A new record amount of prize money of £3.21 million is being offered for the 2018 Randox Health Grand National Festival, up from £3 million in 2017 and an increase of seven per cent.
As revealed at the end of last year, race values across every Jockey Club Racecourse - including Aintree - and at all levels of the sport, are benefiting from an £8-million injection during 2018.
The Randox Health Grand National Festival commences with Grand National Thursday on April 12, when the two of the four Grade 1 (G1) highlights on this unique day of high-quality racing receive a substantial prize money boost.
The G1 Aintree Hurdle is now worth £250,000 (up £50,000 on the 2017 total). First staged in 1975, it has proved to be the perfect follow-up for horses who have won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. Buveur D’Air in 2017 joined other great performers such as Annie Power, Jezki, Istabraq, Morley Street, Beech Road, Dawn Run, Gaye Brief, Monksfield, Night Nurse and Comedy Of Errors by winning both the Champion Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle.
There is a £40,000 increase for the G1 Aintree Bowl, which now has a total prize fund of £190,000. Past winners of the three mile and a furlong chase include some of the very best performers of the modern era, with Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid, See More Business, Florida Pearl, Siliviniaco Conti and Cue Card all having been successful.
The Randox Health Fox Hunters Chase, staged over the Grand National fences on Grand National Thursday, rises to £45,000, up £5,000.
Friday, April 13 is Ladies Day at the 2018 Randox Health Grand National Festival and a £50,000 boost to the feature race, the G1 JLT Melling Chase, means it has a record total prize fund of £250,000. Established in 1991 and run over two and a half miles, the JLT Melling Chase boasts outstanding winners including Don Cossack, Sprinter Sacre, Master Minded, Moscow Flyer, Viking Flagship and Remittance Man.
The G3 Randox Health Topham Chase, run over the Grand National course on Ladies Day, is worth £140,000, up £20,000, while the G3 Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle increases to £75,000 from £70,000. Theatre Territory could be one to watch in this race.
On Grand National Day, Saturday, April 14, the Randox Health Grand National is the most valuable Jump race in the world with a prize fund of £1 million. A change to the distribution of this total means more for the horses placed from fourth to tenth.
The first three horses home will still receive 80 per cent of the total prize fund, but for those finishing out of the first three, there will be increases ranging between £12,300 for fourth place (£65,000 in 2018 compared to £52,700 in 2017) to £4,000 for the tenth (£5,000 in 2018 compared to £1,000 in 2017).
The fifth will now receive £40,000 (£26,500 in 2017), the sixth £30,000 (£13,200), the seventh £20,000 (£6,800), the eighth £15,000 (£3,600) and the ninth £10,000 (£2,000).
The three-mile G1 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle, won by the brilliant Big Buck’s for four consecutive years between 2009 and 2012, climbs by 20 per cent to £180,000 (from £150,000) while the two main supporting handicaps - the G3 Gaskells Handicap Hurdle and the Betway Handicap Chase each receive a rise of £5,000, taking them up to £75,000.
Grand National Selections
With plenty of rain falling on Merseyside recently and a fair few more millimetres forecast for the rest of the week and on Grand National day itself, it should pay this year to side with horses that have proven stamina over marathon trips in soft to heavy conditions.
RAZ DE MAREE (nap) may be a 13-year-old veteran chaser but he is clearly in the form of his life at the moment, a point proved when he won the Welsh Grand National at the start of January.
The history books may be stacked against the Gavin Cromwell trained gelding but trends are there to be broken and they often are in the years when the weather plays a highly significant part in influencing the outcome of the race. No 13-year-old has won the National since Sergeant Murphy in 1923 and the only other one to win was Why Not in 1894.
Ground conditions at Aintree are currently soft but the more testing it gets the better it will suit Raz De Maree’s chances.
Raz De Maree is currently trading around the 40/1 mark. If he was a nine or ten-year-old he would be priced up at around 20/1 for this race, but remember, an enthusiastic horse that is clearly still in love with his racing has absolutely no idea what price he is.
The recently purchased SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT (nb) will be bidding to give Cheveley Park Stud owners David and Patricia Thompson their second Grand National after Party Politics famously won the race in their pink and purple colours in 1992.
Trained by Sandy Thomson in Berwickshire, Seeyouatmidnight has won seven of his career starts and all of those have come with some element of “soft” in the going description.
The ten-year-old, who was third in the 2016 Scottish Grand National, has been gradually been brought back to full health after a suspensory ligament problem. He is top class horse on his day and has previously taken the scalps of Bristol De Mai, Blaklion and Regal Encore.
At 16/1 he has every chance of giving Scotland back-to-back victories in the Grand National.