Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere and last year’s Aintree winner Pineau De Re star among 98 entries for the Crabbie’s Grand National on 11 April.
The Jim Culloty-trained Lord Windermere could bid to become the first horse since L’Escargot and only the third horse ever to win the Gold Cup and Grand National. L’Escargot won the Cheltenham showpiece in 1970 and 1971 and then denied Red Rum a hat-trick of wins at Aintree in 1975. Golden Miller won both races in 1934.
Culloty, who won the National as a jockey aboard Bindaree in 2002, has also entered Spring Heeled, winner of the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival last March. Dr Richard Newland’s Pineau De Re has failed to sparkle in two starts over hurdles this season, but remains a major contender for top honours on Merseyside.
Alvarado was fourth in last year’s renewal and although he has not been seen since, trainer Fergal O’Brien is looking forward to another crack at the world’s most famous steeplechase. O’Brien said: “Alvarado put his heart and soul into the National last year and he was a bit tired when he came back, so we gave him a long break. He has had no real problems – just a couple of niggly things – and the weather has conspired against us, which is why he hasn’t run yet. Aintree is plan A and we will work back from that. There is a veterans’ chase at Doncaster in the middle of February or there is another race at Warwick a week later. The plan would be to have one run around that time and then go straight to Aintree.
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“I think he can do better than he did last year. I don’t think he would have won as the winner won very well, but he did not settle for a long time during the race and, consequently, Paul (Moloney) had to have him a long way back.”
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has seven entries, the most of any handler, headlined by the Grade One-placed pair of Rocky Creek and Sam Winner along with leading ante-post fancy Unioniste.
Willie Mullins saddled Hedgehunter to victory in 2005 and accounts for four of the 25 Irish-trained entries, with his possibles including 2013 National Hunt Chase winner Back In Focus and Boston Bob. Other major hopes include last year’s runner-up Balthazar King, Hennessy Gold Cup winner Many Clouds and Irish Grand National victor Shutthefrontdoor.
John Baker, regional director of The Jockey Club North West, said: “We are delighted with the 98 entries received for the 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National. It is another bumper entry with many great stories lying in wait. A Betfred Gold Cup winner and this season’s Hennessy winner, plus last year’s Grand National hero and this season’s Becher Chase winner are all engaged and so it goes on. We all now eagerly await [handicapper] Phil Smith’s verdict on 17 February when the weights are revealed.”
Meanwhile Dawalan, an impressive winner at Musselburgh on Sunday, is likely to swerve Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede have three entries, but of the trio Dawalan is highly unlikely to run. Their racing manager Anthony Bromley explained: “Dawalan was still on his way back from Scotland when it was confirmation time so we left him in but he won’t run, I’d have thought. The ground going soft is also against him.”