Classy names among 84 John Smith's Grand National entries
Last Updated: 30/01/13 4:41pm
Neptune Collonges holds off Sunnyhillboy last year
Grade One winners Tidal Bay, Imperial Commander, Albertas Run, Quito De La Roque and Quel Esprit head 84 horses revealed on Wednesday as being entered for the £975,000 John Smith's Grand National.
While the number of horses entered remains considerably down on the figures received only four or five years ago, it is two more entries than were received for the race 12 months ago despite the race attracting negative publicity after the death of two horses in the 2012 renewal.
This year's contest will take place for the first time over the new distance of four miles, three furlongs and about 110 yards on Saturday, April 6, with the start moved closer to the first fence. The maximum permitted field is 40 runners, with up to four reserves on standby.
Champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls landed his first John Smith's Grand National in dramatic fashion last year when Neptune Collonges got the better of Sunnyhillboy by a nose in the closest finish ever seen to the great race.
Neptune Collonges was retired following his famous victory but Sunnyhillboy could bid to go one better. Third-placed Seabass and fourth Cappa Bleu are both also entered again.
Nicholls has four chances to register back-to-back wins, headed by Tidal Bay, last seen winning the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The trainer also has What A Friend and Harry The Viking, who are part-owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as Join Together.
However, the participation of 2010 Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander seems in doubt. A tweet from the horse's owners: "Imperial Commander Grand National - he is entered but his main and probably only target is the Gold Cup!".
Irish-trained horses have landed the contest on no less than six occasions since Bobbyjo struck for the Carberry family back in 1999, but have not struck gold since Gordon Elliott's Silver Birch claimed Aintree glory in 2007.
That could all change this year, however, with the current ante-post favourites being the Willie Mullins-trained Prince De Beauchene and On His Own.
Ted Walsh, who won the race in 2000 with Papillon, has along with Seabass also put in Leopardstown winner Colbert Station among the 32 Irish entries.
Elliott has six entries this year include the high-class Jessies Dream, who has not been seen since finishing second in the 2011 RSA Chase at Cheltenham.
The last two winners of the Irish National - Organisedconfusion (2011) and Lion Na Bearnai (2012) - are also engaged.
As well as Sunnyhillboy, Jonjo O'Neill could also call on dual Ryanair Chase winner Albertas Run, Cheltenham Festival winner Alfie Sherrin, Lost Glory and Mister Hyde.
Donald McCain emulated his late father Ginger when successful with Ballabriggs in 2011 and that horse leads his team along with Across The Bay, Aintree regular Cloudy Lane, Fabalu and Weird Al.