Hopefuls show Grand designs

Last three Aintree winners and Gold Cup hero head entries for the National

For those who like a sense of history with their racing, forget that business on the edge of the rural Cotswolds next month and fast forward to a Liverpool suburb in April. When Red Splash won the first Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1924, there were already 82 Grand Nationals in the formbook and almost as many Aintree fairy tales in folklore. The search for the next legend began in earnest yesterday, when 112 entries were confirmed for the 163rd running of the world's most famous steeplechase.

It was numerically the lowest initial subscription for 10 years for the John Smith's-sponsored marathon, which carries a record £925,000 purse this year. But if quantity was lacking, quality is not. The drop in numbers is a likely reflection of the fact that the race is no longer the province of hopeless underachievers unlikely to get a run from out of the handicap.

The list of contenders includes the last three winners – Mon Mome, Comply Or Die and Silver Birch – and the four who followed the first two named home last April, My Will, State Of Play, Cerium and Big Fella Thanks. Pride of place among a host of horses with a Grade One victory on their CVs is undoubtedly taken by the 2006 Gold Cup hero War Of Attrition, who is scheduled to bow out in the great race.

Phil Smith, the British Horseracing Authority's chief handicapper, was impressed with the strength in depth. "There are more horses rated 140 or above among these entries," he said, "than in any of the years I've been involved."

The champion trainer Paul Nicholls has, famously, yet to win a National and his charges Tricky Trickster and Big Fella Thanks currently head the betting. The market, though, will spring properly into life on Tuesday week, when Smith reveals the weights he has set, with the so-called Aintree factor woven into the ratings, for the 12th time.

It is six years since a horse with a rating less than 134 made the cut (notwithstanding his starting price of 100-1, Mon Mome was, with a mark of 148, the highest-rated winner in 12 runnings) and this afternoon at Clonmel Whinstone Boy, winner two weeks ago of one of Ireland's most reliable Aintree trials, the Thyestes Chase, turns out again to try to climb the rankings from his current mark of 131. A good win would put his trainer Jimmy Mangan back on the road that ended in glory with Monty's Pass seven years ago.

A couple of hours later, in a very different arena, another dream may take flight again when Crowded House, made winter favourite for last year's 2,000 Guineas and Derby after his explosive victory in the Racing Post Trophy as a juvenile, appears in public for the first time since his sixth place at Epsom behind the one who did prove to be the wonder horse, Sea The Stars. The Brian Meehan-trained colt turns out in the nine-furlong Group Three contest at Meydan, the first race to be staged on turf at the new state-of-the-art Dubai track.

Turf account: Sue Montgomery

Nap

Pearlysteps (1.40 Towcester) Built on his seasonal return to action with a battling second and will not be fazed by one of the stiffest two miles in the country on soft ground.

Next best

Topsham Belle (1.50 Wincanton) Beat subsequent winner on her hurdles debut and should be capable of carrying her penalty in this company.

One to watch

Edgbriar (P R Webber) Produced an excellent effort when runner-up in a very decent novice chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Where the money's going

Money Trix is 7-2 from 4-1 with Paddy Power for Sunday's Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

Chris McGrath's Nap

Hellfire Club (3.20 Wincanton).

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all