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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Smith happy with weightsHeadlines
Seabass leads in last year's Grand National

Handicapper Phil Smith has defended his decision to allot leading contender Seabass a burden of 11st 2lb in the John Smith's Grand National.

Trainer Ted Walsh appeared bemused by the rise of last year's third, which leaves him badly treated on official ratings with Tidal Bay, the top-weight on 11st 10lb for the Aintree showpiece on April 6.

Smith is allowed to use his discretion for the National in order to attract higher-class horses to take their chance in handicap company and he frames the weights himself, taking into account various factors.

"He's carrying 11st 2lb this year - the last four winners have carried 11st plus - and he was third last year. Horses have a very good record coming back a second time, and I thought he had a reasonably good chance," Smith said of Seabass.

Referring to Tidal Bay, he added: "The horse's real rating is 171 and he has achieved that twice this year, in the Hennessy and in the Lexus. He is going to run off 162 and the theory behind it is that if he can replicate his Lexus run, he has got a chance of winning. The problem is, it's a completely different race.

"It's four and a half miles over 30 fences. If I'd left it as it is, he'd probably have to perform to 180 to win it, but he's a 12-year-old and I don't think anyone would believe he could perform to that level. So I've compressed his weight, and some of the other horses at the top, in order to give them a chance of winning."

It appears a strong contest once again, with dual Ryanair winner Albertas Run next in on 11st 8lb, and 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander on 11st 6lb.

Smith went on: "It's great for the race as the top three have won 10 Grade Ones between them. We are always talking about wanting high-quality horses to run and set the high standard the race deserves. We've definitely got that this year with Tidal Bay, Albertas Run and Imperial Commander.

"In Imperial Commander, I never thought I'd have a Gold Cup winner that wasn't top or second top weight. Who's to say how good he is, because we've only seen him race once in the last two years."

Smith said three horses had given him trouble as he made his decisions on what weights to allocate - Imperial Commander, Wyck Hill and The Rainbow Hunter.

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