With a larger gap between the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals this year there will be plenty of noteworthy horses winging their way over to Merseyside to contest their feature races. There will also be horses entered who for one reason or another missed Cheltenham and will be completely fresh and raring to go when they arrive at Aintree.
Let’s take a look at some of those Aintree hopefuls – starting off with those that have Grand National aspirations.
Tiger Roll, Causes Of Causes, The Last Samuri
Gordon Elliott’s Tiger Roll burst into to forefront of the Grand National betting after an emphatic win the Cross Country Chase at The Festival.
It was Tiger Roll’s third Festival victory and until then he had not really been considered as one of Elliott’s leading hopes for the Grand National.
Elliott, who trained Silver Birch to win the National in 2007, said about the top-priced 14-1 chance for Aintree: “Tiger Roll has come out of Cheltenham well and the Grand National is now the plan for him.”
Cause Of Causes could not repeat last year’s win in the Cross Country on the rain-softened ground and was pulled up by his rider Jamie Codd. He will be heading to Aintree to try and go one better then when he finished runner-up to One For Arthur twelve months ago.
Elliott said after the race: “Jamie (Codd) said he was flat out. I was worried about the ground and it never happened today. He is a bit sore so we will see how he is.”
Speaking about the third home in the Cross Country, The Last Samuri, who is a best-priced 14-1 shot for the Grand National this time, trainer Kim Bailey said: “I am delighted – it was always going to be a National prep.
“It is a bit different to carrying top-weight in a handicap.”
The Last Samuri didn’t return back into Cheltenham’s winner’s enclosure that afternoon and Bailey explained: “The horse always gets very tired afterwards. He is a horse that is marked out by the vets in all of his races.
“The vets are very happy with him – I am quite used to it now.”
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Blaklion bypassed the Cheltenham Gold Cup in order to make a full recovery from his Haydock exploits and to also take in a wind operation.
Earlier this season Blaklion finished runner-up in the Charlie Hall Chase and won the Becher Chase and has retained his position at the head of the Grand National market, despite that crushing defeat at Haydock last month.
Twiston-Davies reported Last week: “He’s had soft cauterisation of his palate, which is a very minor one. We gave him a galloping scope and that’s what came up.”
He added: “It was always the plan to miss Cheltenham and all is going well. He’s in great form.”
The nine-year-old, out of Kayf Tara, can still be backed at 12-1 for the Aintree showpiece.
Willie Mullins has confirmed that Total Recall is an intended runner in the Grand National despite coming down three fences from home in the Gold Cup.
Total Recall won his first three races after joining Mullins from the retired Sandra Hughes, landing the Munster National at Limerick, the “Hennessy” at Newbury and a handicap hurdle at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
Total Recall, who will shoulder 11st 4lb, is vying for favouritism with Blaklion but has drifted slightly in the markets over the last few days and can still be backed at around 14/1 ante-post.
This season’s Gold Cup third Anibale Fly is entered in the National and has been backed down to odds of 16-1 for the Aintree marathon but his actual participation is far from assured.
Connections are likely to make a decision in the next few days as to whether the eight-year-old will return to English shores or stay at home for the Irish equivalent.
Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, has confirmed the Tony Martin-trained horse has a couple of options they need to mull over.
“He’s come out of the Gold Cup very well. He ran very well and stayed on nicely,” said Berry.
“We’ll see how he is and we’ll make a decision early in the week here where he’s going.
“He has the two options and he’ll definitely go for one or the other.”
Other horses to look out for at the Aintree Festival:
Double Shuffle: Ruled out of the Gold Cup due to the testing conditions, the eight-year-old looks set to head to Aintree for the Betway Bowl and should be a leading player. He was second to Top Notch in a Grade Two at Ascot before running a length second to Might Bite in the King George at Kempton at 50-1.
Waiting Patiently: Patience could certainly be the key to this horse’s success should he turn up in either the Melling Chase or the Betway Bowl. The impressive Ascot Chase winner avoided a slog in the mud at Cheltenham which should give him a distinct fitness edge over his rivals at Aintree.
Global Citizen: This horse is exactly the type Ben Pauling loves to run at Aintree and his nine-length demolition of a decent field in the Grade Two Dovecote Hurdle last month just showed what a decent novice he is. Connections sensibly thought that a 19lb rise for that win would scupper any kind of chance they had in the County Hurdle and it would come as no surprise if romped home in one of the Aintree races.
On The Blind Side: Nicky Henderson’s runner missed a showdown with Samcro at Cheltenham which could prove to be a blessing in disguise should he return to Aintree in top health. On The Blind Side won on his hurdling debut at Aintree back in October and was impressive on his latest start when winning a Grade Two at Sandown. It looks pretty nailed on he will be returning to Merseyside once more in April.