Hemmings could be on Cloud nine!
Preston North End owner Trevor Hemmings is closing in on writing his name in the Grand National history books.
He will be out on his own as the most successful owner in the history of the Aintree race, first run in 1836, if Many Clouds wins the National for the second year in a row on April 9.
And Many Clouds has every chance of helping him attain that notable landmark after the announcement of the weights for the world’s greatest steeplechase.
Many Clouds has been allotted top weight of 11st 10lb, which is only one pound more than when the Oliver Sherwood-trained gelding was such an impressive National winner in 2015.
The way that handicapper Phil Smith, a former semi-pro footballer, frames the weights for the National means that he has limited room for manoeuvre in allotting a mark for Many Clouds, hence the fact that he has been bumped up just one pound – 11st 10lb is the maximum a horse can carry in the National.
Hemmings is already the joint-holder for the record of most Grand National wins.
He has won it three times already with Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds. Noel Le Mare won it three times with the mighty Red Rum, the last back-to-back winner, while another owner James Machell saw his colours triumph three times in the 19th century.
Andrew Tulloch, Jockey Club Racecourses’ regional head of racing, spoke for many followers of the big race when he said: “It will be fascinating to see if Many Clouds can become the first back-to-back winner since Red Rum 42 years ago, particularly as he is in the unique position of being only set to carry a pound more than when successful in 2015.”
The bookies certainly go a bundle on Many Clouds’ Aintree chances.
Andrew Griffiths, spokesman for Aintree’s betting partner Betfred said: “Many Clouds tops our betting at 12/1 and he’s been incredibly well-backed despite history suggesting he faces a stiff task off top-weight.
“The nine-year-old saved us from a huge payout on A P McCoy last year but it’s punters that will be on cloud nine at Aintree if he becomes the first horse to win back-to-back runnings since the mighty Red Rum.”
St Annes racehorse owner Alan Halsall, a director of Aintree, is hoping to see his colours carried at Aintree in the big race by Bishops Road.
The ex-Irish-trained gelding won on his first start for Halsall at Sandown Park in January.
He has been allotted 10st 3lb, but is currently 60th in the list of entries, for which there is a maximum field of 40 for safety reasons.
Bishops Road, trained by Kerry Lee, is due to run in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock Park on Saturday.
The 2016 National will be the last under the sponsorship of Crabbie’s and in another change the start time for the big race has been moved an hour to 5.15pm.
April’s big race boasts a prize fund of £1million on a day when Hemmings’ PNE side are away to Middlesbrough.