Last year’s Grand National winner Amberleigh House heads the record 152 entries for this year classic steeplechase, which will be held at Aintree on Saturday, 9 April and is supported by new sponsor John Smith’s.

This year’s race boasts record prize money of £700,000, up £100,000 on 2004, which may account for the race’s highest-ever entry. Last year’s race attracted 122 entries, while the previous high was 149 in 2003.

All of the horses who were placed last year — Clan Royal, Lord Atterbury, Spot Thedifference, Smarty and Ardent Scout — are entered once again, while previous winners who are aiming for a second win in the world’s most famous chase include Monty’s Pass, fourth in 2004, and Bindaree.

There are 36 entries from Ireland, beating the previous highest Irish entry of 34 in 2003, including the Trevor Hemmings-owned Hedgehunter, who was third when falling at the final fence in 2004; Timbera, an 11th hour absentee from last year’s race; Clan Royal, Davids Lad, Le Coudray, Monty’s Pass, Native Upmanship, Rince Ri and Spot Thedifference. First Gold is one of four French-trained entries.

The totesport Becher Chase winner Silver Birch is one of seven entries for trainer Paul Nicholls, while other leading contenders include Joly Bey, who is ridden by his amateur owner David Dunsdon; Forest Gunner, winner of last year’s John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase and this season’s betfair.com Grand Sefton Handicap; and the Scottish-trained Strong Resolve.

Charles Barnett, managing director at Aintree Racecourse, says: “This is an exciting year for the John Smith’s Grand National with both a new sponsor and a major increase in prize money so we are delighted to see this record number of entries including so many with strong claims from Britain, Ireland and France.”

The weights for the 2005 John Smith’s Grand National, run over four-and-a-half miles and 30 fences, will be announced tomorrow (Tuesday, 8 February) at 11am.

The full list of entries can be viewed online at www.aintree.co.uk