This morning I was scouring the Betfair forums searching for people’s latest thoughts on the Grand National when I came across the following letter to the Racing Post. As the forum poster “Fourgoldcups” alludes to, the letter may or may not get published, but I thought it was well worth sharing his or hers thoughts on the matter here:
The decision of Gigginstown to offer Don Poli and Outlander for sale 2 days before the Grand National with the benefit of a guaranteed place in the race ought to cause the BHA to consider restricting the number of horses any owner is allowed to run in the race.
As it stands, including both these horses, Gigginstown have 11 guaranteed to run in the race. Those horses not guaranteed to run include a Scottish National 1st and 3rd, 2 Becher chase winners (one of whom who has come 2nd twice more in that race) and the horses who finished 3rd and 5th in the Grand National last year.
There is no doubt that Gigginstown have a perfect right to run as many horses as they wish. The question is whether it is correct for them to be allowed to do so.
When Graded races over the jumps and flat are monopolised by a few wealthy owners, there can be little complaint since they are not depriving other owners/trainers of the opportunity to land a big prize. However, it might be argued that it is of greater importance for racing authorities to encourage a greater number of less wealthy owners to enter the sport than it is to maintain a policy of laissez-faire in respect of entries for the major handicaps. There is little incentive on new owners to enter the sport if they know that their chances of having a runner in such a big race is reduced by the plethora of horses owned by the “aristocrats” of horse racing, many of whom have obtained their (unrealistic) ratings by competing against each other in the same small field Graded races over the last 2 or 3 years. Upon what realistic basis (other than rating) can it possibly be argued that Blow By Blow ( a novice, winner of a 5 finisher novice chase at Galway in October) is guaranteed a run whilst Walk in the Mill ( Becher Chase winner) is not?
My concern at the present position is enhanced by the reasonable suspicion that the purchase price of Don Poli and Outlander will be enhanced by their guaranteed place in the race. One is entitled to ask whether they were ever intended runners for their present owners? Grand National entries ought not to be used as a free advert to swell the coffers of owners who are wealthy enough as it is.