Trevor Hemmings believes Cloth Cop represents his best chance of claiming a record fourth victory in the Randox Grand National.
The Isle of Man-based businessman is the joint most successful owner in the history of the world’s most famous steeplechase, having struck Aintree gold with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).
The 85-year-old would dearly love to claim another victory on April 10.
“The Grand National is the ultimate in my life as far I am concerned,” said Hemmings.
“I built a holiday village next to where Ginger McCain used to bring Red Rum, the beach at Ainsdale. As a result of that and working with Fred Pontin (owner of 1971 Grand National winner Specify), I had to work the weekend Fred won the Grand National and that also captured me. I had to finish the holiday village at Ainsdale and he went off for the weekend and won the Grand National with Specify.
“If you look at the blue riband, which is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it is probably the ultimate in the UK. If you look at the Grand National, which is worldwide – it’s the Wembley of all of racing.
“That’s why I cherish Liverpool and that wonderful few days you can have in Grand National week.”
Hemmings considers his first National success with the Willie Mullins-trained Hedgehunter as the highlight of his racing life.
He added: “My most precious moment is winning the Grand National in what I call the old stadium – the previous winner’s enclosure to what is used today.
“The history of all that had happened before was still in that winner’s enclosure. I was there with Willie and Jackie Mullins, Willie’s father Paddy and mother Maureen and his son Patrick, who we know now as a grown, mature jockey, but was a kid back then.
“I will remember the passion of everybody.”
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Cloth Cap emerged as a leading National contender with victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.
On a rating of 148, the nine-year-old is on a weight of 10st 5lb – and Betway make him a 16-1 co-favourite along with dual National hero Tiger Roll and Kimberlite Candy.
Hemmings could also be represented by Lake View Lad, winner of the Grade Two Many Clouds Chase over the Mildmay Course at Aintree in December, and Deise Aba, who returned to form when landing a handicap chase at Sandown Park on February 6.
“Of my three entries this year, Cloth Cap would look to have the best chance,” said Hemmings.
“We have two that should be in the race as they are number 13 (Lake View Lad) and number 46 (Cloth Cap) I think in the list. It usually goes down to about 80 to get a run and Deise Aba is 71. All being well, they should get in.
“Catherine, who looks after my business, came up with the name Cloth Cap. Everybody knows me in this cloth cap, although I have had to change it as my last one had a hole in it!”
Hemmings recently received his first Covid-19 vaccination, and added: “I was vaccinated at the end of last month and am due another a week from now. It is an easy thing to do and everybody should it – nobody wants to miss out on the chance of living longer.”
O’Neill has high hopes for Cloth Cap, saying: “I am very happy with him. The important thing for him is the ground. He needs good ground, so I hope they run out of water there!
“We were planning this last year really, but it didn’t happen. Unfortunately he just didn’t perform the way that we had hoped he would, but this year he came back in great form.
“He jumps and he stays well so the Grand National is the obvious race to go for.
“He has 10st 5lb, which is a really nice weight, and Trevor loves the race.
“We are hoping to get a prep race into him either at Kempton or Doncaster.”