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Definitly Red tops the weights for the 2018 Randox Health Grand National

Definitly Red, impressive winner of the G2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham last month, heads the weights for the £1-million Randox Health Grand National with 11st 10lb and a rating of 165. 

The world's greatest and richest chase is the highlight of Aintree's three-day Randox Health Grand National Festival and takes places with a maximum of 40 runners at 5.15pm on Saturday, April 14.

Definitly Red (trained by Brian Ellison, 20/1 with Betway) was one of the leading contenders for 2017 Randox Health Grand National, but pulled up on the first circuit with a tack problem when rated 149. 

The nine-year-old has improved again this season, with G2 triumphs in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December and the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase on January 27, in which he defeated American (Harry Fry, 11st 2lb, 50/1) by eight lengths. 

Blaklion, the 10/1 favourite with Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National, has been allotted 11st 6lb following his 12-length victory in the Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree in December. 

His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who is the only current handler to have won the Grand National more than once, also has G1 Betfair Chase hero Bristol De Mai (11st 9lb, 33/1) and Aintree G1 scorer Flying Angel (10st 7lb, 80/1) among his five contenders. 

Ireland's champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins lifted the spoils in 2005 with favourite Hedgehunter and has the leading Irish-trained contender this year in Total Recall (11st 1lb, 14/1). Total Recall stayed on strongly to defeat Whisper by a neck in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in December and took advantage of a lower handicap mark over hurdles at the Dublin Racing Festival on February 4.

Mullins' 10 entries also include promising novice Rathvinden (10st 9lb, 50/1), Pleasant Company (10st 7lb, 50/1) and Polidam (10st 5lb, 40/1). 

Multiple G1 scorer Outlander (Gordon Elliott IRE, 11st 8lb, 40/1) has the most weight of the 11 Gigginstown House Stud-owned contenders. Others to note for Michael O'Leary's operation include Valseur Lido (Henry de Bromhead IRE, 11st 5lb, 40/1) and G2 National Hunt Chase hero Tiger Roll (Gordon Elliott IRE, 10st 9lb, 50/1). 

Last year's runner-up Cause Of Causes (10st 12lb, 25/1), also trained by Elliott, is one of seven entries for owner J P McManus, who also feature recent G1 Irish Gold Cup hero Edwulf (Joseph O'Brien IRE, 11st 9lb, 25/1), last year's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup second Minella Rocco (Jonjo O'Neill, 11st 7lb, 20/1) and Anibale Fly (Tony Martin IRE, 11st 4lb, 33/1). 

Elliott's 10 entries also include the Chris Jones-owned pair of Mala Beach (11st 3lb, 40/1), winner of the Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan in November, and Noble Endeavor (10st 13lb, 33/1).

Gold Present (11st, 20/1), successful in competitive handicaps at Newbury and Ascot this season, headlines three contenders for Britain's champion Jump handler Nicky Henderson. The Lambourn trainer could also run O O Seven (10st 11lb, 66/1) and Vyta Du Roc (10st 6lb, 33/1). 

Paul Nicholls triumphed with Neptune Collonges in 2012 and his six entries are led by dual Scottish Grand National winner Vicente (10st 10lb, 28/1), more likely to head back to Ayr, course scorer As De Mee (10st 8lb, 50/1) and Warriors Tale (10st 8lb, 50/1), beaten narrowly on both his starts this season.

Irish handler Mouse Morris saddled the 2016 winner Rule The World. His three entries, all owned by Gigginstown House Stud, include Alpha Des Obeux (11st, 66/1) and 2015 Irish Grand National scorer Thunder And Roses (10st 1lb, 66/1). 

Further down the weights, Welsh Grand National hero Raz De Maree (Gavin Cromwell, 50/1), who at the age of 13 is the oldest winner of the Chepstow showpiece, has been handed 10st 5lb, while impressive G3 Classic Handicap Chase victor Milansbar (Neil King, 40/1) is 69th on the list on 10st 2lb. One For Arthur took the Classic Handicap Chase prior to this Randox Health Grand National success last season. 

Trainer Dr Richard Newland and owner John Provan combined with 2014 winner Pineau de Re. They have another interesting contender in Abolitionist (10st 4lb, 33/1), who finished third in last season's Irish Grand National. 

British Horseracing Authority Head of Handicapping Phil Smith, framing the Randox Health Grand National weights for the 20th and final time in 2018, commented: "One of those most interesting aspects of this year's Randox Health Grand National is the top three horses in the handicap. 

"Defintly Red, Bristol De Mai and Edwulf are all on higher ratings than last season and that is down to their wins in Pattern races. A year ago, they were all rated significantly lower. It is what they have done this season that has moved them upwards with Definitly Red taking the Cotswold Chase, Bristol De Mai the Betfair Chase and Edwulf the Irish Gold Cup. 

"It will be great if Definitly Red lines up on April 14, because I am confident that he will have already at least been placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup by then. In what looks like an open Cheltenham Gold Cup, I think he will finish in the first four. 

"In the past, horses at the top of the handicap have been very worthy horses, such as horses that had run well in Gold Cups for example, but were perhaps horses on their way down. The progressive horses at the top of the handicap is the biggest change for me when looking at this year's race. 

"We also have the established stars like Outlander and Minella Rocco at the top of the handicap. Outlander is a three-time G1 winner in Ireland and Minella Rocco has finished runner-up in a Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

"Outlander is a horse that has had a stellar career but has slipped slightly under the radar - if the Grand National was run at Leopardstown, he would be the winner as he is real specialist there. Minella Rocco is a horse that has always looked like he would stay further and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. 

"There wasn't a specific race run this season that helped me frame the handicap in a particular way. The closest association at the top of the weights is Edwulf and Outlander, who were first and second in the Irish Gold Cup. There was a neck between them at Leopardstown and there is a pound between them in the handicap for Aintree. 

"The top of the handicap is not so dominated by Irish-trained horses this year, in contrast to 12 months' ago. There is a good mix at the top this year - four of the top eight in the handicap are GB-trained and four are Irish-trained. 

"Obviously, there are also horses that have form over the Grand National fences including Blaklion, The Last Samuri, Cause Of Causes and Saint Are. That is something that is great about the Randox Health Grand National - established star performers over the fences who come back for more. 

"The most difficult horse for me to assess, no doubt about it, was Bless The Wings. The reason being was that he is rated 17lb higher on his Cheltenham cross country form compared to his rating in Ireland.

"The form of the cross country races at Cheltenham has historically been very good in relation to Aintree with the likes of Silver Birch, Balthazar King and Cause Of Causes.

"On the one hand, Bless The Wings' rating of 137 in Ireland would not get him in the race but 154, his cross country rating, seemed to me to be too high compared to his form on park courses. 

"In the end, I settled on 143 as a compromise which should hopefully get him in the race. He is a very interesting horse - even though he is a 13-year-old. He is an absolutely super jumper and his cross country form is very good indeed. 

"Horses which have tumbled down the weights include Carlingford Lough, who was joint top-weight back in 2015, but is on 10st 11lb this year. Lord Windermere is a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner on 10st 3lb, while Road To Riches is on 10st 1lb this year compared to 10st 13lb a year ago. It will be very interesting if any of these can bounce back to form.

"There is less discrepancy than ever before between British and Irish ratings.

"The biggest difference we do have is with Pleasant Company (10st 7llb) who was going really well last year before making a terrible error at Valentine's on the second circuit (25th). After that, he just coasted home and finished ninth. 

"I didn't feel I needed to drop Pleasant Company very much for Aintree this year because of that one bad error - his finishing position was not commensurate with how he actually ran on the day. I have him 3lb higher than his Irish rating." 

The 2018 Randox Health Grand National weights will be unveiled on Tuesday, February 13, at BAFTA in London and announced publicly at 7.30pm.

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