Horse Racing Betting

Mar 15, 22 days ago

2017 Cheltenham Festival Preview

2017 Cheltenham Festival Preview

There’s another four days of top-class racing to look forward to this week as the Cheltenham Festival returns.
While plenty of big names are absent from this year’s Festival, there are still plenty of impressive horses looking for a share of the £4.1 million prize money. Keep reading for our Cheltenham Festival betting preview.

Four big races head Cheltenham Festival betting
A year ago, Cue Card threw away victory in the Gold Cup when falling three fences out. Paddy Brennan rides the horse again this year with Cue Card bidding to become the oldest Gold Cup winner since What A Myth in 1969.
It is likely to be one of the three favourites for the race, alongside Native River and Dkajadam who is looking to make it third-time lucky after finishing second in each of the last two Gold Cups.
There could be a huge story on Friday when 23 year old Lizzie Kelly becomes the first female jockey in 33 years to line up in the Gold Cup. Having become the first woman to win a Grade 1 event in Britain and Ireland over fences, she rides Tea For Two, a 50/1 chance.
Yanworth is the favourite for the Champion Hurdle but a better bet may be one of the two Nicky Henderson horses. Buveur D’Air is the second favourite while Brain Power has recorded two impressive wins in handicap events this season.
Few horses will go off at shorter odds this week than Douvan in Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.
This is a race Willie Mullins has yet to win but the odds-on favourite goes on any ground, and is proven over the course and the distance having previously won the Arkle.
2015 Arkle winner Un De Sceaux went off as the odds-on favourite last year and could be a contender on soft ground while Altior and Fox Norton will also feature strongly in the betting.
Unbeaten in every start since November 2015, Unowhatimeanharry is the favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle. The eight year old is also unbeaten at Cheltenham, including a win in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett last year.
Having also won the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, he is a clear favourite, from Vroum Vroum Mag and Shaneshill.
See all the odds here.

Lots of value in Cheltenham betting

After finishing fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, Tombstone is the favourite for this year’s Coral Cup and is one of the best ante-post bets of the Festival.
Gordon Elliot’s horse easily accounted for Jezki last time out despite being officially 20lbs wrong at the weights and he has only raised 1lb for that win. He will go off in Wednesday’s race with at least 7lbs in hand which means he should be backed at the 9/2 currently available.
If the inconsistencies in his jumping have been ironed out, then Yorkhill has a terrific chance in Thursday’s JLT.
He won the Neptune last year with a huge leap at the last, beating one of this week’s other ante-post favourites, Yanworth. With Ruby Walsh on board – 52 Festival wins to his name – he is a terrific bet at 5/4.
If you’re looking for a long shot to back then you could do worse than Soldier in Action in the Triumph Hurdle.
He is big and strong, won a decent handicap at Goodwood and has plenty of experience. If the weather is good and the ground dries up, the 20/1 on the Nicky Henderson 4 year-old will look like terrific value.
See all the odds here.

Apr 11, 726 days ago

2015 Grand National Round-Up

2015 Grand National Round-Up

There were no late withdrawals from the Grand National so reserves Bailey’s Concerto, Duke Of Lucca, Raz De Maree and The Package all miss out. The going remains good to soft, good in places, after the course was watered ahead of Friday’s racing.

Shutthefrontdoor remains a firm favourite at 7-1 to give Tony McCoy the perfect send-off to his riding career. The champion jockey has made it clear that he would hang up his boots, should Jonjo O’Neill’s gelding provide him with a second Grand National triumph. Bookmakers are bracing themselves for a wave of public support for the horse on Saturday.

Rocky Creek has been well supported against the favourite this week and has been cut to 9-1. Trainer Paul Nicholls was in fine form on the opening day of the meeting with Silviniaco Conti and All Yours giving the yard a double. Rocky Creek would have been given more weight to carry had the handicapper been able to take his Kempton victory into account. He also has experience of Aintree after finishing fifth to Pineau De Re last year.

Trainer Dr Richard Newland is optimistic that Pineau De Re will put up a bold show as he bids to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win the race in consecutive seasons. He is 8lbs higher in the handicap this year but his preparation has gone smoothly. Newland is also represented by Royale Knight who sneaked in as the last horse in the race.

Philip Hobbs has trained last year’s runner-up Balthazar King specifically for the race this year and he would be a very popular winner. Jockey Richard Johnson has the unenviable record of eighteen previous attempts without winning. At the other end of the scale, 17-year-old Sean Bowen will be having his first ride in the race on Mon Parrain for Paul Nicholls.

Bowen only qualified for the race last weekend when riding his tenth chase winner at Haydock. He is trying to equal the long-standing record of Bruce Hobbs as the youngest winning rider, set on Battleship in 1938.

Nina Carberry will be the only female rider in the race this year after Katie Walsh’s intended mount failed to make the cut. Carberry partners First Lieutenant for Mouse Morris as she bids to improve on Walsh’s third place aboard Seabass in 2012. Alvarado carries the hopes of the Rucker family as they bid to have a placed horse for a remarkable seventh consecutive season. Jockey Paul Moloney has ridden State Of Play, Cappa Bleu and Alvarado and is back on board the chestnut this year.

There is also a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in the field in top weight Lord Windermere. L’Escargot was the last Gold Cup winner to go on and win a Grand National in 1975. The start time is 4.15 on Saturday with an estimated £80 million expected to be wagered on the race by the British public.


Apr 10, 727 days ago

Aintree Friday Preview

Aintree Friday Preview

The second day of the Grand National meeting on Friday features three Grade 1 races as well as the hugely competitive Topham Chase over the big fences.

The action begins at 1.40 with a two and a half mile handicap hurdle in which Nicky Henderson saddles four runners. Theinval was always travelling like a winner at Kempton last time and bids to defy a 10lb hike in the weights. Stable companion Snake Eyes has always threatened to land a major handicap while Pearl Swan ran an encouraging race at Cheltenham for Paul Nicholls.

The Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle at 2.15 sees Nicky Richards’ highly-regarded Glingerburn put to the test. Henderson could again feature here with easy Doncaster winner Cardinal Walter. The first of the Grade 1 events is the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at 2.50 in which Saphir Du Rheu is the star attraction.

The talented grey was runner-up in the World Hurdle last time out but Paul Nicholls firmly believes that he can transfer that talent to the larger obstacles. His biggest rival may be stable companion Irish Saint, although he would prefer softer ground.

The highlight of the day is the Grade 1 Melling Chase at 3.25 which has attracted a top quality field of ten runners. Champagne Fever looks set to start favourite for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh but opposition includes 2014 Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy and 2013 Ryanair winner Cue Card. Tony McCoy is an eye-catching booking for Cheltenham third Don Cossack.

The Topham Chase over the Grand National fences at 4.05 has attracted a maximum field of thirty runners. McCoy will be a popular choice aboard Eastlake for Jonjo O’Neill while Darna and Monetaire renew rivalry after finishing first and second at Cheltenham. Sam Waley-Cohen gets another sight of the Aintree fences riding Rajdhani Express for Nicky Henderson and Ruben Cotter represents the Nicholls stable.

The final Grade 1 action of the day is the Sefton Novices’ Chase at 4.40. Vyta Du Roc ran well at Cheltenham and should go well for Henderson while Roi Des Francs was third in the Martin Pipe Hurdle for Mullins. The card is brought to a close at 5.15 with the Champion Bumper. Persian Delight is likely to be well supported here after winning impressively on his debut for Nicholls at Taunton in February.

Selections: 1.40 Theinval, 2.15 Cardinal Walter, 2.50 Saphir Du Rheu, 3.25 Champagne Fever, 4.05 Eastlake, 4.40 Roi Des Francs, 5.15 Persian Delight

Apr 10, 727 days ago

Lavelle planning National Surprise

Lavelle planning National Surprise

Emma Lavelle is hoping to join an elite band of three women to have trained a Grand National winner when Court By Surprise lines up on Saturday.

Jenny Pitman won with Corbiere in 1983 and followed up with Royal Athlete in 1995. She was also second with Garrison Savannah who came close to following up his Cheltenham Gold Cup victory in 1991. Venetia Williams trained Mon Mome to a shock 100-1 success in 2009 before Sue Smith won with Auroras Encore in 2013.

Court By Surprise has been largely overlooked in the big race build-up and is a 40-1 chance despite having won his last two races. He won at Exeter in October on his seasonal debut and then followed up in controversial circumstances at Wincanton in the Listed Badger Ales Trophy. First past the post was The Young Master but it later transpired that he was not qualified to run. As a novice, he needed to have raced at least three times over fences and he had only done so twice.

The race was awarded to Court By Surprise who has not been seen in action since. This has been a deliberate policy in order to have him fresh and well for Aintree and he was taken to Newbury recently for a racecourse gallop.

Lavelle has been training for seventeen seasons but this will be her first runner in the Grand National. She is married to former jockey Barry Fenton who finished fourth in the 2003 National aboard Gunner Welburn. She has booked Richie McLernon to ride Court By Surprise, the rider of Sunnyhillboy when agonisingly beaten a nose by Neptune Collonges in 2012.

That was the shortest winning margin in the history of the race but McLernon did not waste any time bemoaning his luck. The horse was trained by Jonjo O’Neill who had the misfortune to lose Gold Cup winner Synchronised to a freak accident during the race. McLernon got no further than the first fence last year on 100-1 outsider Twirling Magnet but he has ridden Court By Surprise before and is hoping to improve his National record.

Karen McLintock will saddle Carlito Brigante and Rebecca Curtis has Bob Ford in the race. Curtis saddled Teaforthree to finish third in the race in 2013. Dianne Sayer (Baileys Concerto) and Sandra Hughes (Raz De Maree) both look certain to miss out with their horses just outside the final forty declared runners.

Apr 10, 727 days ago

2015 Grand National preview

2015 Grand National preview

It’s the 168th Grand National this weekend which means that almost half the adult population of the UK will be having a flutter on one of the world’s biggest horse races. Indeed, so much money will change hands that if all the money staked on the race was lined up in £20 notes it would stretch over 1,000 times around the famous Aintree course.

Forty horses will line up and compete for a share of the £1 million prize fund. Keep reading for our preview of the 2015 Grand National.

Tony McCoy aiming to end his career on a high

It is the 20th and final ride in the Grand National for racing legend AP McCoy and the 40 year old from County Antrim has promised to retire immediately if he wins this Saturday’s showpiece event.

McCoy rides the 7/1 favourite Shutthefrontdoor and a win would be the second National triumph for the record-breaking Irishman.

The build-up to McCoy’s last National is reaching fever pitch, and a huge image of the jockey was beamed onto Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building this week ahead of the race which he won for the only time on Don’t Push It in 2010.

“The AP McCoy factor is reaching fever pitch with it being his 20th and final Grand National,” said John Baker, Regional Director of Jockey Club Racecourses North West. “We certainly plan to give him a great send off and I’m sure the 150,000 racegoers will join us in honouring the greatest jockey the sport has ever seen.”

Bookies are predicting that one in three bets this weekend will be on Shutthefrontdoor and it would certainly be a fitting and romantic way for the jockey to end a glittering career.

Horses to follow in the Grand National betting

While much of the focus will be on the favourite ahead of Saturday’s race there are some strong and talented horses in the line-up this year.

While Irish horses have been there or thereabouts in recent years you have to go back to Silver Birch in 2007 for the last Irish winner of the National. The barren run could end this year, though, courtesy of Cause of Causes, currently available at 16/1.

While a seven year old may not have won this race for over half a century, JP McManus’ horse is unusual in that he has run 27 times in National Hunt races, 16 times over hurdles and 11 times over fences. He won the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham a month ago and is trained by Gordon Elliott, the same man who trained Ireland’s last National winner in 2007.

Paul Carberry is a huge asset over Aintree’s fences and we like Cause of Causes’ chances.

According to Ruby Walsh it is ‘only a matter of time’ before a female jockey wins the Grand National and a good each-way bet this year is First Lieutenant, ridden by Paul’s sister Nina Carberry.

After his sister Katie won this year’s Irish National, Ruby Walsh said this week: “Racing is one of the few sports in which women have to compete against men without any allowances. It is like for like and they are proving up to it, so it is only a matter of time before one of them gets a ride good enough to win the English Grand National.”

First Lieutenant has won a Grade One event at Aintree and at ten years old he is the perfect age for the race. He will love the ground and is reportedly in fine form and so looks a good bet at 20/1.

Ireland may have been waiting since 2007 for a National winner but Wales hasn’t seen a horse win the big race in over 100 years. That could change in 2015 with Al Co, a talented ten year old with some big race experience.

He won the Scottish National at Ayr in 2014 and trainer Peter Bowen narrowly failed to win the National when McKelvey was second in 2007. He will love the ground and could give Wales their first winner in over a century at 25/1.

Grand National Betting

Apr 9, 728 days ago

Aintree set to favour fast ground horses

Aintree set to favour fast ground horses

With a mostly dry week forecast, the going for the Grand National on Saturday looks likely to be good. Officials began watering the Mildmay course at the start of the week and are monitoring the situation on the National course.

That is bad news for the soft ground horses and is worth bearing in mind when studying the form for the big race. The conditions look like going against Unioniste while connections of Many Clouds and Monbeg Dude would have liked more rain by the weekend.

Drying ground is good news for trainer Jim Culloty who saddles top weight Lord Windermere as well as the fancied Spring Heeled. Lord Windermere won the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup on good ground but was unable to act in the sticky conditions this year and was pulled up by Davy Russell.

Culloty subsequently decided that it was time for a change of jockey on the nine-year-old, although Russell misses the race through injury in any case. Robbie McNamara takes over on Saturday, having ridden the horse once in his novice days. L’Escargot was the last former Gold Cup winner to be successful in the Grand National. He won at Cheltenham in 1970 and 1971 and won the National on his fourth attempt in 1975.

Spring Heeled has been aimed at the Grand National all season and Nick Scholfield takes the ride on the eight-year-old. He beat Cause Of Causes in last year’s Kim Muir Chase at the festival and has only raced once this year, finishing fourth at Fairyhouse in February. Three of his four career victories have come on good ground.

Gordon Elliott has also expressed delight at the prospect of good ground this weekend for Cause Of Causes, winner of the four-mile National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. He has won on all types of ground, his most valuable win coming in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot in heavy ground in 2012. Paul Carberry has been booked to ride the gelding and is expected to adopt his usual waiting tactics.

Peter Bowen will also be pleased by the drying conditions for Scottish National winner Al Co. He beat Godsmejudge on good to soft ground at Ayr last April and four of his six career victories have been in the spring. The going was good to soft last year when Pineau De Re beat Balthazar King and the favourite Shutthefrontdoor won the Irish Grand National in similar conditions last spring.


Apr 9, 728 days ago

Aintree Thursday Preview

Aintree Thursday Preview

The Grand National meeting gets under way on Thursday with a top quality card featuring four Grade 1 races.

The Arkle Chase form comes under scrutiny in the opening Manifesto Novices’ Chase with Cheltenham third and fourth, Josses Hill and Vibrato Valtat, renewing rivalry. They have an extra half-mile to travel here and the Nicholls runner may have paid the price for trying to chase Un De Sceaux last time.

Nicky Henderson’s Hargam represents the Triumph Hurdle form in the Juvenile Hurdle at 2.15. The grey was third behind stable companions Peace And Co and Top Notch at the festival and should enable Tony McCoy to put a winner on the board. Devilment was further back in fourth place while Bouvreuil was runner-up in the Fred Winter Hurdle.

McCoy partners the favourite Holywell in the Betfred Bowl at 2.50 and he will be hard to beat. Jonjo O’Neill’s gelding is usually at his best in the spring and ran a good race to finish fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Silviniaco Conti is on a retrieval mission after disappointing in that race while Henderson steps Ma Filleule back up to three miles after finishing second in the Ryanair.

The final Grade 1 of the opening day is the Aintree Hurdle at 3.25 with Champion Hurdle runner-up Arctic Fire set to clash with 2014 Champion Jezki. Ruby Walsh takes over on Arctic Fire for the first time since October as the six-year-old steps up to two and a half miles for the first time. Jezki has won over this trip but has proved difficult to settle this season and McCoy will need to be at his best to steer this one home.

The first race over the Grand National fences is the Fox Hunters’ Chase at 4.05 with a maximum field of thirty set to go to post. On The Fringe won with plenty in hand under Nina Carberry at Cheltenham and will be strongly fancied to complete the double. Sam Waley-Cohen is re-united with last year’s winner Warne while Twirling Magnet represents the Jonjo O’Neill stable.

Next Sensation bids to follow up his victory in the closing race of the Cheltenham festival in the Red Rum Handicap Chase at 4.40 with McCoy’s mount, Ned Buntline, 8lbs better off this time. The gelding was unable to provide the fairytale ending to McCoy’s rides at the festival when finishing fourth but should enjoy the better ground.

Also bidding to complete a Cheltenham/Aintree double is Call The Cops in the last race for Nicky Henderson. He has gone up 7lbs for that victory and is re-opposed by the second and third, Unique De Cotte and The Tourard Man.

Selections: 1.40 Vibrato Valtat, 2.15 Hargam, 2.50 Holywell, 3.25 Arctic Fire, 4.05 On The Fringe, 4.40 Ned Buntline, 5.15 Call The Cops

Apr 8, 729 days ago

Holywell favourite for Aintree Bowl

Holywell favourite for Aintree Bowl

Jonjo O’Neill’s Holywell, a respectable fourth behind Coneygree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, has been installed as the 7-4 favourite for the Aintree Bowl on Thursday.

The eight-year-old will be having only his fourth race of the season and usually thrives at this time of year. All seven of his career victories have come between January and April including a very impressive win in last season’s Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase.

He earned some single-figure quotes for the Gold Cup after trouncing Don Cossack by ten lengths under Tony McCoy. The runner-up won his first four starts this season before finishing third in the Ryanair Gold Cup while Hennessy winner Many Clouds was well beaten. The form was reversed by Oliver Sherwood’s gelding at Carlisle in November and Holywell unseated Richie McLernon here the following month.

O’Neill gave him a break after that and he reappeared to win unchallenged in a minor race at Kelso before running at the festival. He was still in contention three from home but could not quicken, possibly the soft ground having just gone against him. He should enjoy perfect conditions at Aintree on Thursday where he renews rivalry with disappointing Gold Cup favourite Silviniaco Conti.

The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding was strongly fancied after winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton for a second time in December. The Ditcheat trainer had no real explanation for his poor run at the festival where he faded to finish seventh. He was fourth in the Gold Cup last year before bouncing back with a victory in this race.

Don Cossack could also take on Holywell again on Thursday while Nicky Henderson may run Ma Filleule, a fine second in the Ryanair behind Uxizandre. The grey mare won over the big Aintree fences in last year’s Topham Chase and was third over the Mildmay course in December.

Menorah was runner-up to First Lieutenant in this race in 2013 but only fifth last year behind Silviniaco Conti. He has not raced since being well beaten at Kempton on Boxing Day but usually runs well fresh. Smad Place is also on a retrieval mission after finishing only eighth in the Gold Cup for Alan King.

Willie Mullins has entered Champagne Fever, a late withdrawal from Cheltenham after being bitten by a stable companion during the journey from Ireland. He has an alternative engagement in Friday’s Melling Chase, the likely target of Al Ferof and Cue Card.

Apr 8, 729 days ago

Bowen secures National ride on Mon Parrain

Bowen secures National ride on Mon Parrain

17-year-old conditional jockey Sean Bowen has been confirmed as the rider of 33-1 outsider Mon Parrain for Paul Nicholls in the Aintree Grand National.

Bowen went into Saturday’s Haydock card needing one more chase winner before Monday’s deadline to qualify to ride in the race. After timing his run to perfection to win on Southfield Vic in the handicap hurdle, he was full of confidence riding the favourite Virak in the three-mile handicap chase. He led with two to jump and kept his mount up to his work to win by six lengths. The youngster was still not finished for the day as he completed a treble aboard Red Six for his father, Peter, in the closing bumper.

The victory enabled Nicholls to finalise his Grand National plans with Sam Twiston-Davies riding Rocky Creek, Noel Fehily partnering Unioniste and Ryan Mahon aboard Rebel Rebellion. Sam Winner and Benvolio will miss Aintree but may contest the Scottish National if conditions are deemed suitable. Bowen will be attempting to equal the record of being the youngest ever winning rider in the Grand National, set by Bruce Hobbs on Battleship in 1938.

Mon Parrain is a French-bred son of Arc winner Trempolino and went on many short-lists for the National after a fine display of jumping in the Topham Chase in 2011. He looked set to land a gamble under Ruby Walsh until being pegged back on the run-in by Always Waining. Ironically the winner was trained by Peter Bowen and would go on to create history by winning the race for the third successive year in 2012.

Mon Parrain’s only two victories since have both come at Cheltenham, most recently on New Year’s Day when ridden by Bowen. The gelding wore blinkers for the first time when holding off Our Father to win by a length. He reappeared in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster in February but weakened in the closing stages behind Wayward Prince, eventually finishing fifth. Connections are hopeful that the big fences may bring about some improvement.

2009 Grand National winning jockey Liam Treadwell has been booked to ride Monbeg Dude for Michael Scudamore. Treadwell stunned punters when storming home on 100-1 shot Mon Mome but he will have plenty of supporters on Saturday. Monbeg Dude finished seventh last year after receiving some special schooling from Zara Phillips. The gelding is part-owned by her husband, Mike Tindall, the former England Rugby World Cup-winning captain.

Apr 7, 730 days ago

Katie Walsh hoping Buffalo makes the cut

Katie Walsh hoping Buffalo makes the cut

Katie Walsh rode 20-1 outsider Thunder And Roses to victory in the Irish Grand National on Monday but is not certain to have a ride at Aintree on Saturday. She came very close to winning the Grand National on Seabass finishing third in 2012.

Walsh has been provisionally booked to partner Broadway Buffalo for David Pipe but the gelding needs five to drop out above him if he is to sneak in. Pipe was relieved to see Soll make it safely into the top forty but must wait to see whether Broadway Buffalo or The Package are able to join him.

The Irish National proved to be a minefield for punters with the first four home returned at 20-1, 20-1, 40-1 and 50-1. Hopes that Tony McCoy could win the race on his final ride were dashed when Cantlow weakened in the home straight to finish sixth.

Thunder And Roses is trained by Sandra Hughes who took over the yard following the death of her father, Dessie, in November last year. She also has an entry on the fringes of the National field with Raz De Maree, runner-up in the Midlands Grand National last time out. Raz De Maree has not won since 2012 when his three victories included the Munster National. The ten-year-old needs three more to come out if Hughes is to have a chance at a remarkable National double.

Thunder And Roses carries the colours of Gigginstown House Stud who also own the runner-up and the fourth at Fairyhouse. Their hopes of adding the Aintree National to the Irish equivalent rest with First Lieutenant, trained by Mouse Morris.

Morris believes that First Lieutenant is his best chance so far of winning the race having once been considered a live Gold Cup contender. He will be ridden by Nina Carberry and the stable must have been delighted with the performances of Rule The World and Band Of Blood, second and fourth at Fairyhouse.

Carberry has come in for the ride owing to Bryan Cooper’s whip suspension incurred at the Cheltenham festival last month. She has ridden in four times previously in the big race, her best being seventh place on Character Building in 2010.

Perhaps the most significant withdrawal at the latest declaration stage was Nicky Henderson’s Hadrian’s Approach. His absence means that the Lambourn trainer must wait at least another year to end his long wait for a National winner. He was second with Zongalero in 1979 but the National remains one of the few top races to elude him.

Apr 7, 730 days ago

Mullins stars set to light up Aintree

Mullins stars set to light up Aintree

Leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins dominated the Cheltenham festival last month with a record eight winners. He is sending another strong team across the Irish Sea this week, although only Un De Sceaux is attempting to complete the Cheltenham/Aintree double.

The impressive Arkle Chase winner is expected to line up for the Grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase on Saturday. Un De Sceaux was such an easy winner at Cheltenham that he is already as short as 5-4 favourite for next year’s Champion Chase.

Mullins will be represented in Thursday’s Aintree Hurdle by Champion Hurdle runner-up Arctic Fire. The six-year-old ran on strongly from the last flight but could not catch stablemate Faugheen, eventually going down by a length and a half. That was certainly the best run of his career to date but this will be his first attempt at two and a half miles.

He will face two previous Champion Hurdle winners in Rock On Ruby and Jezki. Rock On Ruby missed the festival after scoping badly prior to his intended run in the World Hurdle. He has finished runner-up in the Aintree Hurdle for the past two seasons, failing by only a head to catch The New One last year. Jezki finished behind Arctic Fire in fourth when attempting to defend his Champion Hurdle crown last month.

Champagne Fever is favourite for the Grade 1 Melling Chase on Friday. The grey was forced to miss Cheltenham in bizarre circumstances after being bitten by a stable companion during his journey over from Ireland. His festival target had been the Queen Mother Champion Chase following a fine display of jumping at Gowran Park in February.

Although he has appeared at three Cheltenham festivals, this will be his first run at Liverpool. Mullins has tried the gelding over various distances including the three-mile King George VI Chase at Kempton but two and a half miles could prove to be his best trip.

In 2005 Mullins saddled Hedgehunter to win the Grand National and that horse went on to finish second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the National the following season. Mullins hopes of recording a second Grand National victory rest with 25-1 outsider Ballycasey.

The eight-year-old was second in the Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase to Carlingford Lough last season and won next time out at Gowran Park. His form has not been so encouraging since and he was pulled up before three out in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham festival. Mullins believes that the better ground will suit Ballycasey and Ruby Walsh will be seeking a third National victory after Papillon (2000) and Hedgehunter.

Apr 7, 730 days ago

Third time lucky for Across The Bay?

Third time lucky for Across The Bay?

One of the key moments of last year’s Grand National was after the 16th fence when clear leader Across The Bay was carried across the course by a loose horse. Jockey Henry Brooke was powerless to prevent the incident and the pair eventually completed the race in 14th place.

Up until the incident, Donald McCain’s gelding had jumped superbly in front and Brooke was delighted to have him settled into a nice rhythm. It was too early in the race to say what might have been but Across The Bay and Brooke are to be re-united again this year.

The son of Bob’s Return has always had a touch of class and won the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock in 2013 prior to his first tilt at the National fences. Remarkably, he suffered very similar interference at the same stage of the race that year, except Brooke was able to drive him back to the front again soon after.

He did not surrender the lead until four from home before weakening back through the field. He completed a circuit of the National course again in the Becher Chase in December that year and won The Last Fling Chase at Haydock.

He has not troubled the judge in four starts since last year’s Aintree mishap but appeared to be travelling well when brought down at the Cheltenham festival last month. Brooke has not ridden the horse since last year’s National but will be hoping for an overdue change of luck on April 11th.

Donald McCain’s retained rider Jason Maguire has not recovered from injury in time so stable companion Corrin Wood will be ridden by Wilson Renwick. The grey was a high class novice, winning at Market Rasen, Catterick and Warwick in 2013.  He was officially rated 156 after beating Black Thunder with a brave front-running performance in heavy ground.

He ran disappointingly in the RSA Chase and is yet to recapture his best form. He pulled muscles when a beaten favourite at Haydock in January but has been pleasing McCain in his recent work. His handicap mark has now slipped back to 144 and he could bely his current odds of 66-1.

The Cheshire-based trainer emulated his famous father when saddling Ballabriggs to win the National in 2011. His stable will forever be associated with the legendary three-time National winner Red Rum who won the race in 1973, 1974 and 1977. Ginger McCain added a fourth National winner with Amberleigh House in 2004.


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