Neptune Collonges was never going to get in off a light weight and the plan is to go for the Gold Cup, after that I’ll have a chat with his owner.

“What A Friend (11st 6lb) was just in there in case something happened, I suspect he’ll go to Newbury and then the Gold Cup.

“Meanus Dandy (10st 2lb) would run if he got in but I’m not sure about Gullible Gordon or Just Amazing.”

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