Pipe weighs up Junior National task

David Pipe feels ante-post favourite Junior has “enough weight” in the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on April 14.

David Pipe feels ante-post favourite Junior has “enough weight” in the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on April 14.

Pipe has already won the unique contest with Comply Or Die in 2008, who finished runner-up 12 months later.

Junior, who has not yet run this season, heads the market on the back of victories at the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot and has been allotted 11st 2lb for the National.

The Somerset handler could also run Massini’s Maguire (10st 11lb), Swing Bill (10st 3lb) and The Package (10st 2lb).

“We are right where we thought we would be – Junior has enough weight with 11st 2lb, but the handicapper always compresses the weights to encourage the best possible field,” said Pipe.

“That means that all of our entries are badly off with several of the top weights, but that is not a new scenario and the handicapper faces a very difficult task in trying to make the race as competitive as possible without alienating those further down the handicap.

“Massini’s Maguire has been a very high-class horse throughout his entire career and a weight of 10st 11lb looks reasonable enough, while Swing Bill (10st 3lb) and The Package (10st 2lb) look to have nice racing weights, although they will need plenty above them to come out to get a run,” he told his website, www.davidpipe.com.

Trainer Donald McCain, whose late father, Ginger, famously won the race four times, claimed the National last year with Ballabriggs, who could end up with top weight if Synchronised (11st 10lb) does not run.

“Although Ballabriggs has been given a big weight 11st 9lb, I am not surprised and I certainly haven’t got a problem with it,” he said.

“My father always argued that there should be some sort of ’Aintree factor’ and having been brought up in an era of previous Grand National winners having big weights, I really can’t complain.

“He’s won the race before, he’s a big, strong horse who can carry the weight and the fact he is proven at Aintree offsets a couple of extra pounds.

“I fully expect him to carry top weight on the day but, as I say, it isn’t a surprise and all we can do is get him there in the best shape we can.

“I am hoping to give him a racecourse gallop at Haydock at the weekend and then it’s hopefully on to Kelso in early March for his reappearance.”

McCain could also run the classy Weird Al (11st 8lb) and Wymott (10st 2lb).

“Weird Al has been given a fair weight but, to be honest, I am not thinking any further than the Cheltenham Gold Cup with him,” he added.

“Obviously we will have to have a look depending on what happens there but Cheltenham is the main target.

“Wymott would have a nice racing weight if he was able to get in, but I would think it was unlikely that he would get a run,” McCain wrote in his Betfair column.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has never won the race, and only has two entries this year – Neptune Collonges (11st 6lb) and Niche Market (10st 5lb).

“I am actually thrilled with Niche Market’s racing weight of 10st 5lb – it’s a lovely racing weight,” said Nicholls.

“Niche Market ran a good second in the Becher on ground far too soft last time and good ground in mid-April will be much more to his liking.

“’The Niche’, as his owner Graham Regan calls him, is really well at the moment and you will see him next in a veterans’ race at Newbury on March 3.

“If Ruby (Walsh) doesn’t ride him (in the National) – he has a decision to make with the horse getting such a nice weight – then Harry Skelton will probably step in.

“I still think Neptune Collonges is probably too high in the handicap, but I can’t complain too much.

“He has always struck me as the ideal horse for this race and has run two good races at Ascot and Sandown on his last two starts.

“He runs at Haydock on Saturday, where he will hopefully advertise his National claims.

“I haven’t thought about an Aintree jockey for him yet, but I will sit down with (owner) John Hales at the appropriate time.”

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