The Grand National is one of the greatest races anywhere in the world and 2020 will be no different. One of the toughest races for runners and riders alike, it attracts a huge worldwide audience, often topping 600m viewers globally. Annually over 100 potential runners get entered and they then get whittled down to the 40 runners that we see line-up on Grand National day.
Over a hundred years ago, the weights of the Grand National runners were very different from what we see today. In fact, four different horses all ran and won carrying 12st 7lb.
- Poethlyn – 1919
- Jerry M – 1912
- Manifesto – 1899
- Cloister – 1893
The weights were then officially lowered to a maximum of 12st in 1956. That was reduced further to 11st 12lb in 2002 and again to 11st 10lb in 2009. Red Rum was the last horse to win the Grand National carrying top weight of 12st in 1974.
At the other end of the scale, the lowest winning weight was 9st 6lb by Freetrader in 1856. Today, however, the minimum weight a horse can race with, in the Grand National is 10 stone. When the final 40 runners are declared, any horse that has been allocated less than that weight by the BHA Handicapper automatically goes up to 10-00.
Qualification for the Grand National 2020
There are certain criteria that a potential Grand National 2020 runner must meet in order to qualify for the race.
- Seven-year-olds and upwards
- Prior to March 17, have started in a chase during the current season
- Placed first, second, third or fourth in a chase with an official distance description of’ two miles seven and a half furlongs’ or more at any time during the horse’s career
- Allotted a rating of 125 or more by the BHA Head of Handicapping up to and including February 9th
- Horses must have run at least three times in chases run under the Rules of Racing up to and including February 10
Like all major races, somebody has to be in charge. In the case of the National at Aintree, the decision of the BHA Head of Handicapping is final. The weights were revealed on February 11th and the first scratchings deadline was February 25th. 89 horses remained in contention.
The second scratchings deadline will be on March 17th, after the Cheltenham Festival. We will then have the five-day confirmations on March 30th with final declarations at 10am April 2. That will produce a maximum field of 40 plus four reserves.
Grey Runners In The National
Grey runners have a huge following in the Grand National with plenty of fans willing to back a horse simply because of the colour. Only a small few line up each year which is also why so few ever actually win the race.
In fact, only three grey horses have ever won the great race. And one of them managed it twice!
- The Lamb – 1868 and 1871
- Nicolaus Silver – 1961
- Neptune Collonges – 2012
For 2020, there are currently eight grey runners involved in the proceedings. Four of them are guaranteed a spot with two more playing the waiting game but likely to get in. The last two are too far down the list to realistically make the cut. So we could have six grey runners line-up this year.
But just because grey runners don’t always win, doesn’t mean they don’t run a good race. In the last twenty years, the following have placed:
- 2002 What’s Up Boys – 2nd
- 2002 Kingsmark – 4th
- 2008 King Johns Castle – 2nd
What’s Up Boys was also the highest placed runner that trainer Philip Hobbs has ever sent out. He was ridden by Richard Johnson, who has never won a National, and went off at odds of 10/1. Kingsmark was ridden by Ruby Walsh in the same race and went off at odds of 16/1. And in 2008, King Johns Castle was ridden by Paul Carberry, for trainer Enda Bolger and went off at odds of 20/1.
Mares In The Grand National
The history of mares running in the National is far better than a lot of people think. In fact for years, there were a significant number of winners but, to be fair, that was a very long time ago. More recently, there have been no mare winners of the race and we have to go back to 1951 to find the last one. That was Nickel Coin.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. In 2019 Magic Of Light romped home in second place for trainer Jessica Harrington. That was also the first time the Irish trainer had saddled a Grand National runner. She started off in the betting at a whopping 125/1 and eventually went off at 66/1. Still huge odds for the horse who will be back again for the 2020 renewal.
Grand National Records
Fastest Winning Time: Mr Frisk in 1990 in 8m 47.8s
Slowest Winning time: Lottery in 1839 in 14m 53s – also the first ever winner of the race
Longest Winning Odds: 100/1 for Mon Mome in 2009, Foinavon in 1967, Caughoo in 1947, Gregalach in 1929 and Tipperary Tim in 1928
Most Finishers: 23 in 1984, from 40 starters
Smallest Number Of Finishers: Two, in 1928 when 42 started
Shortest Winning Distance: Neptune Collonges by a nose from Sunnyhillboy in 2012
Longest Winning Distance: Red Marauder in 2001 by 30L from second place Smarty
Most Wins By A Horse: – Red Rum in 1973, 1974 and 1977
Highest Number Of Wins By A Jockey: George Stevens with 5 wins in the 1800s
Most Wins By A Trainer: – George Dockeray, Fred Rimell and Ginger McCain – all with four wins each
It should also be noted that jockey Richard Johnson holds two records. The first is for the number of rides in the race which currently stands at 21 before the 2020 race. And as he has never won it, he also holds the record for most rides without a win – also 21. But can he change all that in 2020?
No female jockey has ever won the Grand National. Katie Walsh came closest on Seabass in 2012 when she finished in third place. For 2020 we could have Rachael Blackmore, Bryony Frost and Lizzie Kelly lining-up. So watch this space.