The Royal Albert Dock. Anfield. Goodison Park. The Cavern Club. These are some of the defining features of Liverpool and that’s before you get to the pièce de résistance, Aintree.
The famous racecourse is one of the iconic sporting venues of Britain and it will once again host the Grand National Meeting, one of the greatest occasions of the sporting year.
Whilst minds might be focused on Cheltenham for much of the season – and no wonder – there’s a month at most between the two festivals and many horses aim to double up, whilst some shrewd trainers waiting for the much flatter and more speed focused track in comparison to Cheltenham’s relentless test of stamina.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Grand National Thursday and who could be the potential stars of the show:
1.40pm Aintree Manifesto Novices Chase
This early in the season many of the less experienced horses won’t have a defined trip right now, but we do know that a number of early markers have been laid down for the Arkle, whilst over this trip of two and a half miles the situation is a little different. Black Op was a winner here after the Festival last season in the Mersey’ Novices’ Hurdle and would be a major contender here if returning to the track that he performed so well at.
Messire Des Obeaux also has course form, if not a longer absence to overcome, but he ran well to finish third in the 2017 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle and if his jumping holds up, Aintree could be a natural place for him to return.
2.15pm Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle
Triumph Hurdle and Fred Winter horses both often go here but this is very early in the season and the majority of horses good enough to line up in this race haven’t even been seen yet. It promises to be another thrilling renewal showcasing the most talented juveniles.
2.50pm Betfred Bowl Grade 1
Might Bite came here after being beaten last season and he would be a popular choice again if having as good a season, although he has started his campaign earlier this season in the Betfair Chase. He beat Bristol De Mai into second last season and this is probably the best spring target for Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge. With Punchestown’s Gold Cup more tempting for Irish Stayers such as the Gigginstown Contingent like Road To Respect, Outlander and Balko Des Flos.
3.25pm Aintree Hurdle
Buveur D’Air has won this before – he doubled up with the Champion in 2017 – and it’s a potential target again. Should he line up then he will be very tough to beat. Supasundae was second last year and is a natural for this, as a specialist over 2m4f and blessed with lots of speed. Samcro would seem sure to head to Punchestown, but Summerville Boy, a strong stayer over 2 miles, could be really well suited by this test.
4.05pm Foxhunters Chase
There are an awful lot of familiar faces who run in this year after year, and many of them are in double figures in terms of age. Last year’s winner was 12 years old (Dineur) who beat the 10-year-old Banaslow and the 15-year-old Big Fella Thanks. Banalaslow looks the most likely to be around here and is also one of the best performers on the Hunter Chase circuit.
4.40pm Red Rum Handicap Chase
We’ve already had a number of good handicap chases run so far and Bun Doran was impressive on his seasonal debut at Cheltenham in a high-quality contest where Doitforthevillage (fourth last year) lost all chance when making a mess of the landing at the second last. His mark could still be handy. Thienval has been second in the last two editions of this contest despite busy seasons and would have a strong chance on his best form.
5.15pm Aintree Mares Flat Race
It’s early in the season but we’ve already had a Listed mares bumper and the way that The Glancing Queen beat Mega Yeats and the impressive two time winner Royal Illusion was very taking indeed and they already look like horses who can take high rank here although the Christmas period will show a great deal of further contenders.
Once again Grand National Thursday promises to be an awesome spectacle with high class races and a fantastic atmosphere; a thrilling prelude to the magic of the Grand National. Remember to book your tickets on The Aintree Racecourse Website.