You might think that little added incentive would be required to attract runners for a £1m race, but the Grand National's graveyard reputation is not so easily glossed away. So when the weights for this year's race were published, the senior handicapper Phil Smith offered his now familiar apology for departing from the tenets of handicapping in framing the weights. "We're trying to attract the really nice horses and the important thing is for them to run and have a chance of winning," he explained.
His top weight Tidal Bay, rated 168 for other purposes and second in the Grade One Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown as recently as Sunday, has been dropped to 161 for one day only at Aintree on 5 April. The 13-year-old's trainer, Paul Nicholls, proclaimed himself "delighted" and ruled out any idea of going for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
But Tidal Bay is no good thing, having been let down by his jumping in the 2011 National when rated 159, while he lacked the tactical speed needed for Aintree when well beaten round Haydock's sharp circuit in the autumn.
Next in the weights, 1lb lower, is the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Long Run, whose steep decline this season is fairly reflected. But, to nail the idea that Aintree form has special consideration any more, On His Own, who has blundered round the National fences three times, is up 6lb on last year, on the strength of his park course form.
Last year's third Teaforthree, who put in an exhibition round of jumping, is down 2lb for one run since, when ninth in the Welsh Grand National during a lull in the fortunes of his trainer, Rebecca Curtis. "That's a lovely weight, she said. "I want to get two runs into him before Aintree so he'll probably run at Ascot on Saturday and then in something at Cheltenham." He is entitled to be to the fore again at Aintree come April.