The Great Trainers Battle At Aintree

2024 Randox Grand National

The eyecatching victory by the Hollywoodbets and Barnane Stud-owned Il Etait Temps in the opener at Aintree on Thursday, has bolstered interest in the three day Grand National Festival.

The 176th annual running of the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase takes place at Aintree on Saturday afternoon.

At time of writing, 51 runners were still declared for the famous steeplechase, but only 34 can run in the gruelling four-mile, two-furlong event.

Saturday is the third and final day of the Liverpool festival which staged seven Group 1 events on Thursday and Friday.

Not only is there big prize money on offer, but the champion trainer title is on the line with Dan Skelton leading his former boss Paul Nicholls by a mere £29,800 heading into the final few weeks. Irish raider Willie Mullins, very well represented in the big prize events, is also not out of it, half a million ‘quid’ behind Nicholls.

The UK has had plenty of rain over the last week, and track conditions are likely to remain soft, heavy in places, so ground dependant runners are key.

Gold Cup runner-up Gerri Colombe from the Irish yard of Gordon Elliott took on six rivals in the Aintree Bowl (15h55) on Thursday, the days highlight. His biggest threat looks to be last year’s winner Shishkin who comes here fresh after missing Cheltenham.

The Nicky Henderson trained Shishkin will attempt to put a dreadful Cheltenham Festival behind the trainer after he withdrew many of his intended runners due to the form of his string.

Another Irish raider Corbetts Cross, so impressive in the National Hunt Chase, steps up into open company for the first time while Bravemansgame is worth considering on this flat track for defending champ Paul Nicholls. However, Gerri Colombe is fancied on his favoured ground.

Champion Hurdle third Luccia steps up in trip for the William Hill Aintree Hurdle (16h30) over two and a half miles.

The Henderson trained mare will face the Irish pair of Impaire Et Passe and Bob Olinger in a field of eight, with Cheltenham Coral Cup winner Langer Dan another to note for Skelton.

Thursday started with the running of the Close Brothers Manifesto Novices’ Chase (14h45). Grey Dawning and Ginny’s Destiny meet again after fighting out the finish in the Gr1 Turners at Cheltenham four weeks ago.

Dan Skelton’s big grey, Grey Dawning come out on top by two lengths and looks the one to beat, but the Mullins trained Il Etait Temps, third in the Arkle, could improve further stepping up in trip and must be respected on this flatter track.

The unbeaten and much vaunted Sir Gino takes on fellow unbeaten Kalif Du Berlais from the Nicholls stable in the Gr1 Boodles Anniversary 4-year-old Juvenile Hurdle at 16h20.

Willie Mullins saddles the mare Kargese who finished second to stable companion Majborough in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and she receives a very handy 7lb sex allowance from her five rivals. She could be hard to catch here.

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