The Grand National is one of the greatest races anywhere in the world and 2023 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.
For the Grand National 2023, there were 85 entries.
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.
However, during Covid, the BHA decided to increase the jockey allowance by 4lbs. That lasted until May 2022 when they reduced that and announced that it would be replaced with an across-the-board 2lbs rise in published weights.
The increase was to improve jockey safety welfare, so instead of the top weight for the 2023 Grand National being 11-10, it is now 11-12.
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 2023
There are certain criteria that a potential Grand National 2023 runner must meet in order to qualify for the race.
- Seven-year-olds and upwards
- 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 14th
- Horses must have run at least three times in chases run under the Rules of Racing up to and including February 21st
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 21st and the first scratchings deadline was March 7th.
73 horses remained in contention at that stage.
The second scratchings deadline was on March 28th, after the Cheltenham Festival. 16 more horses were withdrawn at that stage.
We will then have the last confirmations on Monday, April 10th with final declarations at 10am April 13th. That will produce a maximum field of 40.
Usually, four reserves are confirmed at this stage, so if another horse dropped out the day before the race, they would be replaced.
However, as of the 2023 Grand National, the reserve system no longer exists. Feedback suggested it was confusing some racing fans and bettors and hampering the production of raceday data supply.
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 2023, there are currently four grey runners involved in the proceedings and all of them are guaranteed a spot and they are:
- Gaillard Du Mesnil
- Coko Beach
- Eva’s Oskar
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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
- 2021 Farclas – 5th
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 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.
Farclas placing fifth in 2021 is pretty good as most bookmakers will payout to at least fifth place in the Grand National. He went off at 16/1 so still a decent return for punters who backed him each way.
The best-placed grey finished in 2022 was Coko Beach which got around the course in 8th place. With another chance in the 2023 Grand National, can he win it this time?
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. She returned in 2021 but went out early, unseating her jockey at the fourth fence.
For the 2023 Grand National, only one mare made the top 40, and that was Gin on Lime from trainer Henry De Bromhead. However, she was withdrawn at the last declaration stage.
A second mare, Darren’s Hope, from trainer Robert Murphy, is still on the list of entries but will need quite a few to get withdrawn in order to make the cut.
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 stands at 21.
And as he has never won it, he also holds the record for most rides without a win – also 21. He has now retired so unless somebody can beat 21 rides in the race, the record will stay with Richard Johnson.
The first and only female jockey to ever win the Grand National was Rachael Blackmore onboard Minella Times in 2021.
Prior to that, Katie Walsh had come the closest on Seabass in 2012 when she finished in third place.
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