04/03/2014 11:55AM

Grand National: Teaforthree gets another crack at famous steeplechase race


Teaforthree had run four miles in the 2013 Grand National when he reached the front with two fences remaining in the famous steeplechase race. Going over the last fence, the gelding was caught by Auroras Encore, a 66-1 shot who went onto a nine-length win.

Teaforthree finished third in the field of 40, one of 17 finishers.

This year, the campaign for the 10-year-old Teaforthree has been geared toward a return to Saturday’s $1.66 million Grand National at Aintree Racecourse in England and winning the rigorous race over 4 7/16 miles and 30 fences.

This will be the richest running of the Grand National, first run in 1839. In recent years, a few modifications have been made. The toughest fence – Becher’s Brook, with a drop on the landing side – has been altered to protect the horse. Last year, the race distance was reduced by one-sixteenth of a mile to move the start away from the noise of the grandstands.

Still, the Grand National is a race like no other. Technically, the Grand National is a handicap, with weights for the 40 runners ranging from a high of 166 pounds to 141. Post time is 11:15 a.m. Eastern.

Teaforthree, the 8-1 favorite as of Thursday, will carry 152 pounds and will be ridden by regular rider Nick Scholfield. Teaforthree is trained by Rebecca Curtis, who spent time in California in the 2000s as an assistant to trainer Dan Hendricks.

After the 2013 Grand National, Teaforthree returned to racing in late December, finishing ninth in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow. He was second in a three-mile steeplechase at Ascot in February before finishing eighth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 14. While the recent results may not be flattering, the goal has been clear – Teaforthree has remained on course for the Grand National.

The Grand National is for 7-year-olds and older, and this year’s field ranges in age from 7 to 13. Tidal Bay, the highweight at 166 pounds, is the lone 13-year-old. He has never run in the Grand National but has won prestigious races at Cheltenham and Newbury in England and Leopardstown in Ireland.

Long Run, the winner of the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, will have his first start in the Grand National and won a prep race in Doncaster, England.

One horse gaining considerable attention in the buildup has been Monbeg Dude, a 9-year-old who won the Welsh National in January 2013. He will carry 149 pounds and is the mount of big-race jockey Paul Carberry.

Monbeg Dude is co-owned by English rugby star Mike Tindall, who is married to Zara Phillips, the niece of Queen Elizabeth.