This week heralds the start of the Aintree Festival which culminates on Saturday with the 169th running of Grand National.
Just as we did for the Cheltenham Festival last month, 888sport is dedicating this weekly news page to all the Aintree stories and features you can expect to see making the bulletins this week.
It was the news Paul Nicholls had been dreading when Willie Mullins declared that he intended to send out his battalions for a full out assault on the British trainers’ championship this week at Aintree.
Never before have the ferries across the Irish Sea been so busy with horses in transit in the month of April. It is an unprecedented move by Willie Mullins who in previous seasons has only sent over a handful of runners to Aintree’s three day flagship meeting, but with the trainers’ championship so finely balanced a few big prize pots in favour of Mullins could tip the title in his direction.
Mullins has around £150,000 to find to overhaul Paul Nicholls in the race to be champion trainer in Britain and with neither holding obvious claims in the Grand National itself, the Grade One races are where it is likely to be won.
The Nicholls versus Mullins title race is certainly going to go right down to the wire this week and add plenty of extra excitement to an already frenetic week of National Hunt action.
West Tip rides again
The Philip Hobbs-trained seven-year-old, Onenightinvienna runs in the colours of Judith Luff, whose late husband Peter owned the 1986 Aintree hero West Tip. What a story it would be if the same colours were ridden to victory again in the National, thirty years later.
Since an early season Exeter triumph, Onenightinvienna has kept good company. He disappointed on his latest appearance in the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot but that probably came too soon after his Kempton run. If you go back to his run at Cheltenham earlier in the season, he was only two and a half lengths behind Blaklion, who of course went on to win the RSA Chase.
Everyone loves an Aintree back-story and this might just be it.
In the Grand National itself, Kruzhlinin may very well cap the finest season in the career of Richard Johnson, the champion jockey elect, should he give Johnson his very first Grand National victory in nineteen previous attempts. It would be quite some story, one totally made for Aintree.
Kruzhlinin won at Kempton on his first start for Philip Hobbs in January and ran a solid enough race when fifth to Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival last month despite hitting every other fence. He is much better suited to flat tracks like Aintree where he can get into a better jumping rhythm.
Two years ago, at the age of seven and then trained by Donald McCain, Kruzhlinin had a go at the National and got round to be a distant tenth. He then came back that December to put in a decent round in the Becher Chase. Now trained by Hobbs it is his belief he will be a much stronger spring horse.
Amazing footage appeared this week on social media of the pictures obtained from Leighton Aspell’s headcam when he partnered Many Clouds to win the 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National.
Starting with a chat to owner Trevor Hemmings in the parade ring, see how Aspell wins his second Grand National with footage taken from his headcam by clicking on the highlighted link.
Take a brolly
If the forecasters have got it right it may well prove prudent to take an umbrella along to Aintree this week as showers are expected on all three days of the meeting.
The Met Office says there will be maximum temperatures of 9C for opening day on Thursday, with cloud and heavy rain setting in from 10am. Light showers will come along at around 1pm with the chance of some sunshine for the rest of the afternoon.
Ladies Day looks set to be overcast and cloudy, with temperatures of 8C and some sunshine in the morning. Drizzle appears to come in from around 1pm and will last for the entirety of the day.
For Grand National day itself, the forecast is for cloud and light showers, but there may be the odd break of intermittent sunshine.
Going, going, gone!
Goffs UK are running their inaugural Aintree Sale on Thursday after racing has finished with a catalogue of 22 runners up for auction.
Eye-catching bumper performers entered include Happy Hollow, a four-year-old son of Beat Hollow who has landed both of his starts in bumpers this season, and Geordie Des Champs, a five-year-old son of Robin Des Champs who won a bumper at Ffos Las on his most recent start.
Pick up a p-p-p-placepot
Erin O’Neill and her friend Sue Podesta scooped a whopping £21,500 on the Aintree placepot in 2010 and openly admitted they had ‘no idea’ what they were doing. The pair picked the horses purely on their names in the six-pronged bet.
In the first they won with General Miller at 7/1, got a place with Dance Island at 33/1, followed by a win with Albertas Run at 8/1, placed in the fourth race with Scotsirish, 14/1, and again in the fifth with Western Leader at 5/1, and finished off with a winner the last leg with Ringaroses at 10/1.
Aintree placepot dividends 2015: Thursday £817.50, Friday £359.10, Saturday £373.20
Remember- you don’t even have to pick a winner!