Grand National: a guide to the weights ceremony

Grand National fences

Grand National: the field tackle a fence in the world’s most iconic race

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

 By Jon Lees 3:20PM 14 FEB 2017 

THE weights for the £1 million Randox Health Grand National, the world’s most iconic horserace, will be unveiled on Tuesday evening. Here’s how you can access all the crucial information.

What is the Grand National weights ceremony?
It’s one of the most eagerly awaited events in the jumps year, at which Aintree takes the wraps off the order of handicap for the world famous steeplechase. It is a plush occasion attended by past and present winners of the race and connections of those hoping to be next onto the National podium.

How does it work and can I follow?
For the first time this year the weights allocated to runners have been closely guarded and will be known only to BHA head of handicapping Phil Smith and select others. Connections will not discover their horse’s weight until they are revealed in countdown form at Tuesday evening’s ceremony. Previously connections would find out their horse’s weights immediately on arrival, but Aintree wanted to add more drama to the occasion.

The countdown will start at 8pm with weights announced from bottom to top in blocks of ten with the final ten announced individually. Aintree will stream the event live on Facebook, while there will be regular updates from the Racing Post on Twitter and on the website.

Who makes the decisions and how?
The Grand National is the only race in the calendar for which the BHA’s head of handicapping has free rein over what weight he can allocate horses, so Phil Smith has total discretion over the make-up of the race and his decision is final.

As a result there is an element of uncertainty and sometimes disagreement over the way Smith frames the weights, from the maximum 11st 10lb down, which has invariably involved him compressing the rating of the highest handicapped horses to give weight carriers a more equal chance as the extreme distance at Aintree makes carrying weight more difficult.

Why is it at the Victoria and Albert Museum?
The weights ceremony is one of the longest running events of its kind and has been staged at some iconic locations, in keeping with the Grand National’s status as an iconic race and the V and A is the latest location. With a new race sponsor in Randox Health and a new terrestrial TV partner in ITV, it has been moved to an evening event to try to generate greater media coverage – although print publications will struggle with the later kick-off.

Where else has it been staged?
The first Grand National weights lunch was held in 1977 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in London when the race was sponsored by the News of the World. It has visited nearly every one of the capital’s five star hotels since, including the Dorchester, Savoy and Landmark, as well as the Cafe Royal and Bafta Centre.

During Martell’s sponsorship the lunch was held for one year in Cognac, France, when guests were flown from Luton Airport to a ceremony which took place at the brand’s distillery.

More recently it has moved to a new London location each year taking in the the world famous Abbey Road Studios, Royal Opera House, Sky Garden and now the V and A.

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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