If you think Aintree is just about the Grand National, then think again. There is three days of top-class racing action to get stuck into, starting with John Smiths Aintree Hurdle, which features Thursday with Grand Opening Day.
All eyes will be on the Thursday will be on the prestigious John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle, which has been switched from its traditional Saturday slot and now has a record prize fund of £200,000.
It, potentially, is bringing together some of the best young and old hurdlers in the country, and on paper could be a stronger race that the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The market at an ante-post stage revolves around Oscar Whisky, who is bidding for his third straight win in the race.
Bets for Thursday at Grand National
Matalan Juvenile Hurdle : Rolling Star @ 6/1 with Bet365 (£200 Free Bet) -> Watch
He disappointed when backed off the boards in the World Hurdle, showing that three miles isn’t really his trip. Dai Walters’ charge will be more at home over the intermediate distance and looks a strong 3/1 chance with Paddy Power.
His rivals will be lining up to bring him down though and Nigel Twiston-Davies could throw impressive Neptune Novices Hurdle winner The New One into the race, which would be a bold move considering he is only a novice.
The speedy traveller put in one of the performances of the week at Cheltenham when scooting clear in a very competitive novice hurdle and is many people’s idea of next year’s Champion Hurdle winner.
If Twiston-Davies decides to throw him in at the deep end then he can be backed at 7/2. Beaten Champion Hurdle contenders Zarkandar, Countrywide Flame and Grandouet could also reappear at Aintree, with Grandouet the most likely to trouble the front two in the market around the 9/2 mark with Paddy Power.
He fell when travelling well in the Champion Hurdle and he has an unexposed look to him in the hurdling division.
The Betfred Bowl Steeplechase is the feature chase race on Thursday’s card with likely Cheltenham Gold Cup runners lining up in what is shaping up to be an intriguing race.
The highest finisher to take his chance will be The Giant Bolster, who backed up last year’s runner-up finish with a fourth this season.
With none of those who finished ahead of him at Cheltenham likely to be lining up at Aintree, The Giant Bolster should have a good opportunity especially when the stats show that 19 of the 29 winners took their chance in the blue riband at Cheltenham before winning the Bowl at Aintree.
Paul Nicholls may decide to run Silviniaco Conti, who fell when travelling well in the Gold Cup whilst Cape Tribulation will look to emulate Grey Abbey and Exotic Dancer who won the Argento Chase before taking the Aintree feature.
The opening race of the Grand National meeting is the Matalan Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle, which usually will pull together horses from the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
That race is the key guide as 10 of the last 13 winners contested that prize at Cheltenham with Detroit City, Katchit and Zarkandar completing the double in just the last seven years. However, with Our Conor, the richly impressive juvenile winner staying in Ireland this year and second and third, Far West and Sametagal – both trained by Paul Nicholls, going for races in France, it leaves this race rather open.
Irish Saint has been targeted for the race by Nicholls but may not quite be good enough and the horse to watch, if running in the race, could be Rolling Star for Nicky Henderson.
He went off favourite for the Triumph but never really dealt with the conditions at Cheltenham and should appreciate the surroundings at Aintree much more.