LAST year’s hero Many Clouds tops the weights for the 2016 Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on April 9.
Oliver Sherwood’s charge carried 11st 9lb to victory last year and he has been handed 11st 10lb for this season’s renewal following his recent second place behind Smad Place at Cheltenham.
With just an additional pound to carry because of his weight-carrying performance last year, and the way the race is framed in order to attract higher calibre runners, Many Clouds is favourite to become the first dual winner of the world’s greatest steeplechase since Red Rum in the 1970s.
“Many Clouds has many of the attributes you would associate with Red Rum; he stays, he jumps well and he is courageous. He deserves to be favourite for this year’s race,” said William Hill spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke.
The Leeds-based bookmaker is also offering odds of 100-1 that Many Clouds becomes the first three-time winner of the race since the aforementioned Red Rum.
The Willie Mullins-trained Don Poli, who is among the leading contenders for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is next in the list on 11st 9lb with Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti, a dual King George VI Chase winner on 11st 8lb.
Dual Irish Gold Cup victor Carlingford Lough has been handed an initial weight of 11st 7lb while Mullins’ Valseur Lido (11st 6lb), Saturday’s Denman Chase winner Houblon Des Obeaux (11st 5lb) and Mouse Morris’ First Lieutenant (11st 4lb) also feature at the top of the handicap.
Shutthefrontdoor, who finished fifth for Tony McCoy on his final National last term, has been allotted 10st 11lb this time around after shouldering 11st 2lb around the famous course in 2015. He is one of three entries for Jonjo O’Neill.
The Jim Dreaper-trained Goonyella is on 10st 8lb while The Druids Nephew is a leading hope for Neil Mulholland off 11st.
Plenty of trainers have multiple options at present with Silviniaco Conti one of nine entries for Nicholls along with the likes of Wonderful Charm (11st 3lb), Sam Winner (11st 1lb), Rocky Creek (10st 13lb) and Unioniste (10st 8lb).
Mullins has a total of seven entries with On His Own (11st 1lb), who fell in the race in 2012, and 2013 Gold Cup runner up Sir Des Champs (10st 13lb) notable contenders.
David Pipe won the race with Comply Or Die in 2008 and Ballynagour (11st 2lb), Soll (10st 11lb), Katkeau (10st 5lb) and Vieux Lion Rouge (10st 5lb) are among his seven entries.
Venetia Williams also has seven contenders, including Houblon Des Obeaux, while Gordon Elliott, who memorably struck gold in 2007 with Silver Birch, has six possibles topped by Roi Du Mee on 10st 13lb.
Philip Hobbs has four entries with Onenightinvienna (10st 8lb) and Kruzhlinin (10st 7lb) prominent in the ante-post betting.
Nicky Henderson’s Triolo D’Alene (11st) has his supporters after recently returning to winning form while last year’s second Saint Are (10st 5lb) and fourth Alvarado (10st 2lb) are primed to do battle again.
Dr Richard Newland sent out Pineau De Re to claim the Grade Three prize in 2014 and that horse has been given 10st 2lb this time, with stablemate Royale Knight on 10st 1lb.
Other notable entries include Kim Bailey’s The Last Samuri (10st 8lb), Becher Chase winner Highland Lodge (10st 2lb), Lucy Wadham’s Le Reve (10st 8lb), former Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere (11st 1lb) and Foxrock (11st 3lb).
Kerry Lee has mopped up in staying chases since Christmas and her Welsh National hero Mountainous has been given 10st 1lb, with Classic Chase winner Russe Blanc on 9st 12lb and Sandown victor Bishops Road on 10st 3lb, although all will need plenty to come out to get a run.