'It seems crazy to me' - reserve system for Randox Grand National scrapped

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Sam Waley-Cohen riding Noble Yeats win The Randox Grand National Handicap Steeple Chase at Aintree Racecourse on April 09, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Three reserves made the field in this year's Grand National won by Noble YeatsCredit: Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

The reserve system for the Randox Grand National has been scrapped after feedback suggested it was confusing some racing fans and bettors and hampering the production of raceday data supply.

A maximum of 40 runners can line up in the world's most famous race at Aintree with the final field declared two days before.

From 2000, the reserve system allowed up to four reserves to be allocated for the Grand National at that stage and they were utilised if one or more of the original declarations was a non-runner by 1pm on the day before the race.

The reserve took the racecard position of the relevant non-runner – something which many customers found confusing according to feedback received by Aintree, who consulted trainers about the change.

Explaining why the reserve system will no longer be operated from 2023 onwards, Aintree's clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: "We constantly monitor and review all aspects of the Randox Grand National. The reserves system was introduced with the aim of giving us the best possible chance of ensuring we have a maximum field of 40 runners.

"However, with the Randox Grand National being such a worldwide phenomenon there are associated demands of raceday data supply which are greater now than they were when the system was introduced. The system had to operate by reserves taking the racecard position of the relevant non-runner.

"This had the effect of reserves, which by definition are the lowest-rated horses in the race, appearing further up the handicap in the racecard even though they were carrying the least weight, which made the production of racecards and return of results extremely challenging for a number of outlets.

"This issue was raised following the running of three reserves in the 2022 race by the BHA, media outlets, international media rights holders and bookmakers."

A total of 13 reserves obtained a run in the Grand National, including three this year when Commodore, School Boy Hours and Romain De Senam came in for Phoenix Way, Easysland and Lord Du Mesnil. They made little impact on the race with the best finishing position a tenth.

The reserve system was tightened up in Ireland in April 2019 when the cut-off point was brought forward to 11am on the day of the race, with a 10am winter deadline in November, December and January, from 90 minutes before the first race on a given card.

The only exception was the Irish Grand National, which already had a 10am deadline on the day before the race.

Reacting to the news, trainer Michael Scudamore said: "It's a shame. You want to see the National with a full field and it seems to work in Ireland. If you're number 41 and you want to run and somebody pulls out with a genuine reason the day before, why shouldn't you be able to run? It's such a close thing.

"Years ago anybody could get in but now you need a specific rating and it's a hard race to get in, so to deny someone an opportunity when they're ready to go seems crazy to me."

Aintree offered no further comment in response to questions about the move.

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Andrew DietzReporter
Published on 3 December 2022Last updated 13:48, 3 December 2022