Samantha Martin

Cloth Cap Crowning Moment Saturday? By Samantha Martin

This Saturday all eyes will be on Aintree Racecourse as the Grand National stops the racing world and we look to see who will be crowned the 2021 winner.

The horse who wins this race will forever be in the history books alongside some of the greatest racehorses we have ever seen. I take a look at a horse that has been on everyone’s lips for weeks Cloth Cap, the current favourite and he deserves to be near the top of anybody’s shortlist.

Bred by Seamus Spillane, Cloth Cap is out of Cloth Fair, who raced for the County Cork handler and won a maiden hurdle at Tramore in April 2008. The first stallion she visited was Beneficial, who won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, and the resulting foal was Cloth Cap, who is days away from his ninth birthday. In June 2015, Cloth Cap was bought by Highflyer Bloodstock from the Goffs Land Rover Sale for €48,000. He made his debut for Jonjo O’Neill and Trevor Hemmings in April 2017 at Chepstow, where he was seventh of nine.

On his fourth start over hurdles and sixth start overall, he won for the first time at Huntingdon over two miles four by four lengths under Richie McLernon. In the 2018/19 season, Cloth Cap ran over fences for the first time, finishing third on debut but winning at Stratford and Catterick subsequently.

With just three starts over the larger obstacles under his belt, he ran in the Scottish Grand National over four miles and was a brilliant third, beaten just four lengths, proving that he stays very well. Last season, Cloth Cap ran three good races before finishing eighth in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival.

It seemed as though he learnt a lot from those races as, this season, he came back looking like the full package. Cloth Cap’s season commenced at Cheltenham in a handicap chase, where he followed in King George winner Frodon and the consistent West Approach. The handicapper kept him on a mark of 138 and he managed to slide in at the bottom of the weights for the Ladbrokes Trophy. He carried just 10st and made all with a spectacular jumping display. This catalysed the discussion about his Grand National claims. By the time he raced at Kelso in early March, Cloth Cap was antepost favourite for the Grand National. Once again, he was spectacular from the front – Tom Scudamore even had time to look around for dangers in the closing stages.

A criticism of that performance was that he jumped left-handed occasionally. However, he could’ve just felt lonely leading the field and that won’t be a problem in the busy forty-runner Grand National, which is famous for its unique fences.

Jonjo O’Neill trained the winner of the Grand National in 2010 with ten-year-old Don’t Push It. Jockey Tom Scudamore is yet to win the race and he has not finished in the top three in eighteen attempts. In 2016, he rode one of Cloth Cap’s rivals, Vieux Lion Rouge, to win the Becher Chase. Trevor Hemmings’ famous colours have been in the winners’ enclosure after the race on three occasions – Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).

If Cloth Cap or Lake View Lad manage to win, Hemmings will be the leading owner in the National’s history. Cloth Cap holds the hopes of not just his connections but many punters, whether that be form students or sweepstake participants, all across the land and he has a strong chance of winning the most famous steeplechase of them all, and I for one will be glued to my TV.

You can find more from me here and on my Careers in Racing welcome video. Look out for more from me on Careers in Racing over the summer.

By Samantha Martin (April 2021)