Haydock Grand National Trial Day: Race List & Meeting Info

The countdown is well and truly on to the major springtime festivals by the time we reach mid-February each year, with it now being only a matter of weeks until events kick off at Prestbury Park. Coming up fast behind the Cheltenham Festival is Aintree’s April offering, headlined by no less than the biggest jumps race in the world, bar none: the legendary Grand National.

Every major meeting and race needs a trials day, and the National is no different in that regard. Fittingly the last major warm up to the Aintree extravaganza is also held on Merseyside, as Haydock lays on an excellent seven race card, headlined by a staying chase designed to test the credentials of those runners with their eyes on the biggest prize of all. With an undercard featuring two Grade 2 contests, in addition to a host of quality handicapping and novice action, this is one late winter card not to be missed.


Grand National Trial Day

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Novices' Limited Handicap Chase Class 3 2m4f £16,400 5 Years Old +
Rendlesham Hurdle Grade 2 3m½f £40,000 4 Years Old +
Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle Class 2 1m7½f £20,000 4 Years Old
Grand National Trial Handicap Chase Grade 3 3m4½f £100,000 5 Years Old +
Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Class 2 3m½f £20,000 5 Years Old +
Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices' Hurdle Grade 2 3m½f £30,000 5 Years Old +
Walrus Open Hunters' Chase Class 3 2m6f £15,000 5 Years Old +

Novices' Limited Handicap Chase

Class 3, 2m4f

A Class 3 Limited handicap, the opening race of the day is aimed at horses aged five and over. It is run over two miles, three furlongs and two hundred and three yards, featuring seventeen fences over that distance. The prize fund sits at a little less than £10,000, with the race expected to take about five minutes or so if the Going is Heavy.

Rendlesham Hurdle

Grade 2, 3m½f

The Rendlesham Hurdle is run over three miles and fifty-eight yards and is open to horses aged four and over. It’s a Grade 2 event that features twelve hurdles during its running, making it a decent trial for the Stayers’ Hurdle that takes place during the Cheltenham Festival.

First run at Kempton Park in 1980, it was made a Limited handicap between 1995 and 2001. It didn’t get transferred to Haydock Park until 2006, at which point its length was two miles and seven and a half furlongs. It was extended several times after its move, firstly to three miles in 2008 and then to three miles and one furlong in 2009.

Even then the meeting organisers couldn’t decide on the right length for the event, cutting it back to three miles in 2011 and then to two miles and seven furlongs in 2012. It was changed to its current distance in 2019, so don’t be surprised if it’s altered again before too long.

Whilst it is a trial for the Stayers’ Hurdle, with Cyborgo and Baracouda being examples of horses that have won both races in the same season, it’s also just a good race to get a sense of how talented a hurdler a horse is. Baracouda also won the Long Walk Hurdle four times, the World Hurdle twice and the Long Distance Hurdle twice in his career, for example, whilst Zarkandar added the likes of the Triumph Hurdle, Aintree Hurdle and Grand Prix d’Automne to his list of accomplishments before winning this race in 2017.

To get a sense of the type of jockey that knows how to win this race it’s worth bearing in mind that Richard Johnson, Robert Thornton and Sam Morshead all won it twice, whilst Richard Dunwoody won it three times. Martin Pipe and François Doumen have both seen horses they’ve trained win it three times, but David Nicholson leads the way as a trainer with four wins in the 1990s.

Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle

Class 2, 1m7½f

The last race on Grand National Trial Day at Haydock Park worth your attention to is the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle. As the name suggests, it’s a race open to juvenile hurdlers and there are nine hurdles to be jumped by the four-year-olds during the one mile, seven furlongs and one hundred and forty-four yards of the race.

This event has been taking place since 1962 and was a Listed race during the 1980s. In 1995 it was altered to become a Limited handicap, keeping that classification until 2001. Because it’s only open to four-year-old juveniles it has never been won by the same horse more than once.

This is still a race worth watching if you want to keep an eye out for a horse whose career is worth tracking. It was one of the first races won by Persian War, for example, whose victory in 1967 paved the way for wins in the likes of the Triumph Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle in the years that followed.

Jockeys such as Sam Twiston-Davies, Bobby Beasley, Daryl Jacob and Peter Niven have won the race more than once, though David Goulding’s three wins between 1978 and 1982 and John Francombe’s between 1977 and 1985 remain the target to beat. Equally some of the best trainers have won it more than once, but Fred Rimmell holds the record with four wins managed between 1969 and 1975.

Grand National Trial Handicap Chase

Grade 3, 3m4½f

Where else to start but with the most important of the lot? The Grand National Trial is open to horses aged five and over, which means that horses taking part in this one can be two years younger than those eligible to take part in the main event itself. It’s also shorter than the Grand National, being run as it is over three miles, four furlongs and ninety-seven yards.

Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, given it’s not meant to be an exact replica race of the National, it only features twenty fences rather than the thirty that horses will have to cope with at Aintree. The Grade 3 event does follow the National in being a handicap race, however, so the handicapper decides how much weight each horse will have to carry.

As is implied by the race’s title, it serves as a key trial event for the Grand National, so it goes without saying that it might be able to give you some clues about how the main event could pan out in the future. That being said, when Red Rum won the race in 1975 he already had two of his three National victories in the bag. Cool Ground won it in 1992 and failed to win the National but did win the Cheltenham Gold Cup that year.

Cool Ground missed out on the National win in 1992 because it went to Party Politics, who then came back and won this race the following year and the Greenalls Gold Cup at Haydock Park the year after. Master Oats was the winner here in 1994, meanwhile, before going on to win the Gold Cup the year after. In other words, then, this race is one that can give you a solid idea of just how good a jumper a horse is, but it’s also one that requires a decent jumper to win it so keep your eye on all of the main events.

It was established as a race in 1947 and was run every year up until 1984. It was then stopped between 1985 and 1990, with the Greenall Whitley Gold Cup being extended to three miles and four furlongs in 1991. That meant that it was essentially a recreation of the original Grand National Trial that was run at Haydock, so the name was readopted from 1996 onwards. It then took on numerous different sponsors, getting its name changed accordingly.

Goosander in 1955 and 1957 and Silver by Nature in 2010 and 2011 are the only horses to have won the race twice at the time of writing. Tom Scudamore, Carl Llewellyn and Ken White have all been the winning jockey in it more than once, but Peter Buchanan leads the way with four wins between 2005 and 2011, including both of Silver by Nature’s wins.

Three of Buchanan’s four wins came on horses trained by Lucinda Russell, giving her three wins, which is the same number as Fred Rimmell managed as a trainer. Neville Crump also saw three of his horses win it, whilst the likes of Venetia Williams and Martin Pipe have seen their horses win the race twice.

Pertemps Handicap Hurdle

Class 2, 3m½f

Run over three miles and fifty-eight yards, this race takes place in association with the Pertemps Network. It’s a Class 2 qualifier event that is open to horses aged five and over. Boasting twelve hurdles, Heavy Going will see the race last about six minutes and forty seconds or so. The prize money for the event is about £13,000, five or take.

Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices' Hurdle

Grade 2, 3m½f

This Grade 2 offering is run over two miles, six furlongs and one hundred and seventy-seven yards, during which distance there are twelve hurdles for the runners to get over. It’s open to novice hurdlers aged four and over.

The race was created in 1977 as the Philip Cornes Saddle of Gold Stayers' Novices' Hurdle Final and was run at Newbury until 1992. At that point it was moved to Chepstow, where it remained until 2001 when it was shifted once more, this time to Haydock Park. Initially it was run over two miles and seven and a half furlongs here, with its race being extended a few times over the years that followed.

At first it was extended to three miles in 2008 then to three miles and one furlong in 2009, going back to three miles in 2011 before finally getting its current distance in 2012. As with the Rendlesham Hurdle, don’t be shocked if its length is changed again in the future. Having enjoyed numerous sponsorships over the years, the honour belongs to Albert Bartlett at the time of writing.

Obviously the fact that it’s for novices means that it hasn’t been won by the same horse twice, but it is a good chance to learn a bit about how they’re likely to do in the future. Perhaps one of the most famous winners was Neptune Collonges, who won the race as a five-year-old in 2006 before winning the Grand National six years later.

The time between those wins would suggest it’s not a race that will give you heaps of information about the National, but the horse’s Punchestown Gold Cup and Cotswold Chase victories means that it’s a good indicator of a horse’s ability. Miinnehoma also won this race in 1990 and then the Grand National in 1994, for example.

Surprisingly few jockeys have won the race more than once, meaning that Mark Pitman and Peter Scudamore lead the way with two wins each. Equally the likes of Jenny Pitman, Martin Pipe, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson have only won it twice trainers, so Howard Johnson’s three wins means that he’s its most successful trainer.

Walrus Open Hunters' Chase

Class 3, 2m6f

Open to horses aged five and over, this event has prize money of just shy of £10,000 attached to it. Run over two miles, six furlongs and fifty-four yards, it’s a Class 3 race that features eighteen fences. When the Going is Heavy the race will last for about six minutes before the horses are likely to be troubling the finish line.


About Grand National Trial Day

Liverpool Pinned on Map

Liverpool is a city with no shortage of sporting achievements to its name, whether that be Liverpool FC’s European Cup haul or Everton’s Goodison Park being the first football stadium to have undersoil heating, there are plenty of reasons to head to the city if you want to see some top-class sport.

When it comes to horse racing, of course, there are few races anywhere in the world that can match the majesty of the Grand National. Hosted by Aintree Racecourse every April, the event sees around forty horses take on one of the toughest jump racing courses on the planet. Haydock is technically in the Metropolitan Borough of St Helens, but many consider it to be close enough to Liverpool to come under the city’s umbrella.

That’s why it makes total sense for the village’s racecourse, Haydock Park, to welcome the trialists for the main event in February each year. It’s also a chance for those that perhaps don’t get to go to the races very often or who can’t go to the Grand National itself to experience some decent racing at one of the area’s impressive race courses.