Do Grand National reserve horses ever run in the race at Aintree?

Reserve horses are important to the implementation of the Grand National. Here’s what you need to know…

Grand National reserve horses


The Grand National is one of the biggest horse races in the world with 40 runners setting off at Aintree for the marathon run over 30 fences. But what you might not know is there are plenty of reserve horses just waiting to be deployed in case there is a non-runner.

These reserves form an integral part of horse racing and the racing betting industry. You may see reserves includes in your Grand National sweepstake, or have them down as an insurance in your chosen horse withdraws.

Here, this guide will take you through everything you need to know about reserve horses at the Grand National, so you can impress your mates with the knowledge you’ve picked up from Paddy Power!

What are reserve horses at the Grand National?

Reserve horses are effectively substitutes that are available to run at short notice at the Grand National. They are horses that have narrowly failed to meet the handicapper’s criteria to earn a spot in the race. Reserve horses aren’t exactly bad – after all, any horse capable of staying the distance over 4 miles, 2-and-a-half furlongs is a magnificent racer. But the Grand National rarely sees a reserve do well in the race.

Reserves can suddenly enter the running list – and therefore the horse racing betting odds – in the lead-up to the big day. However, they won’t be dropped in with 20 minutes before the start gun!

Grand National reserve horses

Reserve horses rarely fare well at the Grand National (GETTY)

Are Grand National reserve horses used?

While there are always plenty of reserve horses waiting to be deployed for the Grand National, it’s not overly common for them to be used. In fact, since the introduction of Grand National reserve horses in 2000 only 10 have been used.

Of those 10 horses, there have been just two years where multiple reserves have had to be brought in. Here’s a list of the reserve horses used in the Grand National down the years:

  • 2001 – 1 reserve
  • 2003 – 1 reserve
  • 2004 – 2 reserves
  • 2005 – 1 reserve
  • 2008 – 1 reserve
  • 2010 – 1 reserve
  • 2018 – 3 reserves, 2 ran

Of the three reserves selected in 2018, Delusionofgrandeur and Thunder And Roses both pulled up, while Walk In The Mill was withdrawn. 

When are Grand National reserves selected?

Reserves are selected at the same time as the full field at the Grand National. The application process of horses begins in January and it’s the handicapper’s job to whittle these down to 40. From then, weights are revealed in February before declarations can be made by the end of February, mid-March and during Grand National week.

Any non-runners announced leading up to the Grand National will be replaced by reserves but there is a final confirmation on the Thursday before the race for reserves. The final runners are announced on the Friday at 1pm.



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