Tattersalls Cheltenham February Sale graduates well represented in the Aintree Grand National

The weights for the Aintree Grand National, due to be run on Saturday, April 13, were allotted at the traditional lunch held at St George’s Hall in Liverpool yesterday, and three Tattersalls Jockey Club sales horses are set to carry weights in the top half of the handicap, two of whom are graduates of the Cheltenham February Sale.

The Mrs Joe Donnelly-owned and Willie Mullins-trained ten-year-old Asterion Forlonge, a Grade 1-winning hurdler and Grade 1-placed chaser bought at the February Sale in 2018 by Harold Kirk and Mullins from Suirview Stables, has been given a handicap mark of 158 and is set to carry a weight of 11st1lb. 

Asterion Forlonge set to carry 11st1lb in the Aintree showpiece

Last time out the Coastal Path gelding finished second in the Grade 1 Jack De Bromhead hurdle at Christmas, and his last victory was at last spring’s Fairyhouse Easter meeting when out-battling Monkfish in the Grade 2 Rathbarry & Glenview Hurdle.

Mullins has 13 horses entered in the race and he said at the lunch: "There are some very interesting looking ratings there and we’d love to have horses with real chances for the race. 

“It would be an honour to have another winner of the Grand National on our CV, but we’ve already been very lucky to have won it once and been placed a couple of times."

Aint That A Shame, bought by trainer Henry De Bromhead at the same sale a year later from Camas Park Stud, is set to carry a useful 10st9lb off a mark of 152 for owner Robcour. The son of Jeremy won January’s Grade 3 Theystes Chase and the strong stayer could have an outing in the Ultima Handicap Chase at The Festival before Aintree for which he is currently a 16/1 chance.

Noble Yeats the trump card

However, both will have most to watch from the current third favourite and Aintree specialist Noble Yeats, winner of the race in 2022. Fourth last year off a rating of 166, this year the nine-year-old has been allotted a weight of 11st8lb, a handicap mark of 165 and is set to carry the third top-weight behind this season’s King George VI Chase winner Hewick and the dual Grade 1-winning chaser Conflated.

The son of Yeats is a graduate of the 2019 Tattersalls Cheltenham November Sale, and Sam Waley-Cohen, whose family own the horse and who two years ago as an amateur rode the gelding to Grand National victory, said: “The plan is still to run him at Cheltenham and then at Aintree. He’s obviously got a liking for the course at Aintree and he’s in good form. Everyone likes a nice weight, but we’ll see if he can do it again.”

Noble Yeats is aiming to become the first horse to regain his Grand National crown since Red Rum won in 1977 two years after the iconic horse won the second of his three victories in 1975.

Winner of the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle last time out, Noble Yeats is due a return to Cheltenham in March, connections likely to take up an entry in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at The Festival.  

Noble Yeats: will be out to reclaim his Aintree crown

Asked if he still thinks about his emotional day in the saddle two years ago, Waley-Cohen said: “In many ways it still feels like yesterday and feels fresh in the memory. It was such a great day. It’s just great to see him running with such enthusiasm and showing what he can do.

“We always get excited weeks before the Grand National so it’s such a privilege to have a horse like him. It’s so hard to have a horse in these races so I’d say we’re already excited and by the time the day arrives everyone will be nearly boiling over!

“It’ll just be a great family day. My kids will come up and my parents will be there. It’ll be great.”

The gelding is trained by Emmet Mullins and Waley-Cohen heaped praise on the County Carlow sating, “Emmet Mullins is rightly called out as a genius and I think if anyone can do it then Emmet can.”

Mullins, when asked of his thoughts regarding the weight allotted to the horse, said: “I suppose with a horse like Noble Yeats he always runs his race.

“He’s never going to have much up his sleeve with the handicapper so we can’t complain with our weight and fingers crossed he’ll show up on the day and run another cracking race.

“He ran a cracking race off 166 last year so if we get him back in the same shape he might get into a place again. He’s had two goes at the course before and he enjoys it there.”

Referring to his next outing at Cheltenham, Mullins continued: “He should be bang there for the Stayers’ Hurdle with a good each way chance and fingers crossed he runs his race in that as well.”