Leniency of handicapper gives Tidal Bay Grand National hope

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Like a good whisky, Tidal Bay has defied the critics in getting better with age this season and it would cap off a remarkable campaign should he end it by giving Paul Nicholls a second successive winner of the Grand National.

Despite now being a 12-year-old, Tidal Bay’s official rating has already climbed 17lb from his success on his final start of last season when landing the Bet365 Gold Cup Chase at Sandown.

His last two runs have been especially significant, taking second in the Hennessy behind Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Bobs Worth when conceding weight and then beating the likes of Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar to win the Lexus Chase over Christmas.

Running off 171 in the Grand National would be an almost pointless task, with no horse running off 170 since Suny Bay chased home Earth Summit back in 1998.

Handicapper Phil Smith generally tends to put a horse up 9lb for a Grand National win, which suggests that Tidal Bay will have to run to a mark of about 180 to secure victory at Aintree.

This is a level he has never reached previously and there is no reason to suggest that he is open to that sort of improvement at his current age.

Therefore, to give Tidal Bay a chance of success, Smith has stuck by his custom method of compressing the gaps in rating at the head of the Grand National weights, which has resulted in the top weight being effectively well-in 9lb off a mark of 162.

This would indicate that a repeat of his performance in either the Hennessy or Lexus Chase would seemingly be enough for Tidal Bay to win.

The Grand National has been the horse’s leading aim all season and although he would still need to become the first to win off such a monster weight since Red Rum in 1974, 20/1 looks reasonable each-way value.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.