A guide to the opening day of the Grand National

April 3, 2019 6:16 pm

Undoubtedly one of the highlights in the National Hunt calendar, this week sees Aintree open its gates for the world-famous Grand National festival – a three-day event that comes second only to Cheltenham Festival in terms of importance and prestige in the British racing calendar. Aside from the main event, there are a number of other highlights over the three days which include the Aintree Hurdle, the Melling Chase and the Topham Chase. Here, we will focus on the opening day, which was recently titled ‘A Day for Champions’. But if you fancy a flutter on any of the days’ races, visit Betfair, where you’ll find all the latest odds.

A Day for Champions

The Grand National kicks off on Thursday 4 April with seven races and although it’s not as popular as the following two days, you can expect to see over 35,000 people come through the turnstiles and enjoy the atmosphere of Aintree. The opening day sees four Grade 1 races, as well as two Grade 2 and one Grade 3 race.

The meeting kicks off with the Manifesto Novices’ Chase, a Grade 1 race which was inaugurated in 2009 for horses older than five-years-old. The race is named after the horse Manifesto, who ran in the Grand National eight times and won twice. Last year’s winner was Colin Tizzard’s Finian’s Oscar, who died from major organ failure last summer.

The Doom Bar Juvenile Hurdle is contested by horses of four-years-old and is ran over two miles. Last year’s winner was We have a Dream and generally, horses that run in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham race in the Doom Bar too.

The Bowl was established in 1984 and was originally for horses that were beaten or unable to participate in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The race is run over three miles and one furlong and is for horses over the age of five. Might Bite was the winner in 2018 and this year, all eyes are on Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Bristol De Mai, who connections say will run in the Bowl rather than the National. Twiston-Davies said: “He’s fine and the plan is to run in the Bowl. It was just decided that on his Gold Cup form he ought to win the Bowl and it’s possibly the easier option”.

The Aintree Hurdle was first introduced in 1976, however it was originally run over a longer course and staged on the final day. Today, it’s raced on the opening day of the meeting and run over a distance of two miles and four furlongs. Ruby Walsh is the leading jockey in the Hurdle with five wins; however, last year’s winner was L’Ami Serge, ridden by Daryl Jacob and trained by Nicky Henderson. The latter will no doubt be looking to make it a trio of wins in the race this year, having also won in 2017 with Buveur D’Air.

The Fox Hunters’ Chase is only one of three races to be run over the Grand National fences (the other two being the Topham Chase and the National itself) – but is run at a much shorter distance of two miles and five furlongs. The race is for amateur jockeys and is open to horses of six years or older. Last year’s winner was Balnaslow, although there’s controversy surrounding the victory. The favourite this year is Burning Ambition, while Road To Rome who came fourth last month in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham, will also be one to watch.

The penultimate race on the opening day is the Red Rum Handicap Chase, which is run on the Mildmay Course over a distance of two miles. Formerly the Aintree Chase, it was named after the legendary Red Rum in 1997, in memory of the three-time Grand National winner. The race is contested by horses aged five years or older. Last year’s winner was Bentelimar and this was his final race, after he suffered a fatal injury in a freak accident during training.

The Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat race is the final race of the day and sees fillies and mares between the ages of four and six race a distance of two miles and one furlong. It is open to amateur and professional jockeys and the race was only recently promoted to Grade 2 status. Last year, Getaway Katie Mai won but amateur jockey Jamie Codd was subsequently banned, after replays showed he had used his whip 15 times – with a crackdown on misuse in the sport very much high on the agenda.

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