Trainer Jonjo O’Neill was part of one of the greatest Grand National stories in 2010 when Don’t Push It came out on top in the world’s most famous steeplechase, providing Tony McCoy with his first win in the race.
The success of Don’t Push It was also a first for O’Neill in the marathon contest at Aintree. That remains one of the biggest victories of his career, with Synchronised’s win in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup the only other moment as a trainer which ranks alongside that moment.
Cloth Cap represents O’Neill’s best chance of repeating his success from 2010 in the race this year. He has Grand National 2021 online odds of 14/1, making him the ante-post favourite at this stage of the 4m2½f contest next month.
The nine-year-old has been handed a weight of 10st 5lb by the official handicapper, meaning if he does line up at the Merseyside track, he is likely to have one of the lowest allocations in the 40-runner field.
O’Neill’s chaser has taken a huge leap in the official ratings this year. He started the campaign with a mark of 138. He is now rated at 148 following his victory at Newbury last time out. That success has put him in the Grand National picture. The race at Aintree will not be the first time Cloth Cap has encountered a distance that is 4m or longer. He finished third in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in 2019. That performance will give his connections confidence that he will stay on the trip next month.
Since he switched to fences in 2018, Cloth Cap has not fallen once. His jumping has been very good, which is why O’Neill believes his horse will relish the test the racecourse in Merseyside will offer.
Familiar Silks At Aintree
Cloth Cape is owned by Trevor Hemmings who is very familiar with Grand National success. The leading owner has prevailed in the contest three times, a record he shares with three others. A victory in 2021 will give him that record outright.
Hemmings was first successful in 2005 when Hedgehunter justified favouritism to prevail for trainer Willie Mullins. The Irish horse jumped the last fence in front and he stretched away from his rivals in the run-in to the finishing line, scoring by 12 lengths.
Six years after Hedgehunter’s victory, Hemmings was in the winner’s enclosure once again after the Grand National as Ballabriggs came out on top. Jason Maguire was the jockey in the saddle on that occasion and the pair finished just over two lengths ahead of Oscar Time.
A record-equalling third win for Hemmings came in 2015 as Many Clouds carried his silks to success. He had 11st 9lb on his back but it was not enough to stop him from winning the race in an impressive weight carrying performance.
If Cape Cloth does prevail this year, it will be the fourth different trainer Hemmings has won the race with. An impressive feat that will take some beating in the future.