Scudamore hopes to cap it all in the National

London (AFP) –


Cloth Cap looks set to go off hot favourite for the Grand National at Aintree later on Saturday which for the first time in over 180 years will take place without crowds.

The great steeplechase goes ahead a year after it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic but owing to Covid-19 protocols it means no spectators at the iconic Liverpool racecourse.

Racing will be preceded by a two minute silence and the jockeys will wear black armbands in tribute to Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Friday aged 99.

There will also be a thought for the 2009 winning jockey Liam Treadwell, the last rider to win on a 100/1 shot Mon Mome, who took his own life last year.

Aintree Chairman Rose Paterson also took her own life in June last year.

Should Cloth Cap emerge victorious over his 39 rivals having conquered the 30 fences -- which though modified still represent a tougher challenge than the usual fare -- it will give owner Trevor Hemmings a record fourth National.

The horse named after 85-year-old Hemmings's favoured headwear would be trainer Jonjo O'Neill's second winner but jockey Tom Scudamore's first.

O'Neill like Scudamore's father Peter retired after a great riding career with the National missing from his trophy cabinet.

Tom, though, riding in his 19th National could emulate his grandfather Michael, who rode the 1959 winner Oxo.

“It is something that will always be associated with grandad," said Scudamore.

"For all that dad and I have achieved, there was always the fact that Michael Scudamore had won the Grand National so he always put us in the shade a bit."

- 'Wish for luck' -

It is 44 years since the first woman rider rode in the National, Charlotte Brew on Barony Fort, and three bid to become the first to win it.

Rachael Blackmore can cap her remarkable Cheltenham Festival last month where she was crowned leading jockey as she rides the most fancied Minella Times.

"Hopefully bring the same luck to Cheltenham," she told ITV.

"The trip is the unknown, he enjoys jumping.

"A race with so much history it was my first interest in the sport, very special."

Bryony Frost rides Yala Enki but a real fairytale would be Tabitha Worsley.

She has ridden a winner over the fences in the Foxhunters in 2019 two years after breaking her back, rides Sub Lieutenant for her trainer mother Georgie Howell.

"He has got form (he was placed over the National fences over a shorter trip) and I have form here," said Worsley.

"Hopefully we can go very close.

"He is a different class to what I have ridden before in his two runs so far and he gave me the feel this mammoth trip will suit him.

"I will find a pocket on the inside and wish for luck!"

The Irish carried all before them at Cheltenham training 23 of the 28 races.

Most notably Minella Times's trainer Henry de Bromhead who became the first trainer to win the 'Holy Trinity' of the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

De Bromhead runs three in all but Willie Mullins's 2019 Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint is the most strongly fancied to give him his second National win.

Ted Walsh -- whose daughter Katie finished third on Seabass in 2012 -- is also bidding for his second with the hotly fancied Any Second Now.

Another of the massive Irish challenge Magic of Light will bid to go one better than 2019 when she finished second to two-time winner Tiger Roll.

The Jessica Harrington-trained runner would become the first mare since Nickel Coin in 1951 to prevail.

Those looking for omens will be heartened by the fact horses beginning with M are the second most successful behind the letter R -- none beginning with R take part in the race first run in 1839 and due off at 1615GMT.