The three-day Aintree Grand National meeting is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the National Hunt calendar.
This corner of Merseyside, England brings together some of the world’s finest steeplechasers, jockeys and trainers for three days of high-class racing.
With this year’s Cheltenham Festival now well and truly over, attentions are fast turning to the Aintree Grand National Festival and what to expect in the biggest races. Below, we run through three of the most prestigious races scheduled for this year’s festival, assessing the likely contenders on Aintree’s world-famous course.
The Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle is one of the main talking points of the opening day of the festival. It seems like this year’s race looks set to be one-way traffic. The latest Aintree Hurdle bet markets have Constitution Hill as a heavy odds-on favourite. In fact, the Nicky Henderson-trained horse is currently available to back at odds of -600, and with good reason. This six-year-old is considered one of the finest hurdlers of all time, as proven by his dominant display in the Champion Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Looking at the markets, Constitution Hill looks like having only one major rival for the Aintree Hurdle crown, Zanahiyr. Gordon Elliott’s charge is one to watch, despite having been disqualified for this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
The Melling Chase
The Grade 1 Melling Chase (also known as the Marsh Chase) is the headline race of day two at the Aintree Grand National. It’s said to be worth £250,000 in prize money, attracting some of the best steeplechasers over two and two-and-a-half miles. The Melling Chase often includes horses that have performed strongly in the Ryanair Chase or the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
In fact, the 2015 winner of the Melling Chase, Don Cossack, went on to win a Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. This year’s race looks like being a crapshoot between Pic D'Orhy and Fakir D’Oudairies if the odds are anything to go by. Paul Nicholls’ Pic D'Orhy was described by his trainer as “in the form of his life” prior to coming second in the recent Ascot Chase. Pic D'Orhy will have to contend with Fakir D’Oudairies, who is entered to try and win a hat-trick of successive Melling Chases.
Aintree Grand National
The third and final day of the festival culminates in the world-famous Grand National. The grueling four-mile 514-yard race carries a prize purse of £1 million, half of which goes directly to the race winner. With such lucrative prize money, it’s no surprise that this is the richest jump race in all of Europe. Although this doesn’t come close to the world’s seven richest horse races.
Last year’s Grand National was a headline-maker for various reasons. Not least the fact that Noble Yeats took the victory despite being aged just seven. In doing so, Noble Yeats became the first seven-year-old to win the National since 1940. This year’s race could be a step too far for Noble Yeats, with the handicapper penalising him hard for last year’s unexpected win. Delta Work and Corach Rambler both look like they are well treated and have proven their abilities to stay the distance in the Glenfarclas Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
One thing is for sure, the Aintree Grand National Festival brings up plenty of thrills and spills, with lots of headlines to look forward to in the coming weeks.