While the Grand National itself is the star attraction for many at Aintree Racecourse in Merseyside later this month, with over 500 million people tuning in globally for the four-mile, two-and-a-half-furlong affair — hence it being dubbed as ‘the race the world stops to watch’ — there are plenty of other noteworthy races that shouldn’t be overlooked.
In fact, there are 11 Grade 1 races over the course of the three-day Grand National Festival — most of which will attract runners and riders from the recent Cheltenham Festival — including the generational talent that is Constitution Hill, who looks set to round off yet another fantastic season in the Aintree Hurdle on the opening day.
While the Nicky Henderson-trained hurdler should leave the crowd in awe with a dominant performance once again, it’s another race on day one we’re going to focus on — the Aintree Bowl. The three-mile contest has the potential to be the race of the meet with several big-name horses set to line-up for starter’s orders. So, read on as we take a look at the favourites in the Grand National betting.
Disappointing after so much hype in the build up to the Cheltenham Festival, Shishkin was heavily backed into odds-on to win the Ryanair Chase on day three at Prestbury Park after romping home by 16 lengths in what was his first time over two miles and four furlongs in the Ascot Chase just weeks prior.
However, he jumped wayward in the Ryanair and despite finishing strongly was always being held by Envoi Allen. The now nine-year-old is being stepped up in trip for this race and comes in as the 5/4 favourite, but he’s up against tried-and-tested challengers at this distance and the punters might steer clear of backing him after his inconsistent form and last outing.
Many thought this Gigginstown House Stud-owned horse would be having a crack at the National given that he was as short as third favourite for the showpiece race. However, Conflated’s connections and Gordon Elliott have since confirmed that he will be having another crack at the Bowl.
The nine-year-old was third of five on his season reappearance in the Champion Chase at Down Royal, but won the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown in December and was a respectable third in the Gold Cup last time out. He should have a solid chance in this race as Shishkin has his red flags.
A Plus Tard
A Plus Tard hasn’t been able to catch a break this season. The 2022 Gold Cup winner was pulled up on his appearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November and took a knock in the horse cart en route to Leopardstown for the aforementioned Savills Chase.
After that, Henry de Bromhead made the decision to go straight to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup and A Plus Tard was considered as Galopin Des Champs’ nearest rival in the betting. But Ahoy Senor’s tumble at the 17th fence badly hampered A Plus Tard in the Blue Riband race and resulted in Rachael Blackmore once again pulling up the nine-year-old. They will go here hoping for a stroke of luck.
Speaking of the Lucinda Russell-trained horse, assuming Gold Cup second Bravemansgame won’t be going to Aintree for the Bowl, Ahoy Senor is next in line in the betting. The eight-year-old was less than impressive in the first half of the season, finishing fifth either side of a third at Aintree.
But he won the Grade 2 Cotswolds Chase over course and distance at Cheltenham in January and appeared to hit form at the perfect time for the Gold Cup. Ahoy Senor was going well when he went down five out from the finish as well, leading the field. If he can stay on his feet in Merseyside, he might have a chance of winning the Bowl.
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