A total of 115 entries have been received for the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday 5th April -- a significant increase of 31 on the 2013 figure. This is the highest number of Grand National entries since 2009 when 123 horses were put forward.
With a record prize fund of £1 million, the Crabbie’s Grand National is by far the most valuable jump race in Europe and among the richest in the world.
Now excitement is mounting ahead of the release of the weights for the race on Tuesday 11th February.
Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins, victorious with Hedgehunter in 2005, is responsible for eight entries -- the most of any handler. They include the Graham Wylie-owned trio of On His Own (25/1 with Betfred), Prince de Beauchene (33/1), who has missed the last two renewals through injury, and Boston Bob (40/1).
Paddy Power Chase hero Rockyaboya (25/1), the lightly-raced pair of Up The Beat (40/1) and Vesper Bell (50/1), last season’s Irish Grand National runner-up Away We Go (40/1) and Quel Esprit (66/1), who was pulled up in 2013, are also engaged.
Fellow Irish handler Martin Brassil is no stranger to success in the world’s greatest chase, having sent out Numbersixvalverde to an impressive six-length victory in 2006. The County Kildare-based handler could be represented in this year’s showpiece by Double Seven, who was last seen completing a five-timer in a Listed Chase at Wexford on 27th October.
The J P McManus-owned eight-year-old recorded a two-length verdict over Spring Heeled in the Munster National over three miles at Limerick earlier the same month.
Brassil revealed: “Double Seven has got a rating now that means he will be running in either a Crabbie’s Grand National or an Irish Grand National come the spring. It’s an obvious entry to make for a horse rated 146.
“He had a break for about six weeks after Wexford and is back in training now getting ready for a spring campaign. I think the good ground and fine weather we had over the summer helped him. We also put cheekpieces on and they seem to have also made a difference.
“The Grand National is probably not as much as a jumping test now as it was when Numbersixvalverde won, but Double Seven is a grand jumper.
“He has won over two miles, two and a half miles and three miles, always finishing strongly. He will give himself every chance of staying, but it’s about getting around and keeping out of trouble.
“He is in the four-miler at Cheltenham, but I don’t know where he will run next. A bit of good ground might tempt me to run him before Aintree.”
Double Seven is a 33/1 chance with Betfred, the official betting partner of the Crabbie’s Grand National Festival.
Last season’s Welsh Grand National winner Monbeg Dude (Michael Scudamore) and Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup victor Triolo d’Alene are the 20/1 joint-favourites with Betfred, who go 25/1 bar.
Triolo d’Alene, winner of last year’s Topham Chase over the famous fences, is with champion trainer Nicky Henderson, who has yet to win a Crabbie’s Grand National. The Lambourn handler has also entered 2011 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Long Run (25/1), Hunt Ball (66/1), back from America after being a winner at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012, Shakalakaboomboom (50/1) and Quantitativeeasing (66/1).
Out of the first six home last year, only the third Teaforthree (Rebecca Curtis, 25/1) and sixth Swing Bill (David Pipe, 50/1), owned by Halewood International, parent company of the new Grand National sponsor, Crabbie’s, have entries again.
Sue Smith, who sent out the now-retired 2013 winner Aurora’s Encore at 66/1 for owners Douglas Pryde, Jim Beaumont and David van der Hoeven, relies instead on Mr Moonshine (40/1) in the same ownership and recent Peter Marsh Chase second Vintage Star (33/1), owned by Trevor Hemmings who is seeking his third Grand National winner after Hedgehunter in 2005 and Ballabriggs six years later.
Paul Nicholls secured his first Grand National victory with Neptune Collonges in 2012 -- his 53rd runner in the great Aintree race -- and has made seven entries this year. Enigmatic 13-year-old Tidal Bay (25/1) heads the septet following a fine third under top-weight in the Welsh National won by Mountainous (Richard Lee, 33/1) at Chepstow over Christmas. Nicholls is also responsible for Hawkes Point (25/1), who was second in the Chepstow highlight, London National winner There’s No Panic (40/1), Argento Chase runner-up Rocky Creek (25/1), Kauto Stone (40/1), Mon Parrain (40/1) and Sire Collonges (40/1)
Jonjo O’Neill, successful with Don’t Push It for principal patron J P McManus (who has 11 entries this year) in 2010, has also made seven entries, headed by the same owner’s Sunnyhillboy (33/1), beaten a nose by Neptune Collonges in 2012, Alfie Sherrin (25/1), Merry King (33/1), Burton Port (50/1), Lost Glory (66/1), Storm Survivor (66/1) and Twirling Magnet (50/1).
David Pipe, who sent out Comply Or Die to win in 2008, has six engaged, with Swing Bill joined by Badger Ales Trophy winner Standing Ovation (33/1), lightly-raced eight-year-old Our Father (33/1), Goulanes (40/1), Junior (50/1) and The Package (50/1).
Other notable entries include Scottish Grand National scorer Godsmejudge (Alan King, 25/1) and Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup winner Same Difference (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 25/1).
Leading hunter chaser Mossey Joe (Enda Bolger, 33/1) has been entered after being purchased by Irish owner Barry Connell, while Ted Walsh, successful with Papillon in 2000, could again be represented by Colbert Station (25/1) and Seabass (33/1), the 11/2 favourite last year. Seabass, third in 2012, finished 13th under Katie Walsh last year.
Weights for the Crabbie’s Grand National are framed by the British Horseracing Authority’s head of handicapping, Phil Smith, and will be revealed at the annual Crabbie’s Grand National launch in London.
The Crabbie’s Grand National is the only handicap of the year where Smith has absolute discretion over the weights. The official can deviate from the normal handicap ratings and often does, particularly with horses high in the handicap.
Run over 30 fences and four miles, three and a half furlongs, the Aintree race is a global attraction, watched by more than 600 million worldwide.
Andrew Tulloch, Aintree’s clerk of the course and director of racing, said today: “We are thrilled with both the quality and quantity of entries for the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National which, with a prize fund of £1 million, is easily the richest jump race ever run outside of Japan.
“A Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Long Run, and the high-class Tidal Bay are the likely top-weights and we are eagerly awaiting the weights’ announcement.”