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RACEHORSE OWNER DAME JUDI DENCH SET TO HAVE FIRST EVER GRAND NATIONAL RUNNER

Hollywood star and racehorse owner Dame Judi Dench is set to have her first ever runner in the Randox Health Grand National, it was revealed today.

The Oscar-winning actress is a huge racing fan and entered As De Mee for the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree weeks ago.

Tonight, at a glittering ceremony at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) to reveal the handicap weights allocated for all of the entries for the 2018 race, it was revealed that As De Mee will carry 10st 8lbs.

Of the 105 entered horses only the top 40 can take part, but As De Mee’s weight allocation makes him the 33rd highest rated horse his connections are given first refusal to run him in the race on Saturday April 14th.

Speaking to Aintree Racecourse’s website before news that her horse had qualified for the Grand National, 83-year-old Dame Judi described where her love of racing comes from.

The James Bond, Shakespeare in Love and Chocolat star, said: “I had a French sister-in-law whose family had a racing stable in Chantilly. And I went over there with my family and they were racing in Chantilly and we went.

“There was a horse named after my cat and it came in and I’ve never quite known what we won because I was quite little! But it probably paid for our holiday. I used to ride a lot too, so after that I’ve always had a huge love for racing.”

Asked to pick a winner for this year’s race Dame Judi, naturally, tipped her own horse, adding: “It’s jolly difficult. As De Mee. I would have to put my money on As De Mee, which I have an interest in with Andy Stewart of course and trained by Paul Nicholls. So I would definitely put money on him.

“I think I would put money on Definitly Red, by a fact of having a red headed grandson! Splash of Ginge as well – I’ve spent quite a lot of money on him!”

The iconic Grand National fences, made from spruce, are only used in two Aintree fixtures each year but Dame Judi’s horse has won over them before.

As De Mee, a seven-year-old Bay Gelding trained by leading trainer Paul Nicholls, claimed victory in the Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at the Liverpool track in 2016.

Dame Judi owns As De Mee jointly with Andy Stewart, a multi millionaire businessman, and would not be the first high profile owner of a horse to take part in the Grand National.

Actor Gregory Peck owned Different Class which ran in 1964, while comedian Freddie Starr owned the winner of the 1994 National, Miinnehoma. Former England rugby star Mike Tindall’s horse Monbeg Dude finished third in 2015.