Described as the world’s most famous, most prestigous horse race, the Grand National is undoubtedly still the pinnacle of Horse Racing.
The thousands of worshippers that flock to L9 5AS, never, ever leave disappointed.
250,000+ pints of beer will be consumed in as many as 80 public bars around the course, not to mention 10,000 bottles of champagne, 20,000+ meals and no less than 100,000 cups of tea and coffee over the three days of the Crabbies Grand National meeting.
It’s the only race that can be magnanimous in its generosity one minute and incomprehensibly merciless the next.
It is a race that always, always has a story.
In the 1929 National 66 horses lined-up at the start, compared to the paltry ten that attempted the gruelling four and half miles in 1883.
The highest number of finishers in the National was 23 from the forty that set out in 1984, while only two gladiators finished the 1928 race, from the 42 that set out.
Owned by the Queen Mother and ridden by Dick Francis, Devon Loch was five lengths clear when less than 200 yards from the finishing line only to suddenly jump a phantom fence and land on his belly.
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Years of investigation and conspiracy theories have all failed to conclude what actually happened on that fateful day, with a philosophical Queen Mother famously saying that it was, racing.
As protagonists dominate the stage, the grey Neptune Collonges winning by the shortest distance in living memory or Ginger McCain’s first winner for 26 years in the shape of Amberleigh House, catastrophe and chaos lurk in the wings, Esha Ness ‘winning’ the void National and the bomb-scare year of 1997.
For the 2015 Crabbies Grand National, in which Betfair are offering their Non-runner, No bet guarantee, surely, the Aintree Gods will look down on the Patron Saint of Grand National jockey’s.
For Tony McCoy, the Grand National was almost always the one that got away.
For 14 years the champion jockey had fallen, pulled up, unseated, and was even carried out by a loose horse.
Forty-year-old Northern Irishman, McCoy, first rode in the world’s most famous steeple chase in 1995 on board the 11-year-old Chatam. It was a taste of things to come for the then champion conditional jockey as his mount fell at the 12th fence.
McCoy had finished in the places on the Martin Pipe-trained Blowing Wind in 2001 and 2002, while he finished third on Clan Royal in 2006.
In 2010, McCoy ended his Grand National jinx in superb style as he claimed victory at the 15thattempt on board 10/1 joint favourite Don’t Push It.
The Old Vic gelding jumped the final fence in the national alongside the Denis O’Regan-ridden Black Apalachi, but pulled away and went well clear at the elbow to give trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner J P McManus their first wins in the famous race.
Traditionally McCoy does not choose his mount for the race until the week before, but the opinion is that he will ride the current favourite Shutthefrontdoor.
Some experts have predicted that should the jockey line up on the O’Neill-trained gelding he could be the subject of one of the biggest plunges in betting history and would be the shortest-priced favourite since Red Rum started the 1975 National at 7/2 favourite.
Trainer O’Neill said his horse was in good form at present and that his wind problem had been operated on since his last run at Carlisle when he finished eight lengths in front of another Grand Nation runner, Sue Smith’s Vintage Star.
The eight-year-old was the three quarters of a length winner of the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in April over three miles and five furlongs on good to yielding ground.
The 7/1 market leader for the world’s most famous horse race was sent over eight fences at Southwell Racecourse recently in what could be the eight-year-olds final full workout before he takes on the National fences.
O’Neill admitted that he nearly took Shutthefrontdoor to Cheltenham, claiming the horse was not hard to get ready, describing the horse as clean-winded and adding the National favourite was where the stable wanted him in his preparations.
In recent years, O’Neill has had mixed fortunes in the Grand National, with Clan Royal finishing second in 2004 and third two years later, while sandwiched in between the two, the Brian Harding ridden Simply Gifted finished third in the 2005 contest at 66/1.
Following the big win in 2010, the trainer has sent out Don’t Push It to finish third in 2011 and Sunnyhillboy to finish second in 2012.
Twelve months ago, O’Neill had Burton Port and Twirling Magnet failing to finish the course.
Philip Hobbs has given last year’s Grand National runner-up Balthazar King a strong each-way chance in the world’s most famous steeple chase.
The trainer, who has twice saddled the runner-up of the great race, hoped the tactic of side-stepping Cheltenham would work the oracle for his gelding, which was second in the race 12 months ago.
Last season, Balthazar King, who is currently regarded as one of the favourites with leading bookmaker Betfair, won the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase at the festival, known as the cross country, by a short-head.
He then finished runner-up behind the Grand National winner Pineau De Re and Hobbs is hopeful a more tailored preparation can help his charge run another big race.
Remarking on his decision not to allow Balthazar King to defend his Cross-Country crown, Hobbs said the horse was on a higher mark than when scraping home in last year’s renewal and therefore questioned whether he would bump in to something a little quicker.
Hobbs said that the gelding always performed better coming back from a lay-off, so he is going to the National as fresh as he can be.
Jockey Aiden Coleman will ride the much-fancied The Druids Nephew in the National.
The eight-year-old who is a 12/1 chance to win the world’s most famous steeple chase, was ridden to victory by jockey Barry Geraghty in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase over three miles and one furlong on good to soft ground at this year’s Cheltenham Festival in March.
26-year-old Coleman was born in Innishhannon in County Cork and is the National Hunt representative on the Racing UK TV channel, wearing their logo while race riding and writing a weekly blog on the stations website.
The Champion trainer said that Rocky Creek and Unioniste would be his principle runners, while they would be ably supported by Rebel Rebellion and Mon Parrain.
Nicholls revealed that he thought Rocky Creek, who is 10/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook, was a different horse this season since he had an operation to help his breathing as he had not quite been finishing his races.
Nicholls continued to say that following his disappointing run in this season’s Hennessey Gold Cup, he kept Rocky Creek fresh and chose not to run him until after the weights for the National were announced.
The trainer described Rocky Creek’s performance at Kempton as awesome, saying he put a strong field of handicappers to the sword in the Betbright Chase.
Unioniste was third to Coneygree at Newbury following a facile success at Sandown and Nicholls is keen to keep the partnership of the horse and jockey Noel Fehily together.
The trainer stated that Unioniste will appreciate plenty of cut in the ground and, as with Rocky Creek, is showing his trainer all the right signals.
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