Don Poli: one-time Grand National favourite will not run
PICTURE:Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
By Keith Melrose 11:20AM 1 MAR 2017
OUTLANDER, Don Poli and Empire Of Dirt have been pulled out of the Randox Health Grand National at the first forfeit stage, a result of the high-profile disagreement between owners Gigginstown House Stud and BHA head of handicapping Phil Smith.
Both Eddie and Michael O’Leary of Gigginstown stated their disapproval at the weights allotted to some of their higher-profile runners, which were above their handicap marks in Ireland.
Smith has tended to compress the weights among the highest-rated Grand National entrants in recent years, but the perception that he had not done the same this year for their horses has led the O’Learys to pull out no fewer than eight entrants.
That bloc, which also includes Clarcam, Devils Bride, Tiger Roll, A Toi Phil and The Game Changer, makes up the majority of the 15 withdrawn from the race on Wednesday.
Champagne West, Triolo D’Alene, Vieux Morvan, Gallant Oscar, Tour Des Champs, Dromnea and Otago Trail were the others removed. A total of 95 horses, including a further eight from Gigginstown, remain in contention for the race on April 8.
Potential clues at Doncaster
The withdrawal of the Gigginstown heavyweights means that last year’s runner-up The Last Samuri will carry at least 11st 9lb, 1lb off new top weight Carlingford Lough.
The Kim Bailey-trained The Last Samuri is expected to go on trial in Saturday’s Grimthorpe Chase, which he won last year.
Junction Fourteen, now 34th on the National list and guaranteed a run, could line up against him. His trainer Emma Lavelle said: “Depending how Junction Fourteen works this week, we’ll see whether he is straight enough to go to Doncaster.
“If he doesn’t run in the Grimthorpe, we will take him to Newbury for a racecourse gallop and then possibly run at the Cheltenham Festival.”
She added: “I was happy enough with the rating he was allotted for the Grand National, he will be carrying a lot less than he has been in his races and we are looking forward to it.”