Can any horse run in the Grand National?

The short answer is no, it can’t. In recent years, in the interests of safety, the eligibility criteria for horses wishing to run in the Grand National have become increasingly stringent. To qualify, a horse must be at least seven years old and, prior to entries closing, in February, must have achieved an official rating of 125, according to the team of handicappers at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). Horses that have not yet qualified for a handicap rating by the closing date can also be entered, by will only be eligible to run if, in the eyes of the handicappers, there racecourse performances merit an official rating of 125 or more.

Furthermore, prior to the closing date, horses must have run in at least six steeplechases at meetings organised by a recognised racing authority during their careers. They must have finished in the first four in any such steeplechase over an advertised distance of 2 miles 7½ furlongs, or further, at least once. In the current season, prior to the second scratchings deadline, in March, horses must have started, but not necessarily finished, at least one steeplechase.

Of course, even if a horse meets all the eligibility criteria, it may not be guaranteed to run in the Grand National. The safety limit for the Grand National is 40 runners so, at the final declaration stage, two days before the race, only the highest-rated 40 entries, plus four reserves, remain and the remainder are balloted out.