Grand National Festival Recap

Grand National Festival Recap

With each passing year, the Grand National Festival is growing in significance. 

A three day festival that contains a multitude of Grade 1 races, the recent trend of Irish domination at the Cheltenham Festival has meant that British based trainers such as Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton are starting to swerve Cheltenham and head straight to Aintree with their best horses to give them a better chance of success.

Despite the vast array of top races up for grabs, the headline of the three day Grand National Festival is still the Grand National itself. 

The most popular horse race in the world, this year’s race was hugely anticipated due to a raft of safety changes that had been introduced. With the eyes of the world watching, this would turn into a festival that few will forget.

Willie Mullins rules supreme once again

After yet another dominant Cheltenham Festival where he finished as the top trainer, Willie Mullins brought his talented stable to Aintree and enjoyed plenty more Grade 1 success. 

Over the course of the three days, Mullins won four Grade 1 races and of course trained the winner of the big race, I Am Maximus. 

Mullins has long been the envy of the paddock but never before has his stranglehold at the top of the sport been so strong. 

All of the game’s richest trainers want to send their horses to Mullins and he has enough quality horses to pitch multiple horses into all of the biggest races.

Worryingly for the rest, Mullins rested some of his best horses and was still able to finish the festival as its top trainer. This year’s Grand National Festival belonged to Mullins and the likelihood is that next year he will take all of the beating yet again.

Willie Mullins rules supreme once again

After a tough Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson bounces back

Only Willie Mullins has trained more Cheltenham winners than Nicky Henderson, but this year’s Festival was one to forget for the legendary British trainer. 

Out of form heading into horse racing’s showpiece event, it was revealed that on the eve of the festival all of Henderson’s stars were sick. Forced to withdraw Constitution Hill, Sir Gino and Jonbon from their allotted Cheltenham races, Henderson rocked up to Aintree with plenty of questions to answer.

Despite his stable being out of form, Henderson showed exactly why he has had the Midas touch for the best part of four decades. 

First to hit the track was Sir Gino. Set to start this year's Triumph as the overwhelming favourite before he was withdrawn, Sir Gino offered a timely reminder of his talents as he produced a stunning performance to land the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle.

Sauntering clear over the final flight, Sir Gino’s dominant victory threw himself right into the mix for next year’s Champion Hurdle

Henderson’s next star to take the track was Jonbon. Withdrawn from the Cheltenham Champion Chase, Jonbon lined up for the Melling Chase and showed exactly why he is regarded as one of the best jump horses in the sport.

Cantering along, he took the lead with two fences to jump and never looked back. Winning by over five lengths he looks a horse going places and will start next year’s Champion Chase as a major favourite.

After a tough Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson bounces back

New look Grand National passes test 

The Grand National has long been a hot topic, with animal welfare groups challenging the safety and legitimacy of the race. In order to answer these critics, over the last few years the Grand National has had a raft of changes made to it.

Once deemed the wildest race in the sport, fatalities to both horses and jockeys were a regular occurrence. With areas of the public calling for the race to be modernised, the race’s safety record improved immeasurably. Although trending in the right direction, Aintree organisers were still under pressure to do more and as a result, the 2024 race brought about the dawning of a new era of safety and the world eagerly awaited to see the outcome.

Traditionally the race has always consisted of forty runners but the large field has seen to be too dangerous, so this year, the field was limited to just 34 participants. 

As well as the reduction in runners, the race was moved forward from its traditional 5:15 pm slot to 4:00pm to ensure the race would be run on ground that was as good as it could be. 

The fifteen fences that make the National track have already been reduced in size, and once again great care was taken to ensure that they would be as safe as possible. 

Off the back of these changes, this year’s race passed with flying colours. There wasn’t a single faller in the race and every horse returned to its box safe and sound. For the organisers it was a dream and these changes look set to roll into next year’s race.

Despite the raft of safety changes, the race itself certainly wasn’t short on drama. 

With former Grade 1 winners Delta Work, Galvin and Minella Indo all battling it out for victory, it was the Willie Mullins trained I Am Maximus that trumped them all. 

Having sat off the pace for much of the race, jockey Paul Townend made his move with just two fences to jump. Gaining parity with the leaders, he jumped the last fence and still looked full of running. 

Having to shake off the attention of Delta Work, I Am Maximus found plenty of pressure and would go onto land the famous race by over four lengths.