January 28th 2009 saw the announcement of the first wave of horses to be entered into the 2009 Aintree Grand National. Despite a number of trainers and owners recently expressing concern over the cost of horse racing in this economic climate, a bumper 123 horses have been registered for the big race.
‘This is a really positive outcome for this year's race' said Paul Eddison of www.grand-national.me.uk. ‘We had anticipated a more conservative number given the cost involved but obviously the prestige of the race and the record jackpot on offer this year has made it more palatable for the trainers and owners'.
A significant number of horses are registered every year at this time and over the course of the net few months the numbers will be whittled down to approx. 40 starters, though some races have started with less.
One of the more noteworthy ways in which the figures will be reduced is with the announcement of the weights for the horses, which will happen on February 10th 2009.
‘Though the purpose of this is to level out the playing field, I can't help but think that some of the more well known horses, such as Denman, will end up carrying weights so heavy that their chances of winning will be severely hampered' said Paul Eddison.
‘You have to remember that Hedgehunter became the first winner since Corbiere to carry over 11st to victory so if the powers that be go overboard with the weights on the likes of Comply or Die (2008 winner) or King John's Castle (2008 Runner-Up) we could be in for a very interesting race'.
For those who study form, the weights attributed to each of the horses will have a major impact given the parameters within which most Grand National winners cross the line to victory. It is one of the most important elements in the run-up to the big race and will no doubt be analysed in great detail when they are announced next week.
The current list of entrants hail from a wide and varied number of countries including Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, New Zealand and the USA. Unsurprisingly, 62 of the horses entered are Irish, accounting for nearly half of all registered, which is why historically Irish horses have done so well – the more you enter the better the chances of one of them winning!
Rather remarkably, nearly 25% of the horses, 33 of them, are French, which is quite a large contingent so early on in the process of selection. Traditionally, French horses have not faired very well in the Grand National and over the last 10 years have, at best, finished in fifth place but with such a large number this year we may see an upsurge in overall performance.
Of course that will depend entirely on which of them make the starting line-up, the weights they are given and the jockeys who ride them on the day.
Overall the list of entrants didn't hold too many surprises, a good variety of countries represented, a couple of dark horses (excuse the pun!) in the mix and definitely one or two to keep an eye on over the next couple of months.
There are the obvious horses that are already being tipped heavily but as we've seen over the last number of years, anything can happen at the Grand National. You can study form and consider the best trainers, jockeys and stables but you can't factor in luck and sometimes that's all you need on your side!
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