With the beginning of spring comes anticipation for the Grand National, which takes its place each year as one of the most anticipated sporting events in the UK. Millions gather round their televisions and watch the race unfold, cheering on their favourites and their picks from the page for the Grand National betting.
Last year, the cancellation of the event left a void in the hearts of many racing fans, indeed, many general sports fans. The coronavirus pandemic ravaged the sporting world in 2020 and left months of chaos, but thankfully, we are set to have a 2021 Grand National, albeit without crowds at the famous Aintree racecourse.
Of course, the headline-making news ahead of this year’s race is that Tiger Roll, champion in 2018 and 2019, will not be heading to Aintree to defend his crown. The decision was taken by Michael O’Leary over what he felt was an unfair handicap rating on the 11-year-old. That means that the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival is likely to be Tiger Roll’s last outing.
In Tiger Roll’s absence from the betting market, Cloth Cap has emerged as the favourite to win the Grand National. Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, the nine-year-old has hit a bit of form by winning two races on the spin – the Trophy Chase at Newbury in December and the recent Premier Chase at Kelso. Those victories have propelled Cloth Cap to his status as favourite, and it will be interesting to see how O’Neill and jockey Tom Scudamore cope with the pressure.
Let’s take an in-depth look at each of the recent two victories to analyse why Cloth Cap is fancied as the top contender for the Grand National.
At odds of 9/1, Cloth Cap was not quite the favourite heading into the Trophy Chase at Newbury, but he gave a strong performance which turned a few heads. It was Scudamore’s first outing on Cloth Cap, and from the early stages of the race the pair established a strong lead and didn’t let things slip, producing a hugely impressive jumping performance to glide easily to a 10-length victory over second-place Aye Right.
It was the kind of jumping display that establishes a horse’s prowess, and gives an indication that the challenging fences of the Grand National shouldn’t pose too many concerns for O’Neill and the rest of Cloth Cap’s connections.
A performance like that at Newbury needs backing up, and Cloth Cap did just that in the Premier Chase at Kelso in early March. In a smaller field of participants, Cloth Cap defied his 10/3 odds by getting the better of Aso, Two For Gold, Definitly Red and Lake View Lad to win the race by an impressive seven and a half lengths.
Although it was not quite as smooth a jumping performance, Cloth Cap certainly did enough to establish his credentials ahead of the Grand National, and it’s no surprise that many punters are looking to the nine-year-old as their hot favourite for the Aintree race.
Of course, the Grand National will be the highest-profile outing of Cloth Cap’s career, but you wouldn’t put it past him to produce another sensational display.