It’s that time of year when the thoughts of many punters turn firmly to the Cheltenham Festival, with the countdown now well and truly on.
There’s another big race appearing on the horizon too though, namely the most famous horse race in the world – The Aintree Grand National.
Topping the bill at Haydock in mid-February is one of the key trials for the most dramatic steeplechase run anywhere on the planet.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 20th February 2021
- Winner: Lord Du Mesnil
- SP: 8/1
- Trainer: Richard Hobson
- Jockey: Paul O'Brien
The trip is 3m4½f for this Grade 3 handicap chase contest which acts as a trial for just about the most famous race on the planet. £75,000 in total prize money is on offer, not a lot compared to the seven-figure bounty offered by the Grand National itself but a decent prize fund none the less. The ground at the track is currently described as soft and with a little bit more rain forecast between now and the race it seems likely to stay that way. Read on for our thoughts on this fascinating and hard to predict race.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Soft||3m4½f||Grade 3||£75,000||9 Runners||1/5 1-3|
Grand National Trial Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2021. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Lucinda Russell, Fred Rimell and Neville Crump boast the all-time lead amongst trainers in this race with three wins apiece. Bidding to join that trio this year is two-time winner Venetia Williams who sends Achille to post.
The two seven year olds, Notachance and Enqarde head the betting, however recent age trends are against the duo, with each of the past 10 renewals having fallen to a runner aged eight or older. Indeed, an 11 year old won last year and in 2015, with 10 year old Robinsfirth victorious in 2019.
We had a big shock with the 33/1 success of Smooth Stepper in this race 12 months ago, but overall the market leaders haven’t fared badly in what is invariably a competitive heat. The past 10 years have witnessed two winning favourites, sneaking jolly backers into a £0.50 profit to £1 level stakes. What’s more, with seven of the 10 most recent victors being priced at odds of 8/1 or shorter, the top of the market is definitely the place to focus. Looking further back, Smooth Stepper is the only horse to have won this one at odds bigger than 18/1 in the last two decades.
|Notachance||10/3||11st 6lbs||Alan King||Tom Cannon|
|Achille||10/1||10st 12lbs||Venetia Williams||Charlie Deutsch|
|Ramses De Teillee||11/1||11st 12lbs||David Pipe||Fergus Gillard|
Notachance – 10/3
Despite his name, and the fact that the age trend is against him, Alan King’s Notachance, actually looks to boast pretty strong claims here and currently sits atop the market. The bookies certainly think he has a chance and, frankly, so do we.
Being one of the youngest runners in the field may not be a positive when looking at the recent results of the race, but does come with the plus side that he is one of the more lightly raced contenders and therefore more likely to have something in hand from the handicapper. Making just his seventh start over fences here, the mount of Tom Cannon certainly scores top marks for consistency, having only once finished outside of the first two in those six previous efforts.
The pick of those performances came last time out, in what was his first outing at beyond 3m in the 3m5f Classic Chase at Warwick. Toughing it out in really good style to score by half a length that day, he looks to be well suited by this sort of test and can go well from this 7lb higher mark. The ground should suit him nicely and he is definitely a worthy favourite.
Achille – 10/1
If you like the form claims of the market leader, then it’s tough not to be drawn to the each way chance of the 11 year old, Achille, particularly as he hails from the yard of Venetia Williams who has sent out two of the last seven winners of this. With 11 year olds doing very well in this contest of late, Achille has more than just form on his side too.
Hit and miss when trained in France, and slow to come to the boil upon joining the Williams operation in 2015, this likeable grey has certainly discovered some consistency now, and arrives here having finished inside the first two in seven of his last eight starts. Three times a winner on soft, the current going looks to be in his favour, and he boasts a couple of excellent efforts over this sort of trip, including when chasing home the talented West Approach in a Grade 3 at Cheltenham in 2019.
It is, however, his effort last time out which really catches the eye, as it was he who finished just a ½l behind Notachance in that Classic Chase contest - an effort which was all the more meritorious considering it was his first outing in 427 days. That is a lot of time away from the track and sure to strip fitter here, and getting a 3lb pull in the weights with his Warwick conqueror, he shouldn’t be too far away at a very nice price.
Ramses De Teillee – 11/1
Another who is well worth a second glance at a double figure price is the top weight Ramses De Teillee. A burden of 11st12lb admittedly doesn’t make life easy at first glance, but Fergus Gillard claims 5lb meaning the nine year old will be saddled with a more manageable 11st7lb. Effectively taking his mark down to 147, that would look to give him every chance if at something like his best.
On the downside, Ramses De Teillee does need to bounce back from a couple of poor efforts having finished well adrift in the Becher Chase and the Welsh Grand National. The Becher Chase performance is easy enough to forgive as he was simply clueless over the National fences, whilst he was beaten so far from home at Chepstow that something was surely amiss.
An excellent second to Elegant Escape in the 2018 edition of the Welsh National, he would look to have the required stamina for this and, most significantly of all, he also ran a cracker in this very race in 2019. Running off 149 that day, with no claimer in the saddle, he went down by just a ½l at the line on ground that was likely quicker than ideal. Looking as well as ever when outbattling Yala Enki – no easy task – in a Grade 3 at Cheltenham as recently as November 2020, he can go well for a trainer who took this with the excellent Vieux Lion Rouge in 2017.
Grand National Trial Winners
|2021||Lord Du Mesnil||8/1||Richard Hobson||Paul O'Brien|
|2020||Smooth Stepper||33/1||Alex Hales||Harry Bannister|
|2019||Robinsfirth||8/1||Colin Tizzard||Sean Bowen|
|2018||Yala Enki||8/1||Venetia Williams||Charlie Deutsch|
|2017||Vieux Lion Rouge||8/1||David Pipe||Tom Scudamore|
|2016||Bishops Road||13/2||Kerry Lee||Richard Johnson|
|2015||Lie Forrit||8/1||Lucinda Russell||Peter Buchanan|
|2014||Rigadin De Beauchene||16/1||Venetia Williams||Robert Dunne|
|2013||Well Refreshed||9/2||Gary Moore||Joshua Moore|
|2012||Giles Cross||4/1||Victor Dartnall||Denis O'Regan|
About the Grand National Trial: A Look at Aintree Contenders
The Grand National at Aintree is by some distance the most well-known jumps race in the world. It is a huge prize that every jockey, trainer and owner in National Hunt racing dreams of winning but just dreaming about it is not enough. Such is the unique challenge posed by the iconic marathon of a race that horses have to be thoroughly prepared before competing in the Aintree spectacular. There are number of demanding chases used as preparations, including the Grand National Trial at Haydock, just 10 miles or so east of Aintree.
A Complicated History
The Grand National Trial is one of the highlights of the jumps season at Haydock but its history is far from straightforward. Technically speaking, this is a new race as of 1991 when the Greenall Whitley Gold Cup was introduced at Haydock. However, in the eyes of many racing fans, that race was a reintroduction of the Grand National Trial which was first run at Haydock way back in 1947.
The original name was officially reinstated in 1996 and it is now considered to be the same race in terms of records and statistics. Therefore, the world famous Red Rum sits alongside more recent winners such as Party Politics and Master Oats on the list of Grand National Trial winners, adding more than a little prestige to the contest’s history.
Haydock Grand National Trial Timeline
|Year From||Year To||Race Detail|
|1947||1984||Run as the Grand National Trial over 3m 4½f|
|1985||1990||No race run at the trial distance|
|1991||1995||Greenall Whitley Gold Cup increased to 3m 4f|
|1996||Present||Greenall Whitely Gold Cup reamed the Grand National Trial|
Silver By Nature (2010 and 2011) and Goosander (1955 and 1957) are the only horses to have won the Grand National Trial more than once as of the 2020 renewal. In addition, it is worth noting that Silver By Nature’s trainer, Lucinda Russell, became the third trainer to saddle three winners of this race in 2015, with Neville Crump and Fred Rimmell preceding her.
A Worthy Prize in Its Own Right
The Grand National Trial is always run with half an eye on the Grand National. However, there is a danger of not treating this race with the respect that it deserves. It’s a Grade 3 contest which, as of the 2021 renewal, is worth more than £40,000 to winning connections. That’s a prize not to be sniffed at and, of course, the big race itself is also “only” a Grade 3 (even if it does have a seven-figure purse!).
In addition to that, this race is also a big one for punters to win. It is a handicap which takes place over 3 miles 4 ½ furlongs so is always going to be tough to predict. Add to that the relatively large fields which compete each year, the unpredictable ground which has varied from good to heavy in recent years (and heavy at Haydock means HEAVY) and 22 fences and it should be no real surprise that so few favourites win this race.
It takes a performance full of heart, stamina and jumping ability just to make it round the Haydock course. A large proportion of the field either falls on their way round or is pulled up some way before home, especially when the ground is tough as is common, so the winner is deserving of great respect as a staying chaser no matter what happens later in the year at Aintree.
Not the Trial Punters Might Hope For
If the Grand National Trial is a tough race to predict and complete, the Grand National itself is, of course, on a different level. These trial races help connections to get a feel of whether or not a horse has what it takes to complete the Grand National but such is the lottery of the that race that they serve as a poor predictor of success in the big one, truth be told as the table blow indicates.
Haydock Trial Winners in the Grand National: 1947 – 2020
|Year||Trial Winner||Trainer||Grand National Position|
|2017||Vieux Lion Rouge (8/1)||David Pipe||6th (12/1)|
|2012||Giles Cross (4/1)||Victor Dartnall||Pulled Up (20/1)|
|2011||Silver By Nature (10/1)||Lucinda Russell||12th (9/1)|
|2009||Rambling Minster (18/1)||Keith Reveley||Pulled Up (8/1)|
|2005||Forest Gunner (12/1)||Richard Ford||5th (8/1)|
|2004||Jurancon II (10/1)||Martin Pipe||Fell (10/1 CF)|
|2003||Shotgun Willy (10/1)||Paul Nicholls||Pulled Up (7/1 F)|
|2000||The Last Fling (5/1)||Sue Smith||7th (14/1)|
|1997||Suny Bay (7/2)||Charlie Brooks||2nd (8/1)|
|1995||Nuaffe (4/1)||Pat Fahy||Fell (20/1)|
|1994||Master Oats (11/4)||Kim Bailey||Fell (9/1)|
|1993||Party Politics (16/1)||Nick Gaselee||Void Race (7/1 F)|
|1992||Cool Ground (12/1)||Toby Balding||10th (10/1)|
|1983||Ashley House||Michael Dickinson||Withdrawn|
|1977||Andy Pandy||Fred Rimell||Fell (15/2 F)|
|1975||Red Rum||Ginger McCain||2nd (7/2 F)|
|1973||Highland Seal||R Dening||Pulled Up (20/1)|
|1971||The Otter||R Dening||Fell (12/1)|
|1970||French Excuse||Fred Rimell||Fell (100/8 F)|
|1969||Game Purston||Matt McCourt||Pulled Up (33/1)|
|1967||Bassnet||A Kilpatrick||Fell (10/1)|
|1964||Reproduction||G Owen||Fell (66/1)|
|1962||Solfen||W O’Grady||12th (9/1)|
|1957||Goosander||Neville Crump||6th (5/1 F)|
|1956||Sundew||F Hudson||Fell (8/1)|
|1953||Witty||W Hall||Unseated Rider (22/1)|
Whilst it is unlikely that we’ll see a winner of both races, this is not a race to completely discount. Far from it. Many previous winners have gone on to have success in other big staying chases, including both the Welsh and Scottish Grand Nationals, whilst some have even gone down in trip for races such as the Topham Chase.