Aintree Grand National meeting – Thursday

Well it’s the time of year when the whole nation turns it’s head towards the racing world, if only for a day, as we gear up for the greatest race of them all on Saturday.

Before that, though, we have two great days of racing :

2.00 Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle Grade 1

Basically the Aintree Triumph Hurdle and most of the principles from that race line up here, although champion Our Conor has stayed in Ireland. Rolling Star was a disappointing favourite that day but looked edgy beforehand and can improve on that 6th place by winning here and getting the meetinf off to a flying start for Seven Barrows pair Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson. A small reverse forecast or exacta with Irish Saint could be the bet.


Irish Saint ( left ) and Rolling Star should be fighting out the finish in the first

2.00 Betfred Bowl Chase Grade 1

A race that really should be going to Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat star Silviniaco Conti, who has ideal conditions with goodish ground on a flat left handed track. First Lieutenant should follow him home.

3.05 John Smith´s Aintree Hurdle Grade 1

A fascinating race, with some Champion Hurdle participants taking on improving novices. Countrywide Flame should set a decent pace but there are several strong travellers who will benefit from that. Two time winner Oscar Whisky is one of them but there’s a chance the race in bottomless going in January has taken too much out of him. It should be down to The New One, Zarkandar and Grandouet and all of them have the form to win, although TNO has to have improved since Cheltenham to trouble the other two. It could be another duel between Ditcheat and Seven Barrows. Should be a cracking race.

3.40 John Smith´s Fox Hunters´ Chase


The Foxhunters takes place over the National fences

Twenty four hunter chasers ridden by amateur riders over the National fences – it is their big day. The form horses are Bold Addition, Gwanako, Rebel Du Maquis and Warne. Of these, Bold Addition and Rebel Du Maquis are the youngest and could be improving, although recent winners have tended to be longer in the tooth and more experienced, which implies Gwanako should have the edge. Rebel Du Maquis is a good each way run for your money at 10-1.

4.15 Red Rum Handicap Chase Grade 3

A tricky handicap, with some horses weighted to their best or out of form. Each way money then for Donnas Palm, who at 20-1 could get into the first four on his first run for Tim Vaughan. Was weighted nearly two stone higher over hurdles so there should be improvement from this mark of 133 over fences.

4.50 Betfred Manifesto Novices´ Chase Grade 1

A race which really should be going the way of Captain Conan. Slightly disappointing at Cheltenham, track and trip today should suit, as will the better ground. Tap Night could run into a place at bigger odds.

5.25 Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle Grade 3

We complete the first day with a tricky handicap hurdle but two horses at big prices appeal to me.  Wilton Milan has run only three times underf rules and although stable jockey Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride a different horse, the 20-1 could be too big for a talented, unexposed novice in this company.

At the bottom of the weights, Connectivity recently returned from a lay off and ran well to suggest he has retained much of his ability. He’s 16-1 and could be much better than this rating. Shrewd trainer does well with these types.

Racegoers on Ladies Day during day two of the 2012 John Smith's Grand National meeting at Aintree Racecourse-794042

It’s all go for the Aintree Festival

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