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19 Dec 2019

Who are the Trainers to Follow in the Grand National?

The Grand National at Aintree is known as the world's greatest steeplechase with good reason. It is very hard for any racehorse trainer, let alone the equine athletes themselves, to win the race more than once. 

Abundant stamina and an aptitude for the Merseyside track's famous spruce-covered fences are what handlers look for in potential Grand National runners. Raced over four-and-a-quarter grueling miles and 30 fences in April, this is the ultimate test for trainer, jockey, and horse. 

Who are the trainers to follow en route to the 2020 Grand National and why? All of these handlers have had previous success in their stables. 

Gordon Elliott 

County Meath handler Gordon Elliott has won the Grand National three times, first with Silver Birch in 2007 and again in the last couple of years with Aintree modern-day legend Tiger Roll. A bid for a historic hat-trick that would put that horse level with equine icon Red Rum could be on the cards this season. 

Elliott is usually mob-handed in the Grand National. With each passing year, he seems to have more and more runners but has had to defend hogging the entries. Only 40 horses can contest the race and Elliott was responsible for 11 of those in 2019. Running more than a quarter of the field proves the old adage that if you're not in it, you can't win it.



Despite sending out so many runners from across the Irish Sea, the cream rose to the top with Tiger Roll triumphing for the second time. Should he go to Aintree again, the twice-winner would certainly be pride and place among many experts' Grand National tips and predictions as Elliott could become the joint-most successful trainer in the race's storied history. 

Willie Mullins

Long-time rival Willie Mullins trained Hedgehunter to land the Aintree spoils back in 2005. Elliott's fellow Irish handler is a master of his craft and has had multiple horses placed in the Grand National since that success. 

Veterans like Pleasant Company and Rathvinden ran with real credit in defeat, but Mullins's one great hope moving forward is Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint. He won the Fairyhouse Easter Festival's big handicap over fences and three miles, five furlongs at the tender age of six. 

Burrows Saint has to have the English equivalent in his sights as a long-term target. Whether the 2020 Grand National will come around too soon in the promising career of this particular staying chaser remains to be seen, because younger horses don't have a great record in the big one at Aintree. 

Nigel Twiston-Davies 

Dual Grand National winner Nigel Twiston-Davies saddled Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002) to victories on Merseyside from his Gloucestershire stables. He has gone close in more recent times with Blaklion.



If Twiston-Davies is to win another Grand National, then his most likely runners in 2020 are two horses who ran massive races in defeat in the Scottish equivalent at Ayr over the last couple of years. Ballyoptic was beaten by just a nose in the 2018 running of the Scottish Grand National. Although he hasn't showed much ability over the Aintree fences, he is learning each time he tries. Blue Flight, meanwhile, is of an age with Burrows Saint and ran a fine fourth in the 2019 Scottish National when giving weight to the first two home. There is definitely more to come from him.