A modern-day record entry of 144 is announced today for the world's most famous steeplechase, the £500,000 Martell Grand National, run at Aintree on Saturday, April 6. This year's number of entries compares with 133 in 2001 and beats the previous best of 141 that dates back to 1984.
Last year's winner Red Marauder is entered once again as is the 2000 hero Papillon, who also finished fourth ten months ago. Indeed the 2001 runner-up Smarty, and third-placed Blowing Wind could all do battle again. Beau, who was travelling well when unseating his rider last year, adds further interest.
Many of Europe's top chasers are engaged, including Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders like this season's Pertemps King George VI Chase winner Florida Pearl, the French star First Gold, winner of last year's Martell Cup at Aintree, Rowland Meyrick Chase winner Behrajan, Marlborough, who is set to run in Saturday's Pillar Property Chase at Cheltenham, Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup winner What's Up Boys, who took the Martell Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree last season, and the Ericsson Chase third and fourth, Alexander Banquet and Rince Ri.
Papillon, Florida Pearl, Alexander Banquet and Rince Ri are among 26 Irish-trained entries, with others being the Tony Martin-trained Irish National winner Davids Lad and Arthur Moore's Lyreen Wonder. There are a further five from France including a duo from the Pau stable of champion trainer Jacques Ortet - Empereur River and Hunter Jack - while Josef Vana from the Czech Republic has made two entries - Decent Fellow and Sankt Moritz.
Champion trainer Martin Pipe has 16 entrants, among them Blowing Wind, Take Control, You're Agoodun, Carryonharry and Nocksky, who has not run since winning a Worcester novices' chase in April, 1999.
Red Rum's trainer Ginger McCain has entered Tote Becher Chase winner Amberleigh House, Gunner Welburn, winner of last year's Martell Foxhunters' Chase, is another engaged as are the 2000 Martell Grand National runner-up Mely Moss, Coral Welsh National winner Supreme Glory, last season's Whitbread Gold Cup hero Ad Hoc, 2000 Scottish National winner Paris Pike and The Last Fling, who landed the Warwickshire Gold Cup on Jan. 12.
Red Marauder's trainer Norman Mason has four other entries – Peter Marsh Chase winner Red Striker, a full-brother to last season's Martell Grand National winner, Red Ark, Emperor's Magic and Nosam.
The weights for the 2002 Martell Grand National will be announced at a lunch in London on Tuesday, Feb. 5.