The previous post has generated considerable debate on The Racing Forum. A sizable number of experienced people seem to be against the race; they’d like to see it consigned to history.
I like the National though cannot deny some ambivalence when watching. From a selfish viewpoint I find it a very profitable betting race. From a historic perspective, I think its loss would be mourned by many Brits – racing and non-racing fans: the older we get the more we want to see the old reliable events click round again in our life ‘calendar’.
It’s worth stressing again the key point in my initial post – whatever anyone else thinks, it looks like Aintree have unwittingly steered the race onto a path which will result in its natural demise.
The factors which have played a substantial part in reducing the field size this year are irreversible. The only significant aspect which can be reversed (and almost certainly will be imo) is the special treatment, by the handicapper, of quality horses.
From 2013 the race will be worth £1m plus. That will be hugely tempting for owners of Gold Cup class horses, especially when they’re safe in the knowledge that they will be better off in the National than in a level weights Grade 1.
If you had a horse 5lbs to 7lbs below Gold Cup class, wouldn’t you be tempted to miss Cheltenham for Aintree and go there with a fresh well-treated horse for twice the winner’s prize money?
Would you pay £5k to run your 140/150 rated horse in the National knowing that the class horses will get big favours from the handicapper?
Aintree has unwittingly charted a course that will probably reduce the Gold Cup field to single figures and its own turnout for the National to sub-20. I’m convinced that from a spectacle viewpoint alone, fewer than 20 runners would seriously affect the public’s interest in the race.
By an unhappy accident for Aintree (a happy one for GN opponents), the race looks set for a lingering death by misadventure.