Don Poli, a three-time Grade One winner and placed in five other Grade Ones, heads the 110 entries for the £1-million Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on Saturday 8th April.

The world’s greatest chase, by far the richest Jump race anywhere outside of Japan, is the feature at Aintree on the third and final day of the Randox Health Grand National Festival and is run over 30 fences and four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards at 5.15pm on 8th April.

A maximum field of 40 can line up for the Randox Health Grand National, which is broadcast for the first time on ITV, and this year sees the 170th running at Aintree.

John Baker, Regional Director North West at Jockey Club Racecourses, commented: “We are thrilled with the quality and quantity of the entries for the 2017 Randox Health Grand National, which has £1 million in prize money.

“Aintree is delighted to welcome Randox Health as the new sponsor of the iconic race and the countdown to the 170th running of the world’s greatest chase is well and truly underway now that 110 entries have been revealed.

“The unveiling of the Randox Health Grand National weights involves a brand new digital countdown format which we hope will ensure attention is focused on what is happening at the Victoria & Albert Museum between 8pm and 9pm on Tuesday 14th February.”

Dr. Peter FitzGerald, Founder and Chief Executive of Randox, said: “The entries revealed promise a tremendous race at 5.15pm on Saturday 8th April, when Randox Health sponsors the Grand National for the first time.

“We are looking forward to a great week of racing and are excited to share our message of preventive health with the 600,000,000 viewers of the event worldwide.

“We’re already counting down the days until the start of the three-day Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree on Thursday 6th April.”

Don Poli, trained by Gordon Elliott in Ireland, headlines 16 entries for Gigginstown House Stud, the owner of the 2016 victor, Rule The World. The eight-year-old chaser has long been regarded as an ideal candidate for the Randox Health Grand National and returned to form last time out with a good second to stablemate Outlander in the G1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Gigginstown is also responsible for progressive handicapper Empire Of Dirt (Gordon Elliott), dual G1 scorer Road To Riches (Noel Meade IRE) and 2016 Irish Grand National hero Rogue Angel, one of three entries for last year’s successful trainer Mouse Morris.

Gordon Elliott, who saddled the 2007 Grand National victor Silver Birch, accounts for 14 of the 37 Irish-trained entries, the most of any handler, and has also put in last year’s sixth Ucello Conti and Cause Of Causes.

Carlingford Lough (John Kiely IRE) and Cause Of Causes are among eight entries for owner JP McManus, who was victorious with the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Don’t Push It in 2010.

The McManus octet also features 2016 National Hunt Chase scorer Minella Rocco (Jonjo O’Neill), Gallant Oscar (Tony Martin IRE), who fell when going well last year, and More Of That (Jonjo O’Neill).

Vics Canvas (Dermot McLoughlin IRE) ran a remarkable race under Robert Dunne in last year’s Grand National, surviving a bad blunder at Becher’s first time around to finish third at 100/1.

Maggio (Patrick Griffin IRE) was a shock 50/1 winner of the Listed Betfred Handicap Chase over the Mildmay Course on Grand National Day last year, scooting clear in the closing stages to win by 12 lengths under James Reveley.

The contest over three miles and a furlong has proved a good pointer to running well in the Randox Health Grand National, with State Of Play, placed three times, Don’t Push It and 2015 runner-up Saint Are (Tom George) all successful in recent years.

Maggio has had two runs over hurdles since returning from his summer break, most recently finishing 11th in a Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown on 28th December.

The 12-year-old carries the colours of Douglas Pryde and Jim Beaumont who enjoyed Grand National success with 66/1 outsider Auroras Encore, trained by Sue Smith, in 2013.

James Griffin, assistant to his father Patrick, said: “We have been delighted with Maggio.

“He was mightily impressive on Grand National day last year. He looked like a handicap blot! Everything just seemed to come right for him on the day and naturally for the owners there is only one place that matters, the Randox Health Grand National.

“He is being trained with one day in mind again and, hopefully, he can replicate last year’s performance in the £1-million race.

“We purposely haven’t run him over fences yet this season because, with the way the race is going, you don’t want to be dropping below a rating of 150 (to get a run in the Randox Health Grand National) in my opinion. We missed it by seven two seasons ago and Maggio was fourth reserve last year, so hopefully it is third time lucky!

“He ran really well at Christmas and will now head to Kelso for the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase on 16th February, two days after the weights come out. Whether or not he has another run beforehand will depend how he gets on there.

“He has had a run over the Grand National fences already in the Topham [2015], finishing 10th, and he would have been closer but for luck in the running.

“If you look at his pedigree, it actually suggests further the better. We were wrong running him over two miles for a couple of years and since he has stepped up in trip he has improved. Four and quarter miles is obviously a contrast to everything else, but he is unexposed over three miles or further.

“Naturally, Brian Hughes or James Reveley are the two we would like to ride, weight permitting, but after that I don’t know. I would like to think after the way he won last year we might find a few lads that want to ride him because last year in the Grand National we could not find anybody who wanted to ride him.”

Henry de Bromhead has been in excellent form this season and has recent runaway Thyestes Chase scorer Champagne West among a three-strong team. Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins, successful with Hedgehunter in 2005, has five entries led by The Crafty Bucher and French recruit Polidam.

Last year’s runner-up The Last Samuri, trained by Kim Bailey who sent out the 1990 Grand National winner Mr Frisk, heads the home challenge. He has not raced since finishing third under top-weight behind Vieux Lion Rouge (David Pipe) and Highland Lodge (Jimmy Moffatt) in the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase over the Grand National course in December.

Britain’s champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls ended his long wait for a Grand National winner with Neptune Collonges in 2012. The Somerset handler has seven entries to choose from this time around, headed by Scottish Grand National victor Vicente and Just A Par.

Nigel Twiston-Davies triumphed with Earth Summit in 1998 and again with Bindaree in 2002, making him the only current trainer to have enjoyed more than one Grand National success. He has entered last season’s G1 RSA Chase victor Blaklion and Benbens.

Neil Mulholland is hoping to run Hennessy Gold Cup runner-up Carole’s Destrier and 2016 Bet365 Gold Cup winner The Young Master, while Scotland’s One For Arthur (Lucinda Russell) will head straight to Aintree after a taking success in the Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick last month.

Other notable Randox Health Grand National entries include highly-regarded French import Alary (Colin Tizzard), who flopped on his UK debut Haydock Park, dual Sky Bet Chase winner Ziga Boy (Alan King) and Sausalito Sunrise (Philip Hobbs).

The weights for the 2017 Randox Health Grand National, framed by the British Horseracing Authority’s Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith, will be unveiled on the evening of Tuesday 14th February.

The Randox Health Grand National is the only handicap of the year where Smith has absolute discretion to deviate from the normal handicap ratings when determining the weights.

 

Sarah Elsley

Sarah Elsley is a freelance editor and proofreader who is the Junior News Editor for Eclipse magazine. She has a degree in English Literature and is a keen horse rider with an interest in fashion at the races and fiction writing.