Irish Target The John Smith’s Grand National With Record Entry 06/02/02
A very healthy 148 entries are revealed today (Thursday, February 2) for the 2006 John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 8. This is the third highest number of entries in the history of the world’s greatest chase and is just below last year’s record number of 152 entries and the 2003 figure of 149.
The number of entries for the John Smith’s Grand National, worth £700,000 in 2006, since 1985 have been: 2006-148; 2005-152; 2004-122; 2003-149; 2002-144, 2001-133, 2000-108, 1999-103, 1998-103, 1997-102, 1996-82, 1995-82, 1994-98, 1993-97, 1992-104, 1991-85, 1990-90, 1989-96, 1988-105, 1987-98, 1986-109 and 1985-100.
The Irish-trained Hedgehunter won the 2005 John Smith’s Grand National and is among the entries once again this year, along with Royal Auclair (2nd in 2005), It Takes Time (4th), Forest Gunner (5th), Nil Desperandum (6th), Innox (7th), Heros Collonges (8th), Just In Debt (9th) and Amberleigh House (10th), meaning that nine of the first 10 horses home last year are engaged again.
The Irish have landed three of the last six renewals of the John Smith’s Grand National, run over 30 fences and four and a half miles, and look to have another formidable challenge in 2006, with a record 38-strong entry.
In addition to Hedgehunter, trainer Willie Mullins has also entered two others, Euro Leader who won the 2005 Kerry National, and Livingstonebramble.
Grand National winning trainer Ted Walsh, who was successful with Papillon in 2000, has two entries in last season’s Betfred Gold Cup winner Jack High and Rince Ri, while other Irish possible contenders are the Michael Hourigan-trained Hi Cloy, this season’s Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup victor Sir Oj, the 2005 Irish Grand National victor Numbersixvalverde, recent Thyestes Chase scorer Dun Doire and Garvivonnian, who proved that the Aintree fences posed no problem for him when taking the totesport Becher Chase in November.
Owner J P McManus has yet to see his famous silks carried to victory in the John Smith’s Grand National but he is keen to do so with 13 to choose from this time around. Prominent among the McManus contingent are Clan Royal, second in 2004 and leading when carried out by a loose horse at Becher’s Brook second time around last year, and two French-trained hopefuls Innox and First Gold who has had success at Aintree, having won the Martell Cup (now the Betfair Bowl) in both 2001 and 2003.
Last year’s winning owner Trevor Hemmings has five entered in 2006, while other leading owners David Johnson and Sir Robert Ogden have 10 and three entries respectively.
Cowboyboots, third in a Taunton handicap chase last month, is owned by former England cricket captain David Gower and trained by Lawrence Wells in Sussex, while Lord Daresbury, Chairman of Aintree Racecourse and formerly a top amateur rider, has Hermes III, trained by Mick Easterby in Yorkshire, in the great race.
In terms of trainers, Martin Pipe is the most dominant force with 22 entries. Pipe, triumphant with Miinnehoma in 1994, could be represented by the likes of last year’s fourth It Takes Time, the very promising Joaaci, recent Rowland Meyrick Chase winner Therealbandit, 2004 Betfred Gold Cup winner Puntal, the 2004 Grand National third Lord Atterbury and Seebald, owned by footballers Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman.
Pipe’s rival for this season’s trainers’ championship is Paul Nicholls, who has a 10-strong entry. In addition to last year’s runner-up Royal Auclair, Nicholls’s team includes Silver Birch, the 2004 totesport Becher Chase and Welsh National winner, last season’s Scottish Grand National runner-up Cornish Rebel, recent impressive Warwick scorer Eurotrek and this season’s Welsh National heroine L’Aventure.
Jonjo O’Neill, J P McManus’ principal British-based trainer, has seven engaged, headed by Clan Royal
Philip Hobbs, the Somerset-based trainer, and Ferdy Murphy, who trains in Middleham, North Yorkshire, both have six horses entered in the 2006 John Smith’s Grand National.
Hobbs has the current highest BHB-rated entry in Monkerhostin, runner-up to Kicking King in the King George VI Chase at Sandown Park on Boxing Day, plus One Knight, Lacdoudal, Double Honour, Made In Japan and Tamango.
Murphy is responsible for 2005 Scottish National winner Joes Edge, Europa, Haut De Gamme, Ivoire De Beaulieu, Tribal Venture and Supreme Developer.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has an excellent record in the Grand National, having sent out Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002) to success in recent years. This year the Gloucestershire handler has entered five, headed by the high-class Ollie Magern.
Nicky Henderson is another trainer with five entries - Fondmort, Calling Brave, Juveigneur, Iris Royal and Liberthine.
This year’s John Smith’s Grand National is likely to be the last as a trainer for Ginger McCain. McCain, forever associated with the great Red Rum, the only horse to win three Grand Nationals (1973, 1974 & 1977) has two horses for 2006. The duo are the 2004 Grand National winner Amberleigh House, now 14 and set to start in his sixth National, and Ebony Light, who showed himself to be a live contender when defeating Kingscliff in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last month.
Weights for the 2006 John Smith’s Grand National, worth £700,000, will be revealed at a media lunch in London on Tuesday, February 14.
Charles Barnett, Managing Director at Aintree Racecourse, commented: “Last year’s race provided an outstanding spectacle for John Smith’s in their inaugural year of sponsorship and had the added bonus of all horses running from within the handicap for the first time.
“This is yet another fantastic entry. Class is again in abundance and once again we have tremendous support from the Irish who have such a fantastic record in recent years.”
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