David Maxwell described riding in this year’s Randox Grand National as “better than anything I could ever have dreamed of” after finishing sixth on Ain’t That A Shame at Aintree.

Seventeenth in the hands of Rachael Blackmore when fancied for the race in 2023, the Henry de Bromhead-trained 10-year-old returned to Liverpool for a second crack at the world’s most famous steeplechase having been purchased by the property developer to fulfil his long-held ambition of riding in the National.

Sent off at 40-1, the Thyestes Chase scorer was still in contention at the second last, with the 45-year-old admitting for one brief second he allowed himself to dream of joining the decorated list of amateur pilots to win the National.

“It was way better than anything I could ever have dreamed of and there was no way I could ever have dreamed of still being in touch at the Melling Road with two to jump,” said Maxwell.

“You look around and there were plenty of good horses who had cried enough and although there were still plenty of good horses going well, my fella was going as well as anything at that point.

“I just looked around and thought I was exactly where I wanted to be and then I looked around again and thought there are still a lot of horses still cruising here. After that I was aiming to get home and see if I could get in the first six.

“The National now is such a grade of race that you’ve basically got Gold Cup horses running in front of you and proper graded horses running in a handicap.”

Maxwell is no stranger to competing over the Grand National fences and has finished on the podium on four occasions in the amateurs-only Foxhunters’. But his first experience of going an extra circuit in the famous Aintree marathon more than lived up to his expectations.

“It was some thrill and I said to the agent afterwards that if he had put another zero on the price it would have been worth it,” continued Maxwell.

“He’s a lovely horse and he made one mistake the whole way round at the second fence after the Canal Turn. He went down to Canal Turn with me just leaving him alone – pop, pop, pop – and then I suddenly thought I was getting the hang of it and could see a stride, I went ‘one, two’ and he went three and ploughed through it.

“His ears were stuffed with cotton wool so he wouldn’t have heard me, but I said ‘sorry about that lad, I won’t do it again’. From then on I just left him to it and he’s an absolute pro.”

Some had questioned the owner-rider’s participation in the race in the build-up, with Maxwell himself pointing out an online poll had come down in favour of him sitting out the race.

With that in mind, he was conscious of his responsibility to both the famous race and his amateur colleagues, desperate not to give the naysayers opportunity to dispute amateur participation that has long been part of the fabric of the Grand National.

“It is important that I’m safe and that was my only nervousness,” explained Maxwell.

“I wasn’t nervous about riding round the course, I was nervous about making a mistake on a very big stage and it is really important that I did a good, professional job so no one could say we need to examine amateur participation or conditional jockeys in the National.

“The thing people like about these National races is the element of chance. They are big-field handicaps and you could quite comfortably get 50-1 and 100-1 winners and when you add amateurs into the mix, there’s an extra element of chance.

“So it is important that the amateur element is not taken out because of incompetence. Being amateur is OK but being incompetent is not and you have to be competent.”

Maxwell also gave his seal of approval to the array of alterations to the race which led to no fallers and the highest number of finishers since 2005.

“It was great for racing to get 32 horses home safely and 21 finishers,” said Maxwell.

“I thought they did the right thing reducing the field size but having ridden in it, I think they could maybe try 36, I think that would be fine. It probably did just give that little bit extra room on the racecourse and at no point did it feel crowded apart from Canal Turn when everyone bunches up in the corner – there was plenty of room out there.

“They have done a brilliant job with that course and it is still a spectacle. When people say the fences are soft they are just wrong. Cat Tiger who is a very good jumper, he has a tendency to rattle one on his way round and he rattled the fifth and I came off. They still need jumping, it’s not a cake walk and fences like the Canal Turn are always going to be quite technical, jumping and turning 45 degrees at racing pace.

“I think the changes were good and the race is still a spectacle which it needs to be and it needs to be safe. We went a sensible speed out there on Saturday and I think the real winner was racing.”

Well and truly bitten by the Grand National bug, attentions now turn to returning to Merseyside with Ain’t That A Shame in 12 months time, via a prep over the famous spruce in the Becher Chase in December.

Maxwell is also ambitiously plotting to break Dick Saunders’ long-held record and become the race’s oldest winning jockey.

“One hundred per cent we’re going back next year. It will be Becher Chase, Thyestes Chase, Grand National,” said Maxwell.

“The oldest winner of the National was 48 and I need to get a few more years experience in before I can think of winning it. If I aim to win it in 2028 then I will be 49. Then I would be the oldest winner of the National!

“When any National horse is coming up for sale from now on, I’m buying it!”

Lucinda Russell’s Corach Rambler is none the worse after his Randox Grand National title defence ended at the first fence.

The 10-year-old won the race for owners The Ramblers last season, prevailing by two and a quarter lengths to give the Kinross trainer her second success after One For Arthur in 2017.

This season Corach Rambler aimed to emulate great horses such as Red Rum and Tiger Roll in returning to Aintree to retain his title, but first he was a contender at the very top level in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

There he ran an admirable race when finishing third behind Galopin Des Champs, a run that made his handicap allocation for the Grand National look rather generous.

As such he was well-backed on return to Liverpool and started at 15-2 under Derek Fox having been the favourite for much of the ante-post phase.

Sadly his race ended only moments after it began, with Corach Rambler stumbling on landing after the first fence and unseating Fox.

He then ran loose to the next fence and fell when meeting the ground on the other side, though connections were spared the ordeal of seeing him run riderless for the rest of the race as was he corralled ahead of the third fence and caught.

Russell reported him to be unscathed following the experience and will now call it a day for the season and allow him to enjoy a summer break.

“He’s had a good sleep in his stable and is perfect,” she said.

“We’re very pleased and relieved to have him home in one piece and he’ll now go on a nice holiday and then we’ll decide what happens next.

“He just seemed to stumble and it’s one of the those things, but luck was on our side still as he’s absolutely fine.

“He went into one of the corrals, it’s very good how they work, he was caught quite quickly and that was a relief.”

He could have been forgiven for thinking ‘what if’ when former pupil I Am Maximus sauntered his way to Randox Grand National glory – but Nicky Henderson was simply thrilled for all concerned and three days at Aintree he feels the sport can look back on with pride.

It still seems remarkable Henderson has not trained a National winner during what continues to be a hugely distinguished career, and it is perhaps indicative of his luck in the world’s most famous steeplechase that I Am Maximus was housed at his Lambourn base before switching to Willie Mullins in Ireland.

The future National hero won both a Cheltenham bumper and a Newbury novice hurdle while in the care of Henderson, who admits he was the one runner he was keeping a close eye on during Saturday’s main event.

“I’ve let one slip through the net,” quipped Henderson. “It’s ironic, you spend 45 years trying to win the Grand National and you finally get your mitts on one and we let it get away.

“He was here and spent his first two seasons here – he was a lovely horse – and he was the one horse I wanted to win yesterday.

“I suppose the only thing I might have done to contribute to his success was probably the way we minded him quite a bit when he was young, because he was big and backwards and raw.

“He was a lovely horse with a great temperament, but he wasn’t really ready for big battles in those days and just needed to be treated with respect – and I think that’s what we did.”

He was owned at the time by Michael Grech, who was to switch all his horses to Ireland in the summer of 2022, with I Am Maximus joining Mullins’ swelling Closutton ranks to embark on a novice chasing campaign which culminated in Irish Grand National success in April 2023.

Grech sold I Am Maximus to JP McManus before that Fairyhouse triumph and sadly did not get to see his former charge’s finest hour at Aintree, having died in September last year. But Henderson believes the horse’s big-race victory will be a lasting tribute to his good friend.

He continued: “I’m thrilled, he belongs to JP, who is one of my biggest supporters here and Willie is a great mate – I told him he needed to go get that horse. I’m genuinely thrilled for them.

“Sadly, he had to move on (from ourselves) and Michael Grech was lovely, we had some tremendous days together and it was great fun. The horses then had to go over to Ireland and sadly Michael died and it’s very sad because he was a lovely man.

“All his family were there yesterday, Maxine (his wife) and his children and it was a sad day for them, but he won in Mike’s memory.”

Henderson did not have a runner in this year’s National, but was keen to heap praise on officials at Aintree for not just the successful alterations they made to the race itself, but for the three days in Liverpool overall.

The 73-year-old roared back to form himself on Merseyside after a testing Cheltenham Festival, with star performers Sir Gino and Jonbon both scooping Grade One honours.

He described the action on Merseyside as the “best three days racing you could wish to see anywhere”, with racing deserving of a massive pat on the back after a thrilling three days of action in the north west.

“I thought it was a fantastic race and it was a brilliant three days, you won’t see better racing anywhere,” said Henderson.

“Aintree need huge credit for it and after Cheltenham everyone was so down and out, it was all so gloomy and everything was wrong, so after all that, we need to say this was brilliant.

“I wasn’t going round Cheltenham doom and gloom because I couldn’t play, but I was back playing the game again this week which was good fun and the horses ran well throughout the week.

“It was a fabulous Grand National, with lots of horses getting round and everyone safe and sound, which is always a paramount – and I just thought it was the best three days racing you could wish to see anywhere and it wants to be celebrated and paraded and everyone saying well done to everyone.

“The sport did very well for three days and I know we are all under the cosh at Cheltenham and under pressure and maybe things get a bit heated or overtried, but up at Aintree everyone was there to have a good time and enjoy it and they did – and I thought it was first class all the way through.”

Leading owner JP McManus finished an incredible three-days at Aintree by watching I Am Maximus provide him with a thrilling third triumph in the Randox Grand National.

The famous green and gold silks of McManus were a frequent sight in the winner’s enclosure over the three-day meeting in Liverpool, with the Emmet Mullins-trained Its On The Line scoring over the Grand National fences in the Foxhunters on Thursday before a Grade One treble on Friday afternoon.

Inothewayurthinkin, Mystical Power and Jonbon were all successful on day two, but the best was still to come.

Although McManus had spoken of his liking for the chance of Limerick Lace – bred by his wife, Noreen – in the lead-up to the world’s most famous steeplechase, it was his first colours that were carried to victory by the Willie Mullins-trained favourite, I Am Maximus, who ran out the most impressive of winners in the hands of Paul Townend.

Flanked by his grandchildren, McManus was lifting the trophy for a third time as I Am Maximus joined the likes of Rhyme ‘n’ Reason, Bobbyjo and Numbersixvalverde to follow up victory in the Irish Grand National on Merseyside.

In the aftermath he was keen to stress his love for both the great race and Aintree, and told ITV: “I love everything about the race.

“I love Liverpool, the excitement of coming here, the build-up to the National, it’s just a very, very special place. When you win it’s a wonderful spectacle.

“The Grand National, you are always looking forward to it and what you might have for the next one because it is such a special race.

“Willie planned the campaign with this horse a long time back and thankfully it worked out.”

McManus has already played a key part in National history having provided Sir Anthony McCoy with a long-awaited Aintree success when Don’t Push It struck in 2010, while that was topped in 2021 when Rachael Blackmore rode herself into the record books aboard Minella Times in the Irishman’s colours.

Willie Mullins said it was “game on” in his pursuit of a first British trainers’ championship as I Am Maximus provided him with a second Randox Grand National victory.

While it has taken 19 years for him to follow up his initial success with Hedgehunter, his domination of the National Hunt scene on both sides of the Irish Sea is now such that he is odds-on across the board to win a title in a country in which he does not even reside.

The prospect of emulating the legendary Vincent O’Brien – who did it in successive years in the 1950s – has loomed large ever since Mullins once again commanded the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup in the process.

Mullins himself, though, played down the prospect, with one proviso – unless he won the £1 million National.

I Am Maximus was sent off the 7-1 favourite under Paul Townend, one of eight runners for the yard, and despite one or two hairy moments that are generally par for the course in a Grand National, he seldom looked like not winning.

With a lead of almost £40,000 over Dan Skelton, Paddy Power make Mullins the 8-15 favourite, and British racegoers certainly have not seen the last of the man from Closutton this season.

“I didn’t know we’d gone in front. You can expect to see us at Sandown, Ayr and wherever!” he said.

“We’ll have to go for it now. We needed to have a really good National and we have. It’s game on now, isn’t it.

“I’d love to win the championship. Vincent O’Brien has done it in the 1950s and it is something different to do.

“As much as I’d like to win it my owners would like me to win it and so would my staff, so now we’re in this position you have to have a real go.

“JP McManus (owner of I Am Maximus) has been telling me for the past couple of years to have a real go, but I always think just mind yourself at home rather than spread yourself too thin and leave yourself wide open to have a bad season at home.

“Travelling horses takes it out of them, especially early in the season, which is why we don’t do it, but it’s panned out well today.”

Mullins himself is taken aback by the quantity of the quality in his yard. But even for him, winning the Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup and the National is something special.

“You might have the favourites for all those races, but you don’t for one minute think you are going to win all three,” he said.

“We can’t believe it at home. We’re gobsmacked looking at the talent we have in the yard. When I was a smaller trainer I’d be proud to have one of the barns that we have.

“I have an amazing team, I don’t think I saddled a runner at Cheltenham, I let them do it and it probably works better when I’m not involved.

“If someone had said we’d have 100 winners at the Festival you wouldn’t have thought it was possible, so we’re as amazed as anyone that it happened.”

So it could be a very different end to the season for Mullins, with Sandown and Ayr occupying his thoughts rather than Punchestown, but Townend may not be on many of them.

“We have a different programme nowadays to when Vincent won it. I find the English programme very hard to navigate, it seems to be a lot of handicaps and that is tough on horses,” Mullins said.

“I’ll let David Casey (assistant), who plans those things, get to work on it. He’ll be working overtime over the next two or three weeks!

“Paul has a title of his own to try to win so I’m not sure if he’ll be coming over, he’s got four winners to make up on Jack Kennedy.”

“The National exactly as we want it” – that was the verdict of Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale after the first running of the Randox Grand National under new conditions.

A number of revisions were made to the famous four-and-a-quarter-mile chase this year, not least reducing the maximum field from 40 to 34 runners – although two late withdrawals meant 32 horses actually went to post for the earlier 4pm start.

The pre-race parade was altered to a canter in front of the stands, with a standing start implemented and the first fence moved closer to the off. The 11th fence was also reduced in height by two inches on the take-off side, with some ‘levelling off’ on the landing side to reduce the height of the drop.

The changes resulted in 21 finishers and no official fallers in the Aintree showpiece, although last year’s winner Corach Rambler did come down at the second fence when running loose after unshipping his rider at the first obstacle.

Truesdale said: “We’re absolutely delighted, the changes have clearly had a very positive impact. I think it was probably the cleanest National I’ve ever seen.

“You’ve got to go back to 1992 to find more finishers, so we’re really pleased. I think the standing start seemed to work and I thought the jockeys were very sensible and it was a very well-ridden race, great credit to all involved.

“It was a really exciting finish, the National exactly as we want it.”

Clerk of the course Sulekha Varma echoed Truesdale’s thoughts, although she is keen to see what impact moving the first fence closer to the start had on the speed at which the field met the initial obstacle.

She said: “Everybody is coming up to me saying what a good race to watch it was, it was exciting and there were so many horses still in contention and we had a fabulous winner.

“There’ll always be time for review and analysis, it’s not right now, but we do that every year. As it stands we are very pleased so all credit to the jockeys and to everybody involved in the race, it’s been great.

“A few people have said they thought the standing start worked well which is great, I need to find out what speed they got to going to the first. What a shame for Corach that he went at the first, but there’s been some great performances and they all came back safe and sound.”

Given the very wet winter and spring so far, there had been fears the going would be heavy on the National course. But after some drying weather, the race was eventually run on soft ground.

Varma added: “The ground hasn’t been bad, there were one or two doomsayers before we started. I bit my tongue and decided to wait to see how it rode, but overall I’m pleased.”

Critics of the changes felt the reduced field in particular would detract from the Aintree spectacle, but Rachael Blackmore, who won the race on Minella Times in 2021 and finished third this year on Minella Indo, did not feel the race lost any excitement.

She said: “I got a nice passage round and had plenty of space when I wanted it. It was still a fantastic race to ride in.”

Retired multiple champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy said: “It was the most wonderful finish. I’ve never seen so many horses in with a chance of winning the Grand National so late in the race. What an incredible race – just a brilliant spectacle.”

Ruby Walsh, who won the Grand National twice, added: “If that doesn’t convince people that this is a wonderful sport then I don’t know what will.”

Bookmakers were put to the sword as I Am Maximus’ supreme Randox Grand National triumph meant the layers left Aintree licking their wounds.

It has been a chastening week for the layers in Liverpool, with a huge amount of winning favourites inflicting misery.

And that was compounded in the main event itself as Willie Mullins’ 7-1 market leader became the second consecutive winning favourite of the world’s most famous steeplechase after Corach Rambler’s success in 2023.

“It was a tough opening two days of the Aintree Festival for the bookies and the Grand National didn’t provide any respite on day three,” explained BoyleSports’ Brian O’Keeffe.

“I Am Maximus delivered a knockout blow in the big one for punters as he was one of our biggest liabilities. The placed horses weren’t kind to us either, but there’s always next year!”

It was Mullins’ second win in the Aintree showpiece and the sport’s leading trainer is no stranger to giving the bookies a bashing on the biggest stage, as I Am Maximus led home a 1-2-3-4 for Irish-trained horses.

“It was that man again Willie Mullins who so often is a thorn in our side,” said Sam Boswell from BetVictor.

“Whilst we had a significant spread of money in the race, we still ended up down thanks to the brilliant performance from his eight-year-old who had plenty of backers.

“Minella Indo, Delta Work and Kitty’s Light who all placed had plenty of each-way support too and it continued the theme of the jumps season which has been utter Irish domination in the big races.”

I Am Maximus’ victory puts Mullins in pole position to claim a first-ever UK trainers’ championship and he is now the general favourite to lift the trophy aloft at Sandown in two weeks time.

“The £1million Grand National was always likely to have a massive say in this season’s NH trainers’ title race, and of the three contenders, Willie Mullins went into the race with the strongest hand,” said Coral’s David Stevens, with the firm offering 4-5 for the master of Closutton to win the title.

“Victory for I Am Maximus has seen him claim favouritism for the championship for the first time, as the competition moves to next week’s big Ayr meeting and the £250,000 Coral Scottish National.

“The Grand National remains the biggest day in the betting calendar, and while I Am Maximus had plenty of supporters, he was one of many runners to prove popular on this unique occasion, and so we’ve no complaints about the result.”

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes added: “This year’s trainers’ title race is giving the Premier League race a run for its money. In what has turned into a very exciting three horse race, Willie Mullins’ Grand National victory has put him firmly in front of his rivals.”

Gordon Elliott again had to give best to the “thorn in his side” that is Willie Mullins, with Delta Work finding only I Am Maximus too good for Delta Work in the Randox Grand National at Aintree.

The two powerhouse trainers have long matched strides at the top of Irish racing, with Elliott having to settle for second in the Irish trainers’ championship on multiple occasions as well as on some of the biggest of British stages, including when Gerri Colombe chased home Galopin Des Champs in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Elliott fielded seven in his bid for a fourth Grand National following Silver Birch (2007) and dual hero Tiger Roll (2018 and 2019), with particularly high hopes for Delta Work who was having a third crack at the race having finished third in 2022 and unseated his rider last year.

But as has been the story for much of the season, Mullins was a cut above the rest, with I Am Maximus coming home seven and a half lengths ahead of Delta Work, with fellow Elliott runner Galvin a further length back in fourth.

While disappointed to be denied, Elliott hailed the both the efforts of his runners and the “exceptional” winner.

He said: “It just didn’t happen for us. No one remembers second, I don’t anyway.

“Delta Work was awesome and Galvin is a warrior, I’m so proud of him and I’m so lucky with the horses I have.

“Delta Work was flying come here and I thought this was his year. He ran his race and just got beat by a better horse, that’s it.

“The winner is exceptional and Willie Mullins remains a thorn in my side.”

Jack Kennedy was aboard Delta Work and added: “He ran a cracker, delighted with him. He made a couple of mistakes but travelled well and ran a great race.”

It briefly looked as though Rachael Blackmore was going to add a second National to her historic first win aboard Minella Times three years ago when Minella Indo jumped the last in front, but she was overhauled on the run to the line, eventually coming home third aboard the 2021 Gold Cup winner.

She said: “It was a massive run, he’s some horse. He gave me a great ride around there and I felt for a split second we were going to do it, but then I blinked and I could see the green and gold (colours of owner JP McManus) flash by me in a shot.

“He was in against younger legs, but it was a brilliant run and congratulations to Paul Townend, JP and Willie.”

Minella Indo’s trainer Henry de Bromhead admitted he believed another famous success could be on the cards – but he was nevertheless thrilled in defeat, with future plans for the 11-year-old yet to be discussed.

De Bromhead said: “He’s a warrior, isn’t he? Just brilliant. I’m delighted with him.

“I thought we were going to win it there for a second, he travelled so well for Rachael, she was brilliant and they were both brilliant together.

“To get horses like him is incredible, we’ve had so much fun with him.

“We’ll see about next year, we’ll enjoy today and see – he obviously owes us nothing and all we want to do is look after him. But I tell you what, the way he jumped round there he looked like he loved every minute of it.”

De Bromhead also saddled Ain’t That A Shame to finish sixth for amateur rider and owner David Maxwell, who purchased the horse last month specifically to ride in the National.

He added: “David gave Ain’t That A Shame a super ride, he was brilliant on him the whole way. I’m delighted for him as he got such a thrill from it.”

Kitty’s Light fared best of the numerically limited British-trained challenge among the 32 starters, coming home a 10-and-quarter-length fifth for trainer Christian Williams and jockey Jack Tudor.

Williams said: “He travelled and jumped so well, I thought we were the winners all the way. I’m immensely proud of him and those were graded horses in front of him at the finish, including a Gold Cup winner.

“I’m unsure where he will go, because I really wanted him to win the National, but we will probably look at Sandown (for the bet365 Gold Cup).”

Last year’s National winner Corach Rambler got no further than the first fence this time, with Derek Fox unseated on landing after the Lucinda Russell-trained runner had cleared the obstacle.

The horse carried on running loose with the field and fell at the next fence but was reported to have returned unscathed.

Russell said: “It was obviously disappointing what happened, but I was more worried when I saw him come down at the second. Thankfully he’s fine, no problems and the owners are just delighted that he has come home safe and sound.”

I Am Maximus was an emphatic winning favourite of the Randox Grand National, storming clear of his rivals to give the all-conquering Willie Mullins a second victory in the Aintree showpiece.

Successful with Hedgehunter 19 years ago, Mullins was responsible for eight of the 32 who headed to post in Liverpool, but I Am Maximus was well-touted to follow up last year’s success in the Irish Grand National.

An impressive tune-up in the Bobbyjo Chase saw punters latch onto the Grade One-winning eight-year-old and Paul Townend rode the 7-1 market leader with supreme confidence down the inner as I Am Maximus showed no sign of previous jumping frailties.

In a race with early drama when defending champion Corach Rambler unshipped Derek Fox at the very first fence, there were a plethora still in contention heading down to two out, where I Am Maximus was inching into contention.

However, the complexion of the race would change at the elbow where I Am Maximus scooted clear of the Rachael Blackmore-ridden Minella Indo and the staying-on Delta Work, who picked up second place in his third attempt at the famous race.

It was a first Grand National triumph for Townend, while owner JP McManus was striking at Aintree for the third time after Don’t Push It (2010) and Minella Times (2021).

What has already been a special couple of days in Liverpool for owner JP McManus has the potential to be even greater as he can look forward to five runners in the Randox Grand National.

His famous green and gold silks have been carried to victory four times in the first two days, and he celebrated an incredible Grade One treble on Friday.

Having watched Inothewayurthinkin and Iroko provide him with a one-two in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Mystical Power, a son of Galileo and the Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power went one better than at Cheltenham in the Top Novices’ Hurdle.

However, he was especially pleased to see Jonbon, denied a run at the Cheltenham Festival due to the cloud hanging over Nicky Henderson’s yard, land the Melling Chase.

“Days like these are very special so you’ve got to celebrate and enjoy them,” said McManus.

“Jonbon winning meant a lot because it has been a trying time for Nicky over the past two months so to see him up there, you could see it was special to him.”

McManus has been lucky enough to win the National twice already, firstly when providing Sir Anthony McCoy with his only success, at the 15th attempt, on Don’t Push It, and then he watched Rachael Blackmore create history on Minella Times in 2021.

“I don’t think there is any race like the Grand National. From being a kid I always had a bet in the National, no matter how old you are it is the one race everybody watched,” said McManus.

“If you go to the local hurling club or wherever, they’d all know who won the Grand National.

“Look at AP (McCoy), it took him a long time to win it but I know how much it meant to him when he did, I’m just surprised these days he doesn’t say he should have won it twice!”

Despite having won all there is to win in racing, the former bookmaker still admits to getting excited about the famous race.

“I’ve been coming to Aintree since 1976, Rag Trade I think, I may have missed one in between and the covid one,” he said.

“It’s an unbelievable race, the National, you think about it 12 months before and try to think if you’ve one good enough to run in it.

“We run five tomorrow but hopefully we’ve one real one, I hope.

“I’ve had a little on Limerick Lace at 25-1 each-way because I thought that was a big price, but if my life depended on it I think I Am Maximus is the one. Willie (Mullins) said we’re going to try to win the Grand National and then the Gold Cup!”

Despite a reduced number of runners, down to 34 from 40, and extra safety measures making the fences less daunting, the Randox Grand National remains by far the most popular race of the year in terms of public interest.

Here, we are taking a look at what to expect from this year’s Aintree spectacular:

How much money is bet on the Grand National?

It is estimated that more than 600 million people watch the big race worldwide across 140 countries, including 7.5 million ITV viewers in the UK alone, and according to industry research conducted by the Betting and Gaming Council, approximately £250m will be staked on the main event.

BGC CEO Michael Dugher said: “Millions of us from all different backgrounds will once again come together to watch the Grand National and have a flutter on the world’s most famous horserace. It is an occasion like no other and demonstrates once again sport’s unique ability to bring the whole nation together.”

Jack Shelley, deputy director of horse racing at William Hill, the official betting partner of the Grand National Festival, said: “As ever, the Grand National’s dominance in turnover makes it a flagship event on the racing and sporting calendar for us, with its profits surpassing the Cheltenham Gold Cup by sixfold and the Derby by tenfold.”

How do people pick out their National selections?

According to a Paddy Power poll, conducted by Research Without Barriers, the public are most likely to consider factors including the horse’s odds (28 per cent), a name with a personal meaning (24 per cent) or the horse’s form (22 per cent) to guide their judgement.

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: “Punters love to back a horse because they simply like the name and Panda Boy seems to be capturing the public’s imagination right now, while we fully expect the likes of Mr Incredible to be popular picks on the day.”

Which horses will be suited by the wet spring this year?

Although fears of an Aintree mudbath to match Red Marauder’s year have receded, many punters will still be keen to side with confirmed soft-ground specialists and several entries stand out on past evidence, including 2022 hero Noble Yeats, who has picked up a couple of victories with heavy in the going description.

Nassalam was a runaway winner of the Welsh Grand National on bottomless ground, galloping his rivals into submission to prevail by 34 lengths, while Irish Grand National star I Am Maximus beat Vanillier by 14 lengths in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February on soft to heavy.

Cheltenham Festival Mares’ Chase scorer Limerick Lace loves plenty of cut underfoot and has a couple of heavy-ground wins on her CV, Galia Des Liteaux landed two novice chase victories in similar conditions last winter and among the outsiders, Ain’t That A Shame has three strikes with heavy in the going description after January’s Thyestes triumph.

What happened when the Grand National previously took place in testing conditions?

Tiger Roll led home 12 finishers when claiming the first of his two victories in 2018, a race which got off to a steady start but then saw a dozen runners pulled up on the second circuit. Many experts did feel the going was not too bad on that occasion, though.

Organisers will be desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2001 renewal on heavy ground, which could only be described as very eventful! The aforementioned Red Marauder ran out the 33-1 winner by a distance from Smarty in a chaotic race which had only four finishers from 40 starters – and two of those to complete the course had to be remounted.

Tony McCoy got back up on Blowing Wind and Ruby Walsh remounted Papillon after both came down at the 19th fence, but they were a long way adrift in third and fourth respectively.

Winning rider Richard Guest said: “I’ve never run in worse conditions. I was in two minds whether we should be out there. He (Red Marauder) nearly went down five times.”

Earth Summit prevailed when only six runners made it home on heavy ground in 1998, while the same number completed when Minnehoma scored four years earlier in similar conditions.

In three of the four races mentioned above, all of the horses returned home safely, but a trio of fallers were fatally injured during the 1998 renewal.

Have changes been made to reduce the risk of more mishaps?

Absolutely. Much has been made of how the Aintree fences have been scaled down in size, as well as the difficulty of the ditches being reduced, but other factors contributed to the 2001 debacle and they have also been addressed in recent times.

There was a spate of early fallers 23 years ago, with 10 runners coming a cropper at the first four fences. This year, it is hoped that implementing a standing start and moving the first fence 60 yards closer to the start will slow down the opening stages of the race and reduce any initial recklessness.

The other major problem in 2001 was loose horses. Third-fence faller Paddy’s Return carried on and contributed towards a pile-up at the Canal Turn, where 10 runners bowed out. Subsequent winner Amberleigh House was one of four to be brought down in the melee, while joint-favourite Moral Support was among four to refuse during the pandemonium.

Only seven were left standing heading out onto the second circuit, with commentator John Hunt stating: “There are loose horses everywhere.” At the 19th fence, a couple of them veered wildly across the course and caused another incident, with four runners hampered, albeit the afore-mentioned Blowing Wind and Papillon got going again.

It is hoped that cutting down the maximum number of runners to a safety limit of 34 will reduce the risk of such incidents during the race, while alterations made to the alignment of the running rail on the inside of the Grand National course should assist with the early capture of loose horses, alongside the past introduction of more run-out points from which they can leave the racing circuit.

Clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: “One of our key areas of focus is reducing the risk of incidents during the race. We know from research papers and internal analysis of jump races that there is a direct correlation between the number of runners and the risk of falling, unseating or being brought down.”

The eyes of the racing world will be focussed on Aintree at 4pm on Saturday for what promises to be another pulsating renewal of the Randox Grand National. Here are the thoughts of some of the connections hoping to strike gold in the world’s most famous steeplechase:

Trainer Emmet Mullins – Noble Yeats (11st 12lb)

“Noble is great, he got the ferry over on Thursday. He’s had a good prep and came out of Cheltenham very well. The ground has to be seen as a bit of a negative as his best form is on nice spring ground, but he’s in good form and hopefully he’ll run a good race.

“He’s got top-weight now but he’s only got 1lb more to carry than if Conflated was running so that’s neither here nor there. He’s got the weight for a good reason and ran a brilliant race with similar last year.

“Hopefully the route we’ve gone this year, Stayers’ Hurdle rather than Gold Cup, will just leave him that little bit fresher.”

Trainer Gordon Elliott – Coko Beach (11st 8lb), Delta Work (11st 4lb), Galvin (11st 2lb), Farouk D’Alene (11st 1lb), Run Wild Fred (10st 10lb), Minella Crooner (10st 10lb), Chemical Energy (10st 9lb), The Goffer (10st 8lb)

“To be honest the ground has gone against a few of then, Galvin would have loved a bit of better ground. Delta Work and Coko Beach are probably the pick of them on the ground.

“Coko Beach loves the mud, he’s probably not that well handicapped but hopefully he’ll run well.

“I’m really happy with Delta, he’s never been working as well and I haven’t had him moving as well in the last two years. I’m looking forward to it.”

Trainer Henry de Bromhead – Minella Indo (11st 6lb), Ain’t That A Shame (10st 13lb), Eklat De Rire (10st 7lb)

“Minella Indo would obviously have a squeak, he has a good chance on his best form.

“Ain’t That A Shame ran well in the race last year, David Maxwell is on him and hopefully he’ll give him a good spin round. He was very good in the Thyestes.

“Eklat De Rire was disappointing at Cheltenham, we felt he was coming back before that. He’s in good form and we’re hoping that type of race will bring him back.

“I think drying ground would suit Indo, probably the other two like a bit of dig in the ground.”

Trainer Dan Skelton – Galia Des Liteaux (10st 7lb)

“She loves the soft ground and I think she’ll stay the trip, you can never absolutely certain until they have but everything about her says she’ll stay it.

“She’s in great form and we’ve trained her specifically for it, just like everyone else in the race has. There are no negatives.

“There’s a lot of water to go under that bridge (trainers’ championship), but having good chances at this meeting with the prize-money on offer there is obviously very important.”

Jockey James Reveley – Roi Mage (10st 8lb)

“He’s a horse I’ve ridden a few times and I know quite well. I’d ridden him in France and I thought he’d be a good National type.

“I think things have gone a bit better for him this year, his last run was good, very solid, and I liked how he stayed on to the line.

“They campaign him quietly, they don’t over-race him and that’s good for an older horse. He enjoys his life with the Griffins in Ireland and I’m quietly confident.”

Trainer Gary Moore – Nassalam (11st 8lb)

“He couldn’t be in a better place at home and I’m really happy with him. Everything has gone to plan except the sun has come out and it’s drying the ground out and I can’t see any rain about.

“The fact he’s got so much weight, it will be easier to carry it on better ground. But he is a stone better horse on heavy ground and it just limits his chances a bit to be honest.

“I would rather have deep ground and he will probably have two things against him now – the weight and the ground.”

Trainer Tom Ellis – Latenightpass (10st 10lb)

“It’s a big day and arguably our biggest, but I’m looking forward to it.

“We’ve had a really good run with him coming into the race to be fair and we’ve had a nice run with him.

“He looks really well and he’s done all his work now and we’ve had this in mind since December. It’s just been a case of following the plan since.

“The fences and the course are not a worry with him, but the ground would be a slight concern. Although it’s the same for them all and at least Latenightpass has won on soft and heavy before anyway. Hopefully he will run well.”

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins – I Am Maximus (11st 6lb), Meetingofthewaters (10st 8lb), Mr Incredible (10st 11lb), Stattler (11st 5lb)

“It’s obviously going to dry up before Saturday and I imagine it will be sticky rather than wet.

“I Am Maximus has a big engine but I’m not sure how his jumping will stand up. In the Irish National he jumped himself out of it in the first two miles then got back into it but that is a lot harder to do over here. His best form seems to be right-handed at Fairyhouse even though he jumps left so he has a few questions to answer.

“Meetingofthewaters I think has a great profile, he is a young horse and unexposed and it was a great run at Cheltenham. He’ll have to settle and that will be a big thing for him – he was a bit keen at Cheltenham. I think he has a lovely racing weight and he’s right down the bottom really.

“Mr Incredible is a bit of a maverick and the standing start is a bit of a concern for him, he doesn’t need any encouragement to stand still for any length of time. If he does jump off, he was running a cracker here last year and this place lights him up a bit so you would have to take him seriously as well.

“I’m riding Stattler and I would have to worry about the ground for him, it will need to dry up. For me the National is the race that counts and if you are not in it you can’t win it. Any chance I get to ride in it, I’ll be taking it ”

Trainer Mouse Morris – Foxy Jacks (11st 4lb)

“It’s been a very lucky place for me, I’ve had a good few winners here and I’ve been lucky enough to win the big one before.

“Foxy Jacks is jumping super and he gave an exhibition at Cheltenham in the cross-country (in November). The handicapper hasn’t been good to him and gave him 8lb for winning the cross-country and I think Hewick only got 2lb for winning the King George so I can’t work out the mathematics.

“It’s a big day and a big race so we will let him take his chance. He’s 10 now and very easy to train now so I’m not worried (about the cross-country being cancelled at the Cheltenham Festival).

“He probably won’t be at his best in the ground and I think it is whoever gets round that will win. We live and dream, there’s no point sleeping if you don’t dream.”

From the Grand National at Aintree to the Masters at Augusta, a feast of live sporting action comes thick and fast this weekend.

The push for the Premier League title continues with Arsenal and Liverpool both playing on Sunday, while Leeds will be looking to maintain their promotion push in the Sky Bet Championship when they kick-off Saturday’s schedule.

There is also a clash between Scotland and England in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations, while the rugby union action continues with the Investec Champions Cup quarter-finals.

So sit back and relax with the remote as the PA news agency provides the essential guide of what to watch and where to catch all of the action.



Grand National, Aintree – ITV1 1255

All eyes will be on Aintree at 1600BST for the world’s most famous horse race.

Last year’s winner Corach Rambler heads the field of 34, which has seen the limit cut down from 40 horses following a safety review.

Corach Rambler is bidding to follow Tiger Roll and Red Rum as a back-to-back Grand National winner, and looks likely to set off as favourite.

Could, though, Rachael Blackmore – the first female jockey to claim victory in the race three years ago – mount a challenge again on board former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo?

Scottish National winner Kitty’s Light is another expected to be well-fancied, as is last year’s runner-up Vanillier.

I Am Maximus and Meetingofthewaters will boost the Irish challenge along with Mr Incredible, all trained by Willie Mullins.

But, as always at the Grand National, it will be anyone’s race on the day – so pinstickers at the ready!


Sky Sports Golf 1500 & Sky Sports Main Event 2000

After a delayed start at Augusta, Bryson DeChambeau delivered a fine first-round display to take the clubhouse lead at seven under.

Amen Corner is sure to throw up plenty more challenges over the closing two rounds this weekend – but who will make the cut?

World number one Scottie Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion, is expected to be among the contenders or can England’s Danny Willett, winner in 2016, still keep himself in the hunt?

Defending champion Jon Rahm looks to have work to do, as does Rory McIlroy – and how will Tiger Woods cope with the prospect of completing 23 holes in one day just to give himself a chance of making it through to the weekend? Stay tuned to find out!


Newcastle v Tottenham – TNT Sports 1 1100, Bournemouth v Manchester United – Sky Sports Main Event & Sky Sports Premier League 1700

Tottenham begin another full-on weekend of Premier League action in Saturday’s early kick-off at Newcastle.

Ange Postecoglou’s side are eyeing a top-four finish, but will injury-hit Newcastle rise to the challenge in front of their demanding home fans at St James’ Park?

Saturday’s top-flight schedule finishes at Bournemouth where Manchester United will be out to build on their 2-2 draw with title-chasing Liverpool.


Leeds v Blackburn – Sky Sports Football & Sky Sports Main Event 1200

With Championship leaders Leicester in action on Friday night (also available to armchair viewers), Leeds will be out to keep the pressure on promotion rivals Ipswich when they welcome Blackburn to Elland Road for Saturday’s 12.30pm kick-off.

Having dropped points again with a frustrating goalless draw at home to Sunderland on Tuesday night, Leeds boss Daniel Farke knows there is little margin for error.

Rovers, meanwhile, are fighting to stay clear of the relegation battle and manager John Eustace will be expecting a much-improved display from their midweek 5-0 thrashing at Bristol City.


Women’s Six Nations, Scotland v England – BBC One 1400

England have thrashed Italy and Wales as they aim for a sixth straight Women’s Six Nations title.

However, facing Scotland at a sold-out Hive Stadium in Edinburgh is sure to provide the sternest test yet of this season’s tournament for the Red Roses.

England ran out 58-7 in last year’s showdown – but there will be no sense of complacency from John Mitchell’s side, who are set to be captained by Zoe Aldcroft.

Other Highlights

FOOTBALL: National League, Aldershot v Boreham Wood – TNT Sports 1 1700; Serie A, Torino v Juventus – TNT Sports 4 1715, Bologna v Monza – TNT Sports 1 1945; Bundesliga, Stuttgart v Eintract Frankfurt – Sky Sports Football 1920; LaLiga, Atletico Madrid v Girona – Viaplay Sports 1 & LaLiga TV 1300, Real Mallorca v Real Madrid – Viaplay Sports 1 & LaLiga TV 1730, Cadiz v Barcelona – Viaplay Sports 1 & LaLiga TV 2000; Scottish League One, Hamilton v Falkirk – BBC Alba 1730.

RUGBY UNION: Champions Cup quarter-finals, Bordeaux Begles v Harlequins – TNT Sports 3 1500, Leinster v La Rochelle – TNT Sports 3 1730, Northampton v Bulls – TNT Sports 3 2000, European Challenge Cup quarter-final, Clermont Auvergne v Ulster Rugby – TNT Sports 3 1215.

RUGBY LEAGUE: Challenge Cup quarter-final, Hull KR v Leigh – BBC Two England, BBC Two Scotland & BBC Two Wales 1645.

TENNIS: ATP, The Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters – Sky Sports Tennis 1000.

MOTOR CYCLING: MotoGP, Grand Prix of The Americas qualifying – TNT Sports 2 1645, Sprint race – TNT Sports 2 2030.

BOXING: Heavyweight, Jared Anderson v Ryad Merhy – Sky Sports Main Event & Sky Sports Action 0200 (Sun).

BASEBALL: MLB, Houston Astros v Texas Rangers – TNT Sports 4 2100, Arizona Diamondbacks v St. Louis Cardinals – TNT Sports 2 0100 (Sun).



Sky Sports Golf 1500 & Sky Sports Main Event 1900

It is something all golfers dream off but who will be presented with the famous green jacket at Augusta on Sunday?

Can DeChambeau last the distance, flying the flag for LIV golf? And will Scheffler be able to maintain his challenge to deliver an American victory on home soil?

There is sure to be a thrilling finish and plenty more drama as the players head around Amen Corner for the last time – so where better to stay tuned in than from the comfort of your armchair? Just don’t drop the remote!


Premier League, Liverpool v Crystal Palace – Sky Sports Premier League 1300 & Sky Sports Main Event 1400, Arsenal v Aston Villa – Sky Sports Main Event & Sky Sports Premier League 1600

Premier League title challengers Liverpool and Arsenal are both back in domestic action on Sunday after differing fortunes in their midweek European ties.

The Reds are first up when they host Crystal Palace. Jurgen Klopp called Thursday’s 3-0 home defeat to Atalanta a “low point” in Liverpool’s season – and the Kop will need to be in full voice again to avoid another potential body blow.

Arsenal could well have been knocked off top spot when they run out at the Emirates Stadium against Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon.

Mikel Arteta will be hoping his side can maintain momentum from a late fightback to draw 2-2 against Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday night.

However, former Gunners boss Unai Emery has European ambitions of his own to maintain as Villa chase a top-four finish.


Semi-finals, Tottenham v Leicester – BBC Two England, BBC Two Scotland & BBC Two Wales 1130, Manchester United v Chelsea – BBC One 1420

Following the international break, the Women’s FA Cup continues on Sunday, when the semi-finals will be live on TV.

Tottenham host Leicester with both teams aiming to reach the FA Cup final at Wembley for the first time.

Manchester United were FA Cup runners-up last season and will be looking to turn the tables on holders Chelsea, who are still chasing silverware on three fronts, when they clash at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday afternoon.


Champions Cup quarter-final, Toulouse v Exeter – ITV 1430 & TNT Sports 1 1430

The weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-final action concludes on Sunday when Exeter head to Toulouse.

The Chiefs, who fought back to beat Bath in their last-16 tie, face the daunting challenge of going up against five-time champions Toulouse at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter, though, will be hoping his men can produce a repeat performance of when they kicked off their Champions Cup campaign with a thrilling 19-18 away victory over Toulon in the group stages at the start of December.


TENNIS: ATP, The Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters – Sky Sports Tennis 1000

The sporting stars have been out in Monte Carlo for this week’s ATP Rolex Masters.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won the tournament three years ago, is among those looking to make it to the final on Sunday.

With the world’s top two Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner also hoping to be in the mix, it could prove to be another classic match-up in the Principality.

Other Highlights

FOOTBALL: WSL, Arsenal v Bristol City – Sky Sports Premier League 1930; Cinch Premiership, Ross County v Rangers – Sky Sports Football & Sky Sports Main Event 1100; Serie A, Napoli v Frosinone – TNT Sports 2 1130, Sassuolo v AC Milan – TNT Sports 4 1400, Udinese v Roma – TNT Sports 3 1700, Inter Milan v Cagliari – TNT Sports 1 1930; Ligue 1, Le Havre v Nantes – TNT Sports 4 1200; La Liga, Las Palmas v Sevilla – Viaplay Sports 1 & LaLiga TV 1130, Granada v Alaves – Viaplay Sports 1 & LaLiga TV 1515, Athletic Bilbao v Villarreal – Viaplay Sports 1 & LaLiga TV 1730, Real Sociedad v Almeria – Viaplay Sports 1 & LaLiga TV 2000; Bundesliga, Darmstadt v Freiburg – Sky Sports Mix 1430, Bayer Leverkusen v Werder Bremen – Sky Sports Mix 1630.

RUGBY UNION: European Challenge Cup quarter-final, Benetton Treviso v Connacht – TNT Sports 1 1215.

RUGBY LEAGUE: Challenge Cup quarter-final, St Helens v Warrington – BBC Two 1630

MOTOR CYCLING: MotoGP, Grand Prix of The Americas – TNT Sports 2 1915.

CYCLING: Amstel Gold Race, Women’s race – Eurosport 1 1200, Men’s race – Eurosport 1 1330.

BASEBALL: MLB, Houston Astros v Texas Rangers – TNT Sports 4 1900, Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres – TNT Sports 1 0000 (Mon).

Lucinda Russell has her sights on another monumental day at Aintree when Corach Rambler defends his Randox Grand National title.

The 10-year-old ran out an impressive winner 12 months ago and will attempt to join the likes of Tiger Roll and the legendary Red Rum on the select list of back-to-back champions.

Buoyed by the performance of Ahoy Senor at the track on Thursday, the Scottish trainer is hopeful ahead of her Cheltenham Gold Cup third’s quest to join the Aintree immortals.

Russell – like her jockey Derek Fox also victorious with One For Arthur in 2017 – said: “I love coming to Aintree, we’ve had so many great days here and the crowd are always so appreciative, I feel a great affinity with it, it’s magic.

“I wish I could skip forward to Sunday, but I’m really hopeful and obviously watching Ahoy Senor has boosted his form again as the winner (Gerri Colombe) was just in front of him in the Gold Cup.

“We didn’t travel down until Thursday morning, which is different for us, but Scu (Peter Scudamore, assistant and partner) wanted to ride Corach on Thursday morning. The ground must be drying out and that is in his favour.”

Vanillier’s fast-finishing effort was ultimately in vain 12 months ago, but last year’s runner-up has been prepared with one day in mind as he bids to become the first grey in 12 years to win.

“We’ve trained him all year with this race in mind and he seems in good nick at home, so hopefully he will be right there,” said trainer Gavin Cromwell.

“He likes it at Aintree, so it would be good to see him run well there again.”

Cromwell will also be represented by Cheltenham Festival winner Limerick Lace, who will try to end the 70-year plus losing run for mares in the National.

He continued: “I suppose she goes on the ground, but whether she will stay on that ground, I’m not particularly sure – it’s going to take a lot of getting.

“She’s only a seven-year-old, but she is going into the race in good form and off a light weight and we hope she has a chance.”

Limerick Lace is owned by JP McManus, who is seeking his third National win after both Don’t Push It (2010) and Minella Times (2021).

The McManus squad includes the highly-touted Willie Mullins-trained pair I Am Maximus and Meetingofthewaters, with the master of Closutton reportedly pleased with the duo’s preparations.

“We have some nice prospects, but in the National you need a bit of luck. Hopefully they get round and have a bit of luck, that would be great,” said McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry.

“Willie is happy with his. I Am Maximus would be the big one if he takes to the place. He won’t mind the ground, but his jumping will have to come into play and he will need a bit of luck in running.

“Meetingofthewaters ran well at Cheltenham and he’s come out of the race well. Willie is very happy with him and we keep our fingers crossed he gets a good round.”

There would be emotional scenes in the winner’s enclosure if Kitty’s Light was to strike for Christian Williams and having snuck into the race at the foot of the handicap, big-race pilot Jack Tudor is willing a long-held plan to come to fruition.

“We kind of sacrificed our whole season for this one race, so to be guaranteed a run now is massive,” said Tudor.

“From this time last year, it’s kind of all been leading to this and to now finally have a go at it, we’re looking forward to it.

“He’s obviously very used to big handicaps and big-runner fields and the only difference is going to be the fences and as long as he takes to them, they actually ride like a very nice fence, so we just hope he can get into a nice rhythm early and then hope for a bit of luck.”

Martin Brassil knows all about winning on Merseyside and hopes conditions will not hinder Panda Boy’s attempt to follow in the footsteps of 2006 winner Numbersixvalverde.

“It will all depend on how he copes, but he has coped with a couple of big fields so far and hopefully it won’t be a problem,” explained Brassil.

“With the reduced sized field, it might make things easier too, but the ground would be the one thing I would be worried about if there is heavy in there.

“He’s had two solid runs in good company and he’s about 10 or 11lb better off with Meetingofthewaters from the Leopardstown race where he was beaten and hopefully if Meetingofthewaters is involved, Panda Boy might be somewhere in and around at the finish.”

In contrast, Mahler Mission will give John McConnell his first runner, with the Irish handler full of confidence ahead of the big occasion.

He said: “We couldn’t be happier with him and we’re hoping that translates on the day – and if we get some above average luck, he should run a big race.

“We’ve never had him better and from that point of view we’re very happy. The ground should be OK and we’re looking forward to it.

“It’s a very big day and I just hope we get no hard-luck stories and then whatever will be will be, but we’ve enormous confidence in the horse.”

Sir AP McCoy has nominated I Am Maximus as the horse he would choose to ride in this year’s Randox Grand National.

McCoy, who famously won the National at the 15th attempt on Don’t Push It, is now an ambassador for William Hill, who arranged a video montage on the St John’s Beacon in Liverpool city centre to celebrate the race.

While he may have been champion jockey 20 times, he admits that had he never won the National, he would have retired with a sense of unfulfillment.

“I love Liverpool as a place, the people make it special. It’s the most famous race in the world and for that reason it is very difficult to win. I had a lot of goes before I was lucky with Don’t Push It but it is the people of Liverpool who make it special,” said McCoy.

“They really buy into it, they make the atmosphere, all three days, and it is top-class racing.

“It was just relief when I crossed the line on Don’t Push It. I’m not from a racing family but just like all other non-racing families, the one race you take an interest in every year is the Grand National.

“From a young age, it was the race I knew the most about and from that point of view, it made it more special. When I walk down the street and people say ‘what do you do’, the next question is always ‘did you win the Grand National?’ and I would hate to say ‘no, I didn’t’.

“It’s gone down to 34 runners this year but does that take anything away from it? I just think it will make it harder to win because there are a lot of good horses in it.”

For the second half of his career, McCoy rode as retained rider for JP McManus, who owned Don’t Push It, and he is still involved in an advisory capacity now.

McManus runs five in Saturday’s race, but McCoy is certain which horse would be his pick.

“I think you could make a case for all five, but I Am Maximus would still be my choice,” he said.

“With the ground conditions the way they are, I think it is really going to suit the Willie Mullins horses. I know they go on any ground but they go particularly well when the ground is soft or heavy.

“I Am Maximus has won an Irish Grand National, he’s won the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase and he won the Bobbyjo last time, which is a really good trial for the National – and with Paul Townend riding him, he ticks a lot of boxes, he’s a class horse.

“You could have easily gone for Meetingofthewaters, he ran really well in the Ultima, which Corach Rambler won last year, he’s on a really nice weight, so he has a lot going for him.

“Mark Walsh has chosen Limerick Lace, she won well at Cheltenham and has a touch of class. Capodanno ran in the race last year, when he was disappointing, but I think he’s a much better horse this year and he won the Cotswold Chase in January, so I could see him running well as well.

“But if I had to pick, it would be I Am Maximus.”

The ground is set to be testing on Saturday but likely not as bad as in 2001, when Red Marauder was one of only four finishers, and two of them had to be remounted, with McCoy getting back on Blowing Wind having been unseated – a move that would not be permitted now.

“The race Red Marauder won, I remember going out on the last circuit and there only being five or six of us left, 30-odd had gone. I genuinely believe that Blowing Wind would have won the Grand National,” he said.

“I remember Ruby (Walsh) was on Papillion and we could see this loose horse coming, he looked across at me and both of us had nowhere to go. Blowing Wind was a clever horse and was never going to take a risk.

“Because they had their names on the number cloths, there was no fear of getting on the wrong one, because there were seven or eight loose horses around us, but I remember thinking there was still a chance Red Marauder and Smarty might not even get round.

“There was £50,000 for third for the owners, so while it was a memorable race, it might not have been for the right reasons for me.

“We haven’t had ground like that since, but I think it could make it more exciting.”

Despite achieving all he did in the game, McCoy still felt the tingles when arriving at Aintree for the race, and arguably the length of time he had to wait before finally winning made it all the more sweeter.

“For 14 years before I won, I used to always think I was going to win the National when I arrived on Saturday morning and by Saturday evening, I left thinking I was never going to win it!” he said.

“Better jockeys than me never won it – John Francome, Peter Scudamore, Jonjo O’Neill, Harry Swann – and no disrespect meant, but there were a lot of lads who won it who were a lot worse than me, which was how I used to make myself feel alright about it. When I won it, there was a lot of fulfilment.

“I was too stupid to think I was never going to win it, though!”

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