1.45pm - EFT Construction Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 3m½f)
Winter Fog was all the rage for last month's Pertemps Final at Cheltenham and certainly didn't disgrace himself in a close fourth. Emmet Mullins' inmate is only rated 1lb higher here and once more looks sure to be popular.
Beauport for Nigel Twiston-Davies looks a solid contender, while David Pipe's Remastered reverts to hurdling off what could be a lenient mark having been chasing of late.
Down near the foot of the weights is PARTY BUSINESS for Ian Williams with Charlie Todd claiming 3lb. The lightly-raced six-year-old was fifth in the Martin Pipe (2m4½f, good to soft) last month at Cheltenham, achieving a solid finish despite meeting interference on more than one occasion.
That effort can be upgraded given the nightmare trip he had and, from the same mark, he's one that could have plenty upside now tackling this increased trip for the first time.
If The Cap Fits is a former Grade 1 winner at this meeting and didn't run badly in that Pertemps Final last month (sixth), so he joins the likes of four-timer seeking Serious Charges and Martin Pipe sixth Ilikedwayurthinkin on the extended shortlist.
Selection: Party Business
Next Best: If The Cap Fits
2.25pm - Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m4f)
It's interesting to see that this is the target Sam Thomas eventually settled on for GOOD RISK AT ALL. He missed out on a Cheltenham Festival handicap last month, though might have went for the Martin Pipe instead in the Cotswolds, and now the thriving Welsh handler has elected to go up into Grade 1 company.
Second to Jonbon at Newbury in November when still looking as green as grass, Good Risk At All was just held at Warwick (2m, good to soft) in January before his Ascot handicap debut in February saw him upped to this sort of distance. He romped home off an opening mark of 127 and while this will demand more, he's completely unexposed and could well be a quality performer in the making.
The form pick is Three Stripe Life for Davy Russell and Gordon Elliott. He's been second to Sir Gerhard in his last two starts at the Dublin Racing Festival (2m) and in the Ballymore (2m5f) at Cheltenham and was second in a Leopardstown Grade 1 at Christmas before that.
Challow Hurdle winner Stage Star was pulled up in the Ballymore last month and Paul Nicholls now reaches for a hood, while Nicky Henderson's Walking On Air easily won a Newbury maiden in January on hurdles bow and is intriguing now aimed here.
Elle Est Bell is an improving mare but this is a stiff enough ask of her and she's been beaten this season over shorter by Colonel Mustard. North Lodge could have more to offer for Alan King, while Might I has placed behind Constitution Hill and Jonbon since impressing at Newton Abbot (2m2½f, heavy) on hurdles bow in the autumn and could go well here at a price for Harry Fry.
Selection: Good Risk At All
Next Best: Might I
3.00pm - Poundland Maghull Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 2m)
It takes quite a few steps backwards to find fault in EDWARDSTONE and the Arkle winner can emulate Shishkin from 12 months ago by following Cotswolds success with glory on Merseyside.
Alan King's charge did it in good style last time, travelling well within himself and grabbing the race by the scruff of the next as and when he was ready to. On that evidence, and being a hurdles winner here, he's holding a strong hand in his quest for a sixth straight win and a fifth graded score of the season.
Third Time Lucki hasn't been able to land a blow on Edwardstone in two attempts at Sandown and Warwick, the Dan Skelton inmate appears just short of being a genuine Grade 1 chaser as things stand, but should give a good account.
If there's a fly in the ointment, perhaps it will be Gentleman De Mee. Willie Mullins' charge has won his last two at Thurles and Navan, a Grade 3 most recently by 16-lengths, and it's hard to know just how good he's going to be until something seriously tests him. It's surely going to be Edwardstone that does that, and will be very interesting once battle commences in the final mile.
Next Best: Gentleman De Mee
3.35pm - JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle (Grade 1, 3m½f)
'Canny Danny' indeed. Flooring Porter's Stayers' Hurdle win at Cheltenham owed plenty to his rider Danny Mullins giving a tactical masterclass in front, though Gavin Cromwell's charge wasn't short on willingness to battle himself when asked.
It will be most interesting to see if Mullins is allowed dictate in front again now. To do so could be cut-throat for the field, though equally trying to engage with Flooring Porter could be damaging for anything that goes the early clip with him.
Champ was only fourth last month behind him, the promise of his Long Walk win at Ascot in December dissipated now to some degree after his brace of Cheltenham defeats. He doesn't quite appear to have the iron will of the man he was named after - but few do, in fairness to AP McCoy.
This isn't the deepest race of races. Given that connections of Flooring Porter so readily admitted Cheltenham was the main target - and that he was pulled up at Punchestown last April having won in the Cotswolds - he is taken on with defending champion THYME HILL.
Philip Hobbs' charge was given a real peach of a ride to win this last year by Tom O'Brien, getting there just in time to thwart Roksana. They had to commit earlier than desired last time at Cheltenham and wilted slightly up the hill, though still holding on for second.
No doubt they'll be hoping something else pesters Flooring Porter in the early stages, but they can surely make ground easier around here and given the Irish horse might not be at his absolute peak this time, Thyme Hill is taken to avenge his defeat 23 days ago.
Selection: Thyme Hill
Next Best: Champ
4.15pm - Betway Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 3m1f)
With form behind likely Grand National favourite Snow Leopardess and a wide-margin win when last spotted at Cheltenham in December, the Venetia Williams-trained COMMODORE will likely be gutted turning out an hour before the big race.
He was first reserve for the National and, therefore, the first not to get a run off this mark of 142.
He was very good at Cheltenham in that December win, his first outing after a wind operation, scoring by some 15-lengths. Ground conditions here look ideal and he typically goes well fresh. It might not be the National, but he can bag just under £60k for his connections.
Shan Blue came up well short in the Ryanair at Cheltenham last month, but if Dan Skelton's charge gets around here in one piece, he's got to be of interest off a mark of 148 given the top-notch performances he has at times threatened to deliver.
Oscar Elite for Colin Tizzard joins Anthony Honeyball's Killer Kane and Empire Steel for Sandy Thomson on the shortlist of alternatives.
Next Best: Shan Blue
5.15pm - Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 4m2½f)
The main dish of the day, the world's best known jumps race, with a field of 40 contenders eager to write the next chapter in Grand National folklore.
Last year's winner Minella Times is 15lb higher now and has been out of form since, but Rachael Blackmore's mount has come in for plenty market support this week.
So, too, the mare Snow Leopardess, winner of the Becher Chase over these famous fences in the December. Charlie Longsdon's grey would the first mare to score since Nickel Coin in 1951 and will capture the public's imagination for sure.
Trainer Gordon Elliott has a host of chances, headlined by Cheltenham Cross Country winner Delta Work, with Escaria Ten also noted, while top owner JP McManus has Enjoy D'allen, Any Second Now and Anibale Fly amongst alternatives to Minella Times in his famous colours.
Eclair Surf's Eider Chase second behind Win My Wings looks strong form after that mare hosed up in the Scottish National last weekend. Emma Lavelle's charge was one of the last to get in, as was bottom-weight Fortescue for Henry Daly - the pair 4lb well in and worth considering.
We'll take a pair against the field in a race where so many imponderables are in play.
DISCORAMA was seventh in this contest a year ago for Paul Nolan as the Irish dominated. He jumped well in the main but tired late on. It's easy enough to believe he didn't stay the journey, but that was his first run since the previous November and it's also plausible he just got tired.
He's had a better prep this time, finishing second at Fairyhouse in February, and this nine-year-old could improve on that effort as he returns to Aintree in first-time cheekpieces. Sent off 16/1 last year, he's twice that price and perhaps underrated.
Fiddlerontheroof isn't passed over easily, but it was disappointing to see him beaten by Fortescue at Ascot last time and that rival is a much bigger price now. Longhouse Poet is the other that just misses out, Martin Brassil's Thyestes Chase winner one that could appreciate this stamina test.
A chance instead is given to SANTINI at a whopping 50/1. Dubbed something of 'a boat' since early in his career, this race was long pointed out as one he might excel in when trained by Nicky Henderson but he never got the chance.
He was second in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Al Boum Photo, beaten a neck, and has operated almost exclusively in Grade 1 and 2 company since in seven runs.
He was second behind Chantry House at Cheltenham on Trials Day in January and wasn't disgraced in another Gold Cup since, beaten 31 lengths in a contest where A Plus Tard slipped the field by half of that margin.
Santini is now with Polly Gundry and is down to a mark of 153, with 11st 2lb to carry here under the very able Nick Scholfield.
Next Best: Santini
6.20pm - Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Standard Open NH Flat Race (Grade 2, 2m1f)
A 20-runner Grade 2 bumper to round off the Aintree Festival - all credit to your punting stamina if still remaining up for the challenge by this stage!
The theory of 'Willie's in the bumper' translated from Ireland to Aintree on Thursday as Patrick and Willie Mullins bagged a prize in commanding fashion.
RATH GAUL BOY made short work of his opening assignment at Leopardstown last month for the dominant team in Irish bumpers and he could be anything at this stage. Keeping things simple late in the day might be wise.
Western Zephyr made all for a winning debut at Huntingdon for Charlie Longsdon and is a contender for each-way players as that form has been boosted since, while unbeaten pair Lookaway (Neil King) and Crambo (Fergal O'Brien) - the latter in the same Sullivan Bloodstock colours as the selection are just a few of the possible dangers.
Selection: Rath Gaul Boy
Next Best: Western Zephyr
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