Michael O’Leary Reacts Badly to Grand National Weights
Nothing new there then! Michael O’Leary has no qualms about making waves in the racing world, he has probably upset almost everyone in the known universe at one time or another. Whatever the Grand National handicapper had announced regarding this year’s race, Mr O’Leary would doubtless have complained. But the high weights handed out to his horses have really fanned the flames.
Most people would be feeling fairly chuffed about their Grand National experience when one of their horses had won the race. But that was last year and this is now. To be fair it is Mr O’Leary’s trainer and brother who has been doing the complaining on this occasion. Although you can’t help wondering who is really behind the bad feeling.
The Gigginstown House Stud
Three horses owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud have been given ratings for the big race that are higher than their Irish ratings. All may now be withdrawn from the Grand National. Eddie O’Leary has suggested that the British Horse Racing Authority may not be acting impartially. He has said that he feels the weights announced represent "a post-Brexit handicap". Ouch!
Three Horses to be Withdrawn?
The O’Learys may be a little miffed but most experts seem to agree with the decisions of Phil Smith, Head of Handicapping. Empire of Dirt and Don Poli both ran excellent races in the Irish Gold Cup which took place just before Phil Smith made his decisions. Smith himself has confirmed that the Leopardstown race did influence his thinking. Meanwhile Outlander, who was handed top weight, was expected to occupy that position in the handicap so it is hard to understand what all the fuss is about.
Nonetheless, Outlander was immediately withdrawn from the Grand National and Gigginstown have announced that Empire of Dirt and Don Poli may also be withdrawn. So that is a bit of an up yours then! It is a strange attitude to take considering that Rule the World did, in fact, win the race last year. So he had clearly received fair treatment from the handicapper. Having said that, he was only carrying 10-7, and the horses at the top of the handicap do not tend to fair well in the National.
It would be strange if they ultimately withdraw Don Poli from the race. He is a tough stayer and many people’s favourite for the race. Why would such a great prospect we withdrawn over what amounts to an argument over a couple of pounds. But it is never wise to try to second guess Michael O’Leary with whom the decision of whether to race not almost certainly lies.
To complete the picture for the Irish representation in this year’s race, the five top weighted horses are all Irish and 20 of the 40 top rated horses are Irish. So, in spite of the Gigginstown’s unseemly reaction, an Irish winner of the Grand National would be no surprise.