The 2019 Grand National has attracted a very strong entry of 112 horses – up from 104 in 2018 and 109 in 2017 – including a record 47 trained in Ireland – the previous highest number of Irish-trained entries was 40 in 2018.
With a prize fund of £1 million, the world’s greatest chase is the most valuable Jump race in the world and takes place over four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards and 30 fences at Aintree at 5.15pm on Saturday, April 6th, day three of the Grand National Festival. This year sees the 172nd running of the great Aintree chase.
Irish trainer Gordon Elliott gained his second Randox Health Grand National victory in 2018 when Tiger Roll held on by a head from the fast-finishing Pleasant Company (Willie Mullins IRE).
Tiger Roll bids to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1973-1974 to win back-to-back renewals.
County Meath-based Elliott, also successful with Silver Birch in 2007, is the trainer with most entries in 2019, with a total of 22 horses engaged. His contingent also contains last year’s third Bless The Wings, recent Thyestes Chase runner-up Alpha Des Obeaux, the 2018 Irish Grand National hero General Principle and last season’s Thyestes Chase scorer Monbeg Notorious, plus winners Outlander and Shattered Love.
Two other ‘National’ winners among the Elliott-trained contingent are Out Sam, who took the Cork Grand National in October, and Jury Duty, successful in the Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills, USA, in October.
Tiger Roll’s owner, the Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary through his Gigginstown House Stud, has now won the Grand National twice – his other victory came with Rule The World in 2016 – and he has 14 entries as he seeks a record-equalling third success this year.
In addition to Pleasant Company, Ireland’s multiple champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has nine other contenders to choose from. These include last season’s Irish Grand National runner-up Isleofhopendreams , 2018 Leinster National winner Pairofbrowneyes and Rathvinden who landed the four-mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018.
Some Neck, Thyestes Chase third Up For Review and Total Recall, winner of the valuable Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in 2017, also feature among the 10 entries from the County Carlow handler.
The most successful British current trainer in the Grand National is Gloucestershire-based Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has won the great race twice, courtesy of Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002). Twiston-Davies is the best-represented British trainer in 2019 with nine entries. These are headed by Go Conquer, who put up a good performance to win the valuable Listed Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.
Twiston-Davies’ entries also include the high-class Bristol De Mai, successful in the latest two renewals of the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, as well as 2017 Becher Chase winner Blaklion and Ballyoptic, second in last season’s Scottish Grand National.
Twiston-Davies said: “Go Conquer came out of the Sky Bet Chase well.
“It was a really good performance at Doncaster and we have always thought a lot of him.
“The ground was in his favour up there and the trip suited, so everything went well for him.
“Go Conquer jumps and stays well. He has been entered in the Grand National and I think that is something we will consider.
“Others who are under consideration for the Grand National include Blaklion, Ballyoptic and a few others.”
The 2017 Grand National went to One For Arthur (Lucinda Russell), who became only the second winner of the Aintree spectacular to be trained in Scotland after Rubstic (1979). He missed last season and unseated Tom Scudamore on his seasonal reappearance in the Betway Many Clouds Chase at Aintree and parted company with his Grand National-winning jockey Derek Fox last time out in the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock Park.
Kinross-based Russell, who trains the horse for the Two Golf Widows, reported: “One For Arthur is in good form.
“He has been fine since Haydock and he will either run again at Haydock in the Grand National Trial or go to Kelso. We are yet to make a decision.
“Obviously, the long-term plan is to return to Aintree in April.”
The other Scottish-trained entry is Lake View Lad (Nick Alexander), who has registered impressive successes this season for owner Trevor Hemmings in the Listed Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle and the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby.
Entries with proven form over the Grand National fences include Walk In The Mill(Robert Walford), successful in the Becher Chase at Aintree and an intended runner last year when getting in as third reserve only to be found lame on the day, and Ultragold (Colin Tizzard), twice the winner of the Topham Chase (2017 & 2018).
Ultragold’s trainer Colin Tizzard has five entries in total, with his quintet also including this season’s Welsh National hero Elegant Escape, who was last seen when a closing second in the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.
More leading contenders include the Hemmings-owned Vintage Clouds (Sue Smith), third in last season’s Scottish Grand National behind Joe Farrell (Rebecca Curtis), plus Rock The Kasbah (Philip Hobbs), who captured a valuable handicap chase at Cheltenham in November.
Hemmings, going after a record fourth Grand National winner, could also be represented by a third entry Warriors Tale (Paul Nicholls), the Betway Grand Sefton Chase winner over the Grand National fences in December.
Weights for the Grand National are unveiled at the iconic Cunard Building in Liverpool on Tuesday, February 12th, for the first time – the weights’ ceremony has previously been held in London.
The Grand National is the only race for which senior BHA chase handicapper Martin Greenwood is able to deviate from official ratings in allotting weights. Greenwood is handicapping the Grand National for the first time in 2019 following the retirement of Phil Smith, who officiated from 1999 to 2018.
John Baker, Managing Director at Aintree Racecourse, said today: “We are thrilled that the Grand National has such a strong entry for its 172nd running at Aintree on April 6th.
“The great race has attracted more entries that ever before from Ireland and it is a remarkable statistic that the record 47 Irish-trained horses amount to 42 per cent of the total entries this year.
“We are counting down until Tuesday, February 12th, when the weights for the 2019 Grand National will be revealed at that great Liverpool landmark, the Cunard Building.
“We have sold all Grandstands and Festival Zone tickets for Grand National Day, with only Steeplechase Enclosure tickets left.”