All eyes fixed on Aintree


There’s three days of high class action around Aintree to look forward to as the second major jumps festival of the spring comes to life. Here we preview the Grand National Meeting on Merseyside.

Day One

The action begins with the Manifesto Novices’ Chase on Thursday and trainer Warren Greatrex will have high hopes that his mare La Bague Au Roi can pick up her third Grade 1 chase of an outstanding novice term, having skipped Cheltenham last month in favour of this race, which she’s 7/4 to win.

Later on, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson will intensify their battle to be champion trainer in Britain this season with two races that might be key in separating them.

Nicholls leads the way and his Clan Des Obeaux is the 9/4 favourite to win the Aintree Bowl on Thursday, having seemingly failed to stay the Gold Cup trip last time. Buveur D’Air fell in the Champion Hurdle and his trainer Henderson desperately needs the 10/11 favourite to oblige in the Aintree Hurdle, a race he won in 2017, in order to cut Nicholls’ advantage.

Day Two

The feature race on Friday is the Grade One Melling Chase, where Nicholls again has a leading contender in last year’s winner Politologue. He comes here having finished second to Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. A principle threat could be Waiting Patiently, 5/2 for trainer Ruth Jefferson. He hasn’t be spotted since proving no match for Cyrname at Ascot in February but should be suited by track and trip here.

Later on Friday, the Topham Chase gives punters a glimpse of those famous National fences for the first time and the likes of 9/1 chance Janika appears well-equipped for a tilt at the race.

The Sefton Novices’ Hurdle gives 11/4 chance Champ, runner up in the Ballymore last month when seemingly not relishing the Cheltenham hill, a chance to emulate stablemate Santini, who won this race last year having settled for second as favourite in the Cotswolds.

Day Three

The most-watched race on the British calendar lurks at 5.15pm on Saturday evening and most eyes will be on the defending champion and 7/2 favourite Tiger Roll. Not since the great Red Rum 45 years ago has any horse retained this crown, but the popular Gordon Elliott-trained star is in fine tune and will carry a wave of public support on the four-mile-plus journey around Aintree.

The dangers are plentiful, though, and he’ll need luck as well as ability.

Rock The Kasbah looks to hold sound claims as he attempts to give Richard Johnson a missing piece of his career jigsaw, while 50/1 contender Ultragold has a superb record over the National fences and could be a player for Colin Tizzard.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Apple’s Jade will bid for Aintree redemption following her Champion Hurdle flop as she goes for glory in the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle. She demolished the opposition by a stunning 41 lengths on her only previous Aintree outing and is 13/8 to win here again.

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