Tom Scudamore’s Cloth Cap is clear favourite for Grand National

Grand National favourite: Tom Scudamore riding Cloth Cap. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty ImagesGrand National favourite: Tom Scudamore riding Cloth Cap. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Grand National favourite: Tom Scudamore riding Cloth Cap. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
JONJO O’Neill concedes Cloth Cap will never have a better opportunity to win the Randox Grand National after the handicapper hit him with a 14lb rise for his easy Kelso win.

The nine-year-old, who had put up a similarly impressive display to win the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November, finds himself 26lb higher than for that success just two runs ago.

However, as the National weights have already been announced, Cloth Cap can run off his old mark of 148 rather than his new rating of 162 – which would put him on the verge of Gold Cup class.

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Unsurprisingly, Cloth Cap is the clear 6-1 favourite for Aintree after these two wins under Tom Scudamore, who will keep the ride in the world’s greatest steeplechase.

“He’s come out of the race grand, which is nice,” said trainer O’Neill.

“He’s looked a better horse all year at home to be fair – it hasn’t just been the ground.

“You can argue all you like with the handicapper and say the older horses (Definitly Red and Lake View Lad) didn’t perform, Kim’s (Bailey) horse (Two For Gold) didn’t perform – but he still won by seven lengths, so you’re only kidding yourself.

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“This year you’d have to love the enthusiasm he has shown. He jumps, he stays and if he keeps doing that it would be lovely.”

O’Neill has already won the National when providing Sir AP McCoy with a famous victory on Don’t Push It in 2010, while Cloth Cap’s owner Trevor Hemmings has been lucky enough to see his colours carried to victory three times by Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).

“We’ve got to get him there first – everything needs to go 100 per cent right before we can start getting excited,” said O’Neill.

“He’ll never have the same weight again, that is for sure, so this is his opportunity. It’s nice to be in this position if we can get him there safe and sound.”

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Soaring Glory is still not a definite runner at next week’s four-day Cheltenham Festival.

The six-year-old was an impressive winner of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time out, and is fourth favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle which opens the meeting on Tuesday.

However, O’Neill and owner Pat Hickey have still to have the definitive conversation which will decide whether or not he makes the short journey to Prestbury Park from the trainer’s Jackdaws Castle base.

“I need to speak to Pat. He wasn’t mad keen on going (to Cheltenham), and I’m lukewarm about it,” said O’Neill.

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“We just haven’t discussed it. We’ll probably leave him in and have a look, so that’s about as much as I can say really.

“There’s no real reason as such, other than Pat’s not a big fan. He loves Cheltenham, but he’d love to be able to go with a runner and enjoy it (in person).”

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