BHA senior handicapper Phil Smith was amongst the guests at a media open day at Aintree on Wednesday and speculated that some seven or eight horses are potentially well in compared to the official mark he has given them in the weight allocations for the John Smith’s Grand National, writes Elliot Slater.

Having published the weights for the Aintree marathon in mid-February, Smith has been reflecting on the performances of a variety of horses to have run since that date and who have improved considerably on the mark they have been given. Unlike the Melbourne Cup, for example, where the handicapper has the discretion to retrospectively raise the weight of runners after the publishing of the official weights, such an option is not available to Smith and those looking to place Grand National bets should remember this.

Amongst the horses that he highlighted as having made significant improvement since mid-February, the Sir Alex Ferguson-owned What A Friend was an obvious candidate on the back of his fine effort in last week’s Cheltenham Gold Cup when finishing fourth, only a nose behind his stable companion and former dual winner of the blue riband event, Kauto Star. It is likely that if Smith were assessing the weight now he would ask the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding to carry as much as a stone more than he will on April 9.

Lucinda Russell’s Silver By Nature is another who appears well in following his easy victory in Haydock’s Grand National Trial when winning the race for the second year running, although the general feeling is that the grey would appreciate easier ground than might be the case at Aintree if recent weather forecasts are to be believed. Also given favourable mentions in despatches by Smith were Racing Post Chase winner Quinz, and Irish challengers Arbor Supreme and In Compliance.

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