Grand National Festival – Thursday

From 1977 onwards, when the Randox Health Grand National Festival became an all-Jump meeting, Grand National Thursday – the first day of the three-day festival – has developed an outstanding programme of racing action, a true Day for Champions.

It is only one of three racedays during the entire British Jump season to offer four Grade One (G1) contests. Uniquely, Grand National Thursday is the only day of the year with two open G1 races and two G1 contests for novices.

The G1 chase action on Grand National Thursday is headlined by the Betway Bowl, staged over three miles and a furlong of the Mildmay Course.

BetVictor’s Charlie McCann runs through the opening day of the Grand National Festival

Aintree’s Grand National meeting begins this afternoon on ground described by clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch as a mix of soft and good to soft on both courses. Further showers are forecast over the next three days, but the Aintree executive are optimistic that Saturday’s National will not become the war of attrition many expected after such a prolonged spell of wet weather.

Today’s curtain raiser is the Novice Chase over two-and-a-half miles and if this were on a right-handed track, Cyrname would be something to bet on but he is likely to jump out to his right and lose ground at his fences and is reluctantly overlooked.

Finian’s Oscar went out like a light at Cheltenham last time but he is better than he showed and must go close if his jumping holds up. Dan Skelton has never saddled the winner of a grade 1 race but his mare Rene’s Girl (1.45) receives 7lbs from the geldings and can give the yard that elusive first win at the top table.

The mare is 5/1 at BetVictor and I would be disappointed if she doesn’t run a big race having bypassed Cheltenham. This is hardly the strongest Grade 1 contest of the week, but it is a fascinating opener.

Apple’s Shakira was too free and failed to get home in the testing ground in the Triumph Hurdle last month and this is something of a retrieval mission for the filly who had looked one to beat going into the Festival. No surprise to see connections fit the filly with a first-time hood in the hope that she might be more amenable to restraint, but I favour her stablemate We Have A Dream (2.20).

The selection (2/1 at BetVictor) is unbeaten in four starts since moving to Britain and the runner up (Act Of Valour) franked the form of his Musselburgh win last time when landing a decent race for the track at Fakenham last weekend.

Bristol De Mai bypassed Cheltenham for a crack at the Aintree Bowl and I am convinced he was not at his best at either Kempton (right-handed) or Cheltenham last time when he did not jump with the same fluency as he had at Haydock earlier in the season. At 9/2, he must go close but Might Bite (2.50) was magnificent in defeat in the Gold Cup and will be impossible to beat if in the same form.

The selection is 4/6 with BetVictor and might drift to an even bigger price today if the layers believe 27 days is not enough time to get over what was a very hard race on desperate ground at the Festival.

I would like to see The New One land the Aintree Hurdle (2m 4f) and Sam Twiston-Davies might try to make his own pace reverting to what looks his optimum trip. Nothing will be travelling as well as My Tent Or Yours coming to two out but the 11-year-old is not quite in the same class as Irish raider Supasundae (3.25) who is another bidding to go one better than at Cheltenham, having finished second in the Stayers’ Hurdle last time.

The selection is Even money with BetVictor and Jessica Harrington’s charge has the best recent form in the book and finished runner up in the 3m Novice Hurdle behind Yanworth here 12 months ago.

I’m pleased to see Jamie Codd booked for the veteran grey Grand Vision (4.05) in the Foxhunters’ Chase and hope he can jump his rivals into submission over a trip (2m 5f+) that should be ideal. The selection was backed from 6/1 to 7/2 with BetVictor on Wednesday but that is as much a kneejerk reaction to Codd’s booking as a response to the formbook. He does have an excellent each way chance although 7/2 does look a bit on the skinny side – I would expect him to drift on the day.

The Red Rum is one of my favourite handicap chases in the calendar and I was pleased to see David Pipe have a couple of winners on Tuesday as I am keen on the chances of King’s Socks (4.40) who jumped and travelled liked a decent sort when fading into fifth over 2m 5f at Cheltenham last month.

The selection has only had two starts in Britain and I think today’s drop in trip should suit the six-year-old who has some decent form over timber in his native France. The horse was backed from 5s into 4/1 at BetVictor as soon as the declarations were announced and it would appear that I am not alone in thinking he has an excellent ew chance (1/4 odds 4 places).

Dissavril and Posh Trish might be the best of British in the Listed Mares’ Bumper, which ends the card, but Irish challenger Getaway Katie Mai (5.15) finished second to Cheltenham Bumper winner Relegate at Leopardstown last time – beaten less than two lengths – and that form looks head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

The Codd Father takes over in the plate this afternoon and the mare (5/2 at BetVictor) looks to have improved markedly since being thrashed by Posh Trish in the point field over 3 miles.

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