The hugely competitive nature off the Grand National ensures that no single trainer or owner can boast an outstanding record in the race.
Nigel Twiston-Davies is the only handler to have captured more than a single Grand National victory in the past 30 years. In the same period jockeys Carl Llewellyn, Ruby Walsh and Leighton Aspell landed a pair apiece.
As far as successful owners are concerned, there’s no doubting that Trevor Hemmings stands alone at the head of the field. Finding Grand National contenders has become a serious hobby for the wealthy businessman. And he’s proved particularly adept, with an impressive three victories in the past 13 years. Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds were the successful trio and he’ll be looking for a fourth on Saturday.
Irish racehorse owner JP McManus stands at just one victory in the world’s greatest steeplechase, though his recent record suggests that he is the one to keep onside if you’re looking to have a punt on Saturday.
Cause Of Causes was the latest to carry those famous green and gold silks to a prominent finish, when runner-up to One For Arthur last year. It was announced yesterday that the Gordon Elliott-trained chaser has been retired due to a recent injury picked up at Prestbury Park. Though not the biggest, the gutsy stayer was at his best on spring ground, adapting well to the unique national fences. He was also talented enough to land a hat-trick of victories at the Cheltenham Festival.
In 2016 the McManus colours were carried to fourth-place by the Enda Bolger-trained Gilgamboa. A year earlier Shutthefrontdoor managed a fifth-place finish, whilst in 2014 Double Seven came close to giving AP McCoy another win, before fading to third after the elbow.
Neptune Collonges landed a dramatic victory in the Grand National of 2012, chinning the McManus owned Sunnyhillboy on the line. It was a heart-breaking day all-round for the Irishman, as not only did he miss out on victory by a nose, but he saw his Gold Cup hero, Synchronised, fatally injured just a month after that glorious success at Cheltenham.
In 2010 the McManus/McCoy combination had one of their greatest days, with the Grand National victory of Don’t Push It. The 10-year-old travelled beautifully throughout and cruised into contention two fences from home. When McCoy asked for an effort the horse gave an emphatic response. The pair returned a year later and ran a cracker off top-weight to finish third behind Ballabriggs.
Anibale Fly and Minella Rocco appear to be JP’s leading contenders for Saturday’s renewal. Both have placed in a Gold Cup, though will be asked to carry plenty of weight as a consequence. There’s a doubt, as the rain continues to fall, of Minella Rocco making the start-line. Jonjo O’Neill has remained adamant that his chaser needs decent ground, and that certainly won’t be the case at Aintree this weekend. Nevertheless, the eight-year-old has undergone a wind operation and connections may decide to take their chance.
Anibale Fly stayed on strongly to finish third in last month’s Gold Cup. That run suggested that a marathon trip such as the national would prove ideal. Tony Martin’s eight-year-old is by French stallion Assessor, and ought to therefore cope admirably with testing conditions. The concern is, of course, the 11-7 that he’ll need to haul over the 30 fences, though there’s no doubting his class.
Anthony Honeyball has had an outstanding season and has a decent contender in Regal Encore. Sporting the famous green and gold, this fella finished a respectable eighth in the race 12 months ago and ran a cracker when a staying-on third in the Ladbroke Trophy (formerly the Hennessy). He arrives here off the same handicap mark as 12 months ago and at 33s looks to have a great each-way chance.
A couple of weeks back I wrote of the potential contenders for Trevor Hemmings. He has a cracking national record and though the weather may rule out the Paul Nicholls-trained Vicente, he still has a pair of decent each-way propositions in Vintage Clouds and Warriors Tale. Both will appreciate testing ground, and in Sean Bowen, the latter has a jockey that excels in these marathon events.
This pair of wealthy businessmen share a common passion for our wonderful sport. And their continued success in the world’s most famous race, gives hope to punters, as they search for potential winners in this ultra-competitive event.