Aintree’s Grand National meeting gets underway this afternoon and here is a race-by-race look at the first day’s action on Merseyside.
13:45 Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
A small but select field for the opener and Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch appears likely to go off favourite at around 5/4. He ran a solid race at Cheltenham behind Yorkhill in the JLT and merits maximum respect coming here. Flying Angel had no luck in the same race but the one to look out for here could be Cloudy Dream, at 11/4. Second to Altior in the Arkle last month, he has looked progressive this season and travels strongly, suggesting this longer trip wills suit perfectly.
14:20 Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1)
Anything bar a win here for Triumph Hurdle hero Defi Du Seuil would represent a huge shock. Philip Hobbs’ charge was mightily impressive then and has scarcely put a foot wrong all season. Champion jockey Richard Johnson was beaming afterwards and he should give Barry Geraghty a nice start at Aintree at odds of around 4/11. Having skipped Cheltenham, Charlie Longsdon’s Forth Bridge could be an each-way player here at 12/1 in the Queen’s colours.
14:55 Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1)
Two-time winner of this race Silviniaco Conti is 17/2 but he hasn’t shown the same sparkle of late and is hard to recommend now. Empire Of Dirt pushed Gold Cup winner Sizing John hard in Ireland before Cheltenham and is greatly respected but the ever-popular Cue Card at 13/8 may well take this for the second year running. He’s getting no younger but this flat track should help and he can bring the house down with victory.
15:25 Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1)
The Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air will be a tough nut to crack here and is 2/5 to add to last year’s Grade 1 novice success at this meeting. He more than justified the decision to abort novice chasing for Cheltenham and should simply have too many gears today. With an extra 4f to cover now, The New One might be an each-way play at 6/1. Nigel Twiston-Davies considered the Stayers’ Hurdle this term and he may attempt to set a searching gallop in the hopes of blunting Buveur D’Air superior speed.
16:05 Randox Health Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2)
A first peek at the National fences here and this has the makings of a match-up between On The Fringe, 15/8 to win for the third year running, and Pacha Du Polder, who relieved him of his crown at Cheltenham and is 7/2 to repeat the feat. It may just be that the younger horse comes off best again while Poole Master, already a winner over this C&D, could run a big race at 16/1.
16:40 Betway Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Much better was expected of Double W’s last month at Cheltenham but he can be forgiven that blip having travelled well and seemingly failed to stay the longer trip. He could run well from the front here at odds of 6/1 on a track that ought to suit. Theinval and Dandridge both ran strong races in the Grand Annual and will make appeal here, each trading at around 5/1. Romain De Senam is an interesting runner for champion trainer Paul Nicholls are around 12/1.
17:15 Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race (Grade 2)
Sassy Diva chased home subsequent Champion Bumper heroine Fayonagh at Fairyhouse last time out and is 17/2 to gain a deserved breakthrough success of her own here. She has some excellent form in the book and looks a solid each-way proposition at the prices. The determined Sweetlittlemystery is unbeaten in two starts so far and at 7/1 should be capable of running a gallant race in attempting to maintain that record.