The 2012 Grand National will be held at Aintree on 14 April, 2012. It will be the 165th running of the famous steeplechase race. The maximum field is 40 horses and prize money could top £950,000 as it did in 2011. Aintree has announced some changes to the race and course following a review of 2011's race. In that race, two horses died from falls. Aintree authorities consulted with the RSPCA, the British Horseracing Authority and World Horse Welfare to decide on the changes for 2012.
A few fences were modified, including being reduced in height and levelled out on the landing side to make it smoother. The most famous fence, Becher's Brook, had its landing side drop reduced to four or five inches below what it used to be, however the height of the actual fence was not changed. All toeboards were changed to 14 inches in height, an increase that should help horses determine the fence base as they approach. A few requirements were changed also. Participating horses must now have finished fourth or better in a 3 mile or longer recognised steeplechase. The minimum age of participating horses is now seven years of age, up from the previous six.
Some of the horses expected to compete in 2012's Grand National include last year's winner, Ballabriggs, Beshabar, Junior, Oscar Time, West End Rocker, Beautiful Sound, Planet of Sound, The Midnight Club, Shakalakaboomboom, Always Right and Don't Push It. Currently Ballabriggs is at the top of the early betting at 16-1.
Recently, expected competitor West End Rocker romped to victory in the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase. The Alan King trained bay fought Niche Market to the final fence, and the former hurdled it with a clear lead and went on to finish by a 22 length margin. West End Rocker did not have much success in last year's Grand National, but perhaps this year he will have a better race.
Second in the 2011 Grand National, Oscar Time took on the Rock Of Cashel Hurdle at Thurles at the end of November. The ten-year-old ran nicely throughout the race, but ended up being no match for Zaidpour who took a clear lead after the final corner. Oscar Time weakened to finish fourth behind Boland's Corner and Bacher Boy, who finished second and third respectively. Oscar Time is currently at 20-1 in early betting for the 2012 Grand National.