Grand National 2016 – World’s Greatest Horse Race

Grand National – world’s greatest horse race


Since it was first run in 1839, the Aintree Grand National has become one of the great institutions of British sport. Set to be run once more in 2016 as the Crabbie's Grand National – it is undoubtedly one of the greatest spectacles in world sport.


The Grand National betting tempts a wide range of people, from experienced bettors to those who just 'fancy a flutter', with attractive double or triple-figure Grand National odds that offer the prospect of lucrative returns for small stakes. This helps to make it the biggest single gambling event on the UK calendar.


In recent years, such speculative punts have reaped rich rewards for those who have found the right horse. 2007 saw Gordon Elliott's Silver Birch romp to glory at Grand National best odds of 33/1. Two years later, the Venetia Williams-trained Mon Mome, a 100/1 rank outsider, came home under Liam Treadwell to land the unlikeliest of victories. Then came the turn of Neptune Collonges in 2012, coming in at odds of 33/1, whilst in 2013 Yorkshire-based Sue Smith sent out the unheralded Auroras Encore to win at Grand National odds of a whopping 66/1!


Last year's hero Many Clouds was a 25/1 winner as Leighton Aspell landed back-to-back Grand National wins in the saddle.


It is big priced winners coupled with the thorough unpredictability of the four-and-a-half mile marathon that makes the race such an amazing event, and the 2016 Grand National will certainly be no exception.


The Grand National captures public attention like no other horse race. Winning 'The National' brings with it an assurance of a place in the annals of jumps racing folklore.


A unique contest that makes demands on both horse and rider like no other, more than four miles and 30 fences separate the runners and riders from a slice of sporting history.


So who will emerge victorious at Aintree on April 9th?


Clouds after Many wins

Many Clouds


Not since the great Red Rum achieved the second of his three Aintree Grand National triumphs in 1974 has any horse successfully defended the crown in the Merseyside marathon.


Red Rum would of course return in 1977 to complete a hat-trick for one of Aintree's best known trainers, the late Donald "Ginger" McCain.


Trainer Oliver Sherwood will also be attempting to buck another National trend, in that the last 17 renewals have all gone to different trainers.


While repeat wins for trainers have become less commonplace, Many Clouds is assured plenty of support in the Grand National betting owing to the strong record of his owner.


Trevor Hemmings is a massive enthusiast of the great race and has three wins on his CV since 2005 while jockey Leighton Aspell is of course now seeking an unprecedented modern-day treble of Aintree successes.


Many Clouds has undergone a pleasing preparation for his Aintree return and Sherwood has made little secret of the fact that his entire season is based around peaking for the Grand National.


Will he match the iconic Red Rum?



Star Names in the Mix

Long Run


In recent years, the Grand National has started to attract more and more top class staying chasers to Aintree.


Slight changes to the famous fences mean the race is a shade less demanding than it once was and this, in turn, has helped to attract some big names.


Considering the race this year, the man responsible for allotting weights in the Grand National – the BHA's Head of Handicapping Phil Smith – spoke of the allure of the race for 'superstars of the past' – horses that were once kingpins but now have the odd question to answer.


Long Run, winner of the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, is a possible contender while Sir Des Champs – second in the Cheltenham showpiece in 2013 – could represent Ireland's champion trainer Willie Mullins.


Silviniaco Conti, twice a winner of the Kempton King George VI Chase and six times a Grade One-winning chaser, has been earmarked for the race by Paul Nicholls.


Household names each of them, the Grand National is now a hugely appealing destination.



One Door closes, another one opens

Jonjo O'Neill


The Jonjo O'Neill-trained Shutthefrontdoor dominated the build-up to the 2015 Grand National like no other horse as he geared up to carry the legendary AP McCoy in his final ride in the race.


Enormously popular in the betting, Shutthefrontdoor was the favourite and he travelled sweetly into contention as the fairytale ending briefly looked to be on the cards for the perennial champion jockey.


He didn't quite last home on that occasion but his Jackdaws Castle trainer is hoping to have Shutthefrontdoor fit and ready to go once more in 2016. O'Neill felt the lack of a prep run cost his charge in the stamina department last year and so he is not one to be written off if things fall into place this time around.


O'Neill is also considering Aintree for his two-time Cheltenham Festival winner Holywell.


A notorious improver when the winter ground dries out, there are few horses more adept at jumping and travelling through a race and, if the sun is shining in early spring, Holywell supporters will fancy his chances.



Been here before

It isn't just Many Clouds and Shutthefrontdoor that are set to return to Aintree in a bid to prove that there is no substitute for experience.


All in all, five of the first six past the post last April are set to line up again this time around.


Many Clouds will top the billing but Saint Are has winning form around Aintree and improved from ninth in 2013 to chase home the winner last time around.


At just ten-years-old, the Tom George-trained runner still fits the profile of a National winner perfectly and given his strong record over this course, he is a worthy contender to climb one more notch on the ladder.


Alvarado is also a possible contender and he has finished fourth now behind both Many Clouds and Pineau De Re in the race.


The latter's trainer, Dr Richard Newland, sent out Royale Knight to finish sixth in 2015 and he is booked once more for a trip to Merseyside.



Staying the course

With more than four-miles ahead of them when the tapes go up, the Grand National remains a uniquely daunting test. However, with the health and safety of both the equine and human participants under scrutiny like never before, changes have been made to Aintree's once towering obstacles.


Last year, 19 of the 39 starters completed the course with just 11 horses coming down during the race.


It would require a monsoon-like deluge in early spring to bring about the heavy going that might lead to scenes like the 2001 race, when just four horses managed to complete.


Then, it was the Richard Guest-ridden Red Marauder (33/1) that beat the gallant Smarty as the pair slogged their way home through the final mile, the race solely concerning them as the rest had either fallen or ground to a halt in the bog-like conditions.




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