Horses and jockeys will take centre stage at this weekend’s Grand National - but who are the horse owners? We look at some of the main contenders from the business world

From Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, buying and breeding racehorses has become a popular way to invest wealth - while having a bit of fun at the same time.

Many of the animals at the 2018 Grand National, which is set to take place at Liverpool’s Aintree Racecourse on Saturday (14 April), will have high-profile owners.

Here we profile some of the businessmen behind some of the main contenders for the £1 million prize this weekend.

Trevor Hemmings 

Vicente (25/1)

Warriors Tale (50/1)

Mr Hemmings is known for his work as a philanthropist and contributes his funds for the SAFE Centre in Preston, which helps victims of sexual violence in the Lancashire area.

With a net worth of £900 million, he is the ninth richest man in the North West of England and 178th in the UK after making his name as the owner of investment firm Northern Trust, hotel group Classic Lodges and pub company Trust Inns.

The Preston North End FC owner also has over 100 racehorses, pubs and properties and hotels.  Three of his horses, Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015), have previously won the Grand National.

This year, the 82-year-old will be hoping either Vicente or Warriors Tale - the latter tipped as a decent outside bet at 50/1 - could graduate from his stable to bring home a fourth title.

JP McManus 

Cause of Causes (25/1)

Minella Rocco (25/1)

Regal Encore (40/1)

More of That (50/1)

John Patrick McManus - better known as JP McManus - is an Irish businessman and racehorse owner who built a reputation for his interests in gambling and racing.

Mr McManus began his career as a track-side bookie before owning an array of businesses across the property, leisure and finance industries.

He became well-known in football circles when he took a 29 per cent share of Manchester United with business associate John Magnier, which they later sold to Malcom Glazer after falling out with then-manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Mr McManus also made headlines when he was forced to pay $5.2m (£3.7m) in tax withheld from his winnings on a three-day blackgammon match in the US. But that didn’t set him back - he still has a net worth of £675 million.

If you like this story, read more here:

Everything you need to know about the man behind Grand National racecourse

Baroness Dido Harding

Walk in the Mill (66/1)

Baroness Harding is a businesswoman and chair of NHS Improvement who has previously worked as a chief executive of the TalkTalk Group, alongside director roles at Woolworths, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

She is an alumni of both the University of Oxford – where she studied philosophy, politics and economics – and Harvard Business School, where she took an MBA.

Mrs Harding is married to MP of Weston-Super-Mare John Penrose and is also the author of Cool Dawn: My National Velvet in 1999.

It tells the story of how she borrowed £7,000 from her bank six years earlier with hopes of riding it in ladies’ point-to-point races, but it went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1998.

David Thompson

Seeyouatmidnight (16/1)

Owner of the Cheveley Park Stud, which claims to be one of the most successful thoroughbred stud farms in Europe.

Mr Thompson and wife Patricia purchased the farm in 1975 and now own eight stallions, 140 broodmares and have recently purchased Seeyouatmidnight, who is one of the favourites at this year’s Grand National.

The entrepreneur co-founded one of the UK’s major food businesses Hillsdown Holdings, but later sold his part for £500 million. The sports fanatic is also an investor in Queens Park Rangers F.C.