Grand National attracts 115 entries

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Auroras Encore ridden by jockey Ryan Mania crosses the line to win the 2013 John Smith's Grand National © Twitter/The Aintree Insider

Auroras Encore ridden by jockey Ryan Mania crosses the line to win the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National © Twitter/The Aintree Insider

The Crabbie’s Grand National has attracted an impressive 115 entries for the showpiece race on April 5 – the highest amount since 2009.

The rise in entries could in some part be down to the increase in prize money offered for the race, with Aintree offering £1 million for the first time, under new sponsors Crabbie’s.

The entry list, which boasts a host of talented horses, includes former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run and the hugely versatile thirteen-year-old Tidal Bay.

However, last year’s hero Auroras Encore, who took the spoils as a 66/1 outsider, will not be back to defend his crown, after he was retired earlier this week due to injury.

Trainer Sue Smith will instead bid to win the prestigious race with Mr Moonshine, who shares the same owners as last year’s champion, in the form of Douglas Pryde, Jim Beaumont and David van der Hoeven. Smith also tries Vintage Star, who if successful would provide local businessman Trevor Hemmings with his third win in the Aintree showpiece since the turn of the millennium.

Champion trainer Nicky Henderson has played a strong hand, entering five horses that include the aforementioned Long Run and the hugely popular horse Hunt Ball, who could line up after a brief stint in America.

One of the likely favourites for the race is Monbeg Dude, the winner of last year’s Welsh National, who’s owners include former England rugby star Mike Tindall.

Meanwhile, 18-time champion jockey AP McCoy could have a host choices in the race, with powerful owner JP McManus entering an impressive eleven horses into the event.

Andrew Tulloch, Aintree’s Clerk of the Course and Director of Racing, said: “We are thrilled with both the quality and quantity of entries for the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National, which with a prize fund of £1 million is easily the richest jump race ever run outside of Japan.

“A Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Long Run, and high-class Tidal Bay are the likely top-weights and we are eagerly awaiting the weights’ announcement on February 11.”

The build up for the Aintree showpiece continues at Haydock on February 15, when the Merseyside course hosts the Grand National trial.

About Nick Seddon, JMU Journalism